Monday, March 9, 2009

Two Big Wins for Vanderbilt Basketball

Hats off to the Vandy women for upsetting Auburn to win the SEC Tournament Championship Sunday night. If you didn't catch the game on ESPN2, you missed out. Coach Melanie Balcomb picked up her third SEC Tournament title in seven years at the helm for the Lady Commies, and did an exceptional job of getting her team to control the tempo against a much more transition-oriented and MUCH bigger Auburn squad (that one 6'7" girl was a remarkable presence to behold, especially when defended by 5'9" Jennifer Risper in the low post). We'll be following along to see what kind of splash the ladies (24-8) will make in the dance.

A few hours earlier, led by Jeff Taylor's 16 points and 10 rebounds and A.J. Ogilvy's 12 and 10, a Kevin Stallings-coached Vanderbilt team FINALLY capped its regular season with a win, beating Arkansas 75-58 in Nashville. This marks three straight wins and 7 out of the last 10 for the Commies, who--while it's a long shot for sure--are not completely out of the NCAA Tournament picture.

The Dores will face off against Alabama in Tampa when the SEC Tournament gets under way Thursday. The winner of that game will go on to face Tennessee, who are reeling from a 70-67 upset at home to Alabama to finish their regular season. I think the conventional wisdom at this point is that Vandy would need to beat Bama and UT, and then win one more game to make it to the SEC Tournament Championship in order to put ourselves back in the dance discussion. But here's the thing: with Ogilvy finally healthy and the team playing looser and more confidently than at any time all season, this is not as far-fetched as we would have thought even a week ago.

We finished at 19-11 (8-8 SEC). The SEC is bad; 8-8 won't turn any heads. Our RPI before the Arkansas game was 76 -- also not a dazzler. We'll let you know how the Arkansas win affects that (although the Hogs' RPI was 122, so we can't expect much). Three conference tourney wins would put the record at 22-12, a respectable count especially when considering we would have won six of the last seven. Kentucky being on life support to finish the season could potentially work out big-time in our favor, although with their RPI of 46 we probably still need them to make an early exit in Tampa.

There's a very good argument to be made that the NIT is a better tournament for this young Vanderbilt team, but I am an irrational fan who will try to find any way possible to rationalize an argument for Vandy getting a ticket to the Big Dance. Thursday can't come soon enough.

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