An Early Look at Vandy's 2011 NCAA Tournament Bracket Path

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Most experts will probably think this is a fruitless exercise, as apparently Vanderbilt has already lost its opening (second round) game to Richmond last night [fourth-dimension'd]. Though the Commodores have lost their opening game the last two NCAA Tournaments, I can't remember a time when Vanderbilt hadn't EVER "lost" their opening game the moment they were selected to go to the big dance. Certainly that was the case in 2004 and 2007 when Vandy was picked to lose to 11-seed Western Washington and 11-seed George Washington, the latter of which suffered the largest ever scoring disparity in a 6-11 matchup in NCAA Tournament history (33 points) vs. the Commodores. Both times Vandy made it past the first weekend.

Starting off with a little table of relevant kenpom data...

2011 Southwest NCAA Region

Vanderbilt's "Second" Round Opponent - Richmond Spiders

I've read countless arguments that Richmond was a bit underseeded by the Committee this year. Certainly on paper that appears to be the case. It's hard to say whether Richmond was a "true" 12 seed or whether they were pushed down the bracket for some reason. Either way, it's hard to give the Selection Committee the benefit of the doubt with respect to the Spiders.

Richmond is certainly capable of pulling off the upset. Without getting too much into the matchup (don't you want to savor it over the next few days?), I think Vandy certainly has an opportunity to advance, provided the team plays to its strengths.

"Third Round" - Louisville Cardinals

Vanderbilt-Louisville would be a terrific game. Both teams like to push the ball (same tempo of 67.7). Louisville is a very solid defensive team that loves to press (Pitino). Though Louisville would like to take advantage of Vanderbilt's lack of ball security, Vanderbilt would exploit Louisville's tendency to send its opponents to the free throw line. From the AOG end, there are so many headline and photo caption opportunities that I really hope it happens. I'm sure Train Island feels the same way.

Sweet 16 - Kansas Jayhawks

I sure wouldn't be upset if some team went Northern Iowa on the Jayhawks again this year. Kansas is a formidable opponent no matter which way you look at them. The Commodores would need to bring their big boy pants. Frankly, it's been quite some time since Vanderbilt has been looked at as such a tremendous underdog that I think might give Vanderbilt a mental edge they really haven't had this season (except maybe against UNC -- remember, they were ranked pretty highly during our matchup in late November).

Assuming Vanderbilt somehow slips past Kansas, likely opponents include Notre Dame, Purdue and Georgetown. While each of those teams provide their own unique challenges, I think Vanderbilt at that point would be more than ready to take them on for an opportunity to be one of the Final Four.

What are your thoughts?

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