SEC Tournament 2012: Run to Finals Will Make Vanderbilt Final Four Team

Michael DixonAnalyst IIIMarch 8, 2012

NASHVILLE, TN - FEBRUARY 11: John Jenkins #23 and Festus Ezeli #3 of the Vanderbilt Commodores celebrate during the game against 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

The door is wide open for Vanderbilt to shock the college basketball establishment and run to the Final Four. If they manage only two wins in the SEC Tournament, they will do just that. 

Taking a look at Joe Lunardi's Bracketology on ESPN, you'll see that the Commodores are currently projected as the East's No. 6 team. By making a run to the finals in the SEC Tournament, Vandy would at least hold that spot.

With that seed in that bracket, Vanderbilt would have three things working in their favor, in a big way. The combination will set them up well for a Final Four run.


Favorable Bracket

If Lunardi's projections hold, take a look at the five teams that would be ahead of the Commodores. 

1. Syracuse
2. Duke
3. Michigan
4. Witchita St.
5. Temple

The reality is that no great college teams exist anymore. Kentucky is extremely talented and in two or three years would be a great team, but they're a group of freshmen. While they are very talented, freshmen tend to be vulnerable to an upset against more experienced teams. 

But even if you were to say that Kentucky and possibly North Carolina are well ahead of Vanderbilt. Neither one of them are in the bracket. The Big East has not had a great year this season, so take Syracuse's record with a grain of salt. Duke relies too much on outside shooting, and the other teams don't exactly strike fear into anyone. 

This is especially true when "anyone" is a veteran team. While we're on that note, let's take a look at the second reason that Vanderbilt is a Final Four favorite. 


Veteran Players

Let's take a quick look at Vanderbilt's top five scorers.

Player   Yr. 
John Jenkins    Jr.
Jeffery Taylor Sr.
Festus Ezeli Sr.
Lance Goulbourne    Sr.
Brad Tinsley Sr.

Four seniors and one junior. This group has been around for a long time. Playing together for this length of time is a definite advantage over teams that are reliant on freshmen and the occasional sophomore. 

This group will be ready to go when the tournament rolls around and won't shrink from the situation. 


Nice Schedule

Staying in the East as the No. 6 seed would allow Vandy to stay in state. That isn't a huge deal for the players, but it is a nice way to bring home fans in. 

Every now and again, teams come out flat in the first couple of games, especially in a game they should win. Playing in front of home fans offsets that. 

Vanderbilt has a road to the finals perfectly paved for them, but they can't fall victim to a bad upset in the SEC. If they get on a role and make the finals (even with a loss to Kentucky), they will at least hold their spot and be completely set to go on a long tournament run.