Mar 19, 2011; Denver, CO, USA; Richmond Spiders players Darien Brothers (3) and forward Conor Smith (31) celebrate after defeating the Morehead State Eagles in the third round of the 2011 NCAA men

Richmond Spiders Basketball Season Preview

The college hoops season is right around the corner, and Busting Brackets is here to whet your basketball-starved appetite. Over the next five weeks, we are publishing season previews team by team, conference by conference, to offer a glimpse into the upcoming season. Busting Brackets is giving you the lowdown on the biggest storylines, offseason changes and x-factors for each team and each league as we roll into the 2012-13 season. Our complete season preview archive can be accessed here. Buckle up, peeps.

  Richmond Spiders

Last Season 16-16 (7-9 A-10)
Lost to La Salle in A-10 tournament opening round
No postseason
Key Returning Players: Darien Brothers, G
Derrick Williams, F
Kendall Anthony, G
Cedrick Lindsay, G
Greg Robbins, G/F
Key Additions: Trey Davis, F (Redshirt)
Terry Allen, F (Manvel HS)
Deion Taylor, F (St. Augustine HS)
Luke Moyer, G (Souderton Area HS)
Luke Piotrowski, C (Atlantic Christian School)
Key Losses: Francis-Cedric Martel, F
Darrius Garrett, F/C
Top Non-Conference Games: Nov. 18 @ Minnesota
Nov. 24 @Ohio (Nation of Coaches Classic)
Dec. 1 vs. Wake Forest
Dec. 4 @ Old Dominion
Dec. 18 @ Kansas
Dec. 22 @ George Mason (Governor’s Holiday Hoops Classic)
Dec. 29 vs. Davidson
Top Conference Games: Jan. 19 @ Butler
Jan. 24 vs. VCU
Feb. 6 vs. Xavier
Feb. 9 vs. Saint Louis
Feb. 13 @ Saint Joseph’s
Mar. 6 @ VCU
Breakout Player: Derrick Williams. No, not the high-flying former Arizona Wildcat who was picked second in the 2011 NBA draft, but Richmond’s Derrick Williams has plenty of game of his own. The junior forward will be the centerpiece of the Spiders’ frontcourt next season, so much so that you can probably pencil in 15 to 20 touches a game for him as a general projection. Williams can do a little bit everything, a la his namesake who starred in Tucson. He can obviously score at an efficient rate (he’s a 53-percent shooter for his career); he hits his free throws at an above average clip for a forward (76-percent); he rebounds well for his position; and though reluctant to do so, he can knock down the open 3-point shoot (he hit 14 of his 40 attempts from downtown last season). With the skeleton of his supporting cast down low gone from a season ago, Williams will be the go-to piece inside on a team more guard-oriented. Honorable mention all-conference isn’t out of the picture if the Harlem native capitalizes on this ripe opportunity.
X-Factor: Defense. Even with big men who struggled to put the ball in the basket at an efficient clip, Richmond can flat out score the basketball. Returning guards Darien Brothers, Kendall Anthony and Cedrick Lindsay form a backcourt nucleus rife with 3-point shooters who can also put the ball on the deck and get to the free throw line (each of the three went to the charity stripe more at least 105 times last season). Defense, however, could hold the Spiders back. Chris Mooney’s squad ranked tenth in the league in defensive efficiency last season, and that was with shot-blocking extraordinaire Darrius Garrett patrolling the paint. Garrett let the A-10 in blockers per 40 minutes (5.16) last season, and his presence protecting the rim will be sorely missed for a Richmond defense that struggled to stay in front of opposing offensive players. The absence of Garrett, the team’s last line of defense, will put added pressure on the Spiders backcourt to contain their assignment. If Richmond has to pack in their defense to atone for the loss of Garrett, expect opponents to take advantage from long-distance.  With a stout defense, Richmond has enough offensive talent to compete for the upper echelon of the A-10. Without it, the Spiders can do no better than middle of the pack.
Best Case: Williams has a breakout year in a newly defined and expanded role. The sophomore Anthony shines as one of the up-and-coming great guards in a conference full of them. Brothers, who made a big jump between his sophomore and junior seasons, puts it all together as a senior and has a season deserving of all-conference accolades. Richmond continues to be one of the premiere shooting teams in the conference, and a renewed commitment to defense allows the offensive explosions to hold up. Redshirt freshman Trey Allen provides coveted frontcourt depth while freshman center Luke Piotrowski, the only true center on the roster, gives five to ten minutes at the 5 to round out the rotation. Boosted by a competitive non-conference slate, the Spiders hit the ground running in the A-10, winning 10 games in league and challenging for the top tier of the conference.
Worst Case: The loss of Garrett is too much to overcome on defense and the Spiders are exploited all season inside. The guards again do a poor job of perimeter contain and the lack of a reliable backline haunts the team. Although Saint Joseph’s big man C.J. Aiken won league defensive player of the year honors thanks to leading the conference in blocks (but not blocks per 40 minutes), we learn that Garrett was the most indispensable defensive piece in the league. While strong on offense, chuck-happy Richmond becomes overly reliant on perimeter jump shots and shoots themselves out of several games. With nary an inside presence to speak of excluding Williams, the Spiders are easily exploited in the paint. After a rough stretch during the non-conference portion of the schedule, the team’s fortunes don’t turn around in league play. The Spiders lose 10 games in-league, realizing that the A-10 is even deeper than they had anticipated. For the second consecutive year, Richmond is without a postseason appearance.
Projected Finish: 17-14 (7-9 Atlantic-10)
Lose in quarterfinals of A-10 tournament
CIT Berth

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