Adams: Vanderbilt's Early NCAA Forecast

With a clutch performance by freshman John Jenkins, Vanderbilt secured the 2-seed in the SEC East with a 64-60 victory over the Florida Gators. With their spot in the SEC Tournament secured, it's time to look down the road toward the Big Dance.

As of today, ESPN's Joe Lunardi has Vanderbilt as a 3-seed in the NCAA Tournament. This is important for a number of reasons. As long as the Commodores can hold on to a 3 or 4-seed, they should be in good shape. It's amazing how the level of competition increases from a 13/14-seed to a 12-seed. Here are the current projected 13's and 14's:

Murray State

Rhode Island

San Diego State

Kent State

Weber State

Sam Houston State

Wofford

Oakland

Not really a lot of worries in that group. Wofford has some quality wins over a couple SEC schools, but that's the only team that stands out. I mean, upsets will happen, but these schools are cupcakes compared to what is waiting in the opening round for the 5-seeds:

Connecticut

Siena

Utah State

Cornell

We all have nightmares about Siena. Cornell seems to be as good of a Ivy League team that's been around for a while. Connecticut has the players to compete with anybody on a given night. I would want to avoid a 5-seed like the plague. It's the historical tournament upset spot. With a win over South Carolina and a decent run in next week's SEC Tournament, that shouldn't be a problem.

Just to have a little fun with projections, this would be Vanderbilt's path to the Final Four under ESPN's current guesswork:

Weber State

Texas A&M/Notre Dame winner

Duke

Syracuse

That's just to get to Indianapolis! Then the ‘Dores would have to navigate Kansas and Kentucky. I think we can all agree that anything less than a Sweet 16 appearance would be a disappointment for this squad. But once they get there, they would need a lot of breaks to advance further.

So what needs to happen for Vanderbilt to take that next step into elite status?

Brad Tinsley needs to get his groove back

From everything I hear, there isn't a harder worker around than Tinsley. He works on his shot a lot, but things just haven't clicked yet. Vanderbilt needs another outside shooting presence to offset Jermaine Beal and Jenkins. If he gets hot, opponents won't be able to drop off him to stop penetration from Beal and Jeffery Taylor. It would open up opportunities for others in the offense.

Beal needs to be more selective in his aggressiveness

The ‘Dores will rise and fall with Beal at point. Over the last couple of games, it has been evident that he is forcing things at times. Maybe Coach Stallings is telling him to, but a lot of these drives seem out of the flow of the offense and cause unneeded turnovers. He takes shots on fast breaks with nobody there to rebound, which effectively give away possessions. When he's hot, it's exciting. When he's not, it's super frustrating.

Find ways to get the ball to Taylor in scoring position

How many times does Taylor receive the ball on the baseline? Too many. It doesn't take a basketball whiz to know that baseline jumpers are ridiculously hard to hit. On top of that, he's driving ability is limited since the baseline acts as another defender. Let's run a couple clear-outs for him at the top of the key.

Regardless what happens from here on out, it's been an exciting 2010 campaign. I hope Beal can shine on Senior Day. He deserves it.

Check out Adams' blog at DorePosts.com.

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