tumblr_mt9eusr6Tn1ryw6edo1_500Shaka Smart’s “Havoc” is must-see TV. That’s what the networks are saying, it seems.

The full VCU Men’s Basketball schedule was released Wednesday. We’ve known the non-conference slate for weeks and the home/away A-10 match-ups for months, so this was really about filling dates and setting DVRs.

In case you were stuck in a mid-afternoon meeting, here it is:


Really, today’s news is really all about what we didn’t know before, television. Seventeen of VCU’s 18 Atlantic 10 Conference games will be nationally televised, seven by ESPN networks, including four in a row at one stretch. As of today, and there’s still time for the network to add games, VCU will appear on an ESPN network – not including ESPN3 – 11 times. I’m not even go to bother to look this up, but I’m going to say with a degree of certainty, that’s a program record. In all, 23 of VCU’s 31 regular season games are currently scheduled on a national carrier (ESPN2/U: 11, CBS Sports: 9, NBC Sports: 2). That surpasses the program mark of 21 national broadcasts, set last year.

You can expect the rest of these games, assuming no national network steps up, will be picked up by some combination of regional and local stations. I’m looking at you, Comcast and MASN. Like last year, you can expect to see every VCU game on TV.

In my first season here, 2005-06, VCU appeared on TV – local, regional and national, combined – nine times. The Rams will play on national TV eight times in the month of February alone.

It’s always difficult to pick the toughest parts of a schedule prior to the season. Somebody’s always better than you thought and somebody’s always worse, but at first glance, there are a couple of stretches that should test the Rams more than others:

From Jan. 13-23 the Rams will play three straight road contests at Rhode Island, Duquesne and Saint Louis. Rhody and Duquesne should be much improved and Saint Louis has not been kind to VCU the last two years. I know the Billikens will be replacing five starters, but there’s still a lot of talent there and a packed Chaifetz Arena is a pressure-cooker.

VCU closes out February with what could be its most-challenging five-game stretch. Starting Feb. 14, the Rams will play at George Washington, then host Saint Louis (Feb. 17) and UMass (Feb. 21), at Richmond (Feb. 25), followed by a home contest with Dayton (Feb. 28), fresh off an Elite Eight appearance.VCU, Dayton and George Washington are popular early picks to compose the top tier in the A-10 in 2014-15. UMass, while it will have to figure out how to offset the loss of Mighty Mite Chaz Williams, looks like a program with some legs. Meanwhile, it’s never easy to win over in sweater vest country.

Three “Can’t Miss” VCU A-10 Games:
Jan. 10 vs. Saint Joseph’s – The Rams are still smarting from a pair of losses to the Hawks, including the A-10 final, last year. This is an opportunity to start getting even.

Feb. 14 at George Washington – VCU and GW are quickly building a compelling rivalry. The Colonials’ victory last year in Washington, D.C. was an eye-opener for VCU and the rest of the league. While the Rams eventually had the last laugh with wins in Richmond and in the A-10 semifinals, this game should be one of the more anticipated match-ups on the league schedule.

Feb. 28 vs. Dayton – The Flyers haven’t been this hot an item outside of Dayton since the late ’60s. To boot, Dayton returns the bulk of its Elite Eight team, including Jordan Sibert and Dyshawn Pierre. It’s too early to know, but there could be a lot on the line by the time they tip this one off.