Tourney Time in Tampa

Commodores face Georgia at SEC Tournament

by Chad Bishop

TAMPA, Fla. — The Commodores know what is ahead of them. The odds are not in their favor.

But they’re not backing down from the challenge.

“Obviously, the goal is to make the NCAA Tournament and we have every intention of going down there and winning five,” Vanderbilt senior center Liam Robbins said. “That’s tough to do, but you want to play in a postseason tournament in college basketball, regardless of what it is. I’ve only played in one postseason tournament, outside of the conferences tournaments, and that was the ( Tournament) and that was still a lot of fun.

“To play in the postseason is great to get experience for your younger guys and just an experience as a veteran to go through that with your team.”

Robbins and Vanderbilt (15-15) make their SEC Tournament debut at 7 p.m. CT Wednesday against Georgia at AMALIE Arena in Tampa, Florida. The Commodores need at least one win – probably two – to be considered for an at-large berth into a secondary postseason tournament and need to win five games to earn an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.

Of course, Vandy can’t go on a winning streak unless it beats Georgia (6-25) first. The Dores hope to continue their momentum earned from a 63-61 win at Mississippi on Sunday in the regular-season finale into Florida this week.

“I think we’re in a good spot from the standpoint of we know that we had some great opportunities that we didn’t handle well down the stretch ourselves. We could easily be in a different situation,” Vandy head coach Jerry Stackhouse said. “If you think of, not only the earlier games that we had an opportunity to win, but just those three in a row there, that changes where we are tremendously. We start talking about 18-20 wins. That’s a different conversation for postseason and things like that, especially in our league and how tough it’s been this year. 

“For us it’s just about focusing on the stuff within the game and not getting so much into the next game or the next opponent, but just trying to handle our business on a possession to possession basis.”

Georgia has had a rough go of it in 2021-22. The Bulldogs went 1-17 in league play and are currently on an 11-game losing streak. Head coach Tom Crean’s squad has won once since Dec. 22.

Vanderbilt beat Georgia 73-66 in Athens, Georgia, in January and again, 85-77, two weeks later in Memorial Gymnasium.

“It’s tough to beat a team three times,” Robbins said. “Everyone in college basketball kind of knows that. It’s just always tough to get that third win for whatever reason.

“A lot of it just comes down to being us, sticking to our offensive and defensive principles. If we execute that, if we’re not lax going into the game, we’re not letting them kind of get into their stuff, we feel pretty confident we can do what we did the last two times.”

Stackhouse insinuated Monday that his rotation will be a bit shorter this week than it has been in the months leading up to the postseason. The third-year coach has generally played every scholarship player – when active — throughout the course of the game, but they may not be the case come tipoff Monday.

That could mean veterans Robbins, Scotty Pippen Jr., Jordan Wright, Myles Stute, Trey Thomas, Quentin Millora-Brown, Drew Weikert and Rodney Chatman (if available) could get the bulk of the playing time this week. And Stackhouse will need all they have left in the tank.

“We’re going to go with our older guys. We’re going to go with our guys that have been around. That’s the hierarchy around here,” Stackhouse said. “This is the time where you count on your older guys and try to go out and get every game you can get.”

  • Vanderbilt is 40-58 in SEC Tournament history. The Commodores have made the championship game twice, in 1951 and 2012, and won in each instance.
  • Vandy is 1-4 in its last five postseason games.
  • Vanderbilt junior Scotty Pippen Jr. has scored at least 20 points in seven straight games. Dan Langhi scored at least 20 points in eight straight games in 1999.
  • Pippen Jr. is tied for the second-most made free throws (453) in Vanderbilt history. A.J. Ogilvy (first) made 471.
  • Pippen Jr. has 616 points this season, the eighth-most in a single Vanderbilt season and the fourth-most by a junior in a single Vanderbilt season.
  • Wright has started 35 straight games for Vanderbilt.
  • Thomas has played in 55 straight games for the Commodores.
  • The Commodores are 94-55 all-time against Georgia and 7-5 on a neutral court.
  • Vandy last played Georgia in the SEC Tournament in 2018 and lost 78-62.
  • Vanderbilt last played Georgia thrice in a single season in 2012 and won all three matchups. 

— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for
Follow him @MrChadBishop.