Brad Tinsley doesn’t get home too often.
So with eight days between Vanderbilt basketball games, Tinsley, a junior guard, jumped at the opportunity to return to Oregon City, Ore., for Christmas.
“We deserved a little break, getting back for the holidays,” Tinsley said. “It was really nice, everyone seeing their families. It was nice to be home and see everybody.”
Lance Goulbourne’s break lasted a little bit longer than he expected, however. The junior forward calls Brooklyn, N.Y., home. But the blizzard that hit the East Coast over the weekend has delayed the junior forward's trip back to Middle Tennessee. Parts of Brooklyn received 24 inches of snow, while areas in New Jersey received as much as 32 inches. Goulbourne was scheduled to land in Nashville late Tuesday night.
The Commodores hope to have him on campus and available to play when they host Marquette at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Memorial Gymnasium. The game, which will be televised on ESPN2, will be Vanderbilt’s first this season as a ranked team.
The Commodores (9-2) were ranked 24th by the Associated Press in the latest polls released on Monday.
Vanderbilt’s starting lineup should be back at full strength when it plays the Golden Eagles, who are 9-3 and, like the Commodores, are also on a two-game winning streak.
Junior forward Andre Walker is expected to be available for the first time since playing against Western Kentucky on Dec. 1. Walker, who is second on the team with 26 assists, has missed the last four games due to mononucleosis.
“We are glad to have him back because we need him back,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. “He came out here and, to his credit, looked like he really hadn’t missed a beat, and he hasn’t played in over three weeks. I was really pleased with how he responded when he got back.”
As for Goulbourne, if he is able to make it back into Nashville by tip-off, there is still the chance he won’t be able to play. He was ruled ineligible for Vanderbilt’s last game, on Dec. 21 at Middle Tennessee State, after the NCAA declared he received an extra benefit.
Before practice on Tuesday afternoon, Stallings said he still hadn’t heard from the NCAA on whether that suspension had been lifted and if Goulbourne will be cleared to play against Marquette. Goulbourne had started two games in place of Walker and was averaging nearly nine points, seven rebounds and 23 minutes.
With or without Goulbourne, Vanderbilt has a tough challenge.
All three of Marquette’s losses have been by fewer than five points to high-caliber teams — No. 1 Duke, Wisconsin and Gonzaga, which was ranked 22nd at the time. Plus, their losses to Duke and Gonzaga came on consecutive nights in a November tournament in Kansas City.
Under third-year coach Buzz Williams, the Golden Eagles have reached the NCAA Tournament the last two seasons.
“Our strength of schedule will certainly benefit from playing this game,” Stallings said. “But it is more about how you play. We have to play well. We have to play hard. They are a team that plays very hard and very aggressively, and we are going to have to do the same.”
Marquette will be similar in style to Missouri, which beat Vanderbilt in overtime three weeks ago. The Golden Eagles play an up-tempo offense and are deep. They have four players who average double-digit scoring figures and another (Dwight Buycks) who averages 9.7 points a game. Marquette is led by guard/forward Jimmy Butler’s 15.3 points a game.
Wednesday’s game could be a shootout — and a track meet — as Marquette averages 82 points a game and Vanderbilt averages 79.5.
“Their transition is a big key to their game,” Vanderbilt center Festus Ezeli said. “We have to be able to contain that. They have weapons just like us. They’re a tough test.”
• This will be the fifth meeting between the two teams with Marquette holding a 3-1 edge in the series. The Golden Eagles beat Vanderbilt in the last contest between the two teams, which took place on March 14, 1974, in the first round of the NCAA Mideast Regionals in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
• It will be Vanderbilt’s second game against a Big East Conference opponent this season. The Commodores fell 74-71 to West Virginia in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off in November.
• Vanderbilt has won 18 straight non-conference games at home. The Commodores’ last loss came on Dec. 3, 2008, against the University of Illinois at Chicago.
• The Vanderbilt women’s basketball team, currently on a four-game win streak, also will be back in action on Wednesday.
The Commodores (8-3) play Delaware (6-3) in the first round of the Hilton Garden Classic at 4 p.m. in Blacksburg, Va. It will be their first game since defeating Western Kentucky 74-48 on Dec. 21.