Coach Stallings summed things up pretty well after the heartbreak against Murray State.
"I think that the things that plagued our team all season long showed up today, unfortunately," Stallings said. "But our guys fought hard, they completed hard and that's it just wasn't enough today, and we're extremely disappointed. I feel really badly for my players. I feel really badly for Jermaine and, again, that's why this is a great Tournament because things like that happen, and it is what it is."
This Vanderbilt squad had a team that looked to be tailor made for post-season play:
Senior point guard (Beal)
Great effort on the defensive end
Great free throw shooters
Two NBA prospects that could take over a game (Ogilvy, Taylor)
All that stuff isn't always important, but from top to bottom, this Vandy team wasn't missing much. In reality Murray State was a great team and deserved to win. They were a possession away from beating Final Four darling Butler. Even before the brackets were announced, numerous media outlets said that the Racers were going to be a tough out. It just happened that Vanderbilt was the victim of circumstance.
The good news is that besides the loss of Beal, this team looks to bring everybody else back next season.
ESPN's Chad Ford has Taylor as #28 in his Big Board. Most signals are pointing to Taylor coming back for another season, where he draft stock should climb tremendously. Before the tournament, Ford said as much. "He's going to need a big tournament to convince scouts that he's worth taking a risk on this year." Taylor got into foul trouble early and didn't have a huge impact against Murray State. Expect to see #44 again in 2011.
Ford has Ogilvy at #134 overall. Unless he decides to bolt for Europe, expect to see A.J. around for his senior season. According to ESPN, "He was projected as a potential late first-round pick in 2009, however, his production has dropped off as a sophomore and so has his draft projection." Ouch. I'm sure this season didn't help him out either.
Next season, the point guard spot will be handed down to a combination of Tinsley and incoming recruit Kyle Fuller. If Fuller can adapt to college play quickly, Vanderbilt has a chance to be very special next season.
Let's take a final look back on the 2009-2010 season.
MVP: Jeffery Taylor
He finished the season averaging 13 points, five rebounds, and at least two spectacular plays a game. I think Beal was the most consistent, but Taylor stood out as the one Commodore who could really demand the attention of the defense. If he wants to get to the basket, he'll get there. If he can harness his athleticism, perfect his outside jumper, he'll be unstoppable in 2011.
Most Improved: Steve Tchiengang
I thought about going with Festus Ezeli here, but Steve was able to contribute more often off the bench. He can stretch the defense with the threat of his outside jumper. He's also a beast down low, able to get rebounds that seemed impossible. At the start of the season, I always felt uncomfortable with him in the game. That quickly changed. Expect to see even bigger strides in the next two years.
Most Exciting Moment: Late rally against Georgia
Vanderbilt was behind by five with only 33 seconds left. Then a nice dose of Memorial Magic helped propel the squad into an overtime victory.
Most Disappointing Moment: Home loss against Kentucky
The NCAA Tournament loss got its own column, so I wanted mention how bad the Kentucky loss was. If a world of "What If" beating UK at Memorial would have catapulted the ‘Dores into contention for a 2-seed. At the worst, a 3-seed would have got the team away from Murray State. Oh well.
Reason I'm renewing my season tickets: John Jenkins
I didn't live in Nashville for all of the Shan Foster era, so I didn't get to witness him a lot in person. There's something about Jenkins that is special. He holds Memorial hostage with anticipation. If you've been to a game, there's something different that happens in the building when he shoots. Beal and Tinsley are beloved by the home faithful, but nothing gets that place rocking like JJ knocking down a couple shots. We get to see that for three more years! I've said it a bunch, but if Jenkins can learn to create his own shot, he'll average 20 a game. I would like to see a lot more isolation plays for him next year.
In five years, hopefully we'll look back at this team and see the groundwork for a SEC powerhouse. I just hope this wasn't the pinnacle and they missed their shot.