Rams, Tribe, Dukes finalize non-conference hoops schedules

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – As the VCU men's basketball program toured Italy, they put the finishing touches on their 2012-13 non-conference schedule.

The Rams will do battle with as many as eight NCAA Tournament teams among the 15 opponents on the 2012-13 non-conference slate, which was released by Head Coach Shaka Smart and his staff this afternoon. The six teams or more coming off NCAA Tournament appearances are the most on VCU's non-conference schedule in the program's 44-year history.

November 1 provides the first glimpse at the 2012-13 Rams, when Virginia Union makes the short trek to the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center for an exhibition contest. Eight days later (Nov.9), VCU looks to extend the sixth-longest active home sellout streak when Florida Gulf Coast drops by the Siegel Center. Last year, the Eagles made an impressive run to the Atlantic Sun Championship game.

Wichita State, the first 2012 NCAA Tournament team on VCU's schedule, visits Richmond on Nov. 13 in a rematch of the NCAA Tournament Second Round game from last season, which the Rams won 62-59 in Portland. Head Coach Greg Marshall returns four regulars from last year's team that spent the majority of the year ranked in the top-25.

The Rams hit the road for the first time on November 17 when the Black & Gold head to Rock Hill, S.C. to battle the Eagles of Winthrop University.

VCU will spend its Thanksgiving in the Bahamas at the Battle 4 Atlantis, playing amongst a prestigious eight-team field that boasts five 2012 NCAA Tournament teams. Memphis will be the first round match-up for the Rams on Nov. 22, with Minnesota or Duke set for the second round (Nov. 23). The third and final game comes the next day against any of the remaining teams in the field, which includes Louisville, Missouri, Stanford or Northern Iowa.

The Rams return to Richmond on Nov. 28 to clash with Stetson, followed by a match-up with one of the best non-BCS programs in the country over the past five years, Belmont, on Dec. 1. The Bears have reached the NCAA Tournament in five of the past seven seasons and return their top two scorers from last year's squad that went 27-8.

The Commonwealth's best rivalry is renewed on Dec. 7 in the Lumber Liquidators Hardwood Showdown, when VCU journeys to Norfolk to battle the Monarchs of Old Dominion.

Back-to-back visits from 2012 NCAA Tournament teams await the Rams next. Former VCU Head Coach Anthony Grant brings his Alabama Crimson Tide to Richmond on Dec. 15, followed by former Sun Belt conference rival Western Kentucky on Dec. 18.

Prior to the Christmas break, the Rams play host to one more state rival when Longwood stops by the Siegel Center on Dec. 21. In the final game of the 2012 calendar year, the Knights of Fairleigh Dickinson University trek down from New Jersey to clash with the Rams on Dec. 29.

A trip to traditional Atlantic Sun power East Tennessee State on Jan. 2 kicks off the new year for the Rams. The Bucs have posted 20 wins or more four times in the past six seasons and return four regulars from last year.

In the final non-conference game of the year on Jan. 5, the Black & Gold welcome one of the darlings of last year's NCAA Tournament, Lehigh, to the Siegel Center. Last year, the Mountain Hawks shocked the college basketball world when they took down second-seeded Duke in the Round of 64. Leading scorer C.J. McCollum (21.9 ppg) returns, along with seven others that averaged double-digit in minutes on last year's team that went 27-8 and won the Patriot League.

William and Mary head coach Tony Shaver announced the Tribe's 2012-13 non-conference men's basketball schedule. Including the CAA portion of the slate, which will be released in October, the Green and Gold will play seven teams that participated in the postseason last year. Highlighting the Tribe's non-conference slate will be road games at Wake Forest, Richmond, NCAA Tournament participant Purdue and SEC Champion Vanderbilt.

The College will have four non-conference home games in its 2012-13 slate, including the season-openeragainst Hampton University on Friday, Nov. 9. The Tribe will look to avenge a setback to the Pirates last season, but the Green and Gold hold a 9-6 advantage in the all-time series. It will mark the 16th meeting between the Hampton Roads schools during the last 18 years, while the Tribe opens the season at home for the first time since the 2005-06 season.

W&M will play back-to-back road games at Big South competition when it travels to Liberty on Nov. 12 and High Point on Nov. 17. After splitting a pair of contests in 2011-12, the Tribe and Flames will meet in Lynchburg for the third straight season and fourth time in the last five years. Last season, Liberty downed W&M in Williamsburg, before the College pulled out a one-point victory in Lynchburg as part of the Subregional for the 2K Sports Classic benefitting Coaches vs. Cancers. The meeting between W&M and High Point will be the first since 2001.

For the first time since the 1986 season, the Tribe will host Miami (Ohio) for a Thanksgiving eve contest on Nov. 21. Last season, the RedHawks pulled out a narrow 73-69 win over the Tribe in Oxford, Ohio.

Following its second home game, the Tribe will hit the road for a pair of contests against former conference foes. The College will travel to old Southern Conference counterpart Wake Forest on Friday, Nov. 23. Last time the teams met, W&M downed the ACC squad, 78-68, during the 2009-10 season in Winston-Salem as the Tribe became the first Demon Deacon opponent to win at Joel Coliseum during the month of November.

The Green and Gold will travel to Virginia's capital city to face Richmond on Wednesday, Nov. 28. The Spiders, who formerly played in the Colonial Athletic Association, are the Tribe's longest standing rival, dating back to 1912-13, and the teams have played 197 total games. Richmond owns the all-time series lead, 100-97, including victories in each of the last two contests.

W&M will face Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference opponent Howard for the third straight season when it welcomes the Bison to Williamsburg on Thursday, Dec. 6. Each team owns a win on its home floor in the series over the previous two campaigns.

In its last match-up prior to the final examination break at the College, W&M will travel to Radford on Saturday, Dec. 8, in a BracketBusters return game from the 2010-11 season. The College owns a 5-2 mark in the all-time series with the Highlanders, including victories in the last four meetings. W&M downed Radford, 84-52, during the 2010-11 campaign in Williamsburg.

After a 12-day hiatus, the Tribe returns to action with its final non-conference home game against Division III Salisbury University on Friday, Dec. 21. W&M will close out the non-conference portion of its slate against a pair of NCAA Tournament opponents from the previous season in Purdue and Vanderbilt. The Dec. 29 match-up with the Boilermakers, who went 22-13 a season ago and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, will be the second between W&M and Purdue after they squared off in 2001.

The Tribe will close out the non-league schedule on Wednesday, Jan. 2, when it travels to face defending SEC Champion Vanderbilt. It will mark the College's fifth visit to meet the Commodores in Nashville and the first since 1999. Last season, Vanderbilt went 25-11 overall, won the SEC Tournament and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, while finishing the year ranked No. 20 nationally (Associated Press).

James Madison men's basketball will open its 2012-13 season at UCLA in the Legends Classic while also traveling for two games in Las Vegas and playing a stretch of five straight home games over three weeks to highlight the non-conference portion of the schedule announced by head coach Matt Brady on Wednesday.

"We feel like this non-conference schedule has some very stern challenges," noted Brady upon announcing the slate. "The opening game at UCLA could be against a top-five team and a program with Final Four aspirations, which will allow us to learn a lot about our team right out of the gate. Starting a series with Richmond, continuing a series with George Washington and the games at Duquesne with neutral-court games will all be terrific tests for our team.

The Legends Classic will ring in the new season for the Dukes, who will make the 2,200-mile journey to Los Angeles to open the season at UCLA (19-14 last year) on Thursday, Nov. 15. JMU will be the third opponent for the Bruins in newly-renovated Pauley Pavilion. Early preseason polls, such as The Sporting News, have ranked UCLA as high as second nationally thanks to the nation's top-ranked recruiting class.

From California, the Legends Classic venue then switches to Pittsburgh and subregional games Nov. 19-21 against host Duquesne (16-15) along with Youngstown State (16-15) and North Dakota State (17-14). JMU will be participating in an event produced by the Gazelle Group for the fourth time in four years. The Dukes opened the 2009-10 season in the 2K Sports Classic, competed in the CBE Classic early in the 2010-11 season and closed the 2010-11 campaign in the College Basketball Invitational (CBI).

JMU's non-conference schedule also features a stretch of five consecutive home games over a period of 19 days during the Fall semester. The Dukes begin the run with a Nov. 28 game against George Washington (10-21). The home slate continues the following month with contests Dec. 1 against Winthrop (12-20), Dec. 5 vs. East Tennessee State (17-14), Dec. 8 hosting Richmond (16-16) and Dec. 16 against UNCG (13-19).

The home stretch will mark the most home games during the Fall semester with students in town (not coinciding with Thanksgiving break) since the 1998-99 season. Brady stated, "We try to plan every year to get first semester games with students on campus and it hasn't worked out. But we are tremendously excited to have five straight with students. We're eager to get off on the right foot, and it would be a tremendous thing to gain our students' support early with all of these home games."

The GW and ETSU dates are each return contests from the 2011-12 season as JMU defeated the Colonials 62-57 in a Presidential battle in Washington, D.C. and fell at ETSU 70-56. The Dukes will play Richmond for the first time since the Spiders left the Colonial Athletic Association following the 2000-01 season. Meanwhile, UNCG features NCAA Division I's second-youngest head coach, former JMU guard Wes Miller (2002-03).

Brady added, "The JMU community should be excited about renewing a series with Richmond, which is something we've been working towards for years. It is a quality program in the state, and it's a series that we hope to keep going indefinitely."

Following the home stretch, the Dukes again travel West, this time for a pair of games at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Making the third appearance in Vegas in program history, JMU will face San Jose State (9-22) on Dec. 22 and San Diego (13-18) on Dec. 23 in a pair of neutral-court contests. The games will be the first college basketball contests in the arena's history. The Dukes also played at UNLV in 1991 and faced Southern Illinois and Southern Methodist in Vegas in 1983.

On the Vegas trip, Brady commented, "Going to Las Vegas will be another highlight of this schedule for our players and our program with neutral-court games against San Jose State and San Diego. We feel strongly that any time you can get neutral-court games against quality competition, it allows us to improve our RPI and learn about our team."

JMU's out-of-conference schedule will also include away contests vs. Miami (Ohio) (9-21) on Nov. 24 and Hampton (12-21) on Jan. 7. The Dukes will also see home action before the official start of the season with an exhibition game Oct. 28 against Division II Philadelphia University. The MU game is a return contest from a 2010-11 BracketBusters game. The Dukes will face the Pirates for the second of three meetings in three years. It will be the fifth straight year for Madison to square off with Philadelphia in a preseason contest.

Overall, the Dukes will be battling five of their non-conference opponents for the first time. That group includes UCLA, North Dakota State, Winthrop, San Jose State and San Diego. Meanwhile, after the 11-year hiatus, it will be the 51st matchup all-time between JMU and Richmond.

Should UCLA reach the official AP or Coaches preseason polls as anticipated, the Dukes will open the season against a nationally-ranked team for the fourth time in the last five years. In 2010, JMU fell 75-61 at No. 3 Kansas State in the CBE Classic. In 2009, the Dukes dropped a 72-44 decision at No. 16 Ohio State in the 2K Sports Classic. In 2008, Madison lost to No. 20 Davidson at Oklahoma in the NIT Season Tip-Off.

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