For the third straight season, Vanderbilt has lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
And for the third straight time, that loss came against a team with a double digit seed — in 2008 it was No. 13 seed Siena, last year it was No. 13 Murray State, and this year it was No. 12 Richmond.
The Spiders were down for much of the first half and dug themselves a nine point hole midway through the second half, but Kevin Anderson scored nine of his 25 points — hitting three of his four threes in succession in a 1:41 span — to lead a 12-0 run that turned a 48-39 deficit into a 51-48 lead.
Vandy had their chances, but they simply couldn’t execute down the stretch. The Commodores missed three free throws in the final minutes, turned the ball over with five seconds left with a chance to tie the game, and then failed to get a good look at the rim when down by three on the final possession of the game. Their final shot was a challenged 35 footer from Rod Odom that never had a chance of going in, and the Commodores were headed home with a 69-66 loss.
Richmond advances to play No. 13 Morehead State on Saturday.
There is something to be said for consistently getting a team to the NCAA Tournament, especially at a school like Vanderbilt where athletics aren’t the only thing the school is concerned with.
But eventually, the fact that Kevin Stallings is failing to live up to expectations in the tournament is going to catch to him.
There is also an argument to be made that Stallings is not living up to the expectations of his team, period.
The Commodores have two players that could end up being lottery picks by the time they leave college in John Jenkins and Jeff Taylor. Fetsus Ezeli also has a chance to get drafted. They were all on last season’s team that also included AJ Ogilvy (a second round pick) and Jermaine Beal (a first team all-SEC performer). Both teams lost in the first round.
Part of it is bad luck.
Richmond went 13-3 in the A-10, beat Purdue, and won their conference tournament. In a weak bubble year, most thought them better than a 12 seed. Murray State and Siena were both considered one of, if not the, best low-major automatic bids in 2010 and 2008, respectively.
Vandy didn’t lose to cupcakes.
But they still got upset in the first round of the tournament.
Sooner or later, that is going to catch up with Kevin Stallings.