Top 50 Most Important A10 MBB Non-conference Games
The 2023-24 College Basketball Season tips-off in a matter of days! We compiled the top 50 most important Atlantic 10 non-conference games using Bart Torvik’s wins above bubble metric. The list includes at least two non-conference games per team and no more than four per team. Also note this only includes scheduled games, and not any MTE tournament games that may happen.
**Update: Full Big 5 Preview (La Salle & Saint Joseph’s) will be up by this weekend 11/5**
3. @ Saint Mary’s
14. *vs Maryland (Asheville, NC)
45. @ Charlotte
A common theme at this year’s Atlantic 10 media day was the increasing difficulty of non-conference scheduling. As conference realignment extends the length of in-league play, and mid-major schools struggle to find Top-75 matchups early in the season, coaches in conferences such as the A-10 must adapt to the new scheduling landscape or be left in the dust. For Davidson Head Coach Matt McKillop, his Wildcats have the added challenge of bouncing back from the program’s first losing season in-conference since 2016-17. Fortunately, the Wildcats have three top matchups in non-conference play to prepare for the A-10 gauntlet.
WCC head coaches are high on this year’s Saint Mary’s squad, picked to win the conference over the Gonzaga Bulldogs by a very slim margin. Three Gaels on the preseason All-Conference team highlight the depth of this team, and returning 5 of their top 6 scorers from last season ensure that Saint Mary’s can hit the ground running in the first half of their schedule. According to teamrankings.com, Saint Mary’s was 15th in the nation in points allowed beyond the arc, so Davidson must learn to adjust when they inevitably get pressure from three. Even when they can get an inside look, they’ll have to get past all-WCC big Mitchell Saxen. For returning players like Grant Huffman, the key will be using Saxen’s physicality against him in order to get to the free throw line.
With their highly touted new recruits, led by guards like Deshawn Harris-Smith, this year’s Maryland Terps look to challenge the always-ruthless Big 10, finishing third in the conference pre-season poll. In terms of what they want to carry over from last year, the Terps will succeed as long as they maintain their poise in the defensive paint. In terms of the transition game, both teams excelled last year in forcing turnovers, so whoever wins the turnover battle has the best chance of moving on to the next round of the Asheville Championship to take on either Clemson or UAB.
Who doesn’t love an in-state rivalry, especially one with an awesome name? The Battle for the Hornets’ Nest, contested since the 1978-79 season, has season some recent dominance from Charlotte within the last 5 years, and with their strong finish last season as CBI Champions, the 49ers enter 2023-24 with higher aspirations. For Davidson to reclaim the Hornets Nest and shatter Charlotte’s dreams of the NIT or higher, the Wildcats must get the 49ers out of their comfort zone by putting pressure on the perimeter and crashing the offensive glass. As long as Davidson can control the tempo and stay composed in transition, the Hornets’ Nest will be theirs.
9. @ Northwestern
19. *vs LSU (Charleston, SC)
26. @ Cincinnati
33. @ SMU
35. vs UNLV
With one of, if not the most difficult non-conference schedules in the Atlantic 10, Dayton must take advantage of their opportunities against high-major opponents if they want to put themselves in position for an at large bid in March.
While their early season matchup at Northwestern is their best guaranteed matchup, they also have the opportunity to play some of the country’s top teams if they are able to advance in the Charleston classic. If they can beat LSU in the opening game, they’ll face a revamped Rick Pitino-led Saint John’s team or reigning NIT champion North Texas, and then will likely have Houston waiting for them on the other side of the bracket.
Dayton’s matchup against Cincinnati may be the most anticipated game of the non-conference slate, with the Flyers and Bearcats playing for the first time since 2010 and reigniting a classic Ohio rivalry. Cincinnati is entering their first year in the Big 12, this will be another opportunity for the Flyers to get some experience and pad their resume against a true high-major opponent. Dayton also has the opportunity to host UNLV, who should be fighting for a top-four finish in the Mountain West conference. This is one of the better non-conference opponents than an A-10 school will be hosting this season. Dayton fans will pack UD arena, and this should be a relatively easy win for the Flyers.
If Dayton is able to go 2-3 in the Charleston classic, beat one of Northwestern, LSU, or SMU, handle UNLV at home, take care of their “buy games”, they should feel very good about their non-conference performance heading into A-10 play. They don’t need perfection, but a few wins would certainly help out both Dayton and the rest of the conference come March.
13. @ Nebraska
31. *vs Charleston (Annapolis, MD)
37. vs UC Irvine
39. vs Bradley
40. @ Marshall
Keith Dambrot’s teams on the Bluff have accomplished exciting non-conference moments that attract eyes to the university but once the postseason rolls around the Dukes have not been able to execute. For example in December 2019 a ten-win Duquesne team was one of just four Division 1 programs that was still left undefeated. The nucleus that included Marcus Weathers and Michael Hughes is now long gone but a new era of daunting big men has stepped on campus and Duquesne should now be able to start pounding inside the post again. The bigs are the X-Factor for this team as star playmakers Dae Dae Grant and Jimmy (Tre) Clark would be even more effective and efficient alongside the stronger post play that would effectively spread the defense’s focus. Last season the Dukes went 10-3 in the non-conference but could have easily been 8-5 without the spectacular game-winning buzzer beaters by Tevin Brewer and Jimmy Clark against North Florida and Ball State respectively. A W at home against DePaul was the program’s first victory against a Big East school since 2002.
Tevin Brewer, Austin Rotroff, Joe Reece, and RJ Gunn are all out of NCAA eligibility and Keith Dambrot has reloaded with an assortment of experienced forwards and young guards. It was mentioned earlier that the “X-Factor” for this team’s success will be the success of the front court. Duquesne already has the explosive David Dixon and lengthy Halil (Chabi) Barre developing in the post but Coach D has added FOUR GRADUATE STUDENTS that will surely be terrorizing the rim with their experience and size. Dusan Mahorcic and Andrei Savrasov are names you will be learning very quickly. Unfortunately Mahorcic, a 6’10 NC State transfer, suffered a season ending knee injury last year and is not expected to make his Duquesne debut until December. The other two graduate forwards are new to Duquesne but no stranger to the Atlantic 10 as Hassan and Fousseyni Drame knocked Duquesne out of the A10 Tournament in March for La Salle, and it should be mentioned the twins also played in the Elite 8 on the legendary 15 seed St. Peters team. Duquesne will host St. Peters December 8th.
The Dukes host Charleston November 10th in their first true test and travel to face Nebraska in a Big Ten environment November 22nd for the toughest game of their non-conference schedule on paper. Other notable matchups in non-con play include hosting UC Irvine, going to Marshall, and Bradley in an Akron, OH high school gymnasium. Keith Dambrot has faced all three previously mentioned schools as Duquesne’s coach but the Marshall matchup is unique as players from each team will be familiar with each other since this matchup happens every year alternating playing sites. Dan D’Antoni may have Duquesne figured out though as Marshall is always an arduous opponent, winning the last three meetings. With the added mass and depth Duquesne will play in a variety of styles that they were not able to attempt in the past couple seasons. Expect Duquesne to play 10-12 players in experimental lineups the entire non-conference.
17. @ Saint John’s (Madison Square Garden)
42. *vs North Texas (Brooklyn, NY)
50. vs Tulane
Fordham’s out-of-conference schedule has improved, with three significant tests in December. It could be an early Christmas or coal in the stocking for fans. Here’s how things could shake out for Fordham and what games to tune into if you’re not a Ram fan:
Tulane is the return game from last year’s upset in the Bayou, as the Green Wave will go to the Bronx. Ron Hunter’s team is eerily similar to last year’s, with returnees such as Sion James, Jaylen Forbes, Kevin Cross, Collin Holloway, and some underclassmen expected to improve. Tulane benefited from a summer tour together in China, where they won a bronze medal in the World University Games. They’re an offensive force that can play high tempo and fly around the perimeter on defense. Hovering around the 85-100 range in KenPom’s rankings will brew good competition for the Rams. Tulane will look to compete in a revamped American Athletic Conference with Hunter’s run-and-gun offense — this should test a few things for Fordham: their offensive chops, stamina, taking advantage of Tulane’s lack of size, and guarding mobile perimeter threats who are tall.
The second team from the AAC the Rams will see are last season’s NIT champions: the North Texas Mean Green in the NABC showcase in Brooklyn. It was a marvelous season last year as the Mean Green won 31 games and the NIT, but it came at a significant cost: losing their three top scorers and head coach. The only returnees who averaged close to double digits are Rubin Jones (6.7 PPG) and Aaron Scott (7.0 PPG). Points for Ross Hodge’s charges will likely be at a premium against Fordham’s annoying defense. In contrast, conducting offense for the Rams will be equally as miserable against the Mean Green. There is a catch: the difference in pace of play. North Texas was the slowest playing team last year in pace, 363rd last year in adjusted tempo, while Fordham was 54th (Kenpom). The Rams will see if their speedy style can outlast a slogging pace — something they’ll likely see in the A10 against Dayton.
Every Ram fan has the St John’s game circled on their calendar — it’s almost like their Super Bowl in a way, with the buzz around both programs for very different reasons: Fordham came off their best season in 30 years with Keith Urgo and still has an exciting roster. Meanwhile, in Queens, the Red Storm hired Rick Pitino, which is all you need to know. He’s completely transformed the roster but retained a key holdover: former ram Joel Soriano. With a battle already within the war and the hype around both programs finally being good simultaneously, it should be a rigid test for both sides. St John’s has aspirations for March and received preseason top 25 votes — come December, it wouldn’t shock anyone if they are in the top 25 by that point. Can Fordham win this game? Beating Pitino isn’t so simple — they could win because of how new the roster is for the Red Storm. Given the mentality of Urgo’s men, they will undoubtedly compete and are looking forward to the challenge. This game will test Fordham’s togetherness and mental toughness — if they win, they’ll build up tons of momentum in a very short period.
1. @ Tennessee
32. @ Tulane
The Vols enter the season ranked #9 in the AP Poll, and the preseason SEC favorites. Their roster speaks for itself, led by preseason All-SEC First Team Santiago Vescovi and All-SEC Second Team Zakai Zeigler. Fans will remember Tennessee as the school that Kim English was an assistant at before coming to Mason in 2021. But going back a little further in time, Tennessee Head Coach Rick Barnes, got his first head coaching job, back in 1987, at George Mason. After previously serving as an assistant in Fairfax from 1980-1985, Barns took over the job for the 1987-1988 season. In a twisted outcome of fate, both Kim English and Rick Barns left George Mason to become the head coach at Providence, in 1988 and 2023 respectively.
But back to the game at hand, there’s no question that the expectation for a team like Tennessee is to be in the running for a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament this spring. Sure, the Patriots faced a tough road environment in their exhibition game at West Virginia back on October 27, but this is an animal all on its own. That’s not to say Mason doesn’t have a prayer in this game, the Patriots do have some recent history with knocking off ranked teams on the road, as back in 2021-22 they upset #20 Maryland. But there’s no doubt this game will be an uphill battle for George Mason, and they will need a lot of things to go their way if they are to pull off this upset.
A rematch from last year’s neutral site game in Chicago, this year’s game sees the Patriots traveling down to the Bayou to face the Green Wave. Tulane is pearson #3 in the AAC poll, behind FAU and Memphis, both easily NCAA caliber teams this year. Junior guard Jaylen Forbes was unanimously selected All-AAC First Team, while Kevin Cross was chosen All-AAC Second Team. KenPom has Tulane at preseason #95, so while not necessarily an NCAA Tournament team, this should still be a Quad 1 opportunity for George Mason.
34. @ South Carolina
47. *vs Ohio (Nassau, Bahamas)
George Washington may just have the easiest non-conference schedule in the entire Atlantic 10. The Revolutionaries two biggest tests will be an away game at South Carolina (66 KenPom) on Dec. 1, and the opening game of the Baha Mar Hoops Nassau Championship against Ohio (114 KenPom) on Nov. 24.
In what ended up being the highlight of last season, GW dismantled South Carolina 79-55. However, a lot has changed down in Columbia. South Carolina’s roster is almost completely new, with three of their top four scorers from last season either getting drafted to the NBA, transferring, or exhausting their eligibility. Despite these changes, they are still an SEC team. They have legitimate talent like junior guard Meechie Johnson and graduate forward B.J. Mack, who transferred from Wofford where he was First Team All-SoCon. And, arguably most importantly, they’ll be looking for revenge after GW embarrassed them on national television. GW will be lucky to escape the Palmetto State with a victory.
Despite not being the biggest name, Ohio will be a difficult matchup for GW down in the Bahamas. The Bobcats return five of their top six scorers from last season and added two high-major transfers, redshirt sophomore forward Ike Cornish from Maryland and graduate guard Shereff Mitchell from Creighton, who will both likely slot into the starting lineup. GW struggled in last season’s MTE, The Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii, going 0-3 and seemingly falling apart after a last-second controversial loss to Washington State in the opening game. Head coach Chris Caputo will make sure his team is ready this time, and GW should be able to hold their own against most of the field.
The rest of the non-conference schedule for GW should not provide much of a challenge. The next biggest games other than South Carolina and Ohio will likely be Hofstra (113 KenPom) at home on Nov. 14, or a potential matchup against UNC Greensboro (106 KenPom) in the Baha Mar Hoops Nassau Championship final.
GW should not lose many non-conference games this year. If they are able to head into A-10 play with an 11-2 record, they should be thrilled with their performance. While this set of games may not do much to improve GW’s strength of schedule or NET rating, it should give a Revolutionaries squad featuring nine newcomers an opportunity to build up their chemistry and figure out what lineups work the best together before the start of conference games. For a team that is unlikely to compete for an at-large bid to the NCAA (and now NIT) tournament, a more forgiving start to the season could be just what GW needs.
2. @ Duke
15. @ Miami (FL)
41. @ Temple
43. vs Drexel
–Full Big 5 Preview (La Salle & Saint Joseph’s) will be up by this weekend 11/5–
4. *vs Creighton (Kansas City, MO)
7. *vs Florida Atlantic (Chicago, IL)
49. @ South Florida
The Ramblers have set themselves up with three critical non-conference games for the 23-24 season. Overall, the non-con schedule allows Loyola to rebound from a troubled season of losses and regain the Rambler winning consistency. Right off the top, Loyola looks to challenge final four team Florida Atlantic in game one of the season. Although labeled as a neutral site, Loyola will travel eleven miles to Wintrust Arena in Chicago for the season opener. This game could set the tone for the early season and help boost this year’s resume of a Quad 1 win, with FAU at #10 in the AP rankings.
The second neutral site game will be up against Creighton, currently ranked #8 in the AP rankings. This game is just two weeks from the FAU clash. Loyola added some challenges early in the season with two top-ten opponents. Sandwiched in between are three games that should allow the Ramblers to prepare for Creighton. Creighton is part of Loyola’s MTE this year, the Hall of Fame Classic out in Kansas City, MO. The biggest take will be if Loyola can hold up against Ryan Kalkbrenner, considered a preseason top-10 player in the nation.
Lastly, Loyola lost this neutral site game and now has a road game against USF. With a new coach and roster, you would think it was an easy matchup for Loyola, but that is only partially true. South Florida’s new coach is coming off an NCAA tournament run at Kennesaw St. and bringing three players from that team with him. Loyola will see three AAC teams in non-con, so look for some hard-nosed basketball.
21. *vs West Virginia (Springfield, MA)
29. *vs Georgia Tech (Honolulu, HI)
Entering year #2 the Frank Martin era at UMass, and there are a whole bunch of new faces in Amherst for players. The Minutemen brought in nine new players – 2 transfers and 7 freshmen (one being a walk-on) – and had changes on the coaching staff. The Minutemen were able to pick up NEC Player of the Year, Josh Cohen from the transfer portal as well as South Carolina transfer Daniel Hankins-Sanford. Cohen was also recently named to the Basketball Hall of Fame Kareen Abdul-Jabbar Watch List for this upcoming season. This freshmen class also has a bunch of talent, and I can see them meshing in with the rest of the team very well. UMass has Matt Cross, Rahsool Diggins, and Keon Thompson all returning and each of them have been working hard in the offseason and developed their game on and off the court.
The Minutemen have only one true road game this season down at Towson as well as being in the Diamond Head Classic and the Basketball Hall of Fame Classic. UMass is playing in the Basketball Hall of Fame Classic for the third season in a row and the second season it is being held at the MassMutual Center. The Minutemen will face West Virginia in the Basketball Hall of Fame Classic on Saturday, December 16th. This is the first part of a “home-and-home” series with the Mountaineers with the second part supposed to come in the next season or two. This game against the Mountaineers will be the 42nd all-time meeting with West Virginia leading the all-time matchups 28-13. Most of the matchups against the Mountaineers date back to the 1980s and 1990s when they were one of the founding members of the Atlantic 10.
UMass also has the Diamond Head Classic in December five days after the game against West Virginia. The first game in the classic, the Minutemen face off against Tafara Gapare and Georgia Tech. This game against Georgia Tech is one of the first games this season that UMass faces off against a former player. If the Minutemen are lucky, they could get to play against another former Atlantic 10 team in the Diamond Head Classic. Temple is also playing in this MTE, and depending on the outcome UMass could face the Owls and renew a former rivalry dating back to when John Calipari and John Chaney were the head coaches at their respective schools.
12. @ Providence
16. *vs Northwestern (Uncasville, CT)
24. @ Charleston
36. vs Yale
Rhody enters year 2 of the Archie Miller era after a tenuous and unsetting first season. The Rams’ were unable to find any consistency outside of Ishmael Leggett (16.4 PPG), who bolted for Pittsburgh immediately after the season. Miller spent the spring aggressively adding from the portal. High Point G Jaden House (17.3 PPG), Bradley G Zek Montgomery (8.1 PPG), Quinnipiac G Luis Kortright (10.3 PPG), look to stabilize the backcourt for the long-term, as all 6 incoming transfers have multiple years of eligibility remaining.
Patience will be tested early and often for Rhody fans. Last season the Rams’ disteasterious 2-7 start derailed any hope and expectations heading into conference play. Building chemistry and cohesion on the court after another offseason with extreme roster turnover is paramount for Rhody, perhaps more than any other A10 team. Their first 3 games are all home vs sub-200 KenPom teams. A 3-0 start is ESSENTIAL if this program hopes to rebuild trust and keep Miller’s seat cooler through new year’s.
The Rams’ take on Northwestern in the Basketball HOF Tip-off, their first marquee game of the season. The Wildcats are led by G Boo Buie (17.3 PPG), a reining & preseason First Team All-Big Ten Team unanimous selection. Northwestern returns four of its top six scorers and will be an incredibly difficult matchup for Rhody’s new-look backcourt.
Rhody vs Providence is one of college basketball’s most underrated rivalries… or is it? These teams absolutely hate each other’s guts — no doubt — but bragging rights have been on the Friars’ side for quite some time now though. Rhody is a meager 2-10 against their interstate foe since 2010. With former George Mason HC Kim English taking over for Ed Cooley at PC, victory over Providence would be that much sweeter. #Mindset
Scheduling quality games is harder now more than ever before as more conferences shift to 20-game league schedules. The Rams’ continue to schedule multiple pure road games every season, even against dangerous non-P5 teams such as Charleston. The reigning CAA champions enter this season ranked #1 in the CAA preseason poll and faceoff against several A10 teams in non-conference play (Duquesne, Rhode Island, Saint Louis, Saint Joseph’s). A sign that perhaps the Cougars may become a more permanent fixture in the Atlantic 10. CAA 1st-teamer F Ante Brzovic (11.6 PPG), and CAA 2nd-teamer G Reyne Smith (10.8 PPG) lead a Charleston team with sights set on dancing into the 2nd weekend of March Madness after getting a taste this past year as a #12 seed.
10. *vs Florida (Sunrise, FL)
11. *vs Colorado (Daytona Beach, FL)
28. @ Wichita State
30. @ Boston College
38. @ Northern Iowa
The Spiders enter the 2023-24 campaign with many question marks but none no bigger than replacing the production of all-league superstars Tyler Burton (19.0 PPG) and Jacob Gilyard the year before. HC Chris Mooney certainly earned his 3-year contract extension after the Spiders seized the 2022 A10 tournament championship and got all the way to the Round of 32 in March Madness. If Richmond seeks to reach similar highs someday soon, they need to develop another core of homegrown studs.
Richmond is anchored by returning C Neal Quinn (9.5 PPG), named to the All-A10 3rd Team. Quinn enters his 5th season on the court and will be relied on heavily to shoulder the scoring and leadership burden vacated by Burton and 2022-23 A10 G Jason Nelson who fled across town to VCU. Mooney brought in his fair share of transfers via the portal to help complement the scoring load through the backcourt in ETSU G Jordan King (15.6 PPG), and Wagner G DeLonnie Hunt (11.1 PPG).
If there’s one thing that Chris Mooney has done well year and year out is scheduling quality games in non-conference play. Richmond has stacked their schedule with plenty of outstanding opportunities ranging from top tier P5 games at MTEs (Colorado/Florida St./Florida) to playing against quality regional mid-major foes (Wichita St./Northern Iowa/Charlotte/Queens) eager to boost their own resume and engage fanbases.
The Spiders (11th in A10 preseason poll) can certainly surprise folks especially if returning F Jason Roche (6.3 PPG) takes another step in his development and can take on a larger role after boasting a 38.5 3FG% last season as a sophomore. Keep an eye out for freshman F Collin Tanner, who averaged 22 PPG in high school in 2021-22. Tons of upside longterm for Tanner and he’ll have his chance to showcase his talent early as Chris Mooney has much to learn about his new-look Spiders squad.
8. *vs Florida Atlantic (Springfield, MA)
23. *vs Oklahoma State (Brooklyn, NY)
A new and seemingly improved Bonas team will face a tough test in their third game of the regular season when they see Oklahoma State in the first game of the Legends Classic at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. OSU is ranked tenth in the Big 12 preseason poll. The Legends Classic matchup with St. Bonaventure will be the first test for the Cowboys also. Even though the conference is down on Oklahoma State, the Bonnies get an early season test against a team that has found themselves competing for an NCAA Tournament bid year after year. Bonas will then play either Notre Dame or Auburn in the second game of the Legends Classic depending on the outcomes of both first games.
Last season, SBU beat Notre Dame in the Gotham Classic where returning big man Chad Venning showed out with 14 points, 11 rebounds, and two blocks. This year, the new roster has a prime opportunity right out of the gate to prove they belong against Power 5 schools.
A month later, head coach Mark Schmidt will lead his group against Dusty May’s Florida Atlantic team who made it all the way to the Final Four in the 2023 NCAA Tournament. FAU is ranked No. 10 in the country to start the season. The game is part of the Basketball Hall of Fame Classic at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, MA.
While a difficult opponent, playing tough against a team of FAU’s caliber allows St. Bonaventure a strong opportunity to prepare for Atlantic 10 play which starts shortly after the matchup. In a wide open A10, Bonas can certainly compete and end up at the top of the pack with a more balanced and deep roster.
22. @ Drake
27. @ North Carolina State
44. vs Utah State
Picked fifth in this season’s A-10 Poll, Saint Louis looks to silence the doubters concerned with the amount of departures the Billikens faced this offseason. However, with 7 returners on this year’s roster, and 3 games within our non-con Top 50, the Billikens once again look to set themselves up for success in the first half of the season and beyond.
With Loyola-Chicago in the A-10, the Drake Bulldogs set out on a journey last season to be the lone dominating force of the Missouri Valley Conference. While going 15-5 in conference play and winning the MVC Tourney last year was a great start, the amount of departures the Bulldogs faced in the offseason could pose a major setback for recapturing the MVC’s auto-bid in 2024. However, if there’s one thing that both the Billikens and Bulldogs share aside from a lot of fresh faces, it’s experienced coaching. In 2023-24 Travis Ford will enter his 8th season with Saint Louis, while Drake’s Darian DeVries enters his sixth. Both coaches have been around their respective programs long enough to not only maintain some continuity with the returning players they have, but also bring in players from the portal that can play according to their programs’ established style. For Drake, that style is high volume 3-point shooting. Last season, the Bulldogs were one of the best-shooting mid-majors in the country (50th in 3P% via KenPom), and also one of the best-defending teams at the arc (42nd in opp. 3P% via KenPom). This game will come down to the more efficient shooting team, and with a player like Gibson Jimerson, who had his most efficient season from the field last year, the Billikens should have enough tools to compete.
Coming off their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 5 years, the Wolfpack will not want to lose their momentum to Saint Louis in their own arena. To best the Billikens, NC State will look to dominate the paint. However, departures in the frontcourt leave the Wolfpack without big men like Ebenezer Dowouna (0.9 BPG last year) and Dusan Mahoric (who transferred to Duquesne). While SLU may not be too deep in the frontcourt this year, should transfers like Tim Dalger make a big impact, SLU could give NC State some trouble. While this game likely won’t define a turning point in either direction for the potentially rebuilding Billikens, it could set the stage for where this team will want to focus their offensive identity.
Are there any expectations for this year’s Utah State team? According to the Deseret News, the departure of Ryan Odom has left a huge hole for new HC Danny Sprinkle to fill, as every single player who scored a point last season is gone. Identity is more important in college basketball than nearly any other sport, and when facing a head coach in his 8th year with his program, Utah State could get into some early season trouble here. This will be SLU’s chance to show how much they have gelled in the offseason in comparison to another rebuilding program.
5. @ Kentucky
6. @ Villanova
25. @ Charleston
–Full Big 5 Preview (La Salle & Saint Joseph’s) will be up by this weekend 11/5–
18. vs Memphis
20. *vs Iowa State (Orlando, FL)
46. vs Seattle
The non-conference schedule for VCU is in some ways reflective of the present scheduling landscape in college basketball, as the Rams face zero true road games before entering Atlantic 10 conference play. Despite this, new head coach Ryan Odom and the new-look Rams have a few gems on the slate that fans have to look forward to both at the Siegel Center and in the ESPN Events Invitational in late November, where the Rams will face their first Power 5 test against Iowa State.
The Iowa State Cyclones will represent a reunion with former VCU Ram Hason Ward, who is a fifth-year senior. He played for the Rams for three seasons, earning A-10 All-Defensive Team honors in 2021 and becoming a starter under then-head coach Mike Rhoades in his junior season. As a whole, the Cyclones look to be strong and profile as a top-40 team preseason, representing the first test for Odom. VCU faces Iowa State at 5:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 23, from Orlando, Florida.
Following the Iowa State game, other possible ESPN Events Invitational opponents include Texas A&M, Butler, Florida Atlantic, Boise State, Virginia Tech and Penn State, which hired Rhoades away from VCU earlier this year.
Arguably the strongest non-“Power 6” non-conference game comes right before VCU’s trip to Florida, when the Seattle Redhawks travel to the Siegel Center. Members of the Western Athletic Conference, Seattle is in search of its first NCAA Tournament berth since the 1960s, and starts off the season ranked among the top of the WAC in metrics.
The player to watch for the Redhawks is senior guard Cameron Tyson, who was named to the Preseason All-WAC Team earlier this offseason. Tyson averaged just under 19 points per game last season, ranking among the top 60 in the country while shooting 3-pointers at a clip that put him among the nation’s best from beyond the arc. Seattle faces VCU on Nov. 18 at 2 p.m.
But the marquee event of the non-conference slate comes on Dec. 6, as the Memphis Tigers, led by head coach Penny Hardaway, come to the Siegel Center for the second leg of a home-and-home deal between the two schools. The Rams lost on the road to Memphis last season, 62-47. The Tigers enter the season ranked 32nd in KenPom and with a litany of preseason honors. The Tigers were picked to finish second in the American Athletic Conference preseason poll. Memphis landed all-conference honors with Alabama transfer Jahvon Quinerly (1st team) and reigning Lou Henson Award winner Jordan Brown (2nd team). Freshmen Carl Cherenfant and JJ Taylor were selected as co-rookies of the year.
Brown was also named to the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award watch list, which honors the country’s top center. All told, despite the lack of true road games, VCU has continued to build a tough slate of non-conference games. VCU will also face the slate without All-A-10 preseason selection Sean Bairstow, who sustained a fracture in his right food earlier this month at practice.