The Moment That Changed Richmond's Season: Cedrick Lindsay's Knees Say No Mas

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

There was maybe no bigger moment that changed a potential NCAA Tournament team's chances than when Cedrick Lindsay limped off the floor against Virginia Commonwealth in early February. The Spiders were never the same team again.

Moments can come and go during a basketball season and many just fly by without making a difference. Sure, there are wins and losses, but most teams don't have a defining moment that causes their season to change on a dime.

They come into the year either good, or bad, and generally trend in that direction. At the end of the year, the seed that they land on in the NCAA Tournament might be affected by a game here or there, but there is a destination and teams land in that spot.

That was not the case for Richmond, a team that was expected to compete in the Atlantic 10, and until a fateful game against VCU in early February, they were doing just that.

Even in the aftermath of this moment, the Spiders were on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament. It was going to require some work to get into the field of 68, but they had done enough to get into consideration.

The Spiders went a respectable 11-6 during the nonconference season against the 77th best nonconference slate in the country. They showed well against North Carolina, and Florida, and dropped some tough overtime games to Wake Forest and Ohio, but overall, this was a team playing well, and just finding its groove as the Atlantic 10 season began.

Despite an opening loss to St. Bonaventure, things started to go in the Spiders' direction. They beat Dayton, and UMass, and St. Joe's, all three good wins for Richmond, even if they came at home.

Then they ran into the buzzsaw that was Saint Louis at the time.

And then the moment happened.

Before the Feb. 1 game against VCU, Cedrick Lindsay felt something tweak in his knee. He still went out and scored 21 point against the massive pressure defense that is HAVOC. He still almost had enough to lead his team back against the Rams. He almost had enough.

But it wasn't quite right. He hobbled from the court twice in the final minutes. He wouldn't play for the Spiders again.

A few days later, fellow senior Derrick Williams also left the team for personal reasons, leaving the Spiders without another senior leader.

The blow that came next was devastating. It would be discovered that Lindsay had torn the meniscus in both of his knees, and would need surgery to repair them. This wasn't the knee sprain that he had had earlier in the season coming back again. This was the end of his Spiders' career.

Richmond would win the next three games without Lindsay, against St. Bonaventure, and Duquesne, and Fordham. Those are games that had Lindsay been in the lineup, the team would have dominated. They needed a furious comeback against the Bonnies, but the other two games were rather comfortable.

It was a small sense of false hope that could creep in at that point. Maybe this team could win without Lindsay. They were still 7-3 in the league, and locked in a tight battle for a possible top 4 seed in the A-10 Tournament.

But it wasn't meant to be as they sat on the bubble, within spitting distance of the Last Four In during the middle of February. The game against George Washington proved it.

As the two teams battled back and forth during the first 27 minutes, you could tell that Lindsay's presence was missed on the floor. Kendall Anthony didn't have his buddy to kick the ball to. He didn't have that outlet that he so desperately needed.

Slowly, the Colonials would pull away, ultimately winning by eight. At the time, it looked like a crucial win for George Washington, and not so bad for Richmond. But it was just a sign of things to come.

The Spiders would lose their last four games of the year, including a loss against Rhode Island when they shot just 21 percent from the floor, and scored 0.6 points per possession. It was embarrassing.

The team would finish 8-8 in the league, and be forced to play in the second round of the conference bracket.

They beat Duquesne to get to the quarterfinals, only to run into VCU again. For the third time this season, the Rams would get the better of the Spiders, stomping them by 18 points on their way to ultimately playing St. Joe's for the title.

You have to wonder though what would have happened had Lindsay's knees held up until the end of the season. He was their most efficient scorer all season, and one of the main ball handlers for the Spiders.

He kept them from turnovers, he generated offense with his defense. He was the catalyst for what this Spiders team was doing until that February afternoon. This was still a good team without him, and will continue to be a good team next season.

But it was never the same once he was taken away by his bad knees. The loss of him both mentally and physically on the floor was too much for this Richmond team to overcome.

That is why Richmond is not in the NCAA Tournament this Monday. That is why they were ultimately passed over for the NIT. They didn't want to look anywhere else.

One moment in time, a little tweak before a game, and then a wobble to the bench. That is what changed Richmond's season, unfortunately for the worse.

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