By Noah Goldberg
The Spiders head north to Brooklyn for the Roman Legends Classic in the Barclays Center, home of the Nets and their former-Spider head coach Kenny Atkinson. Richmond will take on the 4-1 Wisconsin Badgers, whose only loss comes at the hands of St. Mary’s College. Richmond has opened up the year at 4-0 for the first time since 1985, with wins over St. Francis (PA), Vanderbilt, Cal State Northridge and McNeese State.
It is hard to gauge where this season is heading after the first four games. A 4-0 record behind the third highest-scoring offense in the nation is encouraging to many, while concerns over rebounding, defense and two overtime wins against weaker opponents leave others hesitant.
The Badgers have struggled stopping the deep ball this year, something Jacob Gilyard and company will look to expose. Wisconsin has allowed opponents to shoot 37 3FG% (299th) against a weak schedule, facing three teams outside of the top-240 according to KenPom. Richmond has shot the lights out through four games behind juniors Jacob Gilyard (58.3 3FG%), Nick Sherod (55.6%) and Blake Francis (42.9%). Those numbers probably aren’t sustainable, but all three could stay over 40% on the year. The quintessential factor, though, is that they are all capable of creating their own shots, especially Francis and Gilyard.
Wisconsin is not the most physical team on the glass, which will benefit Grant Golden and Nate Cayo. Despite standing at 6’ 11” and 235 lbs, junior Nate Reuvers has just a 12.3 TRB%, grabbing 5.6 boards per game, compared with Golden’s 19.3% and 8.3 while playing on an injured ankle for two games. Wisconsin pulled down just 28 rebounds against McNeese State, seven fewer than Richmond’s 35 against the Cowboys.
In fact, Richmond blew them out by 30 points and controlled McNeese throughout the game, leading by 15 at the half. The Badgers only led McNeese by three points at halftime, though eventually winning by 20. The Cowboys were 38% from behind the arc in the contest and with the way they hung around in the first half, this Ethan Happ-less Wisconsin team is vulnerable.
This is Richmond’s best potential out-of-conference matchup, and the chance to face #19 Auburn would be an incredible resume builder for an at-large bid. The Spiders will not face any top-100 KenPom teams following this invitational, with a 2-2 Alabama looking like one of the weaker SEC teams.
Richmond shot just 27.7% from three in the Barclays Center back in March during the A-10 Tournament, including a 4-21 performance against Fordham. Despite struggling in the same building last Spring, expect a team now featuring Francis and Sherod to shed those shooting woes.
Tip is at 7 p.m. from Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Catch the game on ESPN2 and on the radio at 99.5 FM/950 AM ESPN.