A year ago, the Richmond Spiders advanced to the Sweet 16 for just the second time in program history. In the process, they set a school record with 29 wins. However, the team with the scariest logo in the history of team logos (I hate spiders) has lost four starters and will struggle to find the level of success they have reached the past couple seasons.
In each of the past two years, Richmond has finished 13-3 in the Atlantic-10, falling just short of capturing the conference crown. A big part of that success was a talented core led by Kevin Anderson and Justin Harper. The obstacle this season for the Spiders will be finding players who are ready to step into significant roles.
Darien Brothers is the only returning starter and top scorer back from a year ago despite averaging just 7.6 points per game. He will obviously be relied upon heavily from a leadership and point production standpoint. Back-up Cedrick Lindsey steps into the starting point guard role and takes over as the primary ball-handler, a job Anderson and Kevin Smith shared last season. Seldom-used Greg Robbins will compete for minutes off the bench along with redshirt freshman Wayne Sparrow and Kendall Anthony.
Francis-Cedric Martel aka "The Ninja" (seriously, how sweet is that nickname?) was a key contributor off the bench as a junior and should step into the starting line-up at the three. Freshman Trey Davis provides versatility behind "The Ninja."
The frontcourt tries to replace the steady production of Justin Harper, who became the first Spider taken in the NBA Draft in almost twenty years, and Dan Geriot. Derrick Williams (no, not THAT Derrick Williams) and Darrius Garrett both figure to move from the bench into the starting line-up. Williams is a beast of a young man at 6-6, 285 pounds while Garrett's length and athleticism make him an effective rebounder and shot blocker. Neither guy is really known as a scorer though.
Luke Piotrowski (6-11) is considered by most as the best of the in-coming class due to the combination of a solid back-to-the-basket game to go along with a nice stroke from the outside. He should work his way into the equation and add some scoring punch off the bench. Josh Duinker should also work his way into the mix due to his great effort.
There will be a lot of new faces in bigger roles this season for Chris Mooney. How smoothly that transition goes will determine whether the Spiders can maintain their status as one of the top teams in the Atlantic-10 or fall back into the middle of the pack.
Player to Watch: Francis-Cedric Martel, SF
With a nickname like "The Ninja" how could you not want to watch this dude? You never know, he could pull out a Chinese throwing star or samurai sword and decapitate an opponent. Maybe he'll wear a sweet mask one game. In all seriousness though, Martel is one of the reserves from a year ago who needs to establish himself as a legitimate starter. His athleticism is his biggest asset, but he is also a capable three-point threat on the wing.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/22 vs. Illinois (Cancun Challenge)
11/23 vs. Rutgers/Illinois State (Cancun Challenge)