Monday, March 12, 2007

Vanderbilt Hotline: Let the Madness Begin

Commodore Nation got quite a pleasant surprise when the NCAA Selection Committee slotted Vanderbilt as a 6 seed in the East Region. Despite losing their last two games to Arkansas, and only going 5-5 in their last 10, Vanderbilt exceeded the expectations of such vaunted Bracketologists as Joe Lunardi, who had Vanderbilt as an 8 on his final board. Vanderbilt will meet The George Washington University on Thursday at 5:10 on the east coast according to the Washington Post's bracket. Since VSL is run out of DC, this is quite a mitzvah. Not only will there will be pretty good local coverage of GW's match-up with the Kevin Stallings' buzz saw, but also because there will be no shortage of Colonial fans to "banter" with while eating wings and trying not to embarrass the lady friend. Finally, the fact that the game is slated to start after 5, all of those out there in Commodore Nation will not (further) call into question their competence by leaving work at 2 in the afternoon to behave like morons.

Vanderbilt certainly feels "fortunate" to have gotten so high a seed given their early SEC Tournament exit and erratic play down the stretch. While the alarmist in most Commie fans began to take over as NC State played UNC down to the wire, Vanderbilt was relieved when their name was called, regardless of what line they were on. Vanderbilt's higher than expected seed is not unprecedented. Back in 2004, Vanderbilt was also a controversial 6 seed, and look how well that turned out. While ESPN's Doug Gottlieb was not shy in voicing his disapproval of where the Commies wound up on the bracket, Dick Vitale and Clark Kellogg both circled Vanderbilt as sleepers in the East. For his part, Coach Stallings was "not surprised" with where the end team ended up. In his 8 seasons at Vanderbilt, Kevin Stallings is 2-1 in the NCAA Tournament. Vanderbilt has reached the Sweet 16 in 2 of their last 3 tournament appearances. As a head coach, Stallings is 3-3 overall.

There are several story-lines at work for this game. One, GW and Vanderbilt are widely respected academic institutions; two, they are very expensive ($68,740 a year between the two schools according to Perhaps that's why the committee had no problem sending the two schools and their fans a combined 5,033 miles from their campuses to the Arco Arena in Sac Town. Since I constitute the entire research staff of the Vanderbilt Hotline, I don't have exact figures on what the next furthest difference first round opponents have to play. Having given it a quick glance (and consulted Google Maps), it looks as if Winthrop/Notre Dame's match-up in Spokane has those teams traveling a combined 4,460 miles to play. If you aren't impressed by those numbers, then that says more about you than it does about me...Another story-line at play is the showdown between former LSU transfers Ross Neltner and GW senior forward Regis Koundijia. Koundijia is one of three seniors starting for GW, who are a big, physical, and experienced team, with a junior and a sophomore rounding out the starting 5.

We've got a lot of time to look at GW and the match-ups the Commies face. What we can say early on is that GW is hot. They have won their last 8, including the Atlantic-10 Tournament on Saturday night. With that said, they haven't really played much of a schedule. The A-10 is the 10th best RPI conference, and GW only got in because they won their tournament. We are going to try and get a GW expert on later in the week to break down how coach Karl Hobbs' Colonials can hurt us, for now, you will have to settle for this article I found from the Daily Colonial.

Si.Com has a very good tournament primer that is worth checking out.

Be sure to register for the Vanderbilt Sports Bracket challenge (league name: Vanderbilt Sports Line ; password: commies).

Vanderbilt baseball completed a series sweep of Illinois-Chicago, lifting their record to 18-0. VSL baseball guru Woody is on hiatus for the first part of the week, but will be back in full force on Thursday (when the tournament begins and no one will care). The women's tennis team surprised #32 LSU over the weekend, besting the Tigers 5-2. The ladies draw will be announced tonight and when they do, I will be sure to post it as soon as I am done watching 24.

Congratulations to Boyer in the District for winning the SEC Tournament Pick'em. He beat Bobby's Mommy in the tie-breaker. When it comes to picking these games, it appears the apple falls exceptionally far from the tree. At least Austen got his comeuppance with a last place finish.

There was no official "Hoser of the Week" announcement last week since we opted to award the SEC AP writers with that dubious distinction for not electing banded-together Derrick Byars the SEC Player of the Year. In honor of the tournament there will not be a Hoser competition this week unless an act of hosery warrants a mid-course correction. Don't worry though, the Hoser of the Week will be back before the Big Guy is paroled. Finally, we have been teasing something new for a while. We are still trying to get the technology right and will unveil it as soon as possible. I promise you will all be suficently disappointed.

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