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Tempering Vanderbilt’s great expectations - The Vanderbilt Hustler: Mens Basketball

Tempering Vanderbilt’s great expectations

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Posted: Sunday, February 19, 2012 10:16 pm

This may be the first time this has ever been written in the history of this fine institution, but this statement has become increasingly clear as the season progresses: Vanderbilt fans had completely unreasonable expectations for their basketball team this year.

Perhaps it was the preseason No. 7 rankings from the Associate Press and the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll. Maybe it's because we think being good in college basketball means you're Kentucky, and you never lose at home and hardly ever on the road. Or maybe it's because we don't understand that you can be a very good team with some bad losses, and some losses that aren't nearly as bad as they look.

It would be helpful, then, to start by looking at each of the eight losses this talented team has suffered. Five of the eight losses have come to teams ranked in the top 15 at the time of the game. Four of the losses came without the most important (note that I didn't say best) player on the team either gone with a knee injury/suspension or in his first game back from said knee injury. Three of the losses (all against ranked opponents) have come in overtime. One loss came on the road to a team that until Sunday had not lost in its home arena all season. Only two of the losses (to Cleveland State and Indiana State) are what you could actually call bad losses, and even those came without Festus Ezeli on the court.

You won't win every game in college basketball (at least not since the 1986 Indiana team) and that is something that the student body is going to have to realize sooner or later.

This Vanderbilt team has shown a lot of promise the entire season, but students should particularly take heed of the last two games. On Thursday, the Commodores became the first Southeastern Conference team this year to post 100 points in conference play. The Vanderbilt offense was clicking on all cylinders, and the team absolutely blew out a feisty Ole Miss team playing in front of a fired-up crowd in search of a defining win to boost the Rebels onto the right side of the NCAA bubble. The Commodores played like the team everyone thought they could be at the beginning of the season, and very well could have beaten anyone in the country by playing like that. Saturday was a much different story, where the Commodores trailed a mediocre Georgia team for much of the game and turned the ball over 20 times. However, the Commodores won even when they were playing one of their worst games of the conference slate, which truly is the hallmark of a very good team.

We still have a lot to learn about this team, but what we do know is that it is good and it is improving. The next four games (okay maybe just the last three) against South Carolina, Kentucky, Florida and Tennessee will tell us even more heading into the SEC tournament. Listen, I love the enthusiasm the students had for the team at the beginning of the year, but it has swung too far the other way. If I could give one message to Vanderbilt students, I would copy those (stupid) sorority memes and say "Keep Calm and Carry On."

 

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3 comments:

  • timess timess posted at 2:00 am on Fri, Mar 23, 2012.

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  • Dan Whitney posted at 12:56 pm on Wed, Feb 22, 2012.

    rdwhitney Posts: 1

    First, when you have three players who will be selected in the 2012 NBA draft, I don't think the preseason expectations were that unrealistic. Based on what Stallings had been able to do with far less talent over the last few years, when all the pieces came together, I think it was very reasonable to hold him to high expectations.

    And what has been especially deflating is not that the losses came, or even who they came to, but the manner in which they've manifested. Vanderbilt just has no ability to close out games, to the point where if the other team starts making a run in the second half - everyone just knows we're going to lose. There's an overall lack of effort and accountability on the players part - and that comes from coaching. If Stallings can't get this team of studs past the sweet sixteen (where they clearly belong), then perhaps it's time to look in another direction