NCAA Tournament notebook | Richmond an experienced team with plenty of scorers

The Spiders have six players on their roster who have used an extra year of eligibility.


Gabby Drees

Richmond guard Jacob Gilyard passes the ball during a practice at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, N.Y., on Wednesday, March 16, 2022. Gilyard has earned 466 career steals and currently holds the record for most career steals in Division 1 history. The Iowa Hawkeyes face the Richmond Spiders at the first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament on Thursday, March 17, 2022.

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Confetti fell from the Gainbridge Fieldhouse rafters in Indianapolis seconds after the Iowa men’s basketball team defeated Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament Championship Game. The Hawkeyes had just claimed their first conference tournament title since 2006. Iowa forward Keegan Murray hugged sixth-year senior Jordan Bohannon at midcourt and told him, “This is why you came back.”

Several Richmond Spiders players can relate.

Richmond, Iowa’s opponent in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, features six players on its roster who have used an extra year of eligibility.

The Spiders have four players on its roster that have scored more than 1,000 points in their college careers: Jacob Gilyard and Grant Golden — who both are over 2,000 points — forward Nathan Cayo, and guard Nick Sherod. Another player, forward Tyler Burton, has scored 984 points in his career. The Spiders won four games in four days to win the Atlantic 10 tournament and clinch a berth to the “Big Dance.” Richmond is making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since the 2010-11 season, although the program was tournament bound two seasons ago until the postseason was canceled as the pandemic picked up. This is the first opportunity for a veteran Spiders team to make noise on the March Madness stage — the opportunity they came back to school for.

Only the Hawkeyes, who have won 12 of their last 14 games, stand in the way.

Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said, after learning about Richmon, he cannot recall a team with such experience and versatility among its scorers. The 12th-year Iowa head coach acknowledged that is a tough task to prepare Iowa for on short notice, having only found out its opponent on Sunday, but said that’s what tournament play is all about — the unknown.

“I think that’s the beauty of what this tournament is,” McCaffery said. “Everybody is different. Everybody comes in not knowing what the other team does. You try to figure out — figure it all out in a couple of days, and then you turn the kids loose and see if they can execute a game plan.” 

Spiders worried about containing Hawkeyes in transition

Iowa finished the regular season as the top-scoring team in the Big Ten at 84 points per game. The Hawkeyes like to play at an up-tempo pace that leads to transition buckets. Richmond has noticed.

“Every guy seemingly brings the ball up if they get the rebound,” Richmond head coach Chris Mooney said. “So it’s a different kind of transition than a traditional fast break or numbered fast break. They’re just very good at crossing the court and finding guys in a little bit different areas. Nobody is in the same spot every time. That’s a huge challenge for us.” 

Mooney noted that the Spiders need to pay attention to shooters like Bohannon who can pull-up from deep in transition, but emphasized that the Hawkeyes space the court well when they are going up-tempo and seemingly everyone tends to be in a good position to score.

Defensively, Richmond comes into Thursday’s matchup having just held all four of its opponents in the Atlantic 10 tournament to 65 points or less. Gilyard is the NCAA’s all-time leader in steals with 386 over his career.

RELATED: Iowa men’s basketball team not focusing on national hype ahead of NCAA Tournament

The Spiders haven’t allowed a team to score 75 points in nearly a month. The Hawkeyes will put that streak to the test.

“I just don’t know if anyone can really guard them for 40 minutes and just hold them to a low score,” Mooney said. “But for us, it’s going to be about making it as difficult as possible. They rarely turn the ball over. We’re going to have to have some turnovers and generate some turnovers and be good on the backboard, but I don’t necessarily know if it’s going to be in the points department. I think it’s going to be more a total effort and cumulative effect of great effort and hustle that helps us to play well defensively.”

Defending a ‘Princeton offense’

Fran McCaffery and multiple Iowa players referred to Richmond as a team that runs a “Princeton-style” offense. The Spiders emphasize constant motion and backdoor cuts.

“A little like Northwestern, where it’s five guys out on the perimeter,” Kris Murray said of the team Iowa beat, 112-76, in its first game of the Big Ten Tournament. “They’re a really good cutting team. They play well off each other.”

The Spiders are averaging 71.7 points per game this season, which ranks 157th nationally.

Hawkeyes healthy this time around

Last season as a No. 2 seed, a very banged-up Iowa team lost to Oregon in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Connor McCaffery (hips), Ahron Ulis (hand), and Joe Toussaint (foot) all had surgeries after last season. Joe Wieskamp was playing through a sprained ankle. Luka Garza and Bohannon were not 100 percent healthy. This time around, despite having just played four games in the Big Ten Tournament, the Hawkeyes are feeling good heading into the national tournament.

RELATED: Richmond raves about Iowa forward Keegan Murray ahead of NCAA Tournament matchup

“We’re all healthy,” Kris Murray said. “We’re ready”

“The fortunate thing for us is we have a deep club,” Fran McCaffery said. “The most important thing is fresh legs and locking into the scouting report.”

Metrics favor Iowa

Iowa is favored by 10.5 points for its 2:10 p.m. CT game against Richmond. But if NET rankings are any indication, the Hawkeyes are the favorites to advance to the Sweet 16 among the four teams playing in Buffalo on Thursday.

Iowa is 14th in the NET rankings. Providence (32), Richmond (81), and South Dakota State (199) are much further down the rankings. Iowa is also far ahead of the other three teams in the rankings. The winner of the No. 5 seed Iowa vs. No. 12 Richmond matchup faces the winner of the No. 4 seed Providence vs. No. 13 SDSU matchup. The last team standing among the four teams advances to the second weekend.

The analytics seem to favor the Hawkeyes.

“We got a draw that we like with teams we want to face,” Kris Murray said. “We’re excited for every opportunity that we get … I’ve just been soaking all of this in. Every opportunity I get, I’m just trying to make the most of it. The best is yet to come.”