RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – One of the most anticipated seasons in VCU basketball history will feature five teams that made the postseason last year, and a few reunions with coaches.
The Rams' 2011-12 non-conference basketball schedule was released Wednesday.
Teams from nine different leagues line the non-conference slate this season. Five postseason qualifiers, including NCAA Sweet 16 participant Richmond and NIT Finalist Alabama highlight a challenging docket for the Black and Gold.
Head Coach Shaka Smart will welcome a familiar face to the Verizon Wireless Arena on Nov. 3 when his mentor and former college coach Bill Brown brings his California University (Pa.) squad to Richmond for an exhibition contest.
On Nov. 10, VCU will unveil its 2011 Final Four banner and kick off the regular season. A celebration of last year's accomplishments will precede the Rams' season-opener against the Red Flash of Saint Francis.
VCU will then head to Charleston, SC for the Charleston Classic, where the Rams will play three games from Nov. 17, 18 and 20 against a field that boasts schools from the ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Big East, Conference USA, Sun Belt and Atlantic-10. To open play at the Classic, the Black & Gold will take on Seton Hall on the 17th in a contest that will be shown on ESPNU. Exact times for all the games have not been determined, but the majority of the games will be shown on the ESPN Family of Networks.
VCU will stay on the road for games at perennial Sun Belt power Western Kentucky (Nov. 23), and against former VCU Head Coach Anthony Grant and his Alabama Crimson Tide (Nov. 27).
The Big East, which sent a record 11 teams to the NCAA Tournament last season, has been hailed as basketball's best conference. On Nov. 30, South Florida of the Big East will visit the Capital City and the Verizon Wireless Arena.
VCU will take on the Atlantic-10 Conference in back-to-back contests to open the month of December. The Rams return to the BB&T Classic at the Verizon Center in Washington D.C. on Dec. 4 for a meeting with George Washington. Then, the annual Farm Bureau Insurance Black & Blue Classic will take place on Broad Street on Dec. 10, when the Spiders of Richmond make the trek across town.
Mike Davis and the UAB Blazers wrap up VCU's non-conference home schedule when they visit the Verizon Wireless Arena on Dec. 20 in a match-up of 2011 NCAA Tournament teams.
Before heading into the Christmas Break, Smart and the Rams head to UNC Greensboro on Dec. 22.
VCU's final game of the 2011 calendar year is slated for Dec. 29, when the Black and Gold head to Akron to battle another one of Smart's mentors, Keith Dambrot, in another match-up of 2011 NCAA Tournament participants.
The Rams wrap up their non-conference slate in late February when they host an ESPNU Bracketbuster game at the Verizon Wireless Arena. The opposition and time will be announced in early February with games being played on either Feb. 17, 18 or 19.
The full schedule, including all conference games, will be released sometime in September.