A small school from the Richmond suburbs has once again rocked the college basketball world. The #12 seed University of Richmond Spiders knocked off #5 Vanderbilt Thursday and then dispensed with #13 Morehead State to advance to the Sweet 16.
Full disclosure here – I myself am a Spider, having been a student there to witness the Spiders, led by Johnny Newman, defeat Charles Barkley’s Auburn in 1984. The Spiders are the biggest giant killers in NCAA history. They are the only team to win games as a No. 12, 13, 14 and 15 seeds, and have the most victories of any school as a No. 12 seed or lower with 8. When the tournament committee put the Spiders in the 12 seed, I told everyone they should have been seeded higher, especially given the way they played in winning the Atlantic-10 tournament. I was right.
This year’s Spiders play a brand of basketball that purists love. They play a tenacious D, they don’t turn the ball over, they set great screens, make great passes, and everyone on the floor can hurt you from long range.
They have Justin Harper, a 6-10 senior forward with a deadly 3-point shot. Many project Harper to go in the 1st round of the NBA draft. They also have Kevin Anderson, a senior point guard who can penetrate and shoot the 3. He was Atlantic-10 player of the year last year, and is Honorable Mention All American this year. Dan Geriot, a 5th year senior center, plays with great technique and grit, and who also is deadly from long range. CBS analyst Bill Raftery was constantly singing Geriot’s praises. Darius Garrett has emerged as an intimidating shot blocker,who helped to send #5 Vanderbilt packing in the round of 64. Along with Darien Brothers, Kevin Smith and Francis-Cedric Martel, these Spiders may be the most talented team in school history.
Head Coach Chris Mooney is cool and steady and brings the brand of basketball from his alma mater, Princeton. The Spiders never seem to make stupid plays, and they rarely turn the ball over.
Most likely, the Spiders will have the daunting task of facing #1 seed Kansas Friday night. In most cases, a #12 seed would have no chance against a #1. But don’t sell these Spiders short. There is a quiet determination, a refusal to give up on this squad. If they can keep the game close, the Spiders’ intelligence, skill and grit could take them to the elite 8. The crowd in San Antonio will be rooting for Richmond to topple the Jayhawks and add another notch in its belt as “NCAA Giant Killers”.
At the beginning of the tournament, Nestor posted he had no one to root for. I told him to root for the Spiders. Hopefully he took me up on that suggestion, because this is a team that is very easy to root for, and if they keep it up, they could shock the world – Butler almost did it last year.
We are UR!!