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“The reality is we’re at our best when the game is going faster, and they’re certainly at their best defensively when they can defend you in the half court and slow you down,” he said. “I don’t think it’s necessarily going to be the be-all and end-all. I think what’s much more important is who’s getting high quality shots, whether they’re in transition or the half court, and obviously, who’s making them.”

The Rams’ rise in stature has made them a less risky opponent than they were a few seasons ago, but Smart said Gonzaga coach Mark Few told him finding willing home-and-home opponents would become more difficult as VCU tries to improve the quality of its nonconference schedule. He and Bennett, hired days apart, have talked almost since then about getting the teams together, and Bennett said he’s glad it finally worked out.

“You can’t (play) every team in the state every year, but I think it’s good for the game, good for your program, and it challenges you,” Bennett said, noting that when his father was at Wisconsin, he also tried to make it a habit to play a few in-state teams every season. “It’s an opportunity for us, it’s an opportunity for them, hopefully two good teams going at it in a great game.”