Riding a 50-game home sellout streak and boasting a season ticket waiting list, VCU games have become one of the hottest tickets in college basketball under head coach Shaka Smart. Below is a list of what I think will be the top five hottest ($$$$) ticket home games on next season’s schedule.
1. VCU v UVA ($$$$$) – This is a no-brainer and could prove to be the hottest ticket in the Siegel Center’s history. The two in-state programs are both coming off NCAA tournament appearances in a season in which they were both ranked, having last played this past November as the 14th-ranked Rams and 25th-ranked Cavaliers, a game that came down to the final seconds where Treveon Graham hit what will go down as one of the great shots in VCU history, a deep three-pointer to give VCU the thrilling 59-56 win. Returning the majority of their talented rosters, both are likely to begin the 2014-15 season ranked within the top-25, thus driving the price of an already hot ticket through the roof. This will also mark the first time UVA has played in the Siegel Center in the history of the “rivalry”, despite being just over an hours drive down interstate 64. Don’t be surprised if these make their way to StubHub in the $200+ range per seat.
2. VCU v Richmond ($$$$) – The Black & Blue Classic has taken on a new look since VCU joined their city rival in the Atlantic 10, all-be-it one that has been somewhat dominated by the Rams as of late, including a 3-0 sweep that effectively ended the Spiders’ season this past March. Regardless, Richmond has arguably passed Old Dominion as the Rams’ biggest rival and returns the majority of their pieces from last season’s dangerous squad (19-14) that took VCU to the brink at the Robins Center. Depending on how the A-10 schedules shake out, this will either be the first game of next season’s series, a chance for another sweep or worst case scenario, a shot at redemption. As conference foes the game has added importance, one neither fan base wants to see their team lose as both position for a top seed in next March’s Atlantic 10 tournament in Brooklyn. Always a hot ticket, this should be perhaps the second toughest ticket to get on next year’s home schedule if you aren’t a season ticket holder already. Tickets won’t reach the VCU v UVA levels, but depending on where both teams are by the time they face off halfway into the season, StubHub prices could get pretty high, which wouldn’t be the first time in this rivalry.
3. VCU v Dayton ($$$) – Question: What do VCU and Dayton have in common? Answer: They are the last two teams currently in the A-10 to have made an Elite 8 appearance. VCU made their trip in 2011, knocking of Kansas for a ticket to their first-ever Final 4 while Dayton fell at the hands of Florida in this past season’s Elite 8. Like VCU, the Flyers lose some key pieces but return a very talented roster and will likely be a top-three preseason A-10 team heading into this season. The Rams cruised past the Flyers this past season, 80-66 in Dayton, but that doesn’t guarantee an easy one at the Stu next season as we all got a chance to see just how good this maturing Dayton team became. The Flyers return to the Stu for the first time since opening VCU’s first-ever Atlantic 10 season. The atmosphere was electric in that one and I expect it to be the same when they tip it up next season as well. This game will be the only meeting between the two next season so major A-10 tourney seeding implications. This could reach VCU v Richmond prices but I’m guessing it’ll be just below that.
4. VCU v George Washington ($$) – The teams split last season’s regular season series before the Rams used a big second half to rout the Colonials after a tough first half in this past March’s Atlantic 10 tournament. Like VCU and Dayton, GW returns a ton of talented from a very good NCAA tournament team this past season. Gone are BCS transfers Isaiah Armwood and Maurice Creek, but back is a balanced squad that should once again contend for a top spot in the A-10. VCU and GW will once again play as home-and-home partners next season, so a great opportunity to either keep pace or distance themselves from one of the A-10’s predicted top finishers. Their position in next season’s A-10 combined with last season’s success and relative proximity to the city of Richmond could make VCU v GW one of the hotter tickets on next season’s schedule.
5. VCU v Saint Joseph’s ($$) – Saint Joseph’s loses the three-headed monster of Kanacevic, Galloway and Roberts Jr. next season but that won’t make VCU or their fans any less angry when taking on the team that ended the Rams’ 2014 A-10 title hopes last season. SJU’s DeAndre Bembry will lead the Hawks next season in his first trip to the Stu, Saint Joseph’s first trip there since VCU’s inaugural season two season’s ago where VCU used a erased a 4-point lead in 14 seconds to send the game into OT where Troy Daniels and Co. would pull out the 92-86 win. You could potentially bump this game up a spot, depending on whether or not the Hawks can quickly rebuild. I however think that may be a more difficult task than Phil Martelli might like, so what could be a hot ticket to start the season may cool off a bit by the time these two meet.
Honorable mention: VCU v UMass, VCU v SLU – VCU owes UMass one after last season’s road L and the Minutemen should bring a very tough squad to the Stu next season. VCU v SLU last year was one of the best atmosphere’s the venue has ever seen, but that was against a Billikens squad ranked No.10 nationally that had beaten the Rams three consecutive times. SLU loses all five starters however so could struggle next season, making VCU v SLU feel more like VCU v SBU.
Getting quality teams to visit the Siegel Center (where VCU went undefeated last season) is no easy task, so the majority of the Rams better games will be played on neutral sites next season (Tennessee and two of Michigan, Oregon and Villanova in the Legends Classic in Brooklyn) while the Rams will rely on an attractive A-10 slate to entertain at home. Regardless of opponent however, VCU’s Siegel Center has proven to be one of the best environments in college basketball and will once again provide game after game of sold out exciting basketball from November to March. I can’t wait.