A crowd of students cheering during a watch party for Spider Basketball

Game Day

Six things to know as you watch the Spiders in today's NCAA game

Here are a few basics every Spider fan will want to know as they watch today’s NCAA Tournament game against Duke:

1. This is already Richmond’s most accomplished women’s basketball team in a generation — and possibly ever. They won the A-10 regular season championship and had a perfect season at home. They were dominant in the conference championship tournament, entering every halftime with a double-digit lead and winning their games by an average of 15 points. Overall, they’ve won 29 games (and counting) this season — a program record — and haven’t lost at home in more than 14 months.

2. This is a fun team to watch. They rain threes, play intimidating defense, and make their free throws. That’s not hyperbole. It’s NCAA statistics. As a team this year, they rank in the top 10 nationally in those three areas. Individual players are high up in the individual rankings. Senior forward Addie Budnik is ninth nationally in blocks. Sophomore guard Rachel Ullstrom — the A-10’s Sixth Woman of the Year — ranks 11th nationally for three-point percentage. Every player on the roster is a credible threat from behind the arc.

3. They are led by four seniors, three of whom start. 

• Budnik (see above) was this year’s A-10’s Defensive Player of the Year and Second Team All-Conference. 

• Point guard Grace Townsend was First-Team All-Conference (along with sophomore Maggie Doogan) and, in the words of Spider play-by-play announcer Craig Kocher, “the best point guard in the league.” 

• Siobhan Ryan is a starter, plays nearly 30 minutes a game, and made 47% of her 113 three-point attempts this season. 

• Kylee Lewandowski brings leadership and energy off the bench and in practice.


University of Richmond women's basketball coach Aaron Roussell squats on the court and watches a practice.

4. They have a coach driving forward momentum for the program. Over his five seasons at Richmond, Aaron Roussell has steadily rebuilt the program. Four years ago, this year’s seniors were his first recruiting class. They took a chance on him, on the entire coaching staff, and on Richmond, together planting the seed that produced the fruit being borne today. Last year, Roussell coached the team to a win in the WNIT, its first postseason victory since 2015. His history with programs with high academic standards — he previously coached at the University of Chicago and Bucknell — gives him experience recruiting the high achievers, both academically and athletically, who excel at Richmond.

5. Beating Duke is a daunting task, but not an impossible one. One paper, this looks like an extremely tough draw for the Spiders. They’ve actually played Duke in nonconference play the past two seasons, losing both games. Last year, the margin was 51. Earlier this season, it was 30. But the Spiders finished this season’s game — their season opener — feeling not overmatched by their opponent but underwhelmed by their own play.

“We left that game at Duke thinking we played very poorly,” Roussell said. “We didn’t feel like that result was indicative of where our program was. I think this is a very hungry group that is eager to change that. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a tall order, but that’s what makes these [moments] sweet.”

6. This team could be scary good next year. All four seniors have another year of eligibility because of COVID-related rules changes. If they all return, the team will be formidable. Barring offseason departures, all of this year’s starting five would be back, along with most of the players getting significant minutes. Waiting in the wings, and learning from them, have been younger and newly recruited players. They’ll all be making each other better in practice and figure to be a scouting nightmare for opposing coaches.

Not to jinx anything, but regardless of how today’s game turns out, we may be at the start of a golden era for Spider women’s basketball.