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Some thoughts after watching Richmond highlights

The Spiders’ Jacob Gilyard could be a problem

NCAA Basketball: Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament-Richmond vs Davidson Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

If you are anything like me, you have watched very little Richmond Spiders basketball this season ahead of Iowa’s matchup with the A-10 Tournament Champions. There are certainly some things to discern from the various statistical websites - sports-ref, KenPom ($), Bart Torvik, Evan Miya, to name a few - but there’s something to be said for just watching a team.

So far, I’ve made it through three Matthew Loves Ball cut-ups of the Spiders: their championship win against Davidson, February 18th loss at VCU, and November loss to Maryland. Those videos can be found here:

and here:

and here:

The full disclaimer on these is that they are largely a compilation of the game’s made baskets. It can be tough to discern a full scout on them, plus I am not necessarily adept at that type of analysis. However, I hope the broad generalities I provide paint a better picture of the team Iowa will face in a couple days.

Spiders on offense:

  • The three games selected ran the gamut, as far as offensive performance for them. Against VCU, they mustered just 57 points (4 off a season low) in a rivalry road game. Their loss to Maryland was played in the 80s. The Davidson win was a last-minute comeback where they got to 64.
  • The Maryland game is the spookiest to watch as an Iowa fan. Richmond got scoring from all over, had really nice spacing (at the time they were making 11 3s a game...down to 8 now). They used that spacing to slice Maryland’s defense with dribble drives & backdoor cuts. Maryland’s defense was reminiscent of some past iterations of Iowa games.
  • Grant Golden was the primary passer in those backdoor situations. Richmond uses him all over the floor and against Maryland, he was able to use his 6’10” frame to find cutters. I wouldn’t call him a creative passer - when I saw his assist numbers I was expecting some flair a la Trevion Williams - but he is very good for his size in terms of fitting the ball into small windows. Not afraid to rim run, so Hawkeye bigs will need to be read for that.
  • Jacob Gilyard fits the archetype of a fan darling for this time of year. Undersized, been around forever, not afraid of any shot, and can get them off from a number of angles. If he’s feeling it from deep, he could keep it close singlehandedly. In my estimation, they use him a lot like Iowa uses Jordan Bohannon. He’ll be the primary ballhandler a lot and pull it in ball screen or isolation situations but he also is best as an off ball spacer and excellent catching and shooting (1.28 points/possession per Synergy). If he’s not hitting his shots, he can impact the game a number of ways, though. Not uncommon to see him have 8+ assists alongside low scoring games.
  • This is a game selection confirmation bias, but I was not particularly impressed with their leading scorer, Tyler Burton. One area to be concerned, though, is that he is really good at drawing fouls - 4.9 drawn per 40 minutes. Keegan Murray figures to be the guy slotted against him most of the game, so he’ll have to continue his clean defensive performance to make sure he can stay on the court.
  • Though their offensive rebounding numbers are light, they’re not afraid to generate offense that way. They used it to their benefit coming back against Davidson to seal their entry into the tournament.

Spiders on defense

General note here: because of the bias of seeing made shots, I saw more or less where Richmond struggled and not necessarily where they were effective on this end of the court.

  • They pressed sparingly but did so after both field goal and free throw makes, as well as Gilyard doing ball denial on opponent point guards after misses. Iowa’s been spotty in the press break at times so I expect a fair amount of it from Richmond as they look to pull the upset.
  • Maryland used the transition offense off of misses to chop into Richmond’s second half lead. That’s not what the Spiders want to do, evidenced by their offensive rebounding rate, but Iowa’s been really effective off misses throughout the season with their cadre of guys who can take rebounds and go.
  • VCU was especially good here, as it was Richmond’s worst points/possession game of the three. The Rams used defense to offense to their advantage, with Richmond going just 6/25 from deep.
  • Richmond was really really aggressive in their closeouts against Davidson. Look for Iowa to take advantage with pump fakes & drives.

Even broader generalities

  • Debbie Antonelli said that Richmond’s average age is 23. Veteran bunch.
  • While they had their share of losses inside of 5 points, they’re gonna try and keep it within striking distance and pull off the upset. They finished 6-5 within that margin, with four of those wins have come in the last couple weeks.
  • Against Maryland, Richmond yielded runs of 11-1 & 17-3 in the second half after posting a 12-0 run in the first. VCU used 16-1 & 17-3 runs to flip the script & turn the lead into insurmountable. But! The Spiders withstood a 10-0 second half run from Davidson (turned a five-point lead into a five-point deficit) to come back in the final minutes.

What did you see? Did you watch any more Spiders games?