@noahgoldberg10 – Make sure to check out the most recent episode of the Spider Scoop Podcast!

Week 17 of the NFL season is the worst seven days of one of the best times of year.  Fantasy football is usually wrapped up and half of the games are meaningless, as much of the playoff picture has already locked in.  It’s just further incentive to switch over from NBC to Hallmark on your Sunday afternoon.  

The beauty of college basketball is we don’t get a week 17.  The Spiders (13-4 A-10) head into their regular season finale at Duquesne on Friday with second place in the Atlantic-10 locked up for the first time since they joined the conference.  Regardless of the outcome, they can book hotels and flights to Brooklyn knowing they can rest easy until Friday. But that rest will tarry until Saturday, for this road game in Pittsburgh could be their biggest game in many years.

Richmond is firmly on the bubble of the NCAA Tournament according to most bracketologists.  ESPN’s Joe Lunardi still has them in his first four out while CBS’s Jerry Palms has the Spiders in the field of 68.  However, mid-majors cannot afford giveaways, especially late in conference play, when they have fewer chances to pick up quad one and quad two wins than high-major teams.  A win Friday doesn’t guarantee an at-large bid, but a loss has a good chance to stymie any hopes of one.

The Spiders have built a nicer resume than the Dukes, but Keith Dambrot’s team poses a major matchup problem.  St. Louis beat Richmond in the Robins Center in dominating fashion in early January, essentially playing bully ball.  Hasahn French and Jimmy Bell Jr dominated the glass, which allowed Jordan Goodwin and Yuri Collins to hawk the perimeter, holding the Spiders to 4-21 3FG and forcing a 6:15 assist to turnover ratio.  While the Billikens’ stock has risen over the past month, there is a team that’s beaten them twice through conference play: Duquesne.

The Dukes are eighth in the conference in defensive efficiency, but they rank first in block percentage, led by junior Michael Hughes.  Listed as a 6’ 8” center, the big man has put up an 11.4 BLK% in A-10 play, rejecting over four shots per 40 minutes. He’s not merely a dominant physical force though.  He’s third on his team in AST%, posts a 25.5 player efficiency rating, a 57 TS% all while getting to the free throw line on 42% of his field goal attempts.

While Hughes will be stuck like glue to Grant Golden, Nathan Cayo is not going up against any slouch.  Junior Marcus Weathers, a 6’ 5” forward, has been dominant on the glass. He leads the Dukes with 7.6 rebounds per game and 15.6 points.  Weathers takes care of the ball, putting up just a 13 TOV% while also leading the team in usage rate. His 114 offensive rating is also a team high, so Cayo and Tyler Burton will have their work cut out for them on the defensive end.  

If you just glance at records, Richmond has been solid on the road this season.  They are 8-3 in true road games, and both quad one wins have come outside of the Robins Center against Wisconsin (neutral) and Rhode Island.  They also hold a 70-64 road victory against Davidson, who sits at 79 in the NET rankings. That could become a quad one win if the Wildcats can jump into the top-75 this weekend.

That doesn’t veritably tell the whole story.  Richmond got schelacked in the Siegel Center by 19, was held to just 59 points at Fordham, survived at George Washington by three points and won at Old Dominion on a buzzer-beater three from Grant Golden.  Nick Sherod has been inconsistent away from his home court, but a solid performance at St. Bonaventure and an electric second half against Davidson on Tuesday (17 points and five threes) will hopefully help him carry that confidence into the Palumbo Center.  Courtesy of our friends at the 3 Bid League Podcast (@3BidLeaguePod), we know Sherod is shooting 30.7 3P% in Spider losses and 47.4 3P% in victories. He’s been the X-factor for this team and will need to show up in a big way on Friday if the Spiders want to keep their dancing dreams afloat.

For the first time since 2016, Richmond’s regular season finale has no impact on its conference tournament seeding, yet the implications are immeasurable with at-large consideration on the line.  A dominant quad two win on the road against Duquesne could push it onto the right side of the bubble, pending results from Brooklyn. Tip off from Pittsburgh is at 7 p.m. as Richmond looks to win its most A-10 games in a season since Chris Mooney took over.  Make sure to catch the action right here on 99.5 FM and 950 AM ESPN.

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