Team: Vanderbilt Commodores
Conference: Southeastern Conference
Coach: Kevin Stallings
Record: 19-13overall, 11-7 in conference
KenPom Rank: 27
Good wins: over Texas A&M and Kentucky at home.
Impact Players: Sophomore Wade Baldwin (14 points, five assists, four rebounds per game); center Damian Jones (14 points, seven rebounds per game); Luke Kornet blocks three shots per game.
How did they get in?: A late run in the SEC included wins at home over Georgia and Kentucky and a road win at Florida. The 'Dores were ranked as high as 16th this season. By the numbers, they have an excellent defense from the field (St. John's fans know, as they blasted the Johnnies 92-55 in Hawai'i). And they're very good at shooting three-pointers (39%, 21st in the nation). There is talent in this inexperienced team.
How far can this team go in the NCAA Tournament?: HM. this team is a play-in game candidate despite playing in a solid SEC conference (though not so solid that South Carolina could get in). There are rumors of discord within the program. To wit:
Stallings both apologized for and vented about his inability to get through to his players. He said some players may be "too nice" or self-centered or have their own agendas. And he said the team, himself included, did not handle "crazy (preseason) expectations" well.
Stallings’ comments came two days after the Commodores blew a 17-point second-half lead in a 75-74 loss at Mississippi State, which could keep them out of the NCAA Tournament. And his comments came one day after Vanderbilt athletic director David Williams said he would wait until after the season to evaluate the future job status of Stallings, the program’s all-time winningest coach with a 328-217 record over 17 seasons.
That's a squad with question marks, still. And maybe Stallings is considering leaving the pressure of the academically minded Vanderbilt. And they face a motivated and talented Wichita State team. Round of 64, at best for the Commodores.
Last time in the NCAA Tournament: 2012; they defeated Harvard but fell to Wisconsin in the Round of 32 as a 12 seed.