RICHMOND, Va. Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Seven postseason qualifiers and a possible trip to Ã¢â‚¬Å“The Mecca of BasketballÃ¢â‚¬Â, Madison Square Garden, highlight the 13-game 2010-11 non-conference schedule for the Virginia Commonwealth University menÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s basketball team.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Overall our schedule presents a wide variety of challenging opponents,Ã¢â‚¬Â Head Coach Shaka Smart said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll have the chance to test ourselves in extremely hostile environments and against various styles of play. This early set of games in November and December will tell us quite a bit about ourselves heading into CAA play.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Wake Forest, Cornell and Richmond highlight the possible seven postseason qualifiers that the Black & Gold could face during the 2010-11 campaign. The trio combined for 75 wins last season and all made trips to the NCAA Tournament. Wofford and Winthrop also made trips to the Ã¢â‚¬Å“Big DanceÃ¢â‚¬Â to put a possible five tournament teams on the RamsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ slate.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The opportunity to play several NCAA Tournament caliber teams will go a long way towards preparing us to reach our own NCAA aspirations,Ã¢â‚¬Â Smart said.
UAB and South Florida round out the postseason squads that VCU will match-up against with both schools posting 20+ wins and earning a bid to the NIT.
Smart and his Rams will open up the season with the annual U.S. Army Downtown Showdown exhibition contest against Division II powerhouse Virginia Union on November 5th.
Mike Dement and the Spartans of UNC Greensboro visit the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center to kick off the 2010-11 regular season on Friday, November 12th. Dement has tallied over 320 wins in his 24 seasons on the sidelines.
The Rams then head to Winston-Salem, N.C. to participate in the Preseason NIT with a four-team pod including Winthrop, Hampton and the host school, Wake Forest. VCU will take on Winthrop in the first round, and play either Wake Forest or Hampton in the second game. The Demon Deacons are a tough out on their home court, posting a 30-2 in non-conference games over the past four seasons.
With two wins in Winston-Salem, VCU would travel to Madison Square Garden for two games against opponents that could include national powers Tennessee, Villanova and UCLA. If the Rams do not advance to New York City, VCU will have the possibility of hosting two preseason NIT games in the comforts of the Siegel Center.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We are pleased to be a part of such a prestigious early season tournament,Ã¢â‚¬Â Smart commented. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I like that our team has the opportunity to advance to Madison Square Garden if we play well enough in our first two games in the tournament.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The Black & Gold will face stiff competition on the road with contests at South Florida (Dec. 1st), Richmond (Dec. 11th), UAB (Dec. 21st) and the ESPNU BracketsBusters on the docket. The Bulls went 20-13 last year with home wins over Pittsburgh, UCONN, Cincinnati and Virginia. Reigning A-10 Player of the Year Kevin Anderson will lead the Spiders who are coming off a record-setting 26-9 campaign and trip to the NCAA Tournament. UAB represents another formidable road foe after posting a 25-9 mark last year. Head Coach Mike Davis has led the Blazers to a 34-2 mark in home non-conference games over the past five years.
At home in December will be two very intriguing opponents for Rams fans with in-state rival VMI (Dec. 8th) and new-look Tulane (Dec. 18th) visiting the Siegel Center. The Keydets have boasted the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s most prolific offense over the past four years and are returning their top six scorers, while Ed Conroy will be trying to rebuild the Green Wave into a powerhouse in Conference USA, as he did with The Citadel, where he posted the schoolÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s second-ever 20-win season last year.
Smart and his crew will be opening up a new trend at the Verizon Wireless Arena with a Christmas tournament, which features Wofford, Cornell and New Hampshire this year.
VCU will open the tournament against a very talented Wofford squad that went 26-9 last year and nearly pulled an upset of Wisconsin in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Big Red became the story of the NCAA Tournament after posting a 29-5 record and making a run to the Sweet 16 last year. New Hampshire returns its top four scorers from a year ago and will be picked among the top teams in the America East.
As always final non-conference game will come in late February when the Black & Gold hit the road for the ESPNU BracketBusters. Game date, time and opponent will all be announced during the first week of February.
The conference portion of the VCU schedule is set to be announced by early September.