Stallings: "No way we weren't going"

It's been 7 years now since that dark Sunday afternoon when Vanderbilt fans and the Commodore team sat in amazement as Vanderbilt was left out of the the NCAA Tournament. Despite a happier ending this time around there were some glaring simularities.

Flash back to the year 2000: It's March and Vanderbilt is 18-9 and 8-8 in the SEC and considered by many major publications to a non-bubble shoe in for the field of 64 of the NCAA Tournament. First things first though, the SEC Tournament must be played. Vanderbilt beats Mississippi State in the first round but falls to LSU in the second round to make its final pre NCAA tourney record 19-10. The Commodores still looked great for an NCAA Tournament bid.

Then Arkansas, who had finished the regular season 15-14 (7-9 SEC), did the unthinkable. The Hogs stormed through the SEC tourney beating Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, and Auburn in successive games to win the SEC Tournament Championship, which included an automatic bid to the NCAA. The problem was that the SEC was deep that year in NCAA capable teams. While the Bracketologists considered Vanderbilt an NCAA tournament team, so were Florida, Auburn, Tennessee, Kentucky and LSU but those teams all had better records than the Commodores.

When Arkansas shocked the nation by winning the SEC Tournament the NCAA Selection Committee had no plan to accommodate an upset in the major conference tournament finals. Instead of removing the lowest seed in the tournament field and making an adjustment to include the Hogs, the committee did the lazy thing and simply removed Vanderbilt and replaced them with Arkansas.

On a day that will live in infamy with Vanderbilt fans and Kevin Stallings, the Commodores and their fans watched the NCAA Selection show on television expecting to see the name "Vanderbilt" pop up somewhere. It never did. Instead Arkansas came to Nashville to play its first round game and Vanderbilt faced Wake Forest in an NIT match up in which the deflated Commodores were routed.

Yesterday the situation was very similar to 2000. Arkansas had a strong finish in the SEC Tournament, although they didn't win the Hogs made it to the championship game before falling to Florida. Unlike 2000, the Razorbacks defeated Vanderbilt twice in one week. During Sunday's Selection show neither Vanderbilt nor Arkansas were mentioned in the first two regions announced. Finally, Arkansas was named in the East Region before Vanderbilt. While the 2007 Commodores were certainly more of a shoe-in for the tourney than 2000 some Vanderbilt fans may have taken a deep breath or two when Arkansas was named to the field before Vandy.

Despite the similarities to the 2000 nightmare Commodore head coach Kevin Stallings was never worried about his team's inclusion in the NCAA Tournament and mentioned on Sunday night that he felt they would certainly be included after his team defeated Kentucky in Memorial Gym two weeks ago.

"First of all I think that this committee would not have something like that happen. If Arkansas had won the tournament I'm sure they had provisions set up this year as opposed to that year," commented the coach in an interview at Memorial Gym last night.

"We were 10-6 in the league and the second seed in the east division and we had the second best record in the league. There was really no way we weren't going to get into the tournament this year," continued Stallings. Top Stories