Shaka Smart: “Up to this point we haven’t been that successful getting people to come back to our building and play us…hopefully, our success rate with that will get a little better.”

RICHMOND, Va. – Are VCU and Virginia in line for a meeting on the basketball court? It could happen sooner, rather than later.

VCU’s gaudy record (163-27, .858 win %) at the Verizon Wireless Arena and reputation of springing upsets have long been roadblocks to getting home games against schools from Power Six conferences, including in-state foes Virginia and Virginia Tech. But VCU Coach Shaka Smart hopes VCU’s recent move from the CAA to Atlantic 10 will change that.

Smart revealed that when he arrived at VCU in 2009, Virginia Coach Tony Bennett agreed to play a home-and-home series with the Rams, but the two schools couldn’t agree on dates for the games. However, those talks may heat up again, according to Smart.

“Because of some of the complexities involved in scheduling, we haven’t been able to schedule that over the last couple of years,” Smart said Friday. “But they’re one of the schools that we’ve talked to and that we would love to play home-and-home. I think they’re open to potentially doing that. But it has to make sense for them too.”

Richmond and Charlottesville are separated by just 70 miles, but VCU and Virginia have not met since 1998. The Rams have never hosted UVA inside the Verizon Wireless Arena, although the Cavaliers have played a couple of neutral site games in the building since it opened in 1999. Clearly, the GPS can find it.

As a matter of principle, VCU has declined to play schools from leagues such as the Big Ten, ACC, SEC and Big East without the promise of a return game at the Verizon Wireless Arena, which usually ended those discussions. The Rams’ home game with Oklahoma two years ago, as well as the Rams’ upcoming contest with Alabama in 2012, were the result of clauses in the contracts of former coaches Jeff Capel and Anthony Grant.

VCU has not met Virginia Tech on the basketball court since 1995, but will face the Hokies in during the 2013-14 season in the Governor’s Cup at the Richmond Coliseum. That game, however, was arranged by the office of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell.

“We’re excited about that. They weren’t excited about that, but we are,” Smart said of the Virginia Tech match-up.

But the A10’s sturdier RPI and nationally-recognized brand may help bridge the scheduling gaps VCU has faced in the past. The A10 was the nation’s seventh-rated RPI league last season and received four NCAA Tournament bids. The mid-major stigma may be fading from VCU’s name.

Since the Verizon Wireless Arena opened for the 1999-2000 season, VCU has hosted nine games against schools currently residing in one of the Power Six (Big East, Pac 12, Big Ten, SEC, Big 12 and ACC) conferences: Louisville, Colorado, Pittsburgh, TCU, Mississippi (twice), Texas A&M, Oklahoma and South Florida.  The Rams hold a 7-2 mark in those match-ups. At the time of those games, however, Louisville, Houston and TCU were members of Conference USA. VCU has hosted a ranked team in the arena just once (#17 Oklahoma, 2009).

Advertisements