A quick look at VCU’s 2023-24 OOC schedule

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VCU released their full non-conference schedule today, one that includes some bangers, some local flair, a former coach (or two?), some cupcakes and plenty of unknown. Let’s take a look…

Nov 6 v McNeese State
The big story here outside of it being the home opener is that it also is the new home of former Rams Head Coach, Will Wade. The catch however, is Wade was recently suspended the first 10 games due to recruiting violations while at LSU, meaning a little less vitriol at the Siegel Center to open the Rams’ first season under Ryan Odom, but also an opportunity to start Wade’s career at McNeese with an L from his old friends in Richmond.

Wade has inherited quite the rebuild with these Cowboys out of Lake Charles, LA. The Southland Conference squad went 11-23 this past season and ranked 335th nationally by kenpom. McNeese hasn’t cracked the top-300 since 2020 and hasn’t had a winning season since 2012.

Nov 10 v Samford
Doesn’t take too long to get into the “potentially underrated mid-major” part of the schedule. The transfer portal will no doubt change what the Bulldogs could have looked like with leading scorer, Ques Glover, off to BYU, but on paper last season at least, Bucky McMillan’s improved squad was his best yet at 21 wins and a 15-3 conference record. McMillan took over a team that ranked 321st nationally on kenpom and had them at No.136, higher than all but four of last year’s A-10 teams. Can he continue that improvement this year and provide one of those sneaky good mid-major wins the Rams are so used to having on their record?

Nov 15 v Radford
After trailing the Highlanders at the half of last season’s meeting, the black and gold eventually pulled out an eight-point win over Darius Nichols’ Big South squad. Nichols did a nice job in year-two after taking over for former VCU Assistant, Mike Jones, winning 21 games and finishing tied for second behind another former VCU Assistant, Mike Morrell, currently Head Coach of UNC Asheville. The squad should return to the Stu with a couple less seniors, but could a potentially dangerous opponent for the Rams once more.

Nov 18 v Seattle
Yet another 20-win mid-major program Ram fans may likely overlook, Seattle travels across the country to take on VCU after a 20-12 campaign this past season behind a top-100 defense that pulled off one top-100 road win and a top-half Western Athletic Conference finish at 11-7 in the WAC. The Redhawks return the majority of last season’s team and could be a nice early challenge for the black and gold.

Nov 23, 24 & 26 ESPN Events Invitational
The Rams head to Orlando take take on a field that includes 2023 Final 4 darling, Florida Atlantic, as well as Butler, Virginia Tech, Iowa State, Texas A&M, Boise State and Mike Rhoades’ new squad…Penn State. It’s a pretty loaded field with a ton of intrigue, no matchup obviously more exciting potentially for Ram fans than the matchup AGAINST Ace Baldwin, Nick Kern and Mike Rhoades. Perhaps more importantly though, it’s a field with resume opportunity, perhaps none bigger than a potential matchup with what should be a very loaded Florida Atlantic squad, a team without the pedigree of the others, but one who should be the likely favorite to win it all.

Dec 1 v Norfolk State
Robert Johnson brings his pesky Spartans to Richmond in yet another matchup against a 20-win mid-major. The third-seeded squad from just down 64 East finished 192nd nationally on kenpom, but played their way to a game outside of the NCAA tournament, coming up just a bucket short to Howard in the 65-64 loss. That was a senior-heavy squad, so it’s TBD on how talented next year’s version will be, but they are well-coached team who will no doubt bring some visiting fans to the Stu, hungry for an upset on Dec 1.

Dec 6 v Memphis
The obvious home game to circle on your calendars, Penny Hardaway’s squad finished 20th nationally on kenpom this past season, a season that included a 15-point home win over the Rams and an American Athletic Conference championship. The Tigers drew a horrible first round matchup in the NCAA tournament, getting Florida Atlantic who prior to making their way to the Final 4 managed to survive Memphis by just one point. The Tigers have made some big splashes in the transfer portal and would be a major feather in the cap of VCU’s NCAA tournament resume if they are able to pull off the home win. If you share season tickets, this is the game to fight your friends over.

Dec 10 v Alcorn State
The Braves had a solid overall season at 18-14 and 15-3 in the SWAC conference, but finished just 247th nationally on kenpom. The team out of Lorman, MS pulled off a decent road win at Wichita State last season, which is enough to get my attention, but on paper much to lose and little to gain out of this matchup for the Rams.

Dec 16 v Temple
Yet another return game against a team that beat VCU this past season away from the Stu, the Owls had a very mediocre season, but did so with a very young squad. Old tends to win in college hoops, so perhaps the Owls can turn themselves into a top-100 squad this year, but one that hopefully the black and gold can defeat this time.

Dec 22 v UMES
The Hawks of Maryland Eastern Shore make the relatively short trip to Richmond after a so-so season this past year in the MEAC. An ok 18-13 record and 9-5 conference finish, they ranked just 251st nationally on kenpom. This is no resume-booster, just one of those games ya hope you can pad the stats in and avoid absolute disaster.

Dec 30 v Gardner-Webb
Behind a solid defense and bad offense, the Bulldogs finished 15-16 this past season, 10-8 in the Big South and 204th nationally on kenpom. They’ve been mostly mediocre under longtime coach, Tim Craft, so I think it’s somewhat fair to expect more of the same this upcoming season. Avoid disaster and have a happy New Year, Ram fans.
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MattRock
Matt has been reporting on VCU sports for Ram Nation since 2007 with a focus on news, photos, and feature stories.

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