Virginia and VCU are getting together to do something cool.
Play each other at their own gyms.
The two schools have scheduled a home-and-home series for 2017 and 2018, it was announced Wednesday.
“Coach (Tony) Bennett was excited about the possibility,” VCU coach Will Wade told the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “and we were certainly excited about it. It’s a game that made sense for both sides.”
Frankly, it’s a game that makes sense for college basketball, at large, even if it is one of the rarest occurrences for a high-major to visit a mid-major, even one of the Rams’ caliber. Given the growing popularity of neutral-site games, financial necessities of playing home non-conference games and, sometimes, a general lack of competitive spirit (to be fair the high-majors certainly have more to lose than gain), these types of games just rarely happen and it has helped in one way to make November a rather dull month of college hoops.
People have been clamoring for a Kansas-Wichita State matchup that Bill Self he has no interest in scheduling. Iowa and Iowa State used to play in-state rivals Northern Iowa and Drake on their home courts every other year, but they now the schools play an antiseptic doubleheader on a neutral site in the center of the state. There’s no parade of high majors visiting schools from the MAC, WAC or CUSA, even if there might be regional or national interest. Matchups against blue bloods is great, but giving someone a chance to play Cinderella outside of March and on its home gym is appealing, too.
It’s just very hard to get a high-major program to leave its gym for anything short of an NBA arena or a made-for-TV attraction.
“You don’t get that often, where a team of that caliber comes to your home court,” Wade said. “They’re a top-10 program in the country right now in terms of the last three or four years.
“Make no mistake, they wouldn’t be doing this if our program wasn’t very good and they didn’t get some benefit out of it as well.”
Give Virginia and Bennett a ton of credit here for agreeing to head to VCU next year and then get the return game in 2018. The Cavaliers, who have risen to ACC and national prominence under Bennett, didn’t have to schedule this game, especially given they already did a home-and-home with VCU in 2013 and 2014. Bennett hasn’t been shy about aggressive scheduling with trips to George Washington (a loss), James Madison and Green Bay (another loss) in recent years, plus a host of trips to face other high-majors.
Virginia and VCU will certainly be games worth watching, not just because of the caliber of programs on the court, but because it’ll have the intimacy and intensity of a college campus, which is one of the things that can make college basketball stand out, something the sport definitely needs in November.