The Commodores will kick off their 2011-12 basketball campaign with a home game against Oregon, according to the team's newly released out-of-conference schedule. The upcoming season also includes challenging matchups against Xavier, Louisville, Marquette, North Carolina State and a potential preseason tournament showdown with Texas.
The season will kick off with three straight home games, beginning with a November 11 matchup against the Ducks. Oregon is coming off of a year that ended with a CBI Tournament Championship despite the team's 16-17 finish during the regular season. They return all but two players from that campaign and are slated to suit up five seniors this year, which should make the season opener a tough test for the Commodores.
Vanderbilt will follow up those games with a pair of preliminary games in the TicketCity Legends Classic. The 'Dores will host Cleveland State (now without star Norris Cole) and Bucknell before heading to New Jersey for the tournament's later rounds. There, they'll face North Carolina State and, depending on how the games turn out, either Texas or Oregon State on the tournament's final day.
The team won't have much down time after that, as they'll return home to face a familiar foe just one week later on November 28. Redshirt senior Andre Walker will lead his new team, the Xavier Musketeers, down to Nashville in a game that should see the Commodore faithful loudly cheering the four-year Vandy vet. The following Friday, Vanderbilt will head up to Kentucky for an ESPN-televised shootout with Louisville, a team Dick Vitale ranks 9th in the country for the 2011-12 campaign.
Lower profile games against Davidson, Lafayette, Indiana State, and Longwood dot the schedule before a December 29th meeting at Marquette. The Golden Eagles are ranked 18th in Dickie V's early poll and they'll be out for revenge after losing to the 'Dores in the waning seconds of play last season. The road trip to MIlwaukee will be Vandy's last of the out-of-conference schedule.
A pair of games, against Miami of Ohio and Middle Tennessee State finish off the schedule, which should prove to be one of Vanderbilt's toughest of the past decade. The 2011-12 season will include matchups with five schools from BCS conferences, as well as a sixth game against one of the country's premiere mid-major teams in Xavier. Of these teams, it's a safe bet that at least four - Texas, Louisville, Marquette, and Xavier - will find themselves in the Top 25 rankings throughout the year.
It'll be a tough slate for one of the most purely talented teams to ever call Memorial Gym home. Unfortunately, the Commodores won't have the benefit of playing from their court's baseline benches, as some of their biggest games - including Louisville, Marquette, and potentially Texas - will come on the road. It's a schedule that will either quiet critics early or give them easy fodder for when it comes time to assess Vanderbilt's NCAA Tournament prospects in March.
This Vandy team will have plenty of opportunities to prove that they can harness their immense talent and win on the road in 2011-12. It won't be easy by any stretch, but it will prepare the team for a grueling season of SEC play. The 'Dores have made it a point to schedule tough opponents after a soft schedule hurt them in the mid-00s. Whether this will be a benefit or detriment will come to light once November rolls around.
For the entire 2011-12 out-of-conference schedule, check out the official lineup here.