After Vanderbilt won at Florida last Tuesday, I noted that most bracketologists had moved the Commodores into the NCAA Tournament.
After Vanderbilt beat Kentucky by a score of 74-62 on Saturday, you can change "most" to "all."
The general consensus according to the Bracket Matrix is that while the Commodores are something like a 10- or 11-seed right now, everybody agrees that they would be in the tournament if the field were selected today. How much has changed in a week and a half? After Vanderbilt blew a 17-point lead and lost to Mississippi State, most people thought the Commodores' season was done. But three straight wins since then, including two against teams in the RPI top 50, have moved the Commodores solidly above the cut line.
Now, the challenge is to stay there. Vanderbilt has one more opportunity to add a quality win to its resume when the Commodores visit Texas A&M on Saturday, but Vanderbilt may not need to win that game. I might go so far as to suggest that Vanderbilt just needs to beat Tennessee at home on Senior Night, but that might be an exaggeration. Avoiding any more bad losses -- either on Tuesday night or in the SEC Tournament -- is definitely a good idea either way. I don't think Vanderbilt can lose their final two games and lose their first game in the SEC Tournament -- but splitting the last two games and not picking up a bad loss in the SEC Tournament might just be enough. (This means that if Vanderbilt gets a top-4 seed in the SECT and faces a decent team in the quarterfinals, they might be fine if they lose that game.)
But here's one potential hole: While Vanderbilt has five RPI Top 50 wins, four of those came at Memorial Gym -- and three of those came against either Florida (#46 in the RPI) or Alabama (#49 in the RPI), who obviously could fall out of the top 50. Now, there's an argument that the Selection Committee shouldn't treat a win over the #51 team that much differently than a win over the #50 team, and while that's probably true, it wouldn't hurt if the Gators and the Tide picked themselves up. Or maybe it would, considering that those two teams are fighting for bids themselves. Who knows?
Of course, before Saturday Vanderbilt's list of top 50 wins included Stony Brook -- and then the Seawolves lost to Vermont at home. It would certainly help Vanderbilt's profile if Stony Brook were to win the America East tournament. And like pretty much every bubble team, the Commodores should be rooting for teams like Wichita State, Little Rock, St. Mary's, and Monmouth -- teams that might not get at-large bids either way, but you'd really prefer that they just win their conference's automatic bid and not be in the discussion in the committee room.