Q: Vanderbilt has drawn Ole Miss in the first round of the SEC Tournament on Thursday, and will play Mississippi State on Friday if it wins that first game. How does that draw look to you for Vanderbilt, and could you project it out a little bit for us?
A: Well, I like the first draw, because you play Ole Miss. When we played them down there, we basically played them five against two, with Justin Reed and Aaron Harper their two only scorers. I think we can beat Ole Miss. Then all of a sudden you run into the juggernaut of Mississippi State. We played them tough in Nashville, but at the same time, they're very athletic. You have to play them from the time the ball is tipped up to the buzzer, or you're going to get beat. I would arguably say, they're a Final Four team. Now, you don't like that matchup, but again, that's the reason they play the games. They tip it up, and if nothing else, you at least have a chance to make an impact against a top-ranked team.
Q: For a while there Vanderbilt got its hopes up on Saturday that it might be the 2-seed in the East for the SEC Tournament. Suddenly they lose to Georgia and drop to a 4-seed. How big was that?
A: I'm not sure it was all that big. Sure they'd have liked to go down to Georgia and have taken care of business, but Georgia really played well. They played physical. They put us in a position where we were a little bit out of our offense. But [Vandy] is a 4-seed, they're 8-8 in the league. I think they're a lock for the NCAA Tournament based on their schedule and that type of thing. But one win in the SEC Tournament would probably assure them of a decent, probably a 7- or 8-seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Q: Could you briefly handicap the tournament field as you see it? Kentucky, Florida, Mississippi State and LSU are the Friday teams... talk about maybe two or three teams you see as favorites for a chance to win the whole thing.
A: I really like the way Alabama is playing right now. They lost a tough one at home to Mississippi State Saturday in overtime, but at the same time, it was one of those games where they're really starting to play. Basically what Mark Gottfried has done is take them out of their structured offense and using their athletic ability and letting them play in the halfcourt-- which I think is beneficial to that team. They're much more resourceful when they do that.
Q: If Vanderbilt does the unthinkable and lays an egg against Ole Miss on Thursday, is there any way that Vanderbilt would not be considered an NCAA team?
A: I think they're still in it, based on their RPI of between 25 and 30. They've had quality wins. They've beaten LSU. They've beaten Kentucky. They've beaten Florida. They've also beaten Michigan, which is probably a bubble team right now, and TCU on the road. They've got some solid road wins, and they've also got two [road wins] in the league. So I think they're a lock.
VandyMania will provide exclusive coverage of Vanderbilt's appearance in the SEC Tournament, starting Thursday from the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.