The Richmond Spiders enter Thursday’s matchup against the No. 5 seed Iowa Hawkeyes as one of the most experienced teams in the country. Four super seniors headline the Richmond lineup, returning for this exact moment in the Big Dance.
The veteran-laden lineup was destined for at worst an at-large selection in the 2020 NCAA Tournament before the COVID-19 pandemic wiped away their hopes. After faltering during the regular season, Richmond found themselves on the outside looking in. For the Spiders, a return to this year’s tournament seemed unlikely before their magical run in Washington D.C.
Chris Mooney’s squad pulled off a historic run in the Atlantic 10 tournament, winning four games in four days to capture the Atlantic 10 title.
Following a second round win over Rhode Island, Richmond clinched their spot in the semifinals with a 75-64 victory over cross-town rival VCU. Jacob Gilyard tallied a season-high 32 points, draining seven threes in the win.
The Spiders’ semifinal foe, Dayton, won the only regular season matchup 11 days earlier 55-53. The Flyers seemed destined to repeat the regular season performance, carrying a 33-25 lead into halftime.
The duo of Grant Golden and Tyler Burton piloted the second half comeback, while Matt Grace’s go-ahead three pointer with 1:40 remaining gave the Spiders the lead for good. Golden poured in 18 points and nine boards, while Burton tallied 16 points and eight rebounds.
For Richmond, the dream of redeeming the lost NCAA Tournament in 2020 was 40 minutes away.
The top-seeded Davidson Wildcats headed into Sunday’s final with 27 wins and a presumed at-large bid regardless of Sunday’s result.
The Wildcats held a one-point halftime lead, while the second half featured multiple lead changes. The Spiders found themselves down two with 28 seconds remaining.
Once again, Matt Grace was the hero, completing an and-one opportunity to give the Spiders the lead 63-62. A defensive stop and made free throw saw Richmond clinch their first bid to the NCAA Tournament since 2011 with a 64-62 victory over the Wildcats.
The Spiders’ roster is structured to make some noise in the Field of 68. The NCAA career leader in steals Jacob Gilyard is a main stable on the defensive side of the ball, while averaging 13.3 points and 5.4 assists per game on the offensive end.
Trey Burton pioneers the Spiders’ offensive attack, tallying 16.3 points and 7.7 rebounds per contest. Sixth year senior Grant Golden aids Burton, scoring 14.4 points per game and hauling in 6.1 rebounds per contest.
The Big 10 champs Iowa Hawkeyes await the Spiders in their Round of 64 matchup, but the experience of Richmond can provide the opportunity to pull off the upset against Keegan Murray and the Hawkeyes.
How to Watch
Matchup: Richmond Spiders vs. Iowa Hawkeyes
Date and Time: Thursday, March 17 at 3:10 p.m. ET
Location: KeyBank Center, Buffalo, New York
DraftKings Line: Iowa -10.5, O/U 150
Richmond has waited for this moment for over two years, seeking redemption for the lost NCAA Tournament in 2020. The Spiders certainly have what it takes to contend with the Hawkeyes. However, I think Keegan Murray and the outside shooting of Iowa will be too much to handle. Richmond will contend for the first half, but Iowa will pull away in the second. The Hawkeyes will avoid the upset and defeat Richmond 81-70.