A traditional pre-season top 25? They’re fairly ubiquitous this time of year. Everyone has one, but from Duke to Mississippi Valley State and in between, there’s a lot of intriguing teams for the upcoming college basketball season.
In ascending order of squads that pique our interest, our list consists of teams with a rare chance to make noise, have a lot to prove, quirky schedules, or are just named Kentucky.
Follow along. Story lines aren’t just for the nation’s elite.
Despite a second place SEC-East finish, and one of the most offensively sound teams in the conference, Vanderbilt was upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in humiliating fashion for the second time in three years. Being placed just one spot away from the Murray State Racers on this top 25 probably gives Commodores fans an uneasy feeling.
And when the buzzer sounded on their season, they lost the reliable Jermaine Beal and A.J Ogilvy soon declared for the NBA draft
So with the departure of both Vandy's frontcourt and backcourt centerpiece players, they're screwed right? Not entirely.
Junior forward Jeffery Taylor is shooting up NBA Draft charts, has expanded his game, and could end up being one of the biggest match-up problems for defenders all season. Also returning is sophomore John Jenkins, a frieken assassin. Jenkins, the highest rated recruit ever to play for Vanderbilt, has been Kevin Stalling's biggest get along the recruiting trail. Converting on 72 three pointers last season, at a 48 percent rate, Jenkins will look to improve and become an elite scorer this season. If junior guard Brad Tinsley can get into the lane and disrupt the defensive rotations of opponents, he will have his pick of Taylor or Jenkins to dish it to.
Many aren't really expecting 2010-2011 to be the season the Commodores to have a real opportunity to shed the stigma that they can play in January and February, but not March. Not so fast my friend. Kevin Stallings is still working with a nice chunk of talent down in Nashville.
What happened this summer?
A.J. Ogilvy entered the NBA Draft, but was not selected. Many expected him to head back home and play professionally in Australia, but somehow he ended up in Turkey. The school finalized a men's/womens doubleheader with Tennessee, which will bring ESPN Gameday to Knoxville.
Games that Really Matter
- 11/18-21 @ Puerto Rico Tip-Off (Nebraska, West Virginia, North Carolina)
- 12/8 @ Missouri
- 1/15 @ Tennessee
- 2/1 @ Florida
- 3/1 @ Kentucky
Most Intriguing Player
Jeffery Taylor (6'7" Junior) - A guy no frontcourt player should mistake as soft, like Ogilvy was often criticized for, Taylor is the of the most versatile players in the SEC. If you're a casual college basketball fan, you probably haven't even heard of Taylor - making it even that more shocking when you learn he's likely going to be a lottery pick in next summer's draft. During the off-season, Taylor improved his jumper, stretching his offensive game out to the perimeter.
What's on the Line?
Street cred. The Commodores have won 69 games the last three regular seasons, earned two #4 seeds in the NCAA Tournament, but have been upset in the first round in both appearances. Is Stallings on the hot seat? He's been in Nashville for 11 seasons, so the recent post-season slippage could end up being nothing but a blip on his career. Vandy isn't really getting any love SEC and local media, but with a sure-fire pro and one of the top shooters in the country, there's enough talent for this year's squad to advance past day one of the 2011 tourney.
The SEC-East loaded this season, the Commodores could still finish fifth in the division and earn a tournament bid. But if they finish a distant fifth behind Georgia, then they'll likely get passed over for an at-large bid. They don't have too difficult of a non-conference schedule, so the focus is on holding home court and snatching up a few roadies in January and February.
- Conference: 5th in SEC East
- Postseason: NCAA second round - we just have a hunch