RICHMOND, Va. – When VCU hosts Alabama Saturday at the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center, the game will officially fall into a category of events rarer than Anthony Grant smiles during press conferences.
It will be just the 10th time the Rams will have hosted a school that is a current member of a BCS Conference (Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC, Big East, ACC, Big 12) since the Siegel Center opened in 1999. But even that number is a bit misleading. At the time of those games, two schools weren’t yet members of those power conferences. That means just seven out of VCU’s 194 games in the Siegel Center have been against schools operating under BCS banner.
It’s not for a lack of trying, Shaka Smart says.
“We try to schedule these games. Every once and a while, we’re successful,” he said. “Typically, people don’t want to come here, and I think that’s a testament to the fans here and the success the program has had over the past several years since 1999 that the Siegel Center has been open, and other teams know that.”
The Rams are 166-28 all-time at the Siegel Center, a winning percentage of .856. VCU is 3-1 at home this season. Schools from BCS Conferences are often wary of playing road games at schools from less prominent leagues, especially ones like VCU, who are tough to beat at home. VCU’s frantic style of play, compounded by the often deafening roar of 7,500-plus fans, can make other schools skittish about scheduling the Rams at “The Stu”.
“Those BCS schools aren’t just playing 13, 14 guys, they’re actually playing thousands of people. They’re coming to the Siegel Center. They have to play against us and the crowd,” said VCU senior Troy Daniels.
Many BCS schools view the games as no-win situations because they’ll be expected to win, and if they don’t, they’ll face additional scrutiny.
The last BCS school to visit the Verizon Wireless Arena was South Florida last season, a game VCU won 69-46. Even when VCU has been successful in luring a BCS school to Richmond, it has rarely been a marquee name (see: South Florida). Saturday’s game with Alabama is part of a clause in Grant’s VCU contract that guaranteed the school a home-and-home series if the coach accepted another job. Grant left VCU for Alabama in 2009, and the two schools met last season in Tuscaloosa, Ala. with the Crimson Tide earning a 72-64 win.
VCU also received a home-and-home series with Oklahoma after Jeff Capel accepted that job. In 2009, the Sooners visited the Siegel Center as the 17th-ranked team in the country and left with an 82-69 loss. To date, it is the only time the Rams have hosted a ranked opponent at the Siegel Center.
Overall, the Rams are 7-2 in games at the Siegel Center against schools currently residing in a BCS Conference, including 5-2 against schools that were BCS-affiliated at the time of the contest. So, while VCU’s opportunities have been limited, the Rams have often made the best of them. They’ll hope to do the same Saturday against Alabama. The Crimson Tide will likely be a top 100 RPI team all season, so a win would be a nice addition to VCU’s NCAA Tournament resume.
Here are VCU’s previous meetings with BCS schools at the Siegel Center:
1-*Louisville, W, 79-74 (11/19/99)
2-Colorado, W, 82-78 OT (11/28/99)
3-Mississippi, L, 84-88 OT (11/25/00)
4-Texas A&M, W, 107-106 2OT (12/2/00)
5-Pittsburgh, W, 76-73 OT (12/17/00)
6-*TCU, W, 91-78 (12/21/02)
7-Mississippi, L, 62-63 (12/29/04)
8-#17 Oklahoma, W, 82-69 (11/21/09)
9-South Florida, W, 69-46 (11/30/11)
* – Louisville was a member of Conference USA in 1999, as was TCU in 2002.