Breaking down VCU's 2022 non-conference schedule

VCU basketball recently announced their mostly-completed non-conference schedule for this upcoming season, with just one game, a to-be-determined December 11 contest that awaits an opponent left to fill in. How does it look compared to last year's slate? Let's take a look...

VCU will play an exhibition contest on October 29th before tipping up the regular season against the Jaspers of Manhattan. Is the MAAC squad next year's St. Peter's, which is to say a slept on non-conference opponent who could challenge then Rams, then later go on an absolutely STUNNING Elite 8 run? Probably not...BUT, the Jaspers will come to the Siegel Center insanely experienced, boasting what will be one of the oldest rosters in the country. Manhattan will suit up 11 players that fall into the senior, "fifth year" or grad student category. That's coming from a team that was already the most experienced team in the nation last year. Still, they finished .500 and lost to a bad ODU team by 21 this past season, making this game on paper one the Rams should enter as a solid favorite to start the season.
2022 Kenpom ranking: No.257 (15-15)

[caption id="attachment_31750" align="alignright" width="170"]<a href=""><img class="size-full wp-image-31750" src="" alt="" width="170" height="271" /></a> Lewis Djonkam makes his return to VCU as a grad student at Morgan State.[/caption]

If Manhattan proves to be any bit of a test, Morgan State should serve as a breather in the Rams' second contest of the season. The Bears went 13-15 this past year, only 10 of this Ws coming against DI opponents. They lose three starters from that team, BUT (here's your player to watch)...add grad transfer Lewis "Djonk Yard Dog" Djonkam, one of Mike Rhoades' first recruits at VCU prior to transferring to Radford after his freshman year. The MEAC team was one of the worst offensive units in the nation this past year, making them a great opportunity for VCU's seventh-ranked defense to get back into it's groove from this past season.
2022 Kenpom ranking: No.297 (13-15)

Bigger name program under head coach, Bobby Hurley, but another team VCU will face coming off a losing season this past year. The Sun Devils matched VCU's seven top-100 wins this past season, doing so in very similar fashion as their 27th-ranked defense bailed out a struggling offense on occasion, but too often they found themselves on the losing end of close battles, seeing five of their 17 loses coming by one made basket. The Sun Devils return leading scorer DJ Horne (12.5 ppg), add a scorer with the addition of Neveda transfer Desmond Cambridge (16.2 ppg) and return a lot of key pieces from last year's team, making them the Rams' first true test of the season and a key opportunity in a non-conference schedule that quite frankly lacks those.
2022 Kenpom ranking: 97 (14-17)

The Rams will be hoping for a matchup with the Wolverines, pitting transfers Brandon Johns and Zeb Jackson up against their former teammates, not to mention a fun Jimmy v Phil Martelli sideline battle, but more importantly it will likely cary more weight on the season in terms of resume than a matchup with former VCU coach Jeff Capel's Panthers, a team that seems to consistently struggle in the ACC.

The Rams got the better of the Tigers in the last matchup between these two, an 11-point win two seasons ago in Sioux Falls, SD. That Memphis group would go on to win the NIT tournament, then followed that up with a one-win appearance in this past season's NCAA tournament. This year's group will look a lot different however, losing a ton of key players to transfer. Back is second leading scorer, Deandre Williams (11.1 ppg), but it's transfers galore who will hope to take the Tigers back to the tourney, a large transfer group headlined by 2022 AAC Player of the Year, Kendric Davis (19.4 ppg). The Tigers will be talent, but how quickly this new collection of players can come together, remains to be seen. Regardless, this true road game provides a great early season challenge for the black and gold.
2022 Kenpom No.24 (22-11)

On paper, another bit of a tuneup for the black and gold, the ASUN Owls were actually competitive against a few solid teams in last year's non-conference, but ultimately saw a struggling defense drag their record into losing territory at 13-18 including a 7-9 ASUN finish. Still, Kennesaw finished top-50 nationally in three-point percentage offense (always scary) and returns all five starters from last year's team. In theory that means they'll likely return the same crummy defense as well, but a team to perhaps take seriously, even though the Rams should be a solid favorite to pick up another W against.
2022 Kenpom No.223 (13-18)

A rematch from last year's 48-37 defensive showcase road win, Jerry Stackhouse's team returns several key players, but loses one massive one with the early departure of Scotty Pippen Jr. (20.4 ppg) to the NBA. That is a terrifying fact for the Commodores after being limited to just 37 points this past year at home against VCU. On paper VCU's sexiest non-conference home game, Stackhouse and Co. should be one of the Rams' tougher OOC home tests this year.
2022 Kenpom No.64 (19-17)

The Rams will head to Philly for a matchup with their short-lived A-10 conference foe, the Temple Owls, to kick off December. The Owls will hope it will be one game in a much longer season for star guard, Khalif Battle, the Butler transfer having missed the majority of last season after averaging 21.4 points in seven games to start the year. He'll be joined by basically all of the key pieces from last year's group that put together a mediocre 17-12 year that ended in the first round of the AAC tournament. The Owls went 2-9 against top-100 squads this past season, but with so many returning players should prove to be a tough road contest for the Rams, and one that could ultimately prove to be a quality win should the Rams escape the city of brotherly love with the win.
2022 Kenpom No.116 (17-12)

In a bit of a classic, "don't sleep on these guys" game, VCU welcomes the fightin' Dolphins to the Siegel Center. Jordan Mincy started his head coaching career off in solid fashion that past season with his ASUN squad, taking a team that finished 293rd nationally on kenpom the previous season, all the way up to 164th as a 21-win team. They'll be a more experienced unit than last year's group and will hope to add some offensive productivity to a team that was completely carried by their D. They'll have to do that against a VCU defense the likes of which they haven't seen in some time as well, having played zero top-100 opponents this past season. Potentially sneaky group and a somewhat boring matchup on paper, setting up the classic trap game.
2022 Kenpom No.164 (21-10)

VCU's announced final date to fill. No word yet on who they'll play.

The state's pound-for-pound best party school heads to the Siegel Center for an in-state matchup, coming off a rough 11-18 season under first-year head coach, Darris Nichols. They'll look to turn things around with a ton of new faces, replacing the bulk of last year's roster, the most noticeable of new additions coming in the form of Richmond Spiders transfer, Souleymane Koureissi. He'll join Villanova transfer, Bryan Antoine, and the rarely-played FAU big man, Madiaw Niang. All that new talent will hope to turn around what was one of the nation's 50 worst offenses last season, which wasn't a whole heck of a lot worse than their defense. All-in-all on paper not the biggest of home tests for the Rams as they get closer and closer to Atlantic 10 play.
2022 Kenpom No.283 (11-18)

As bad as the Highlanders offense was, the Huskies of Northern Illinois' was even worse. Rashon Burno will bring yet another offensively-challenge squad into the Siegel Center against what could once again be one of the nation's most daunting defensive tests. The Huskies have had some decent squads over the past decade, but no good ones. On paper there doesn't seem to be anything suggesting this should be one either, making this yet another probable win for the black and gold and a contest that likely won't do much to excite Ram fans.
2022 Kenpom No.297 (9-21)

The Rams wrap up the non-conference and head into the holiday break against the Midshipmen of Navy. A 21-win team this past year, the Patriot League team was a tricky opponent, boasting top-100 wins over both UVA and Furman, but adding three sub-300 losses to their resume. An experienced team, they ranked a solid 60th nationally on the defensive end of the floor, but true to the theme of this schedule so far, struggled offensively, checking in at No.310. They'll return a ton of experience, but will it make them enough to be a threat to a talented VCU team?
2022 Kenpom No.184 (21-11)

OPPONENT AVERAGE KENPOM RANK: 169 v Michigan, 183 v Pittsburgh[/HEADING=3]
The Rams are scheduled to play three kenpom top-100 teams from this past year, four if they end up playing Michigan at the Barlcay's Center instead of Pitt. This past year VCU played five top-100 squads and four more that finished in the top-150. The season prior to that the black and gold played four top-100 squads in their nine-game COVID year non-conference, with not a ton of competition outside of that in the OOC, and eventually advanced to the NCAA tournament prior to their game being canceled via a positive COVID test. On paper this does appear to be one of the weaker non-conference schedules VCU has played in a while, with the Dec 11 unknown matchup having a solid shot at helping change that somewhat. Either way, it's an insanely winnable schedule for those of you who enjoy that sort of thing, but one that doesn't offer up a ton of resume opportunities, not to mention enticing home contests for fans of big-name opponents like the black and gold have seen over the past few years with the likes of LSU, Texas, Wichita State and UVA making appearances at the Siegel Center.​

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Mat Shelton-Eide
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