Thursday, March 10, 2011

VSL Gets Your Ready: Vanderbilt Plays LSU in the 1st Round of the SEC Tournament

It's Tournament time. Not that tournament, but a tournament nonetheless. #3 Vanderbilt will play #6 LSU in the nightcap of the SEC Tournament's 1st Round tonight in Atlanta.

Commodore fans were hoping to have another day before starting their quest for the SEC Title, but alas, it was not to be. Stanimal has an excellent piece on why the Commodores find themselves in the position they're in that I commend to all of you.

The most interesting thing I've read about Vanderbilt (except for Stanimal's piece of course) is a report about Andre Walker from Jeff Lockridge's Vanderbilt Inside blog on The story says Walker is physically ready, but not mentally so, at least according to Coach Kevin Stallings:
“I don’t know that it’s what he’s done the last couple of weeks (that has kept him from playing). I think maybe it’s just mentally he just hasn’t been ready to play. Physically, he’s been ready. But mentally, he just hasn’t been ready to play.

"So we’ll give him a shot this week and see if he’s ready now. If he’s not, we just won’t play him anymore. We gave him a shot. Mentally, he didn’t want to be out there. He didn’t think he was ready. Physically, he was ready, but mentally he was not. So we’ll give him another chance and if he takes advantage of it, he’ll get to keep playing. If he doesn’t, he’ll be on the bench again.”
Say what you want about Stallings, but he certainly doesn't pull any punches. From a fan's perspective, its incredibly difficult to evaluate what CKS is saying. Stallings' criticism is about the way Walker has been practicing: something fans aren't privy to.
One could make the argument that, in sitting Walker, Stallings is cutting off his nose to spite his face. I'm not sure. On the one hand, Vanderbilt's problems have been rebounding and perimeter defense, two areas where Walker is not really a factor. On the, Walker might be the best passer on the team, and does a lot of things that don't show up in a box score that makes this team better. To me, the issue comes down to whether or not Andre wants to be there. In mid-January, Jeff Lockridge reported that this season might be Andre's last in a basketball uniform (article is no longer available on the Tennessean's website). Reading between the lines, it sounds like CKS questions Walker's commitment. Maybe this will light a fire under Walker, or maybe he's already gone. Either way, that's something to pay attention to tonight.

Speaking of CKS speaking his mind, the Nashville City Paper's Jerome Boettcher writes in today's edition how the Vanderbilt coach thinks the SEC Tournament schedule is bunk. While I see where Stallings is coming from, I think he's off-base on this one. The SEC Tournament's action only starts an hour later than the Big East, and is done as much for the fans as for TV revenue as far as I can tell. The Big East only has 2 schools out of 16 located in central time zone, while the SEC has 7 (the entire SEC West, plus Vanderbilt). Moreover, you wouldn't want a tournament where teams play back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back games on Thursday and Friday night with just 20 minutes in between from a logistically perspective. I get that CKS is annoyed that his team will have to play so late, especially with the prospect of a 15 hour turnaround between a Friday night and Saturday afternoon game (I know I'm getting ahead of myself). But that's tournament basketball. I appreciate CKS speaking "truth to power," but I'm not on board with this one.

Additional resources to get you ready:
Anchor of Gold's SEC Tournament Primer's Preview

Vanderbilt's Game Notes

LSU's Game Notes

Vanderbilt's Center Matures into a Force, Jeff Lockridge, Tennessean

As the Tournament Approaches, the Envelope Please - Joe Duffy's New York Times blog The Quad

Kevin Stallings, Brad Tinsely Talk SEC Tournament - Jeff Lockridge, Vanderbilt Insider blog,

SEC Looks to be in Bubble Trouble with NCAA - Paul Newberry, AP

Any VSLers who will be in Atlanta tonight, don't forget that Coach James Franklin will be at a reception from 5:30 - 7:30 pm (eastern) at the Georgia World Congress Center hosted by the Atlanta chapter of the Vanderbilt Alumni Association. Tickets are $20. If you go, please ask CJF to follow us on Twitter now that he took the plunge.

Finally, quick NCC plug. Please contribute, and when you do, put "VSL" in the special comments section.


Seth said...

Man, I like Stallings a lot but some of his decisions this year have been bizarre, both on and off the court. I get why he doesn’t want to play Andre and respect it but why is he telling the media all of this. He’s been reverting back to his old way before the 07 season of throwing players under the bus. Stallings was awful about Jenkins after the UT game too.

Anyway, Stallings is not on the hot seat but I think his coaching in our next two (guaranteed) games will be heavily evaluated and scrutinized by the Commodore faithful. Looking back, there was absolutely no excuse for last years team early exit from the NCAA tourni. If we have another first round loss this year, I expect there will be some negative chatter questioning Stallings and his mentality

Anonymous said...

Stalling's approach to Andre will likely have the opposite of its intended effect. The list of players with alleged attitude / mental issues continues to grow. Not a good sign, but winning has a strange way of curing such issues.

Stanimal said...

It's a shame, but this is not new with Andre. He is a very versatile role player and a valuable member of the team when his mind is right, but Andre has had a lot to deal with both physically and emotionally through his Vanderbilt tenure.

I don't endorse Stallings speaking out in the press on the issue, but I think it answers a question we've all been wondering. I would hope that something like this would not have the type of effect that Anonymous at 11:09 indicates, but I'm no psychiatrist.

As for last year's early exit, I'll have a post in a day or two explaining how this team stacks up with our previous tournament teams, and why we have suffered disappointing exits our past two times. I can assure you, it has a lot to do with our unfortunate match-up draw.

Seth said...

I agree that Andre’s time at Vandy has been rough. The guy has been hurt and had to go through some personal issues and that’s why I have a problem with Stallings coming out and saying what he said. I think we can pretty much safe to say he isn’t coming back next year and why would he? Especially with the coach saying what he said today.

With that being said, Andre is our “glue guy” and has been in his time at Vandy. I hope he gets to play here in the end because I don’t feel like he’s coming back. Good luck tonight boys, hopefully you can put these distractions behind you and go out with a bang.

Seth said...

Also, I’m not hating on Stallings because he has done a lot for the Vanderbilt program. AOG gave a quick write up about how Stallings has improved Vandy basketball with his soon to be 5th NCAA tourni appearances and Vandy only had 7 overall before he arrived. Everyone has their flaws and I just don’t like how he comes publicly and says what he says about his players. We are lucky to have the guy and he’s been good to us because he has had to his chances to walk away from Vandy and hasn’t.

AspenVU said...

I just hope he read Stanimal's post yesterday and fixes the second chance problem.

Owen said...

andre may have been the glue guy at some point but he is no longer that guy. he could probably get back to that point but i honestly think he is more of a liability at this point than an asset on the court.

i didn't hear/read what stallings said. i presume that any challenges he has with players regarding effort, mental toughness, physical toughness, etc. have all come out in private and been addressed time and time again. maybe this is an effort to open their eyes by calling them out publicly. i have no problem with it.