RICHMOND, Va. – As the VCU men's basketball program toured Italy, they put the finishing touches on their 2012-13 non-conference schedule.

The Rams will do battle with as many as eight NCAA Tournament teams among the 15 opponents on the 2012-13 non-conference slate, which was released by Head Coach Shaka Smart and his staff this afternoon. The six teams or more coming off NCAA Tournament appearances are the most on VCU's non-conference schedule in the program's 44-year history.

"As we prepared to transition to the Atlantic 10, we wanted to put together a non-league schedule that not only readies us for conference play, but also provides high quality opponents both at the Siegel Center and away from home," Smart said. "This year's non-conference slate certainly fits both these criteria."

November 1 provides the first glimpse at the 2012-13 Rams, when Virginia Union makes the short trek to the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center for an exhibition contest. Eight days later (Nov.9), VCU looks to extend the sixth-longest active home sellout streak when Florida Gulf Coast drops by the Siegel Center. Last year, the Eagles made an impressive run to the Atlantic Sun Championship game.

Wichita State, the first 2012 NCAA Tournament team on VCU's schedule, visits Richmond on Nov. 13 in a rematch of the NCAA Tournament Second Round game from last season, which the Rams won 62-59 in Portland. Head Coach Greg Marshall returns four regulars from last year's team that spent the majority of the year ranked in the top-25.

The Rams hit the road for the first time on November 17 when the Black & Gold head to Rock Hill, S.C. to battle the Eagles of Winthrop University.

VCU will spend its Thanksgiving in the Bahamas at the Battle 4 Atlantis, playing amongst a prestigious eight-team field that boasts five 2012 NCAA Tournament teams. Memphis will be the first round match-up for the Rams on Nov. 22, with Minnesota or Duke set for the second round (Nov. 23). The third and final game comes the next day against any of the remaining teams in the field, which includes Louisville, Missouri, Stanford or Northern Iowa.

The Rams return to Richmond on Nov. 28 to clash with Stetson, followed by a match-up with one of the best non-BCS programs in the country over the past five years, Belmont, on Dec. 1. The Bears have reached the NCAA Tournament in five of the past seven seasons and return their top two scorers from last year's squad that went 27-8.

The Commonwealth's best rivalry is renewed on Dec. 7 in the Lumber Liquidators Hardwood Showdown, when VCU journeys to Norfolk to battle the Monarchs of Old Dominion.

Back-to-back visits from 2012 NCAA Tournament teams await the Rams next. Former VCU Head Coach Anthony Grant brings his Alabama Crimson Tide to Richmond on Dec. 15, followed by former Sun Belt conference rival Western Kentucky on Dec. 18.

Prior to the Christmas break, the Rams play host to one more state rival when Longwood stops by the Siegel Center on Dec. 21. In the final game of the 2012 calendar year, the Knights of Fairleigh Dickinson University trek down from New Jersey to clash with the Rams on Dec. 29.

A trip to traditional Atlantic Sun power East Tennessee State on Jan. 2 kicks off the new year for the Rams. The Bucs have posted 20 wins or more four times in the past six seasons and return four regulars from last year.

In the final non-conference game of the year on Jan. 5, the Black & Gold welcome one of the darlings of last year's NCAA Tournament, Lehigh, to the Siegel Center. Last year, the Mountain Hawks shocked the college basketball world when they took down second-seeded Duke in the Round of 64. Leading scorer C.J. McCollum (21.9 ppg) returns, along with seven others that averaged double-digit in minutes on last year's team that went 27-8 and won the Patriot League.

VCU's Atlantic 10 Conference schedule is expected to be announced in early September.

November 7, 2012 JOIN THE RAMS ON THE ROAD