Vanderbilt Basketball: The Commodores Must Quickly Shift Focus onto Harvard

Chad MintonCorrespondent IMarch 12, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - MARCH 11:  The Vanderbilt Commodores bench celebrates during their 71 to 64 win over the Kentucky Wildcats in the championship game of the 2012 SEC Men's Basketball Tournament at New Orleans Arena on March 11, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

It would be easy for the Vanderbilt Commodores to remain on cloud nine after handing the Kentucky Wildcats just their second loss of the season to win the SEC tournament for the first time since 1951.

Head coach Kevin Stallings still didn't seem convinced that this team has solved the inconsistent play that plagued them early in the season.

He cited in his postgame press conference that you really never know what you're going to get with the Commodores, but also that when they come together they're a good team.

That's exactly what you want to hear out of your head coach following one of the biggest wins in program history, because it keeps the players hungry heading into a very tough matchup against a defensive-minded Harvard squad.

The Commodores have been guilty more than a few times of coming into a game with a lack of focus, and that got them beaten by teams like Cleveland State and Indiana State early on.

If the Commodores avoided those lapses in focus, then this team could easily be looking at a No. 3 seed at the moment.

Instead, the Commodores will have to figure out a way to get an offensive flow going against a team that gave fits to Florida State's offense back in late November.

Despite the SEC tournament championship, the monkey still isn't off the back of this team. They still haven't silenced all of the critics who see them as a one-and-done squad.

This is the third straight appearance for the Commodores in the NCAA Tournament, but none of that matters until the Commodores make a deep run into the tournament like they're capable of doing.

Stallings knows this and wants to keep seniors like Jeffery Taylor and Festus Ezeli focused on what lies ahead instead of dwelling on taking down Kentucky for the SEC championship.

Who could blame these guys for celebrating a little bit? But Harvard isn't interested in dwelling on anything but the Commodores, and the Commodores better feel the same way.

One thing the Commodores don't have to worry about is facing an enormous crowd cheering against them like they had to worry about in New Orleans, or "Blue Orleans."

With both teams playing over 1,000 miles away from their respective campuses, it will be the true definition of playing on a neutral floor.

That should help the Commodores stay focused.

Even though Harvard statistically plays some of the best defense in the country, it's safe to say that if the Commodores can score over 70 against Kentucky's freakish athletes, then they can do the same against a Harvard team that is undersized.

If the Commodores stay poised, then they should take a giant step toward forgetting about their recent troubles in the first round.

The problem is, that's a big "if."