After coming off one the worst seasons in Chris Mooney’s tenure, the Spiders are looking to rebound. The Spiders had lofty expectations last year, and their play out of conference suggested that they were an NCAA Tournament team. Soon it became clear that they were not even close. The Spiders ended the season at 16-16, finishing 7-11 in conference play. Despite the subpar play, Chris Mooney managed to snag the best recruiting class of all time at Richmond. The Spiders also have one of the nation’s best players returning, TJ Cline. A mix of young and old could propel the Spiders to the promise land.
The Spiders graduated three seniors this past spring, but the biggest loss was Terry Allen. A prominent force in the paint, Allen averaged 17.3 PPG and 7.7 RPG. His versatility will be greatly missed at Richmond. While they had their moments at Richmond, the departures of Trey Davis and Deion Taylor aren’t disappointing anyone. Both were not a threat offensively but were average defenders; their presence on offense hurt the Spiders down the stretch as the they were basically playing 3 on 5.
Chris Mooney and his staff didn’t have to go far to field their best class ever. Two players were right in their own backyard. Nick Sherod went to high school less than one mile from Richmond’s campus. The 6’5 SG is a sharpshooter who can also beat you off the dribble. Sherod will be playing a key role off the bench this year. De’Monte Buckingham went to high school about 8 miles from Richmond’s campus. Buckingham is one of the biggest gets for Mooney, as he held offers from Maryland, Cincinnati, and rival VCU. His game reminds Spider fans of an old friend, Cedrick Lindsay. Buckingham has a chance to be an all-time great for the Spiders. Last but not least is Grant Golden. The 6’11 big man has an all around game. He is excellent in transition and can knock it down from deep. Golden will need to bring it defensively if the Spiders want to make some noise.
The Spiders took a different route this summer on the recruiting trail. They added graduate transfer Kwesi Abakah from Northeastern. Abakah is the first graduate transfer in program history. Mooney brought him in primarily for defensive purposes. Abakah is 6’8 with a strong body to bang down low in the A-10. Expect Abakah to be used off the bench.
TJ Cline will be the leader and star of this Spider team. With the departure of Terry Allen, expect Cline to be averaging at least 20+ PPG. Cline earned many accolades over the offseason, including a spot on the Preseason All-A10 First Team. He averaged 18.3 PPG while collecting 5.2 RPG. This will be TJ Cline’s team.
Another key player for the Spiders will be ShawnDre’ Jones. The crafty senior guard will be TJ Cline’s partner in crime. Jones averaged 14.7 PPG last season. The Spiders will also look to Marshall Wood for production on both ends. Wood was known for his one-dimensional shooting game last year, but an improvement on both ends of the floor could spell trouble for opponents.
The Spiders have always been known for a strong non-conference schedule, but this year is lacking a bit. While they have some big names, but there is no true road game for the Spiders to be tested. That being said, the Spiders will have a good opportunity to get some quality wins.
Three games jump out at me from the start. The Spiders will host Wake Forest and Texas Tech, who was an NCAA team last year. These games are very winnable given the Spiders favorable record at home. They will travel to Brooklyn to play in the Barclays Center Classic against Maryland.
As A-10 play goes, the Spiders will have an uphill battle. They will travel to face Dayton, George Washington, and Saint Joseph’s. Two home games to mark will be VCU and Davidson. If the Spiders want any chance of making the tournament, they will have to hold their own at home.
Honestly, there are so many “Ifs” surrounding this team that I have no clue what to expect. One thing we know is that you’ll see a lot of offense. The biggest question surrounding this team is their defense. Will Chris Mooney experiment will new defensive sets? The Spiders have been experimenting with new sets in practice, which is a good sign if you’re a fan. A lot of the pressure is on the freshmen to preform early, which is something we haven’t seen in a while from Richmond. I would expect the Spiders to be at least a middle of the pack team, but if the freshman are as good as advertised the Spiders could be much more than that.