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Can Vanderbilt win the SEC Tournament?


NCAA Basketball: South Carolina at Vanderbilt Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

In case you were wondering if the Vanderbilt Commodores can make the 2020 NCAA Tournament, the answer is: no.

But the real answer is: Vanderbilt has an 11-20 overall record, meaning that no matter what happens at Bridgestone Arena this week, the Commodores will go into Selection Sunday with a losing record, meaning that the only way they can make the NCAA Tournament is to win five games in five days. So is this a realistic possibility?

Game 1: Wednesday vs. Arkansas

Somehow, Arkansas, a legitimate NCAA Tournament bubble team with a 19-12 overall record, is the 11-seed in the SEC Tournament and thus is relegated to Wednesday night at the SEC Tournament. Vanderbilt played Arkansas once this season, at Fayetteville, a place where Vanderbilt basically never wins, and lost 75-55. But as usual, Arkansas is not a particularly good team away from Bud Walton Arena; in fact, they’re 5-8 away from home, and one of those was against Valparaiso in Little Rock, which doesn’t really count. In SEC play, they’re 2-7 away from home, and they’ve lost their last five. Screw it, let’s say this happens and move on to...

Game 2: Thursday vs. South Carolina

That’s right: should Vanderbilt advance, they’ll play South Carolina, the team they just beat in Memorial Gym. Vanderbilt also lost 90-64 to South Carolina in Columbia, which we can’t defend, but this game will also be in Nashville. Unless you believe that Memorial Gym confers magical powers on the Commodores that cannot be duplicated two miles away at Bridgestone Arena, hell, we can beat them again.

Game 3: Friday vs. LSU

Oh, would you look at that, one of the other two teams that Vanderbilt beat would be the Friday opponent. This is happening.

Game 4: Saturday vs. Auburn, Texas A&M, or Missourah

So, at this point, a team that has seven scholarship players available is on its fourth game in four days. But! Vanderbilt came within four points of Auburn in Auburn back on January 8. And then, Aaron Nesmith was lost for the season, but never mind that! We’re on a roll here! We’re dreaming!

Game 5: Sunday vs. probably Kentucky

Oh. Right. It’s the SEC Tournament in Nashville, which means that it’s probably going to be about 90 percent Kentucky fans. This is dumb.

So you see, the odds that Vanderbilt goes on a run over five days and makes the NCAA Tournament are very small. (The odds of making the NIT are nonexistent, because that would require Vanderbilt to have a record over .500 and not win the SEC Tournament, and this is legitimately impossible. And no, Vanderbilt is not going to pay the fee to play in the CBI, so stop asking.) In fact, I would put the odds of Vanderbilt winning the SEC Tournament lower than the odds that the NCAA declares all of the other thirteen teams in the conference ineligible for the postseason within the next week, which is probably the only way that Vanderbilt could make the NCAA Tournament.

There, I solved that for you.