A roster led by one of the nation's best centers and a supporting cast of lights-out shooters has made Vanderbilt a popular pick when it comes to dark-horse Final Four candidates for 2016. On Thursday, the NCAA's coaches lent their support behind the Commodore movement as well; they made Vandy their #20 team in the nation.
Vanderbilt received 153 points in the first poll of the year, good enough for a top 20 ranking as the hardwood season approaches. The 'Dores will return nearly every major player from a 21-14 team that won seven of their final nine games en route to the NIT quarterfinals. Only two of the team's top nine players (by minutes per game) won't be back this winter; James Siakam (graduated) and Shelton Mitchell (transferred). They'll be replaced by a top 25 recruiting class that features budding blockmonster D'Jery Baptiste, sweet-shooting big man Samic Sehic, cut-and-dunk machine Joseph Toye, and sharpshooter Camron Justice.
The Coaches' vote puts Vanderbilt third in the Southeastern Conference, only 10 points behind LSU. Kentucky, who is the nation's co-#1 with North Carolina, looks like the runaway popular choice to win the league again in 2016. Two non-conference opponents - Baylor and Purdue - are also ranked. Two of the teams that the Commodores could face in the Maui Invitational - Indiana and Kansas - were ranked as well.
Here's the full top 25.
USA Today Coaches Poll
|1||North Carolina Tar Heels||26-12||749||12||NR||0||-|
|4||Duke Blue Devils||35-4||686||3||NR||0||-|
|7||Iowa State Cyclones||25-9||541||0||NR||0||-|
|12||Wichita State Shockers||30-5||461||0||NR||0||-|
|13||Michigan State Spartans||27-12||386||0||NR||0||-|
|14||California Golden Bears||18-15||350||0||NR||0||-|
|18||Notre Dame Fighting Irish||32-6||172||0||NR||0||-|
|23||West Virginia Mountaineers||25-10||125||0||NR||0||-|