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Richmond community optimistic as Spiders dance into March Madness

Richmond community optimistic as Spiders dance into March Madness
Posted at 6:31 PM, Mar 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-14 18:31:56-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- The chatter around campus at the University of Richmond Monday morning centered around a piece of history from the Spiders men’s basketball team. After an unexpected run to the Atlantic 10 Tournament Championship, Richmond is heading to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011.

A majority of the current student body was in middle school ten years ago.

“Haha, middle school. Yeah, I mean we were little babies,” said freshman Julia Brighton. “I mean they weren’t supposed to win. Davidson was supposed to win, so everyone is going crazy!”

The Spiders were seen by analysts as squarely outside of the NCAA tournament field heading into the conference tournament. Their four wins in four days, including several come-from-behind victories over higher seeds, secured them an automatic bid into the “Big Dance.”

“Seeing them all happy for each other, that’s what really like sticks with me,” said Thomas Takele, who takes photos of the basketball games for the student paper.

That experience has given Takele an up-close view of the team’s chemistry, which he said is a key ingredient to the 2021-22 squad.

“They know each other, they know how everyone is, what they’re going to do. And them being together outside the basketball court definitely helps them too,” he said.

Richmond has four players who have taken advantage of a sixth year of NCAA eligibility granted to players who had the 2019-20 season cut short due to the pandemic. This current Spiders squad fell short of outside expectations at times, but the A-10 tournament title checks a major box for the players who returned.

“I think it was just a tremendous story of grit and determination because they could have folded a lot of times. They lost some games they shouldn’t have lost,” said Linda Boland, a professor at UR for 18 years and a basketball fan since “forever.”

If sports can reflect life, Boland said this team showed a trait so many have battled over the course of the pandemic and lockdowns.

“Sort of filtering out some of those distractions, which is something a lot of us have had to do in our work lives and our family lives over the past couple of years. Really focus on what’s important to you, and that’s what this team was able to do. I’m really proud of them and really excited for them going forward,” Boland said.

On Monday, Spiders fans on campus were itching to see just how far their run will last.

“I just think it’s great that they made it this far,” said Brighton.

“I think they’ll go as far as their good defense that they played this weekend will take them,” Boland said.

“I think they can go pretty far, especially with their chemistry. I really think they could do some damage this year,” Takele said.

Richmond is a #12 seed, and they face #5 seed Iowa, the Big Ten tournament champs, in Buffalo, New York. Tip-off is scheduled for 3:10 p.m. and can be watched on TruTV.

Twelve seeds traditionally have a good chance of scoring upsets, and the last time the Spiders made the NCAA tournament, they advanced to the Sweet Sixteen.

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