Saturday's Midwest Region second-round game between Richmond and Providence will send one program to its third Sweet 16 in the last four decades.
While the Friars (26-5) had some success in the '70s, including one Final Four run, this could be the best chance for a deep tournament run for either team in a long time. Richmond's last Sweet 16 run came in 2011, while Providence's last was in 1997.
Richmond (24-12) already needed one major upset to make it to the Round of 32. The Spiders knocked off No. 5 Iowa, which was a dark horse in the region. Ranked No. 13 by KenPom and No. 14 in NET, the Hawkeyes were underseeed but fell behind Richmond with 14 minutes to go in the second half — trailing by as much as eight — and never come back.
Providence, meanwhile, took care of business on Thursday against No. 13 South Dakota State, which was a popular upset pick having entered the NCAA Tournament on a 21-game winning streak. After taking a lead 10 minutes into the game, the Friars never looked back.
The winner of this game will likely face No. 1 seed Kansas, which is up against No. 9 Creighton earlier on Saturday.
Midwest Region: No. 12 Richmond Spiders (24-12) vs. No. 4 Providence Friars (26-5)
Time: Saturday, March 19 at 6:10 p.m. ET
Where: KeyBank Center (Buffalo, N.Y.)
Spread: Providence -3
Keys for Richmond
The Spiders are an experience-rich team, crucial in March Madness, with five seniors returning to take advantage of their extra year of eligibility plus another three fourth-year seniors. And that experience shows with their style of offense.
Richmond only turns the ball over 9.9 times per game, the 11th-lowest average in the nation, and commits 13.9 fouls per game, 18th-fewest. Their 14.6 assists per game also help make up for their mediocre shooting.
Undersized guard Jacob Gilyard (13.6 ppg, 5.4 apg) and forwards Tyler Burton (16.4 ppg, 7.9 rpg) and Grant Golden (13.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg) lead the way for the Spiders and combined for 57 points in their first-round upset. However, that meant the rest of the team only scored 10 points, including Matt Grace's four lone points off the bench.
Much of that scoring came from the free-throw line, where they shot an impressive 14-for-16. But Providence doesn't allow many free throws, so Richmond will have to be more efficient from the field after shooting just 42.1 percent on Thursday.
Keys for Providence
One of the Friars' biggest strengths comes at the foul line, where they take 21.2 trips per game, 21st in the nation. However, it will be a challenge for them to earn that many changes against a stingy defensive team like Richmond. Spiders opponents have only attempted 13.6 foul shots per game this season.
If Providence has to get more creative from the field, there are plenty of options, with five players averaging more than nine points per game. Jared Bynum (41.6 percent), Noah Horchler (39.9 percent), and A.J. Reeves (38.5 percent) are all deadly from long range, while Nate Watson is efficient down low, shooting 55.5 percent.
Providence should have a sizeable advantage on the boards, as they've out-rebounded opponents by 3.2 per game and Richmond has been out-rebounded by 3.1. Preventing the Spiders from grabbing offensive boards will be key since the Friars don't register many steals (5.1 per game, 319th nationally).
It's been well documented that Providence has had unlikely success this season with a 19-2 record in games decided by 10 or fewer points. That kind of hot streak cannot last, and a veteran team like Richmond that doesn't foul or turn the ball over is the exact kind of team that could take down the Friars. Neither team is likely to topple Kansas after this game, but a trip to the Sweet 16 is nothing to scoff at.