The good news for this year’s crop of seniors on the Vanderbilt team is that they won’t be remembered strictly for their inability to win a big game.
They are the only team in the country to beat Kentucky in a game that didn’t occur on their home floor, knocking off the Wildcats in the SEC tournament title game. That win meant something. That win is something the Commodore players will remember for the rest of their lives. All you need to do is look at the pictures of Kevin Stallings and John Jenkins in tears afterwards to know what that win meant.
Vandy also shook off their NCAA tournament demons, picking up a win in the opening round against Harvard, the first time that any of the Vanderbilt seniors can say they made it past their first game in the big dance.
But the 60-57 loss that No. 5 Vanderbilt took at the hands of No. 4 Wisconsin only cements the fact that this team will be known for chronically underachieving.
There are three NBA players on this Vanderbilt roster. Jeff Taylor and John Jenkins will be first round picks. Festus Ezeli may not be a first round pick after struggling through an injury plagued senior season, but he will play in the NBA. He’s too big, too skilled and too athletic not to.
And what do they have to show for it?
One trip past the opening round.
I think it is fair to call their performance on Saturday a choke job. John Jenkins and Jeff Taylor, two of the best perimeter scorers in the country, combined to go 7-25 from the floor, 3-14 from three and score just 25 points. Jenkins’ final shot this season was a three with eight seconds left that would have given Vandy a 60-59 lead. Festus Ezeli played great down the stretch, but he was benched at the start of the game for violating a team rule.
Not exactly what you would call rising to the occasion.
And we saw it far to often from this group.