In preparation for this week's CBI Championship series, we took a minute to talk to John O'Connor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The Richmond Spiders, out of the Atlantic-10 Conference, lost to UTEP in the Semifinals of the CBI on Wednesday. Richmond defeated the College of Charleston and St. John's to reach the Semifinals. They also pulled off a regular season victory over Atlantic-10 Champion Xavier, who advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. Here is O'Connor's game story from the Richmond loss to UTEP.
Jake, Building the Dam: First of all, let's talk about the CBI. The Gazelle Group describes the tournament as being " meaningful opportunity for teams that are deserving of a postseason experience". Richmond finished the season at 17-14... did you think they were deserving of playing into the post-season? Did the experience benefit the team?
John, Richmond Times-Dispatch: If postseason is a reward, Richmond did not deserve a reward. The Spiders didn't beat a team with a winning record in non-league play and finished tied for fifth in the Atlantic 10 Conference. The three games Richmond played, however, were beneficial as a run-up to next season for a team with just one scholarship senior.
Jake: Do you like the idea of the CBI? Imperative or trivial?
John: The CBI is becoming a place for non-BCS schools that had decent years. I think it's good for young teams, but that doesn't mean fans care. Richmond drew about about 2,500 for each of its three CBI home games.
Jake: If one was to take a quick glance at Richmond's schedule, a 80-75 win over Xavier, a Sweet 16 team, stands out. Was this game a fluke, or a sign of things to come for the Spiders?
John: Richmond beating Xavier in Richmond came two days after Xavier played Dayton - those two schools are archrivals - and after Xavier had wrapped up the A-10 tournament's top seed. But the Spiders are young, and that was a confidence-building win.
Jake: Most people who wrote about UTEP's win over Richmond in the CBI Semifinals said that the Miners simply outquicked the Spiders. Oregon State likes to slow games down and run their Princeton-style offense. Did Richmond try to slow the game down at all against UTEP? If so, how effective was the tactic?
John: Richmond uses a Princeton-style offense, but it's not a slow-down operation. The Spiders simply could not handle UTEP's guards, Stefon Jackson (34 points) and Randy Culpepper (19). Too quick. Much too quick.
Jake: UR cut the UTEP lead to 58-56 at one point in the second half before UTEP went on a run and cruised to a 12 point win. How did the Spiders climb back into the game? Why did UTEP pull away again?
John: Richmond came back by hitting 3s and holding UTEP without a FG for six minutes. UTEP looked tired, but pulled away late by going to a zone. That threw off the Spiders. Richmond went about five minutes without a bucket.
Jake: Just how big was the ejection of Richmond head coach Chris Mooney in the game? Did that have anything to do with UTEP pulling away?
John: Ejection was a non-factor. Richmond was down seven with 4:44 left when Richmond coach Chris Mooney was asked to leave.
Jake: UTEP is led by Stefon Johnson and Randy Culpepper. How good are these guys? Is their any way to shut these guys down? Oregon State likes to deploy a 1-3-1 zone defense. Any chance of that working?
John: UTEP's guards were ultra-quick compared to Richmond. Jackson averages 24 points. He is the nation's fourth-leading scorer who gets to the FT line about 10 times a game. Don't plan on him being shut down. Playground player. Knows how to score. Great mid-range game.
Thanks, John! For more on Richmond from the Times-Dispatch, here's your link.