Quick Hits: The hottest tickets on this year’s home schedule
Basketball season is quickly approaching and for a lot of you your ticket purchasing is game-to-game, which is not always the easiest thing to do. For those of you who aren’t season tickets holders and are living that lifestyle take a quick peek at my guide to buying tickets for this upcoming season.
Instead of Rent
1. Old Dominion (kenpom 66) – Arguably still VCU’s biggest rival, the Narcos return to the Stu for the first time in two seasons after handing VCU a six-point upset road loss last season. Combine the rivalry with the payback and the fact that ODU should be REALLY good and this is definitely your most expensive game of the season.
2. Richmond (kenpom 55) – Richmond beat VCU not once but twice last season including at the Siegel Center. The good news is the Rams got the payback when it mattered most by knocking Richmond out of last season’s A-10 tournament en route to VCU’s first ever Atlantic 10 Championship since joining the conference three seasons ago. The Spiders will be damn good (despite losing leading scorer Kendall Anthony) and they will be a very tough test for the black and gold. An easy drive (or walk) for both teams’ fans, this one could(/will) get pricey and will basically sellout before you have a chance to actually buy a ticket.
If you had to pick a game but aren’t paying for ODU/Richmond
1. Rhode Island (kenpom 56) – Dan Hurley has quickly rebuilt the Rhody Rams’ in what could be his last season in Kingston before bolting for a Power 5 job (I give him two seasons, tops). Rhody will be a popular pick to finish in the top-two of the conference and play VCU just once next season. Luckily this one is at the Stu and will be a key game when it comes to the A-10 standings.
2. Davidson (kenpom 43) – The Wildcats were last year’s Atlantic 10 regular season champ in just their first season in the conference. VCU won last year’s series, 2-1, including a home win and an A-10 tourney blowout to revenge a road blowout loss. The Wildcats will be VERY good once again and the Rams must hold serve at home in this upcoming season’s two-game series if they want to keep pace with teams like Davidson a top of the Atlantic 10 standings.
3. Cincinnati (kenpom 34) – VCU throttled a very good Bearcats team on the road last season and will be looking for a sweep of the series when Cincinnati comes to town. Cincinnati may no longer have the sexier “Big East” name on their conference (recently became a part of the AAC as a part of the Big East football/basketball split) but are still a marquee game on next year’s schedule. These are the key non-conference games that VCU and the Atlantic 10 must win. Don’t miss this one.
4. George Washington (kenpom 74) – I’m a little more bearish on the Colonials than most other members of the media who are currently picking them in the top-five of the conference (yes, ahead of VCU in some cases). GW has some talented pieces and managed to pick up a big non-conference win over Wichita State last season but just haven’t been as dangerous overall since losing Creek and Armwood from their 2013-2014 NCAA tournament team. That said, Garino and Larsen in particular are a very good duo and VCU will need to win one, if not two games against GW next season if they want to compete for a regular season conference championship.
Games that will be better than they sound
1. North Florida (kenpom 139) – Remember a few years ago when VCU destroyed a team named Florida Gulf Coast, a team we all thought was just some OOC no-name scrub before they ended up dunking their way to the Sweet 16 that season? Well this year’s version is North Florida. The Ospreys return most of their firepower from last season’s Atlantic Sun champion squad and a HUGE. They won’t be intimated one bit but instead will be hungry for an upset. Buy tickets to this game and root, root root for the home team because it could end up being a great non-conference RPI win for the Rams.
2. St. Bonaventure (kenpom 108) – The Bonnies beat VCU at the buzzer in Olean, NY last season. That alone should get you to this game. St. Bonaventure returns a deadly duo of Wright and Posley and are a very tricky conference home game for the Rams.
3. George Mason (kenpom 219) – This game used to be one of those you couldn’t miss but then Paul Hewitt happened to the Patriots. Hewitt however was replaced by Dave Paulsen who did a tremendous job of building the Bucknell Bison and could quickly revive this rivalry by doing the same at Mason. I am of the opinion that George Mason was better than their 9-22 record last season and with some nice returning pieces could be a tricky Atlantic 10 team this upcoming season.
4. Prairie View A&M (kenpom 303) – The game shouldn’t be close at all, but what makes this one a hot ticket is the fact it is VCU’s regular season opener. VCU fans go all out for each year’s exhibition game but this is the first home game that counts so we’ll get our first taste of all of this year’s new bells and whistles and get a decent idea of what the actual rotation looks like (at least early one). Great game to take a date but make sure you buy your single-game ticket as soon as they become available.
Decent storyline games
1. Radford (kenpom 162) – The Highlanders lose a ton of production from last year’s team but return head coach Mike Jones, a former assistant at VCU under Shaka Smart alongside Will Wade. Jones can coach and he knows this atmosphere well. Games against in-state teams are always fun as well because odds are you probably have a friend or two who might have to pull out their RU sweatshirt for this one to rep their alma mater even though they typically bleed black and gold the rest of the season.
2. Saint Louis (kenpom 298) – I think VCU fans will be pumped for this one despite the Billikens entering year-two of a massive rebuild (year-one resulted in a last place 3-15 A-10 finish). VCU swept SLU last season, narrowly escaping the Billikens on the road thanks to some late-game heroics from Treveon Graham, then followed that up with a 20-point beatdown of Saint Louis at the Stu. It’s an A-10 game against a team with some not-too-distant success so I think Ram fans will be excited for this one no matter how SLU is playing at that time.
3. Buffalo (kenpom 60) – A couple of months ago this one was looking like a potential rock fight but the Bulls have just lost too much to not take a decent step back. The first big blow was in losing head coach Bobby Hurley to Arizona State. With that they would quickly lose second leading scorer Shannon Evans (15.4 ppg) who would follow Hurley to ASU. Then about a month ago the Bulls dismissed leading scorer Justin Moss (17.5 ppg) after he was caught stealing money from a dorm room. There is still talent on Nate Oats’ new team but that’s just too much to lose to keep this one a marquee games on VCU’s schedule.
4. Fordham (213) – Another A-10 conference game, plus the Rams gave VCU all they could handle in last year’s A-10 tournament, taking VCU the distance before falling to the black and gold Rams, 63-57. Fordham’s best returning player, Chrsitian Sengfelder, had just five points in that one so look for Fordham to be a pesky opponent under new head coach Jeff Neubauer, who’s Eastern Kentucky squad took VCU to overtime just two seasons ago before VCU pulled out the three-point win.
5. Duquesne (207) – There just hasn’t been anything exciting about Duquesne since VCU’s been able to call them a conference foe but because of that relationship makes this game just a little more important.
The easy tickets
1. Liberty (kenpom 329) – The good news with this one is it’s an in-state team and let’s be honest, not everyone is a huge fan of that school. In theory this one turns into a VCU highlight festival, so that’s fun. Either way, it should be one of the easier and less expensive tickets to get, assuming you don’t wait until the day of to try and purchase.
2. American (kenpom 185) – In American’s defense, they did beat a La Salle team last season that came into the Stu and beat VCU. The Eagles lose some serious production and I just think will have a tough time against VCU at the Siegel Center.