Will the real Vanderbilt Commodores please stand up? Seriously, I can’t get a grip on this team, and that’s the way they have been for the last few years.
This team is talented enough to make the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament, as shown by their No. 7 preseason national rank. But they tend to have mental lapses, which could see them falling in the first round (for the third straight year).
When they finally started to show they are a threat in the Southeastern Conference (going 6-1 to begin conference play), they lost two road games at Arkansas and Florida. Neither loss is necessarily bad, as both teams are in the top third in the SEC standings, but if they can’t beat those two teams, they will have an awfully tough go against Kentucky.
The Commodores face the Wildcats twice in February, the first one coming Saturday on their home court. Vandy should be in the tournament with their current record, but they could use a marquee win against a team like UK (who couldn’t?). They have beaten just one ranked opponent all year, a convincing 74-57 win at Marquette. But that’s it. They have fallen to three ranked teams in overtime (Xavier, Louisville and Mississippi State), and also boast a couple home losses that could be resume killers (Cleveland State and Indiana State).
Vanderbilt’s success lies on the talented wing-duo of John Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor, one of the top duos in the country. Jenkins averages 19.7 a game and has the ability to make three’s from any spot on the floor. Taylor averages 17.7 points a game, as the slasher on the team. Vandy can go as far as their wing-tandem can take them.
Vanderbilt will need improved play from their post players in order to see more success. They rank just 136th in the nation in rebounding for the year. One of their post-players, Festus Ezeli, missed 10 games early in the season with a knee injury, but he
still has not been able to put up the numbers he did in his junior season when he averaged 13 points and 6.3 rebounds a game.
This is the year for Vanderbilt, as they have six seniors with loads of experience on their team. The Commodores have been known as an underachiever for quite some time now, and this is the last chance Kevin Stallings’ team has to quiet the critics.
I’ve picked the Commodores to make it to the Sweet 16 in my bracket each of the last two years, only to see them be upset by a mid-major both years. Odds are, I’m going to pick them to advance to at least the second round again this season, but would anyone be surprised anymore if they don’t?