2011-12 record: 17-11 (7-9 MVC)
2011-12 RPI:
Player to heckle:
Anthony James, Jr., G (13.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg)
The skinny:
For the second straight season the Rams have drawn a favorable Sears BracketBusters matchup against a Missouri Valley Conference opponent. Last season’s 68-67 victory at Wichita State was no doubt one of the deciding factors in VCU’s NCAA Tournament at-large selection. However, it’s becoming more apparent of late that this year’s BracketBusters game will probably not have the same impact. Northern Iowa’s 63-62 loss to Evansville the other night has the Panthers RPI trending downward.

While a win may not get VCU into the NCAA Tournament (maybe it will – stranger things have happened), that hardly makes the game meaningless. If the Rams do make the NCAA Tournament, a game like this can prove valuable for seeding. Additionally, it’s a test against a quality opponent a couple of weeks before the CAA Tournament. The Rams want to go into March battle-tested. Lastly, VCU will be kicking off BracketBusters. They’ll be getting about as much regular-season attention as the Rams have had in a while. It’s a great chance to showcase the program on national TV.

It won’t be easy. Northern Iowa, which advanced to the Sweet 16 two years ago, staged a dramatic upset of 12th-ranked Creighton on Feb. 4 and leads the MVC in scoring defense, at less than 62 points per game. The Panthers are also an outstanding 3-point shooting squad, making about eight a game. Junior guard Anthony James leads a balanced scoring attack that includes 6-foot-9 forward Jake Koch and sharpshooting junior guard Marc Sonnen.

Fast facts: This will be the first meeting between VCU and Northern Iowa… The Rams are 4-3 all-time in BracketBusters contests.

Feb. 19, 2005: Charleston 85, VCU 75
Feb. 17, 2006: VCU 70, Albany 67 (ESPNU)
Feb. 17, 2007: Bradley 73, VCU 64 (ESPN2)
Feb. 23, 2008: VCU 57, Akron 52 (ESPN2)
Feb. 20, 2009: Nevada 71, VCU 70 (ESPNU)
Feb. 20, 2010: VCU 70, Akron 53 (ESPNU)
Feb. 18, 2011: VCU 68, Wichita State 67 (ESPN2)
Feb. 17, 2012: VCU vs. Northern Iowa (ESPN2)

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