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NC State has a tough bounce-back assignment in Richmond

Fortunately, things always go well for NC State in Charlotte.

Veterans Classic Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

I don’t know about you, but this Richmond team gives me the heebie-jeebies. You won’t find this in the advanced metrics, but according to my own scouting, Richmond players shout “think about spiders!” at the other team on roughly a third of their defensive possessions. When they do that, the other team is paralyzed in horror roughly 12% of the time, and you can imagine the variety of turnovers which may ensue from there.

It’s something that Kevin Keatts can try to simulate in practice, but he can’t really know how his guys are going to respond until they’re out there up against the real thing, and thinking about spiders in the moment, under the lights. Goddamned spiders.

Richmond 2021-22

... Adj OE/DE (rk) eFG% TO% OR% FTR
... Adj OE/DE (rk) eFG% TO% OR% FTR
Offense 108.3 (51) 54.9 (31) 14.5 (13) 20.8 (338) 26.1 (265)
Defense 97.3 (101) 53.2 (292) 19.4 (153) 26.3 (114) 24.1 (59)

Anyway, what was I talking about? Right, I hadn’t started talking about it yet. Well, it’s basketball.

It’s Chris Mooney’s 17th season on the bench in Richmond, and his program is one you can set your watch to: sometimes they’re okay; other times they’re pretty good; rarely do the Spiders make the NCAA tournament regardless.

The Spiders are good enough to challenge for an at-large bid this season if all else fails in the A-10—it’s not a group with a lot of depth, but they have loads of experience and can shoot the ball at an elite level. That combination can take a team a long way.

Richmond’s perimeter-oriented attack has been deadly this year, and this is the primary challenge facing the Wolfpack. More than 45% of Richmond’s field goal attempts this season have been threes, and they’ve made 38.2% of those shots. The Spiders aren’t going to wow anybody with their athleticism, but they make jumpers and take care of the basketball.

The team’s leading scorer is 6’7 win Tyler Burton, who averages 18.4 points per game on 59.4% shooting inside the arc and 45.5% shooting beyond it. His versatility is impressive, and his ability to get to the free throw line is a clear enough sign that he’s capable of creating a variety of problems.

State will also have to find a way to limit 6’10 big man Grant Golden, who will turn 24 in January and in his playing in his sixth college season. Pops here has an excellent interior game and he’s good enough from the perimeter to keep defenses honest. He also ranks 59th in the country in assist rate, which is even more impressive when you consider the bifocals he has to wear.

Have I mentioned this team is experienced? Point guard Jacob Gilyard is 23 and in his fifth season. Power forward Nathan Cayo is 24 and in his fifth season. Shooting guard Nick Sherrod is 24 and in his fifth season. Burton won’t turn 22 until February, which puts him on the young end of the spectrum.

Richmond ended up uniquely positioned to take advantage of the COVID year, and in an era where even solid mid-major programs can lose key players who opt to transfer up, Mooney has been able to keep his roster together. That’s noteworthy. The guys on this team have been playing together forever and they execute like it.

So Richmond is one of those annoying teams that can ground you down through pure execution at the offensive end, but let this not obscure how bad they have been defensively. They’re undersized overall and have no rim protector.

Opponents are shooting 52.3% inside the arc, and the Spiders rank 311th in block rate. They rebound well defensively, which has been a saving grace for them—without that, they’d have a really bad defense. It’s not possible to fully mitigate a field goal percentage defense that ranks 293rd—as Richmond’s own offense highlights, the game is about shot making, after all.

They do a decent job on the defensive glass, and they avoid fouls, which also might just be defensive indifference as guys drive in for layups. Dereon Seabron will test that theory.

And on that note, there’s nothing to discourage Seabron from doing his slashingest best all night—Richmond will be aware of this—so that will be interesting to watch. Can Richmond keep him out of the paint?

The Spiders don’t want to compromise defensive rebounding by playing zone, so I don’t expect to see much of that. They want to be aggressive in passing lanes along the perimeter (on account of no rim protectors) but they’ll have to balance that against Dereon Seabron’s whole thing. Should be a fun watch.

KenPom has Richmond by one.