University of Richmond women’s basketball assistant Darren Guensch coordinated much of the Spiders’ nonconference scheduling, a major chore because of COVID-caused adjustments. The NCAA postponed the season’s start by about two weeks. Some dates that had been arranged were scratched. A few required shifting on the calendar. Others were added.
That assiduous process was recently completed. UR will open at Virginia Tech on Wednesday. But Guensch, the schedule manager, is permitted no deserved sigh of relief.
According to women’s coach Aaron Roussell, UR “kind of put that schedule to bed, and finally everything’s posted on-line, and I kind of told [Guensch], ‘Don’t think your job is done.’ There are going to have to be some pivots that have to be made, whether that’s trying to replace nonconference games, whether that’s trying to juggle [dates].”
Roussell said built into his team’s schedule are a few windows that can be filled if the Spiders encounter interruptions, which he feels quite certain lurk somewhere on the horizon. Guensch will return to the calculus of scheduling during a pandemic, trying to secure as much of a full slate as possible while maintaining quality and a home-and-away balance in the nonconference portion.
The schedule puzzle weaves into a larger package of hoops revisions necessary during a national health crisis, according to Roussell, who’s in his second season at UR.
“We all have our routines as coaches. There’s probably going to be some curveballs, whether that’s going to a school and them telling you that you can’t have a shoot-around, or all of the sudden getting a pregame or postgame meal is probably going to be different than what it has been in years past,” he said.
The Richmond women’s team comes off a 15-17 season (7-9 A-10), is picked to finish in the middle of the A-10 pack, and has five freshmen, some of whom will regularly play. Sorting through a disjointed winter could be considered another step in the program’s growth under Roussell.
Stakes for the UR men’s teams are elevated considerably, with four senior starters back from a team that went 24-7 (14-4 A-10) and topped the A-10 preseason poll. The scheduling overseer on coach Chris Mooney’s staff is Marcus Jenkins, an associate head coach.
UR’s nonconference schedule includes Kentucky, West Virginia and Vanderbilt, plus CAA favorite Hofstra, Missouri Valley favorite Northern Iowa, and Southern Conference contender Furman. If any of those dates falls through, the Spiders will be under pressure to find a substitute that could help their power ratings in ways the original opponent could, with the end game being qualification for the NCAA tournament.
Like Roussell, Mooney believes detours will be taken, and when they are, he doesn’t want consternation from program members.
“If we’ve had travel issues in the past, it’s been important to me for myself and our coaches not to freak out and make a big deal about it. Just try to roll with the punches and do whatever we have to do,” said Mooney, whose team opens Wednesday against Detroit Mercy in Kentucky’s four-team event, the Bluegrass Showcase.
“I think you have to keep a level head. If you’re preparing for a game and that game is postponed or canceled, then you have to look to the next game you can schedule ... We have to be ready to be flexible and to potentially plug in a different game on a different date.”
Mooney believes it’s possible that in response to cancellations related to COVID-19, opponents of the team doing the canceling may end up playing.
“I’m sure those kinds of things might happen,” he said.
Notes: Mooney said 6-foot-6 sophomore transfer Connor Crabtree (ex-starter at Tulane) will not be available for the three games at Kentucky next week (Detroit Mercy, Morehead State, Kentucky). Crabtree is coming back from surgeries on both hips during his redshirt year. Without Crabtree and projected starter Nick Sherod (out for year, knee injury), UR’s depth will be down a bit.
“Connor has really made good strides here the last couple of weeks,” said Mooney. “He’s been running on the court … We do think that as of next week he’ll start doing basketball activity and be on the court … We really think he’s going to be a very, very good player.”
Richmond plays Detroit Mercy Wednesday at 9 p.m. (Richmond Spiders YouTube page), Morehead State Friday at 9 p.m. (Richmond Spiders YouTube page), and Kentucky Sunday at 1 p.m. (ESPN).