Updated: May 10, 2022
In a game that featured a 4 and 13 seed, Providence’s win against South Dakota State on Thursday - in some ways - felt like an upset. With many choosing the Jackrabbits to continue their run-and-gun and sharpshooting ways, the Friars needed to show up with the entirety of their defensive efforts…and they delivered.
Now, it’s a date with the Atlantic 10 Champions. What’s to expect?
Here’s your guidebook to Saturday’s contest.
#4 PROVIDENCE FRIARS (26-5) vs. #12 RICHMOND SPIDERS (24-12)
KeyBank Center - Buffalo, New York
Broadcast Team: Brad Nessler (PXP), Brendan Haywood (Color), Evan Washburn (Sideline)
Westwood One Radio: Scott Graham (PXP), Jon Crispin (Color)
Local Radio (WPRO 99.7 FM & 630 AM): John Rooke (PXP), Joe “Sonar” Hassett (Color)
Odds, courtesy of theScore (entertainment only):
Providence ML: -150
Richmond ML: +120
Favorite: Providence -3
Over/Under: 134.5 (-110)
Accolades: BIG EAST Regular Season Champions
With a 4-seed, the 2021-22 Friars are now owners of the highest seed in program history, and for good reason. Providence have been ranked in the AP Top 25 poll for nearly three consecutive months, and at its pinnacle they eclipsed the top ten for the first time in program history. Let’s get it out of the way, folks; the Friars are an extremely lucky team this year. They’re quite literally ranked #1 in the KenPom “Luck” category. The Friars are 15-2 in games decided by single digits, so the only number that matters is the win column…and when the Friars are close, they typically come away with a win. Their slow tempo favors a defensive game, as we’ve seen all year. The Friars cracked 80 points only 4 times in 19 conference games this season…one of which went to 3OT.
Providence cut down the nets at their home floor, the Dunkin' Donuts Center, after winning the Big East Regular Season title for the first time ever. PIC: Matt St. Jean, Big East Coast Bias
Accolades: Atlantic 10 Champions
The Spiders were an afterthought in the top-heavy A-10 this year; they definitely had a few good wins under their belt, but surely it wouldn’t be enough to wipe out Dayton or Davidson, right? Well, sure enough, the Spiders went on a four-game win streak to pick off Rhode Island, VCU, Dayton, and Davidson, and earned themselves a 12-seed in this year’s big dance. There’s only one player in the entire nation that has been used more than Richmond’s Jacob Gilyard, and for good reason; Gilyard was the Game MVP in the Spiders’ first round win against Iowa on Thursday, scoring 24 points and coming away with 6 boards & 6 assists.
Providence key to the game: Dominate the glass
As with many mid-major teams - the A-10 no exception - size will always be at a premium. While the Providence Friars aren’t necessarily at a large advantage, they’ll ask a lot of their forwards in Saturday’s game to collect rebounds with every chance they can. Richmond is among the nation’s worst teams in offensive rebounding, grabbing less than 23% of their chances on the offensive glass (#328 out of 358 in the nation), so getting the extra chances will favor the Friars exponentially. Richmond also doesn’t force turnovers at a high clip, so while they’re certainly a disciplined defensive team, the Friars have an opportunity to ensure that rebounds translate to points.
Richmond key to the game: Hang on to the ball
On offense, Richmond is among the nation’s best in hanging onto the basketball. Their 14.5% turnover ratio is 10th among all programs nationally, they don’t allow defenses to steal the basketball (7.9% is 41st in NCAA), and they take good shots to back it up (111th in NCAA in effective FG%). It’s nearly impossible to play Providence in the fastbreak without some significant heartache, so if Richmond can adhere to its strengths, it’s the best case scenario. You cannot beat the Friars by upping the tempo unless you have the offensive dominance to back it up; and while Richmond is good, they simply can’t do that.
Richmond's Jacob Gilyard (#0) is having another record-setting year for the Spiders. PIC: Richmond Athletics
Providence player to watch: Al Durham
Durham, who was a four-year starter at Indiana, was an excellent addition to the Providence Friars this year. He’s been dubbed “The Closer” due to his late-game heroics at multiple points this season. Durham, a 6-4 guard, has the ability to shoot, facilitate, and play lockdown defense, all at an elite level. And when he goes, so do the Providence Friars. Durham had 13 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists against South Dakota State on Thursday, and his performance will be a good measure of how Providence stacks up against Richmond on Saturday. Durham will need to bring his lockdown defense against a guy like Jacob Gilyard or stretch forward Tyler Burton.
Providence's Al Durham (#1) will be a key enabler of their success against #12 Richmond on Saturday. PIC: Vincent Carchietta, USA TODAY Sports
Richmond player to watch: Grant Golden
Even though this is year six at Richmond for Golden, he remains a large part of what the Spiders like to do on both sides of the floor. The 6-10 forward is 56.3% from the field this year, establishing himself as a legitimate threat from the paint. On Saturday, it’ll be an elite test against Nate Watson, who is clearly one of the more dominant big-men that Golden will have faced off against in his career. In a game that Richmond needs to stay competitive on the glass, will Golden step up for his team? TL;DR - Richmond can’t win this game unless Golden rises to the occasion.