Last season six Atlantic 10 teams managed to earn an NCAA tournament bid, with four of those teams (Dayton, George Washington, UMass and Saint Joseph’s) doing so after missing out on the Big Dance the season prior. One question for the Atlantic 10 entering the 2014-15 campaign is if there’s a team capable of making a similar jump, with the Richmond Spiders hoping that will indeed be the case.
Richmond finished the season with a 19-14 record, going 8-8 in conference play. But what some may forget about that team is that Chris Mooney’s Spiders were part of the bubble conversation until their loss at VCU on February 1, with leading scorer Cedrick Lindsay going down with a season-ending injury. Lindsay was averaging 18.3 points and 4.0 assists per game at the time of his injury, and without him even more was asked of fellow guard Kendall Anthony (15.9 ppg) on the offensive end.
Richmond went 5-6 over their last 11 games, which included a four-game losing streak to end the regular season. The Spiders’ loss to city rival VCU in the Atlantic 10 tournament would prove to be their final game of the season, as they weren’t chosen to participate in the Postseason NIT.
If there was anything positive to have come out of that season-ending stretch, it’s that every player in the rotation is back on campus for another run at the program’s first NCAA tournament berth since 2011. Anthony will lead the way, with an experienced junior class that includes forwards Terry Allen (10.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg) and Alonzo Nelson-Ododa (6.2, 5.4, 2.9 bpg) also expected to factor into the equation.
“It has helped that everyone who played in the last 10-12 games last year will be the guys who play this year,” Mooney said Friday. “I think that gave our guys really good experience. It’s one thing to be on a college basketball team and play a little bit, but when you’re thrust into a more important role, those experiences help to make you a better player.”
The Atlantic 10 will once again be competitive, with VCU seen by many as the early favorite and programs such as Dayton, UMass and George Washington seen as contenders as well. But don’t overlook Richmond either, as in the aftermath of their losing a player the caliber of Cedrick Lindsay others had to adjust almost immediately.
With an offseason to not only learn from those games but also improve individually and collectively, Richmond could very well find itself in the Atlantic 10 mix this winter.