Fordham takes on Chris Mooney and Princeton-style offense of Richmond tomorrow at Rose Hill Gym in latest attempt to end Rams' losing streak, which now stands at seven. (Photo courtesy of USA Today)
Losers of seven straight after their latest setback on the road this past Wednesday against George Washington, it appeared as though things could not get much worse for 6-21 Fordham. Then, it was announced yesterday that sophomore shooting guard Bryan Smith would miss the remainder of the season with a broken hand; which if he played through the injury, would explain much of Smith's enigmatic second campaign in the Bronx, one marked by maddening inconsistency and unexpected slumps. With Smith no longer around for Fordham's final four games, the Rams will still take the court tomorrow with an opportunity to get off the schneid against a 15-11 Richmond team in a 1pm tipoff from the Rose Hill Gym.
At 15-11, Chris Mooney's Spiders are in consideration for a trip to the NIT or even CBI; and if Richmond can go on a late surge, his team can play its way into the NCAA Tournament the same way they did in 2011, when they ended the regular season on the outside of the bubble before winning the Atlantic 10 Tournament in Atlantic City and ultimately reaching the Sweet Sixteen as a No. 12 seed, where the Spiders were eliminated by Kansas. Richmond is presently the owner of the 60th-strongest schedule and has an RPI of 95, (numbers courtesy of RealTimeRPI.com) two numbers that may take a slight hit given Fordham's lackluster campaign this season. The Spiders are also struggling, as they have gone 6-9 since winning nine of their first eleven to open the season.
Richmond shoots the ball very well from the three-point line, as the Spiders are averaging 38 percent combined from beyond the arc. In fact, four of the regulars in Mooney's rotation shoot a 40 percent or better clip, including leading scorers Darien Brothers and Kendall Anthony, who come into the game with 44 and 43 percent marks, respectively. After missing nine games recently due to injury, Derrick Williams will be competing in his fourth game since returning two weeks ago against Saint Louis, and is the Spiders' leading rebounder with an average of just under six caroms per game. Point guard Cedrick Lindsay and swingman Greg Robbins will look to facilitate plays in transition for Richmond, and should draw Branden Frazier and Mandell Thomas in opening matchups. The Rams also need to be mindful of Alonzo Nelson-Ododa, who leads the Spiders with 48 blocked shots.
A strength for Fordham on paper is their rebounding ability, as Richmond enters this contest averaging just 29 boards per game, an indirect byproduct of Mooney's Princeton-inspired offense, which relies heavily on back-door cuts and an open invitation to shoot from outside. Richmond's rebounding inefficiency has also translated to a plus-7 rebounding margin in favor of their opponents, who amass 36 caroms on average against the Spiders this season. Fordham will likely see a Richmond team intent on keeping the game in the high 60s to low 70s, as the Spiders have broken the 75-point plateau just three times in Atlantic 10 play. Expect Chris Gaston to impose his will early and often against Richmond, particularly under the rim. Do not be surprised to see Travion Leonard make an early impact as well with his ability to climb the ladder on the defensive glass, not to mention the clear size advantage he possesses against his likely matchup Williams, who played alongside Gaston under Bob Hurley at St. Anthony's High School in Jersey City.
Of Fordham's four remaining games, one can make a case that this is the most winnable for the Rams. One can also expect Tom Pecora's team to want to play well for Chris Gaston, who will be honored on senior day tomorrow. Richmond comes in with everything to lose, while the hometown Rams are looking to play the spoiler. This should be an intriguing game that could very well go down to the wire like many others at Rose Hill this season, and hopefully you'll join us for the ride.