Give Chris Mooney credit. Yes, I said it. After surprising everyone in the Atlantic 10 with a 3rd place finish, the Spiders come into Pittsburgh as one of the dark horses to steal a bid. The Spiders are led by a trio of stars in TJ Cline, ShawnDre’ Jones, and De’Monte Buckingham. Chris Mooney’s squad has put themselves in an excellent position to win the tournament for the first time since 2011. The Spiders come into Pittsburgh as one of the hottest teams in the league winning four straight. They’ll try to build on that momentum to help return to the NCAA tournament once again.
1) Attach to their star….
To paraphrase Bob McKillop, Richmond needs to attach themselves to their star and hold on for the ride. That star is TJ Cline. The newly crowned A-10 Player of the Year had a year to remember. Cline averaged 18.6 PPG, 8.1 RPG, and 5.7 APG. The Spiders use him in 30.5% of their possessions, one of the highest in the nation. At 6’9, his ability to knock shots down and kill you inside makes him a matchup nightmare. He holds the most assists out of any player 6’8 or taller in the nation. Cline will certainly draw some double teams, but his ability to pass will guys like ShawnDre’ Jones open looks.
The only way to come out of Pittsburgh with a title is through Cline.
2) The Long Ball
The Spiders are practically unstoppable when hitting from downtown. Overall, the Spiders shoot 36.3% from three. Most of the long balls come from the duo of ShawnDre’ Jones and TJ Cline but have many deep threats. Guys like Julius Johnson and De’Monte Buckingham have shown that they have range. Hitting threes will also help space the floor and get TJ Cline essential touches down low.
Two guys that will need to show up in Pittsburgh are Nick Sherod and Marshall Wood. Sherod, a freshman, has been improving as the year goes on and will need to provide with his long ball. He is currently shooting 31% from behind the arc. Wood has had a streaky year, but he is still a valuable deep threat. We’ve seen Wood go on rampages from downtown before. And if it’s anytime the Spiders need one of these, it’s in Pittsburgh.
3) Strapping up defensively
This year the Spiders have seen an incredible difference in their defense from last year. Some problems have persisted. They have had trouble protecting the paint, especially against bigger teams. While their defense is solid, bigger teams like VCU and even GMU have exposed them down low. Guys like Kwesi Abakah must come in and provide solid minutes defensively, much like he did against Maryland. The Spiders will not be able to shoot themselves out of Pittsburgh, they’ll have to strap up.
Overall, the Spiders have a good shot at stealing the A-10 Tournament. It will be a tough challenge as they will most likely have to face VCU and Dayton to win the title. They have the leadership in TJ Cline and ShawnDre’ Jones along with ROY De’Monte Buckingham that are up for the challenge. The Spiders must play tough defense, knock down their shots, and let TJ Cline take over to win in Pittsburgh.