116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Players darting in and out of the NCAA’s transfer portal. Why, it’s ruining college basketball.
Somebody forgot to tell the Richmond men’s roster to line up at the turnstile. These guys who are going to try to upset Iowa Thursday in an NCAA tournament first-round game at KeyBank Center came in together as freshmen and, in large part, will exit together as graduate students.
Jordan Bohannon has played an NCAA-record 178 games for Iowa and gets both mocked and saluted for it. As a team, though, Richmond is Team Graybeard. Here’s the Spiders’ starting lineup:
Grant Golden, 6th-year senior, 159 games at Richmond, 150 starts, 2,232 points
Nathan Cayo, 5th-year senior, 153 games at Richmond, 122 starts, 1,352 points
Jacob Gilyard, 5th-year senior, 152 games at Richmond, 152 starts, 2,011 points
Andre Gustavson, 4th-year senior, 106 games at Richmond, 44 starts
Tyler Burton, 3rd-year junior, 88 games, 59 starts at Richmond, 984 points
The top two Spider subs in minutes played this season are Nick Sherod, a sixth-year senior with 139 games at Richmond and 1,410 points, and Matt Grace, a fourth-year senior who has appeared in 118 games for the Spiders.
In 2021, this is a college basketball aberration of a good kind. Those grizzled vets strung together four wins to capture the Atlantic 10 conference tournament title last weekend.
“These guys were all incredibly productive 1,000-point scorers,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said, “so that gives them a lot of weapons, and I think that has been proven, especially when they come down the stretch.”
The NCAA’s waiver for an additional college season because of the pandemic season of 2020-21 was a godsend for the Spiders. Their 2019-20 team went 24-7 and would have been NCAA tourney bound had the event not abruptly been canceled, and Richmond’s players certainly were desirable to a lot of other coaches. However, they stayed put.
“During when the entire country was in quarantine, when COVID ended the season and everything,” Golden said, “I certainly had a bunch of schools sort of reach out to my high school coach and try and figure out what I was going to do with the fifth year and everything.
“So I know that there were a lot of options out there, but I had always said if I was going to decide to come back and everything, this year, whatever it may be, that it was going to be at Richmond.”
“Once I decided to come back after the COVID year,” said national steals leader Gilyard, “I knew there wasn't anywhere else I would rather be. Richmond was always what I was going to do.”
Iowa has done relatively little itself in the transfer portal compared to most Division I programs. But not as little recently as Richmond, which has the kind of togetherness you may see translates to the court Thursday.
“I have to give a lot of credit to this Richmond team,” Bohannon said. “They … brought all these guys back and decided they wanted to do something special this year, and they're one of the most experienced teams, very skilled. They're really tough to guard. I can't say enough good things about that.”
Lauding the opponent is as common in NCAA tourney press conferences as extra-long timeouts are during the tournament’s games. Richmond Coach Chris Mooney sold the Hawkeyes as a dominant force Wednesday.
“Iowa is incredible on offense,” Mooney said, “just prolific. … There’s just such little panic.
“(Keegan) Murray plays so easily that everything feels a little bit easier when they score.
“I just don’t know if anyone can really guard them for 40 minutes and just hold them to a low score, but for us, it’s going to be about making it as difficult as possible.”
“The saying is, I don’t know if you can stop them, you can only hope to contain them,” Golden said.
Murray returned the friendly volley, saying “Their experience helps a lot. That's what you need and that's how they made the run in (the A-10) tournament as a 6-seed.
“So, yeah, for us, it's all hands on deck because we know they're a really good team.”
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