A year ago, Stallings watched his Vanderbilt team cruise to a 67-43 victory over Auburn in the regular season matchup at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum. However, in the rematch at the league tournament in Atlanta the Tigers prevailed 77-73. That was as far as Coach Jeff Lebo's Tigers would advance because LSU sent them packing after game two, an 89-55 runaway in the quarterfinals.
This season in the regular season matchup at Memorial Gym on the Vandy campus, the Commodores won the league opener for both teams by a 74-50 margin. The rematch will be in the Music City, but at a different venue with the tournament making a return to the Gaylord Entertainment Center in downtown Nashville.
"I remember we shot the ball extremely well in that first game against Auburn," Stalling says. However, he notes that the game was so early in the season that both teams are playing differently than they were in early January.
The Commodores nailed 12-20 three-pointers in the victory and shot 52.8 percent from the field. Forward Shan Foster led the way six treys and 20 points.
In contrast, the Tigers made just 39.5 percent of their field goals and only forced six Vandy turnovers while making 16. Sophomore Frank Tolbert and freshman Quantez Robertson led the Tigers with 12 points apiece in that contest.
Auburn, which is 12-15 overall and 4-12 in SEC games, doesn't bring any momentum into the event after losing its regular season finale at home to South Carolina. Vandy is also trying to bounce back from a loss as the Commodores fell at home 68-59 to Tennessee to drop to 16-11 overall and 7-9 in the league.
Although Vanderbilt has the tournament in its hometown, Stallings says he isn't sure if there will be a major homecourt advantage for his team when the Tigers and Commodores square off at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday. He notes that Vandy didn't play any games at the arena and that in the first round with the tickets distributed among 12 schools he isn't sure how many Commodore fans will be at the Gaylord Entertainment Center. "I don't think we will know that until we get there," he says.
Stallings says he sees LSU and Florida as the teams to beat in the tournament because both have size and depth. All of the SEC's tournament games will be televised regionally by JP except for Sunday's championship game on CBS.