Vanderbilt Basketball: Strong SEC Tournament Showing Could Mean a Four-Seed

Chad MintonCorrespondent IFebruary 29, 2012

NASHVILLE, TN - FEBRUARY 11: John Jenkins #23 of the Vanderbilt Commodores drives against Marquis Teague #25 of the Kentucky Wildcats at Memorial Gymnasium on February 11, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee. Kentucky won 69-63. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

A win on senior night for the Vanderbilt Commodores over the No.13 Florida Gators gave the NCAA Tournament selection committee something to chew on when Selection Sunday arrives.

The overall record for the Commodores still isn't very eye-catching, but when you dive deeper into their tournament resume, you realize how dangerous this team really is.

Their strength-of-schedule is ranked No.5 in the nation, with their overall RPI in the top 20.

The Commodores also have five wins over RPI top-50 teams, which is a very important component measured by the selection committee.

Finally, six true road wins is nothing to be ashamed of.

You roll all that up and you get a mid-level seed, which usually means a tough mid-major in the opening round.

With their spot in the NCAA Tournament already clinched, the Commodores are now trying to avoid yet another early exit to a strong mid-major.

How appropriate that this season has a ton of dangerous mid-majors.

Even though this team seems to be one of the better teams head coach Kevin Stallings has ever had while at Vanderbilt, it's still critical that the Commodores avoid that six to seven seed that would pair them up with a team similar to the Cleveland State team that upset them at Memorial Gym in November.

The Commodores were widely projected as a six-seed before their double-digit win over Florida, so now a four-seed is not completely out of reach.

There's still a little bit of business to take care of for the Commodores, but it won't be easy as they'll have to figure out a way to beat a Tennessee team that is very streaky.

Despite Tennessee's record, a win over them at Thompson-Boling Arena would really put the Commodores in a good spot at getting at least a five-seed.

It really makes you wonder how high the Commodores could have elevated if Festus Ezeli would have been at their disposal all season.

Even when Ezeli returned for the Davidson game, he still was nowhere near 100 percent.

However, the Commodores still have a lot to prove before we can put them back at the top-10 level they started at in the preseason rankings.

First, Jeffery Taylor has been wildly inconsistent this season. He has seemed to play a disappearing act in many big moments this season, much like LeBron James is criticized for.

That wasn't the case in their win over Florida, and the final score was a result of that.

As long as Taylor remains aggressive, his athleticism will get him his points in the box score. It's really that simple, and that's why NBA scouts are taking a hard look at him.

Another thing that has to be fixed if the Commodores are going to win a couple games in the NCAA Tournament is their bench, or lack thereof.

Outside of the starting five, no one on this team is averaging more than four points per game.

That is a serious problem that Stallings has tried to address through baptism by fire. Guys like Kedren Johnson and Dai-Jon Parker have gotten a ton of minutes this season, but with very little improvement.

Johnson had numerous mistakes that almost gave Florida the game, and Parker was passing the ball around like it was a game of hot potato.

This team has to have a bench that they can rely on when key starters need a break, otherwise the good teams in March will rip this team apart.

If those two issues are cleared up before the SEC Tournament, then there's no reason why the Commodores can't shock the country with their first SEC title since 1951.

There's no denying that Kentucky is the best team in the country, but it's difficult to beat any team three times in one month.

That's what the Wildcats would have to do if they face the Commodores in the SEC Tournament. 

The Commodores are in a very good spot right now, but seeding is still very important if they want to avoid that dangerous mid-major in the opening round.