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WTF Vandy? Bad Luck, Round 2: (1) JEFF GREEN TRAVELED vs. (4) Murray State

Two NCAA Tournament buzzer-beaters. You know which one to pick.

Towson Tigers v Georgetown Hoyas


You knew this one was coming, didn’t you?

The 2006-07 basketball season was a fun one. After starting 1-3, including a season-opening loss to Georgetown (they’ll come up again) and also a home loss to Furman, but then things got rolling: Vanderbilt would go 17-5 over its next 22 games capped by an 83-70 win over #1 Florida, the eventual national champs, a game in which this happened:

Like I said, a fun season. Of course, after that game, Vanderbilt did its stereotypical late-season fade, going 2-3 and losing its first game of the SEC Tournament to Arkansas (which immediately followed a 15-point home loss to the Razorbacks to end the regular season.) At this point, I recall some national sports radio jock predicting that Vanderbilt would be out of the tournament, a prediction that ended up looking very dumb when the 20-11 Commodores not only got in, but were given a 6-seed.

Vanderbilt rolled past George Washington in the first round, then conquered Washington State (coached by first-year head coach Tony Bennett) in double overtime in the second round. That set up a rematch with Georgetown, the 2-seed that Vanderbilt had met in the season opener. That first game had ended up being a fairly easy 86-70 win for the Hoyas; this would not be so easy, with Vanderbilt seeking its first Elite Eight trip since 1965 (and only its second ever.)

Vanderbilt got out to an 18-6 lead early on, and led 32-24 at halftime. The Hoyas battled back, though, and led 64-61 with a minute left. Derrick Byars cut the lead to one with a pair of free throws, and then, after Patrick Ewing Jr. missed at the other end, Dan Cage got fouled on the rebound and sank two free throws to give Vanderbilt the lead with 19 seconds left.

And then, well...


13 years later, my blood still boils when I watch that clip. Yours should, too.

(4) Murray State Beats Vanderbilt at the Buzzer, 2010

I got up early for this one. You’re used to that in California, it’s the price of doing business with national sporting events. In this case, it meant going down to the Brit, a San Jose institution not far from the Shark Tank, open and doing a brisk business dispensing Guinness at 8 AM on behalf of the San Francisco Vanderbilt Club. I renewed acquaintances with the folks I had met earlier in the season when we played a thriller in the bandbox at St Mary’s, and we spoke carefully about getting the stench of the Siena loss off us. We were a 4 seed again. Surely we wouldn’t botch it, right? I mean, yeah, Obama picked against us, but no way we’re losing to a second 13-seed in three seasons...right?

I don’t know what happened. This was still a relatively young team all around - the super-class were mostly sophomores and John Jenkins (Jingleheimer Schmidt, as my wife persisted in adding every time the PA announced him) was a freshman. Experience was Dolla Beal and AJ Ogilvy, at a time when we couldn’t figure out if AJ wanted to play ball or just be the most modish hipster in East Nashville.

We couldn’t pull away. And then we couldn’t get ahead. We went 4-12 from 3-point range, which is not great but we weren’t exactly hoisting the shots either. We got 29 free throws and made 17 of them. They took more shots. They got more rebounds. Murray State played like a team with nothing to lose, and we played like a team with the yips, tight as a drum, afraid that something might go wrong, and we went to the locker room down four at the half. And then, before long, we were down almost ten. Nobody was stepping up and pouring it in. Jenkins, the rookie, would finish with a team-high 13. Beal and Ogilvy, the vets, would chip in 12. No one else would be in double digits. And then Beal hit the free throws to put us up one with 12 second left. All we need now is defense. Just get after it. Do something...

And then Danero Thomas swished it at the buzzer, and the new narrative - Vanderbilt men’s basketball as guaranteed postseason choke artists - was set in stone.

My wife physically pulled me out of the arena and dragged me to the Starbucks next to the Brit, where she got onto Craigslist and sold the rest of our sessions tickets within ten minutes. Then she threw me in the car and drove us to Yosemite, where there was no cell service, and spent two days waiting for me to become coherent again and say something other than just a stream of cuss words. It was the beginning of a tortuous decade for Vanderbilt hoops, a decade with one miraculous bright spot in New Orleans in 2012 surrounded by a whole lot of underachievement, a perverse and backward version of “Can You Top This” that ended the only way it could: a winless SEC season followed by an attempted comeback year that was terminated by pandemic...but only after we’d lost our SEC tournament opener.

Never ask a Vandy fan why they drink. Ask why they bother putting the cap back on the bottle.


Which moment advances?

This poll is closed

  • 80%
    (98 votes)
  • 19%
    Murray State
    (24 votes)
122 votes total Vote Now