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WTF Vandy? Miserable Losses, Round 1: (2) Senior Night vs. Arkansas, 2019 vs. (7) Wichita State, 2016

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One: a miserable end to a miserable season; the other: a miserable end to a disappointing season.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 06 Arkansas at Vanderbilt Photo by Matthew Maxey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

(2) March 6, 2019: Arkansas 84, Vanderbilt 48

The most tragic part of Vanderbilt’s 20-game losing streak to end the 2018-19 basketball season was how close the Commodores came to breaking the streak at several points. There was, of course, the near-miss against Tennessee at Memorial Gym on January 23. And, notably, on February 5, Arkansas had slipped past Vanderbilt in Fayetteville when Keyshawn Embery-Simpson made a late three with Vanderbilt nursing a two-point lead in the final minute.

With the losing streak at seventeen games, Arkansas came to Memorial Gym a month later. It was Senior Night for Vanderbilt, and in addition to the fact that Vanderbilt had nearly beaten the Razorbacks a month before, Arkansas had lost six in a row prior to beating Ole Miss by a point in the previous game. It was such that Vanderbilt came into the game as just a two-point underdog.

And Vanderbilt jumped out to a 15-5 lead in the early minutes. And then the Commodores went ice cold. In fact, for the remainder of the first half, Vanderbilt attempted 16 field goals and missed all of them. Vanderbilt did score ten points at the free throw line during this stretch, and the score was 29-25 in Arkansas’s favor at the half. Still, aware of his team’s inability to make a shot, Bryce Drew — while being interviewed by SEC Network analyst and former Vanderbilt player Barry Booker coming out of the locker at halftime — attempted to discern whether Booker had any eligibility remaining, because he needed someone who could make a shot.

We’re pretty sure he was joking. Simi Shittu broke the field goal drought with 15:42 left in the game, which meant that Vanderbilt had gone 17 minutes and 35 seconds of game time — nearly half the game! — without making a field goal. And Shittu’s basket was promptly followed by another 1-for-10 stretch. By the time it ended, Arkansas led 54-31 and would go on to win 84-48. On Senior Night, the team got booed by the home crowd, or what was left of it after Arkansas outscored Vanderbilt 49-14 over about 26 minutes of game time.

And Bryce Drew got fired two weeks later. I can’t imagine why.


(7) March 15, 2016: Wichita State 70, Vanderbilt 50

If you’ve ever wondered why we are the way that we are, the 2015-16 basketball season is a good reason why.

Let’s explain. The Vanderbilt football team has never been ranked in the preseason AP poll. Meanwhile, the Vanderbilt basketball team has been ranked in the preseason AP poll three times in the last 50 years. One of those teams — Jan van Breda Kolff’s first in 1993-94 — missed the NCAA Tournament. Kevin Stallings’ 2011-12 team, ranked 7th in the preseason, screwed around all year before winning the SEC Tournament and drawing a 5-seed in the NCAA Tournament, then lost to Wisconsin in the second round.

And the third was the 2015-16 team. Vanderbilt had gone 21-14 with a bunch of freshmen and sophomores playing key roles the season before, and with basically everyone back — save for James Siakam — the Commodores were ranked 18th in the preseason and got up to 16th even after taking their first loss to Kansas in the finals of the Maui Invitational. Then Vanderbilt blew a 13-point second half lead at Baylor, and it started. That was followed by inexplicably pissing away a 16-point lead late in the first half and losing to Dayton at home, Vanderbilt then lost to Purdue on the road and started SEC play 0-3, putting the Commodores at 8-7 overall.

Vanderbilt would win seven of its next nine, but a loss at Mississippi State on a Quinndary Weatherspoon buzzer-beater — which came after Vanderbilt blew a 17-point lead with 13:44 left — had David Williams’ email inbox and voice mailbox flooded with angry fans, and even got me to write about 3500 words about why Stallings needed to go. At least, Vanderbilt responded by winning its next four — but the Commodores lost at Texas A&M to close the regular season, and then completely and utterly mailed in a loss to Tennessee in the first game of the SEC Tournament. At that point, it looked like Vanderbilt would miss the NCAA Tournament — but the Commodores’ name instead was called on Selection Sunday, and they’d be sent to Dayton and the FIrst Four to play the Wichita State Shockers.

The game itself didn’t go too poorly for Vanderbilt — for about 32 minutes. Wichita State built itself a bit of a cushion early in the second half, but Vanderbilt fought back and cut the score to 47-46 on a Damian Jones three-point play with 9:17 left. But after Riley LaChance made a jumper with 8:38 left, Vanderbilt was done making baskets — they’d miss their final 13 shots from the floor as Wichita State turned a tight game into a 20-point laugher.

Somehow, the way that Vanderbilt just completely fell apart down the stretch just felt like a perfect summation of the basketball team that year. And, of course, like a lot of the WTF? moments here, this would be the last game for Kevin Stallings as head coach: Stallings would leave for Pitt a couple of weeks later (rumor was he was pushed out by the Goldfather.)

Poll

Which moment advances?

This poll is closed

  • 49%
    Senior night vs. Arkansas
    (56 votes)
  • 50%
    Wichita State
    (57 votes)
113 votes total Vote Now