The Black & Gold Standard is a VandyRadio sports blog featuring nuanced commentary and advanced statistical breakdowns following Vanderbilt men’s basketball games and throughout the year. Robbie Weinstein of The Homefield Advantage will be bringing you the best analysis of Commodore basketball as the team looks to build on the success of last season’s NIT appearance. Check out The Black & Gold Standard for all kinds of new content as the Dores fight through the 2015-16 schedule. All stats courtesy of KenPom.com unless otherwise noted.
Having lost its first SEC Tournament game each of the last two years, Vanderbilt heads to this year’s league tourney ready to break some trends and break out the brooms. The Dores look to complete a three-game sweep over Tennessee, a feat yet to be accomplished by VU (at least since 1968-69). Since we’ve already seen this matchup twice in 2016, I’m limiting the actual basketball analysis and focusing more on the game’s implications.
- Ken Pomeroy has Vandy at 80% to win, even after UT’s demolition of Auburn Wednesday night. In the midst of the blowout, Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes was able to limit his starters’ minutes, as no Volunteer stayed on the court for more than 30 minutes. This could negate Vanderbilt’s advantage to some degree, but there isn’t much of an excuse for losing Thursday no matter what. UT shot 69.7% from two-point range against Auburn, which shouldn’t be possible against the Dores and their two-point defense that ranked third in league play. One warning: TCU, 11-20 overall and 2-16 in Big 12 play, upset projected NCAA Tournament 7 seed Texas Tech Wednesday despite being listed as… (wait for it)… 80% underdogs by KenPom against the Red Raiders. I’d still be shocked to see an upset considering Kevin Punter has been ruled out for the season, but the Big 12 result bears mentioning.
- The Commodores shouldn’t be worried about their NCAA Tournament prospects if they defeat UT, at least according to Bracket Matrix. While the matrix itself generally isn’t among the most reliable predictors in any given year, the fact that 87 out of 92 brackets listed on the site have Vanderbilt in the tournament is obviously a positive sign. The matrix has five at-large teams still in the tournament seeded behind VU, meaning a loss to UT would likely put the Dores in the First Four but may not knock them out. Taking another bad loss, however, would put Vandy right on the cut line even if the tournament committee ultimately shows mercy.
- Pomeroy’s SEC Tournament preview pegs Vanderbilt as the third most likely team to win it all in Nashville, and it’s hard for me to disagree based on my very negative view of South Carolina. Unfortunately for VU, a potential quarterfinal matchup with RPI No. 90 LSU means the Dores’ upside in terms of NCAA seeding is somewhat limited. A quarterfinal matchup with UGA, Alabama, or particularly Florida would be best for VU’s RPI, but a title run would still move VU up considerably based on how little the difference is between the teams likely to populate the 8 through 11 seed lines. A conference tournament title with wins over UT, LSU, Texas A&M, and Kentucky would put Vandy at 23-12 with an approximate RPI of 29 and a strength of schedule of 23 according to rpiforecast.com. In my opinion, this result would be enough to get the Dores up to a 7 seed for sure, and maybe even a 6 depending on the conference tournament results for teams such as Baylor, Dayton, Wisconsin, Arizona, Notre Dame, and Colorado. It’s a long list, but Vandy would surely climb multiple seed lines with a conference tournament championship.
- If the Dores simply hold serve (and assuming Texas A&M can stave off Florida/Arkansas), VU would finish at 21-13 with an approximate RPI of 42 and an SOS of 27. In my mind, that leaves them as something between a 9 and 11 seed, depending on how fellow bubble teams fare over the next few days. Some of these teams (St. Mary’s, Wichita State, Syracuse) have already faltered, and I would expect to see more of the same going forward. Optimally, the Dores would fall in the same pod as Michigan State, Xavier, Virginia, or North Carolina and head to either St. Louis or Raleigh for the first weekend. Of course, Oregon’s pod and a trip to Spokane always lurks in the background.
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