Vanderbilt's No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament's West Regional marks the second time in the last three years the Commodores have been awarded a fourth seed in the 65-team field.
The Commodores will take on Ohio Valley Conference tourney and regular-season winner Murray State in a first-round game in San Jose on Thursday.
Vandy also was a No. 4 seed in its last NCAA appearance in 2008, losing to 13th-seeded Siena in the first round.
The Commodores will be going into the tournament coming off a 10-point loss to Mississippi State in the SEC tournament semifinals, not exactly a position of strength.
They also lost to South Carolina in their regular-season finale after being pushed to overtime by Georgia in closing out their home schedule. But they beat the Bulldogs by 14 points in the SEC tourney quarterfinals.
The matchup with Murray State looks to be an interesting one. The two teams are only a couple of hours' drive apart but haven't played each other since 1989. Vandy has won three of the four meetings, three of which took place in the 1930s and '40s.
The Racers are a well-balanced, good-shooting team that comes in having won 22 of its last 23 games.
The winner of the 4-13 first-round matchup will play the winner of Butler-UTEP in the second round. Top regional seed Syracuse likely looms ahead in the regional semifinals.
--Vanderbilt will be making its 11th appearance in the NCAA Tournament and will take a 9-11 record into the event. The Commodores have been in the regional semifinals six times but made a regional final only once. That was in 1965, when the bracket for the 23-team field placed the SEC champion into the Sweet 16. Vandy beat DePaul but lost to Michigan in the Mideast Regional title game.
--Coach Kevin Stallings' teams at Vandy and Illinois State are 5-5 in five NCAA Tournament appearances.
COACH: Kevin Stallings, 11 years at Vanderbilt, four years in NCAA Tournament.
KEYS TO VICTORY: Vandy needs to get A.J. Ogilvy going again. The 6-11 junior scored only 12 points and had only 11 rebounds in Vandy's two games in the SEC tournament. Defensively, Murray State presents multiple problems. Five players average in double figures, and the Racers shoot 50.3 percent from the field, third-best in the country. The Commodores did shoot 50 percent from behind the arc in the conference tourney (15-of-30), and that could make a big difference if the Racers pack their defense inside.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've got to figure out what it was we were doing earlier in the season when we were averaging 31 free throws a game, and now we can only average about 15." -- Coach Kevin Stallings, after the Commdores went to the line only 33 times (making 26) in the two SEC tourney games.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SCOUTING REPORT: Four players are averaging in double figures for the Commodores, topped by G Jermaine Beal's 14.7 ppg average. Others are F/G Jeffery Taylor and C A.J. Ogilvy (13.4 each) and freshman G John Jenkins, who comes off the bench firing 3-pointers, averaging 10.9. This is a more physical Vandy team than in past years, and one that goes 10 deep as well. One of the unsung heroes for the Commodores is F Andre Walker, who averages 6.1 points and 5.5 rebounds a game.
Vanderbilt 78, Georgia 66 (SEC tournament quarterfinals)
Mississippi State 62, Vanderbilt 52 (SEC tournament semifinals)
vs. Murray State, Thursday, March 18, NCAA Tournament, West Regional, first round.
--C A.J. Ogilvy scored only 12 points and had only 11 rebounds in Vandy's two SEC tournament games. He had 18 points and six rebounds against Siena in the 2008 NCAA tourney.
--G Jermaine Beal has 27 assists in Vandy's last six games. Beal went scoreless two years ago in the NCAA Tournament but had five assists.
--Freshman G John Jenkins was 6-for-9 on 3-pointers in the two conference tournament games, making him 20-for-33 over his last five games.
Now it's time for the Racers to find out if their 30 wins can cut any ice in the NCAA Tournament against a top seed from a power conference like the Southeastern Conference.
The Ohio Valley Conference champions drew Vanderbilt, which notched 24 wins and finished second overall during the SEC regular season, for their NCAA opener Thursday in San Jose.
"They are a well-coached and very deep team," Murray State coach Billy Kennedy said of the Commodores. "They have been in the top 20 all season, and it will be a tough task."
Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings is probably saying the same thing, minus the top-20 claim, about the Racers, who were the only conference champion to lead its league in scoring offense and defense.
It will be a matchup of Murray State's quickness and balance against the Commodores' size and great shooting ability. The key will be if Racers guards Isacc Miles and B.J. Jenkins can disrupt Vandy's Jermaine Beal, a good floor general who is also a knockdown 3-point shooter.
Offensively, Murray State will need to generate enough post offense from Ivan Aska and Tony Easley against a bigger foe so that it won't have to solely rely on jumpers from the backcourt.
A 31st win would not just validate all the Racers accomplished throughout the year, it would also give them a winnable second-round game against either Butler or UTEP.
--Murray State hasn't played Vanderbilt since Dec. 19, 1988, when the Commodores notched a 74-57 win. They lead the all-time series 3-1.
--Racers coach Billy Kennedy has been mentioned in connection with the coaching vacancy at Louisiana-Lafayette, where Robert Lee was canned last week. Kennedy is a native of Slidell, La. and started his head coaching career at Southeastern Louisiana.
COACH: Billy Kennedy, four years at Murray State, first year in NCAA Tournament.
KEYS TO VICTORY: For the Racers to advance to the second round, their guards -- Isacc Miles and B.J. Jenkins -- must disrupt the Vandy offense and force it to start four or five feet farther out than they'd like. Making good, quick double-teams on C A.J. Ogilvy while not leaving good shooters like Jermaine Beal and John Jenkins open for 3s is also vital. And the Racers must stay true to their identity on offense, spreading the load as they've done all year and being hard to guard at all five spots.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "You have to beat good teams in the tournament. ... We are looking forward to it." -- Coach Billy Kennedy, on Murray State drawing Vanderbilt for its NCAA Tournament opener.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SCOUTING REPORT: Few teams in Division I are as balanced as the Racers, which for most of the year had six players scoring in double figures with none averaging more than 11 ppg. The team shoots better than 50 percent, often producing easy shots via steals leading to fast-break chances. In its defeats, though, it's been vulnerable to good combo guards who can be strong with the ball and score. Vanderbilt's Jermaine Beal fits that description.
Murray State 55, Eastern Illinois 51 (Ohio Valley semifinals)
Murray State 62, Morehead State 51 (Ohio Valley final)
vs. Vanderbilt, Thursday, March 18, NCAA Tournament West Regional first round.
--G Isaiah Canaan could play a vital role in the Racers' NCAA Tournament success. Canaan averaged 10.3 ppg in 20.2 minutes per game off the bench, shooting 49 percent from the field and nearly 46 percent on 3-pointers.
--F Ivan Aska led this balanced team offensively with 10.6 ppg. Choosing his shots carefully and well, the 6-foot-7 sophomore canned nearly 60 percent from the field.
--C Tony Easley had his best year as a senior, scoring a career-high 10.4 ppg and hitting almost 69 percent of his field goals. Easley set a single-season school record with 93 blocked shots.