Can John Jenkins Shoot the Vanderbilt Commodores Through the NCAA Tournament?

Chad Minton@@chad_mintonCorrespondent IFebruary 25, 2011

John Jenkins helped fuel the Commodores to a huge win over Kentucky with 32 points.
John Jenkins helped fuel the Commodores to a huge win over Kentucky with 32 points.Grant Halverson/Getty Images

A tough loss to Tennessee earlier this week cooled off a surging Vanderbilt squad that had previously won five-straight conference games, but that still doesn't mean this team won't be dangerous in the NCAA Tournament.

Even though the Commodores have a very balanced scoring attack that's tied for 30th in the nation, there isn't a single guy on this roster that can change the outcome of a game as fast as John Jenkins can.

Jenkins has an amazing streak of 28-straight games of scoring in double figures dating back to last season, and his season scoring average is good for 33rd in the nation.

He's currently fueling the Commodores past where the preseason polls had them finishing, which was fifth in the SEC East.

They're in second place after losing their last game against Tennessee.

Jenkins is coming off what could be considered his worst offensive performance of the season, finishing with just 11 points and one three-pointer.

Towards the end of the Tennessee game everyone kept waiting for Jenkins to heat up, but it never happened.

With the absence of Jenkins' scoring production, the Vanderbilt offense fell apart and failed to score during the last five minutes of the game.This proves how important Jenkins and his shooting stroke is to Vanderbilt's NCAA Tournament success.

If he decides to get on one of those streaks like he did recently in the wins over Kentucky and Georgia, then Vanderbilt can hang with pretty much anyone in the country.

Those two wins in particular should have been losses if not for the heroics of Jenkins, and they are the current difference between sitting comfortably in the NCAA Tournament field and being very close to that dreaded bubble.

What makes Jenkins so dangerous is his ability to turn it on so quickly. In a win against Georgia he had zero points with just 14 minutes to play yet somehow finished the game with 21.

However, if Jenkins hits a scoring drought like he did Tuesday night against the Vols, then it could be yet another first round exit for the Commodores.

It's important that guys like Jeffery Taylor and Brad Tinsley get out of their current scoring funks to keep opposing teams from keying on just Jenkins.

The Commodores can't become a one-trick pony, because great teams will sniff that out quickly.

It's nowhere near panic mode considering Jenkins rarely gets shut down like he did against the Vols.

In fact, Jenkins has scored 18 or more points in every single SEC game leading up to the loss against Tennessee.

All the credit in the world is owed to Bruce Pearl and the Tennessee players for executing the defensive game plan. Expect other teams to study the tape of this game to try to mimic how Tennessee stopped Jenkins.

The reason why Jenkins is so tough to defend is his quick release, and that leads me to believe that NCAA Tournament opponents will have a tough time defending him.

Don't sleep on the Commodores in the NCAA Tournament, because they have one weapon that very few teams can match.