By Ed Morgans @writered21 on June 19, 2014
The VCU Rams have gone from surprise party crasher at the 2011 Final Four to an establishment powerhouse under the guidance of head coach Shaka Smart. He has turned away offers to move on to bigger schools, instead continuing to build his Rams program. A contender in the 14-team Atlantic-10, VCU has games next season both in conference and out that you can't miss.
Tennessee made a deep run in the NCAA tournament last season, but unlike VCU with Smart, the Volunteers weren't able to keep their head coach when he became a hot commodity, as Cuonzo Martin left for California. But Tennessee still has talent in the cupboard and will provide a good test for VCU on Nov. 14 when the teams meet at the Naval Academy Classic in Annapolis, MD.
The newest addition to the Atlantic-10 is no slouch and the VCU Rams will get two shots at the Davidson Wildcats in 2014-15. Davidson, no stranger to deep runs in the NCAA tournament, offers two intriguing matchups when you consider that the Rams and Wildcats are traditionally head of the class when it comes to alleged mid-majors. Both games should feature high-quality basketball.
VCU's biggest non-conference tests are likely to come in Brooklyn, N.Y., when the Rams participate in the Legends Classic at the Barclays Center Nov. 24-25. The Rams have the opportunity to play games against two of Michigan, Oregon and Villanova. Michigan routed VCU in the third round of the 2013 NCAA tourney. Oregon and Villanova would represent new opponents for VCU. But all three power-conference teams could boost VCU's RPI with wins.
One of the nation's lesser known but most intense rivalries, the VCU Rams and Richmond Spiders, will battle twice this season for city bragging rights. VCU dominated the rivalry over the last decade, winning 11 of the last 13 meetings. Most of that was with the Rams and Spiders in different conferences. Now in the A-10, there's even more on the line for these battles. VCU beat UR twice in eight days last year, including in the A-10 quarterfinals.
VCU-Richmond may be a top city rivalry, and many people think Virginia-Virginia Tech in terms of the big rivalry in the Commonwealth, but in terms of where quality basketball is concerned, there's nothing better than VCU vs. Virginia. The teams played an excellent game in Charlottesville on Nov. 12, with the Rams posting a 59-56 win. The teams meet in Richmond this season, with UVA fresh off a 30-win season and VCU having gone 26-9.
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