While the Vanderbilt Commodores on Monday jumped to their highest AP men’s basketball ranking in more than two years, and John Jenkins grabbed his third "freshman of the week" honor from the SEC, respect seemed to be absent.
At least that was the sentiment among the Vandy Nation when the Commodores came in at No. 19 in the ESPN/Coaches poll — a full six spots below the No. 13 placing on the Associated Press list.
Worse for some, Tennessee — a team that split its two games last week but defeated Kentucky — placed 13th in the coaches poll, six places ahead of the Commodores, who have beaten the Vols twice this season.
“The Coaches' Poll becomes more comical by the week” captured the sentiment on Commodores’ blog, Vanderbilt Sports Line. “Even though Tennessee pulled off a big upset over UK, there is no excuse for having them jump to 13 in the Coaches' while keeping us at 19. This is getting ridiculous.”
One post simply had a photo of a package of sliced bologna to share the mood.
To be sure, Tennessee is the only school to beat both Kansas and Kentucky this season, but a six-spot difference between the polls seemed steep to some. Only Temple and Gonzaga had other noticeable discrepancies, but each was just a four-place difference.
Regardless, heading into the final week of the conference schedule, with a key game Tuesday against Florida in Gainesville, Vanderbilt’s position in the AP list is the highest charting since Jan. 7, 2008, when it was No. 13 after starting the season 15-0 behind then-senior Shan Foster.
Vandy was last in the top 10 when it was at No. 8 on March 15, 1993, a week after losing in the SEC Tournament. It was fifth at the end of the regular season.
Monday’s discrepancy does indicate that the Commodores are not gaining the respect of coaches as they are with sportswriters. In fact, one voting writer acknowledged in a column published Monday that he had Vanderbilt at No. 9 on his ballot.
Whether the team takes any perceived disrespect with them to Florida for the 6 p.m. tip that will be televised on ESPN remains to be seen. But it will take the freshman of the week along for the trip.
Jenkins was given his third such honor on Monday after averaging 13.5 points a game in Vanderbilt’s wins over Arkansas — the team’s first in Fayetteville since 1996 — and Georgia.
Tuesday's clash with the Gators is the second such meeting this year, with Vanderbilt taking the first — a 95-87 win that opened the conference schedule. While VU leads the all-time series between the two schools, the Gators have won the last eight games played at the O’Connell Center in Gainesville, and Commodores coach Kevin Stallings has just one win in the building in his career.
Florida enters the game with a 20-9 overall and a 9-5 record in SEC play. The Gators have won three of their last four in league play, with wins over Auburn, Ole Miss, and Tennessee, and a loss in their most recent game at Georgia.