SEC Tourney: Time for the men to compete

The Vanderbilt women stormed through last week's SEC Tournament, bombing Florida on Friday, thrashing Georgia on Saturday and then taking home the prize on Sunday after making the plays down the stretch to beat a higher seeded and ranked LSU team. Thursday starts another tournament; the Vanderbilt men get a shot at winning an SEC Title, something they haven't done in 56 years.

The Vanderbilt women have now won five SEC Tournament Championships, including three of the last six, in their short history. Hats off to these wonderful women that have represented Vanderbilt so well. Meanwhile, the Commodore men continue to struggle in the SEC Tournament. Last year LSU sent the Vandy men packing on Friday. In 2005 it was Auburn that did the honors inflicting a 77-73 loss on the Commodore men on the first day of the tournament.

Vanderbilt's futility in the SEC Tournament has been consistent since the return of the tournament in 1979 after a 27-year hiatus. Since the tournament returned Vanderbilt has only seen the semifinals five times. By comparison, South Carolina, which didn't even join the conference until 1991, has been to the semifinals six times. Ole Miss, a basketball juggernaut, has seen seven semifinals and Georgia has eight semifinal appearances.

The last time Vanderbilt appeared in an SEC Final Harry Truman was President and the Korean War was raging. On March 3, 1951 Vanderbilt pulled off a 61-57 shocker over a heavily favored Kentucky team that had soundly defeated the Commodores twice during the regular season. Yes, this is the only bright spot in Vanderbilt tournament history; they are the only SEC team that has never lost an SEC Tournament Championship game. While that was a great moment in Commodore history that game is now considered almost prehistoric.

More recently even the best Commodore teams have struggled in the tournament. The 1992-93 team was arguably the best team in modern Vanderbilt basketball history. That team was seeded #1 and enjoyed a bye on the first day of the tournament. After defeating Alabama on Friday the Commodores laid an egg against an LSU team that was hammered by Kentucky in the finals. The 1999-2000 team, considered a shoe in by many news services to get an NCAA bid, soundly defeated Mississippi State in the first round but then lost to LSU in the second round and saw their NCAA dreams fizzle away.

The current Vanderbilt team certainly cannot be held responsible for other Commodore teams past futility in the tournament; however, it's time to end the futility in the SEC Tournament. Seniors Derrick Byars, Ted Skuchas and Dan Cage have helped to start a new winning tradition for Vandy during the SEC regular season. They've beaten Kentucky twice in a row in Lexington after a long futile streak of results in Rupp Arena. They ended the defending NCAA Champion and formerly top-ranked Florida Gator's very long win streak. They defeated six ranked teams during the season, which few others have done in college basketball.

The pieces to the puzzle are there, senior leadership, sound coaching and a first round bye. Let's wish this new, never-give-up Commodore team the best of luck in starting a new winning tradition in the SEC Tournament. Let's Conquer and Prevail in Atlanta this weekend!

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