Stallings: SEC should move late games earlier

ATLANTA, Ga.-- Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings met with the assembled media Wednesday at the Georgia Dome to talk about the Commodores' upcoming game vs. Auburn in the SEC Tournament. Here are some highlights from the press conference.


Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings: We're excited to be here. I'm not sure that any team that comes to Atlanta this week with maybe as much to gain as we do, at least from an at-large NCAA Tournament perspective. We've had great intensity and enthusiasm in our practices this week, because we know there's a lot that hangs in the balance. We're looking forward to staying as long as we possibly can.

Auburn is a team that's played well lately, seems to have gotten a second wind, played great against Arkansas last Saturday. Obviously their lack of size causes a lot of matchup problems, for everyone in the league. We hope to be on top of our game. We played a good 25 minutes against them the first time. Fortunately that was good enough to get us a win. We know it will take more than that this time.

On whether history says Vandy needs to win two games to enter NCAA consideration: Not really. I think we're talking about a target that moves. There are a lot of other factors and other teams that affect what happens in the selection process. What we have to do is control what we can control. That begins with our game tomorrow night with Auburn. We have to do the best job we can to control the outcome of that game.... then if we're lucky enough to be playing on Friday, try to control the outcome of that game. We can't say that we have to do this or that, because we don't know. We could win one and get in, or win three and not get in. I just don't think that you know.

There's a lot of people that believe that if Arkansas hadn't beaten Auburn in that game my first year, we would have gotten in, regardless of what else had happened. We can't worry about that. We have to worry about us.

On whether he feels his team over-achieved this season: No, I wouldn't say we've over-achieved. I thought it was absurd that we were picked to finish last. So I don't look at this like we've overachieved. I think our team can look back, and we as a group feel like we missed an opportunity here, and we missed an opportunity there, and we could have bettered where we're presently at. But I've been proud of this team because I think their attitude has been such that they've really tried to do what we've asked them to do as coaches. We're not the most talented team in this league. We understand that. We have limitations. But we also know that we can be very effective if our cylinders are all close to being going in the same direction. I like our team. I like our chances. I like where we're at right now. I think we've been playing good basketball the next couple of three weeks.

On the first meeting between Vanderbilt and Auburn: I think what happened in that game was that, when we finally got off of seven (points), Dan Cage hit a three on a pass from Corey Smith. We came back and got a steal and got a lay-up. Things just started unfolding for us. Our defense picked up, and our energy picked up-- especially Corey. I thought Corey was a big key for us defensively. We were just able to get out there and get some deflections and get some of those loose balls that sometimes we don't get to, and converted them to baskets.

Kevin Stallings (Neil Brake / VU Athletics)
I think some of it was timing. Auburn had just been in an unbelievably draining game against South Carolina, and one of their main guys couldn't play because of a concussion. I think they were already worn down a little bit. But the best part about that game for us was, at 22-7, when you've got 7 points with 5:20 to play in the first half, you could become discouraged and drop your heads. Our guys didn't drop their heads. We had missed two lay-ups, and some opportunities for lay-ups, some free throws, and some wide-open opportunities for threes. Once the shots started going in, the game started going back in our favor.

On the 9:45 pm ET start for Thursday's game: That's awfully late to be playing. I understand that we do it for television purposes... and I've got to be careful what I say, because I need my team to be able to do it, then do it again the next night, then come back and do it again at 3 the next afternoon. And hopefully a fourth, I suppose. But I wish, for the athletes, that that was something that our league could do something about. That's really late to have to play. Because the truth is, that game doesn't get started before 10:00. So we'll get back to the hotel at 1:00 or 1:30 or whatever. Then we ask them to get up and repeat it the next day. Then we ask them to come back at 3:00 and try to play. I would certainly be in favor if there was anything we could do with our television package to moving those games. Again, I'd like to think we're in the business of helping the athletes, and I think that would be of benefit to the athletes.

On Auburn's ability to switch defenses in the middle of a possession: Depending on which expert commentator you believe... yes, they'll go zone in the middle of a possession, or they'll go man... they could actually play three different defenses in one possession. They might press you, back to zone, then go to man. It's a little unusual, but it's not something that's unprecedented. They've been doing it for quite some time. You just have to run your offenses. The key is making sure you're aware and recognizing it. Some of [the commentators] say they switch on the third pass. Some of the commentators were trying to tell us what the rules are, so that's been helpful. [Wry grin.] We've appreciated it.

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