By Noah Goldberg
The Richmond Spiders return after a six-day hiatus for final exams fully healthy ahead of a Saturday matchup with the College of Charleston in the Robins Center. The 8-1 Spiders are off to their best start since the 1985-1986 season led behind reigning A-10 Player of the Week Jacob Gilyard.
The junior had one of the most efficient weeks across the country. In games against Hampton and South Alabama, Gilyard averaged 16.5 points, 8.5 assists, 6 rebounds and 5 steals while committing zero turnovers and shooting 7-12 3FG. He is the only player in the A-10 to win multiple Player of the Week awards this season, aside from Dayton’s Obi Toppin, and many league fans are picking him second for POY, also behind Toppin. Gilyard is the best two-way guard in the league and is also one of the most efficient. He ranks top-10 in the country in player efficiency rating, true shooting percentage and effective field goal percentage, 1st in steals per game with 3.9, 3rd in box plus/minus, 3rd in offensive rating and 2nd in win shares. Per sources, Jacob Gilyard is pretty good.
As reflective as his numbers are of the team’s offensive success, so are his incredible defensive stats. After an abysmal first two games, Richmond is giving up just 59.1 points per game, good for 25th in Division-1. An expanded and athletic bench hasn’t only given reprieve to starters but has defended equally, if not better than the starting lineup.
Sophomore Andre Gustavson has been a great stopper as the sixth man, checking in often to defend the first or second best player on the court. Him and Gilyard will key in on Charleston’s Grant Riller, a senior guard averaging 20.8 points. Riller is a quick guard at 6’ 3” with a downhill game. He is shooting just 22.2 3FG% this season though and with no player hitting more than 1.7 shots from deep per game, he doesn’t have many shooters to pass to out of his dribble drive. In fact, Charleston shoots just 29.3 3FG% as a team, which ranks 300th in the nation.
Charleston’s starting center, 6’ 8” Osinachi Smart, and starting forward, 6’ 7” Jaylen McManus, have effective field goal percentages at or below 50% and neither has a TRB% above 16%. While both weigh 235 lbs, neither is incredibly assertive on the offensive glass nor run an effective high-low game. It’s a strong matchup for juniors Grant Golden and Nathan Cayo on the interior.
Defensively, Charleston struggles to switch and run over high ball screens, which bodes well for the Spiders. Look for Gilyard and Golden to screen off Riller and catch Smart caught in no man’s land. It could be a good day for the Princeton offense.
Receiving three votes in the AP Top-25 voting, the Spiders are 64th in KenPom and many experts are putting them on the NCAA Tournament bubble. It’s crucial they win out the rest of their out-of-conference schedule, which wraps up with a great chance to beat an SEC team on the road in Alabama. Tip is at 5 p.m. Saturday in the Robins Center as Richmond looks to improve to 9-1. Catch the action on 99.5 FM & 950 AM ESPN starting at 4:30p.