DENVER – The program that made its reputation bouncing Barkley to Boeheim was back it again.
Only this time as a favorite.
Slipping into that role every bit as well as they often have as underdogs, the Richmond Spiders defeated No. 13 seed Morehead State 65-48 on Saturday to advance to the round of 16 for the first time since 1988.
As the better seed and a four-point favorite, this was one the 12th-seeded Spiders were "supposed" to win, and they did — with relative ease.
They received 19 points from Justin Harper and turned Eagles big man Kenneth Faried into pretty much a non-factor.
The Spiders (29-7) will play the winner of Kansas-Illinois in the Southwest regional semifinals next Friday in San Antonio.
"A lot of teams get (worked up) about where they're seeded," Richmond coach Chris Mooney said. "You can't worry about it too much.
"In the NCAA tournament, you're not going to see too many teams get overlooked."
Richmond bottled up the NBA prospect Faried by shadowing him with two, sometimes three defenders.
Faried, the leading Division I rebounder in the modern era, finished with 11 points and 13 boards, but it was about as quiet as a double-double gets.
"They didn't do anything to me that I haven't seen," Faried said. "We couldn't get in a rhythm. That's a credit to Richmond. That defense is great and it's hard to play against if you've never played against it.
"We played Louisville and were able to come up with the upset. We fell short against Richmond."
The Eagles (25-10), the darlings of the tournament after knocking off Louisville, were sent home, but not before tying a school record for wins and gaining plenty of interest in their small school located in Morehead, Ky.
Not that it eases the sting.
"The game will hurt you no matter who you are. Have days like Thursday, you can't explain how good you feel. And then you have days like this, when you can't explain how much it hurts," Morehead coach Donnie Tyndall said.
The Spiders became the only school to win games as a No. 12, 13, 14 and 15 seed. They eliminated fifth-seeded Vanderbilt, 69-66, in their opener.
But that win over the Commodores hardly counted as a shocker, especially given Richmond's history this time of year.
The Spiders ended the season of an Auburn team led by Charles Barkley during the 1984 NCAA tournament.
Barkley's now in the TV booth and Richmond is still springing memorable wins.
Richmond also beat Jim Boeheim's second-seeded Syracuse squad in 1991 and knocked out South Carolina in 1998 as a No. 14 seed.
This was the first time the Spiders moved on to the round of 16 since more than two decades ago, when the team was a 13th seed. The Spiders beat Indiana and then Georgia Tech that season, before losing to Temple.
"We didn't think we were the favorite," said Dan Geriot, who finished with 13 points. "Morehead is a great team and Faried is a great player. We had to play well to win. They weren't going to lay down for us."
The Eagles turned into quite a story since Demonte Harper's 3-pointer in the waning seconds lifted his team to a 62-61 win over the Cardinals.
Faried & Co. made the rounds of national sports shows, while campus visits to the school — enrollment 9,000 — went through the roof, along with requests for applications.
Just imagine what another upset could've done for the university's popularity?
Terrance Hill and Ty Proffitt each scored 10 points, but Harper, the team's second-leading scorer, was ice cold, finishing 2 of 15 and with just four points.
"Credit to their defense," Harper said. "They got to me on contested shots."
Trailing by as many as 10 points in the opening half, the Eagles worked their way back into the game, cutting the deficit to six midway through the second.
But Justin Harper helped the Spiders assert control, scoring eight points during a pivotal 11-4 run. The 6-foot-9 Geriot all but sealed the win when he hit a 3-pointer with 4:31 remaining, giving Richmond a 56-43 lead.
Kevin Anderson, who had a team-high 25 points against Vandy, came on late, finishing with 14 points.
The Spiders have now won nine straight since Mooney called for a friendly touch football game just to lighten the mood following a loss to Temple on Feb. 17. They have not won this many in a row since the 1990-91 season.
"I didn't know all the history of my school until I got here," Harper said.
And now he and his crew are making a little more.
"This feeling, to be in the Sweet 16, be here and get two wins in Denver, be a part of this team, this family we have at Richmond, this is the best time of my life," Geriot said.
Faried reached the 2,000-point plateau in his storied career with a thunderous dunk during the opening minute. He also posted his 86th double-double, leaving him one shy of Tim Duncan's all-time record.
No wonder Faried had his jersey retired by the school, even before his playing days were complete.
This was only the ninth meeting between No. 12 and 13 seeds in tournament history.
And history wasn't exactly on Morehead's side. Valparaiso was the lone No. 13 seed to advance, beating No. 12 Florida State 83-77 in overtime in 1998.