How big was Vanderbilt's 87-74 win in Gainesville on Tuesday night?
If the voices of various bracketologists are any indication, right now it's the difference between Vanderbilt making the NCAA Tournament and missing it entirely. Joe Lunardi's latest bracket update has the Commodores facing Cincinnati in the First Four in Dayton, and if they were to win that, they would have a rematch against early-season opponent Baylor in St. Louis.
The Bracket Matrix paints an even starker picture of this phenomenon. While overall, the Commodores appear in just 25 of the 104 brackets (and thus are in the First Four Out), it's worth pointing out that nearly two-thirds of those brackets have not been updated since Tuesday -- and of those 66 brackets, just three have the Commodores in the tournament. But 22 of the 38 brackets that have been updated since Tuesday have Vanderbilt making the tournament, including one bracket that rather ludicrously has Vanderbilt as an 8-seed.
But there are still three regular season games left, plus the SEC Tournament. So even though Vanderbilt might be in the NCAA Tournament as of today, the Commodores (probably) can't count on staying there. What has to happen for Vanderbilt to hold this spot?
Well, for starters, Vanderbilt at least needs to maintain its current resume -- that means don't lose to Tennessee at home next Tuesday.
And then, Vanderbilt needs to make sure that they don't get passed by other teams. If Vanderbilt is currently one of the last few teams in the tournament, this means that teams that are currently out of the tournament can pass the Commodores by adding more quality wins to their own resumes. So if Vanderbilt stands pat, unless everybody else on the bubble happens to start dropping games against bad teams and/or failing to come up with wins against good teams, Vanderbilt probably won't make the tournament. This likely means that the Commodores need to win either this Saturday against Kentucky, or they need to win at Texas A&M on March 5. Barring that, they'll need to pick up another quality win or two in the SEC Tournament.
But as I pointed out on Monday, Vanderbilt's resume is actually fairly solid once you compare it to those of other bubble teams, and this seems to validate that viewpoint.