Oh, the pains of being a Vanderbilt fan.
Earlier this week, I thought that Vanderbilt would be in fine shape for the NCAA Tournament if they just beat Tennessee in their first game of the SEC Tournament. And then, Vanderbilt lost. That means Vanderbilt will be spending the next three days watching action around the country, hoping and praying that their name is called on Sunday.
Now, hope is not completely lost. As of this writing, Joe Lunardi has Vanderbilt as the second-to-last team in the tournament. But that position is, obviously, not secure. So who are Vanderbilt fans rooting for this weekend?
Well, here's some good news. In four of the power-conference tournaments -- ACC, Big 12, Big East, and Pac-12 -- everybody remaining locked up a bid weeks ago. It doesn't really matter to us what happens in those tournaments. There's some minor, strength-of-schedule benefit to Kansas or Baylor winning the Big 12, but there's nobody left in those tournaments who could take a bid away from Vanderbilt.
As for the rest...
SEC: Root for sanity. Specifically, root for Kentucky and Texas A&M to meet in the finals, as those two constitute Vanderbilt's "quality wins." Yes, it would be nice if Florida made a run and made Vanderbilt's season sweep of the Gators look better, but perversely Florida bolstering its own resume (or claiming the SEC's automatic bid) is harmful to Vanderbilt. Root for Alabama and Georgia to lose on Friday, ending any chance that either of those teams could claim an at-large bid. Root against LSU, because while the Tigers' at-large case is almost nonexistent at this point they have the talent to win it. Root against Tennessee, because always root against Tennessee.
Big Ten: Root for Indiana on Friday. It would be sorta fun if Nebraska or Illinois made a run in the Big Ten tournament (though not so much if either of them won it), but the real threat in the Big Ten is Michigan. The Wolverines are probably out at the moment, but another win or two could get them in. On the other hand, if Indiana beats them then they'll go to the NIT.
American: Root for Cincinnati. The American seems to be composed of a few bubble teams (Cincinnati, Temple, UConn, and Tulsa), the biggest waste of talent not named LSU (Memphis), a good team that the RPI hates (Houston), and some terrible teams at the bottom. Of the four bubble teams, Cincy probably has the strongest at-large case and as such, the Bearcats claiming the auto bid would be the best option. Of note is the fact that while most brackets currently have 1-seed Temple as the "auto bid" winner, the Owls don't have a great at-large case. Lunardi currently has UConn out, and Cincy beating them on Friday would likely seal their fate. And, sure, Memphis beating Tulsa on Friday would help a lot too -- we just wouldn't want the Tigers (or Houston, for that matter) doing more than that.
Atlantic 10: Root for Dayton. St. Joseph's is also an acceptable answer, as the Flyers and the Hawks are both locks for the tournament anyway, but Dayton winning out would give Vanderbilt a minor SOS boost. (Beating Dayton would have been better, but if we had beaten Dayton then Vanderbilt is a lock and I'm not writing this article.) VCU and/or St. Bonaventure losing early would be helpful, particularly since the A-10 has a lot of teams that constitute a "bad loss." George Washington winning this thing would be the worst possible outcome here.
Root for San Diego State and Little Rock. Calling these teams' at-large cases fringy is being charitable. But if I have the choice, I would rather these two not be in the at-large pool to keep the committee from getting any ideas.
Root for Stony Brook. Because really, it wouldn't hurt to be able to say we beat another tournament team.