Mooney has Richmond dreaming of a return to NCAAs (cont.)
Geriot's still rusty, as his 37.3 percent shooting implies, but his impact on the way the Spiders can play is clear. He provides a legitimate scoring threat in the low post and creates space for others by drawing frequent double teams. An adept passer, Geriot has an assists-per-minute rate pretty much equal to that of the team leaders, and his ball-sharing has been contagious. Last season, Richmond assisted on just 47.6 percent of its baskets. This season, they're at 57.8 percent, and Anderson (17.3 points per game) and Gonzalvez (13.3) have become more efficient scorers.
"I think it is essential that the team's giving me the touches I need, and I just have to make the right decisions," Geriot said before this past weekend's tough loss at city rival VCU. "We're [7-2], so I'm making pretty good ones, I think."
On the other end, his 6.4 rebounds per game are helping shore up another major weakness from last season. According to kenpom.com, the current Spiders are 107th in Division I in defensive rebounding percentage. Last season, they finished 289th. Richmond also is allowing just 0.85 points per possession (12th in Division I, adjusted for schedule) and is 11th in the nation in two-point FG percentage allowed (38.9).
Having already been tested by some solid competition, the defense should remain solid, thanks to the comfort the Spiders' core has developed playing with each other for the past couple of seasons. If Richmond can get Geriot going and fine-tune the offensive balance that's still a bit off-kilter, there's potential for a legit A-10 run.
"We've played well and we've been tough -- in South Padre, that was the case -- but I don't think there's been a game where we can say, 'Yeah, that was our A-game,'" Geriot said.
In fact, it may have been the Spiders' most disappointing game thus far -- a road loss at William & Mary (itself a surprising success story with 6-2 record that includes a win at Wake Forest) -- that set the tone for the South Padre sweep.
"Our approach the next day in practice and for the next couple of games was great," Geriot said. "It showed we were mature enough to handle that. I think we realize now that [kind of] loss shouldn't affect us for the next game. There shouldn't be a day off."
That mental growth will continue to be tested. The Spiders wasted a 12-point first-half lead at VCU and now head to South Carolina before visiting No. 13 Florida. These nonconference tests -- and the way Richmond responds to another tough loss -- could go a long way toward determining how serious Richmond's NCAA tournament aspirations are.
The best part of this dream, though, is that Mooney and Richmond don't appear likely to wake up from it anytime soon. Next season, the Spiders will lose Gonzalvez, but will have three starters back and are adding a very well regarded freshman class. (This despite the fact that Richmond was slapped in November with two years of probation over illegal calls and text messages sent by a since-departed assistant coach in 2007. Mooney wasn't implicated directly in any of the contacts.)
Mooney's decision to bolt Air Force for Richmond looked shocking five years ago. But with hindsight, it appears to have been prescient. Mooney's predecessor, Joe Scott, failed in his homecoming move to Princeton and ended up at the University of Denver. Mooney's successor, Jeff Bzdelik, coaxed an NCAA bid in the first of his two seasons at Air Force, but left for Colorado and has yet to turn the Buffaloes around. Jeff Reynolds, the current Falcons coach, suffered through an 0-16 Mountain West campaign last season as the talent level in the program returned closer to historic levels.
Is it safe to say now that Richmond might be the best job any of those men hold? You're not dreaming.
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