RICHMOND, Va. – The national rise of the VCU men's basketball program took another big step on Monday afternoon when the Rams earned their first-ever regular season spot in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Top-25 poll.

VCU, who finished the 2010-11 season ranked sixth in the poll, are ranked 24th as it enters its first season in Atlantic 10 Conference play this week.

"Rankings are great for fans and media, but as coaches and players, we're not focused on that. We want to continue to get better every time we take the floor," Head Coach Shaka Smart said. "We do know that it puts a bigger target on our backs and we have to be at the top of our game every time out if we expect to win."

The Rams are riding a nine-game winning streak and sit at 12-3 after defeats of ETSU and Lehigh this week.  VCU ranks first in the country in total steals (202), steals per game (13.5) and turnover margin (+8.8).

It's not the first regular season ranking in the program's history though as VCU was ranked for eight weeks in the Associated Press poll. The USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll did not come into existence until the 1991-92 season. The Black & Gold were just outside the AP Top 25 this week with 94 votes, just eight votes behind 25th-ranked New Mexico.

VCU begins its A-10 play on Wednesday night when they host Dayton in a 7 p.m. game. The contest can be seen locally on CBS 6.1 (the main channel).