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March 9, 2012Tonight at 10:00, Vanderbilt's mens basketball team will start their postseason.
By virtue of Georgia's upset of No. 6 seeded Mississippi State in the SEC Tournament's fourth opening day game, the No. 3 seed Commodores will face the No. 11 seeded Bulldogs.
Tonight's game will be the third time the two teams have played each other this season. Vanderbilt won both contests: 77-66 on January 14 in Nashville, and 61-52 in February 19 in Athens.
For Georgia, tonight's game is simply an unexpected opportunity to prove that third year head coach Mark Fox has the program moving in the right direction. Georgia finished their season with a 5-11 conference record, and 14-16 overall. Only South Carolina (2-14) finished the regular season with a worse SEC record.
Vanderbilt, on the other hand, is looking to pad a resume that already has them as a lock for the NCAA Tournament field of 68 teams. VU (21-10, 10-6) is being projected to receive somewhere in the range of a 5 to 7 seed in the Big Dance.
VU won eight consecutive games during a stretch of contests beginning December 19, capped by a blowout of Alabama in Tuscaloosa on January 19. Since that point, the Commodores went just 10-6, including a regular season ending loss to Tennessee. Should Vanderbilt win tonight, and the Vols beat LSU earlier in the day, VU would face UT tomorrow afternoon.
A win against Georgia would likely not improve Vanderbilt's comparative situation in terms of how they are seeded in the NCAA Tournament. However, a defeat by Georgia would be viewed as a bad loss in the eyes of the tournament selection committee, and could push their NCAA seed down to as low as a 7 seed. As such, Vanderbilt would potentially have to face one of the tournament's No. 2 seeds in the second round, to reach the Sweet 16.
In their first two games, Vanderbilt controlled the games with even-handed inside-out performances from guard John Jenkins and forwards Jeffrey Taylor and Lance Goulbourne. In the January 19 game, Vanderbilt held Georgia to just 39 percent shooting from the field, including 8-for-27 from 3. Georgia's interior players couldn't handle Vanderbilt's Festus Ezeli and Goulbourne on the interior, and eventually had their three best frontcourt players foul out.
VU shot 45 percent from 3 in the February 19 contest, led by a 28 point outburst from Jenkins. Georgia, the league's worst outside shooting team, again had a horrible night from outside, hitting just 3 of 13 3-pointers and 36 percent overall. Nashville native Gerald Robinson was the only Bulldog player to reach double figures, with 19 points.
In other SEC Tournament action, LSU beat Arkansas 70-54, Alabama defeated South Carolina 63-57, and Ole Miss dropped Auburn 68-54.
To view photos from the Nashville game, click here.