There were no surprises at Vanderbilt on Sunday when the 2008 NCAA Basketball Tournament brackets were announced.
The 18th-ranked Commodores, 26-7, received a No. 4 seed and will play No. 13 seed Siena on Friday in the first round of the Midwest Regional at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Fla.
VU received its highest seeding since 1993. Coach Kevin Stallings said justice was served.
“I thought our résumé clearly spoke for itself,” he said. “There’s just not a lot on there not to like.”
Vanderbilt, making back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances for the first time since 1988-89, finished 19-0 at home this season, won 10 Southeastern Conference regular-season games for the second straight season and matched a school record with 25 regular-season wins.
In addition, the Commodores remain No. 11 in the latest Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) despite last Friday’s loss to Arkansas in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals.
“When they put those top 16 seeds up there and our school was listed, that was certainly a source of pride,” Stallings said. “We feel good about what we were doing during the regular season. We’ve had a wonderful season so far, but we know we’ll be remembered by what’s coming in front of us.”
Siena, which won the MAAC Tournament championship on Monday, will make its first NCAA Tournament appearance under coach Fran McCaffery and its first since 2002. The Saints’ previous postseason tournament was in 2003, when they advanced to the third round of the NIT.
The Saints [22-10], winners of six straight games, posted regular-season victories over NCAA Tournament participants Stanford and Boise State. They lost to tournament teams Cornell, Saint Joseph’s and Memphis.
Already, some national analysts are predicting a Siena upset of Vanderbilt. Seth Davis of CBS made such a proclomation Sunday.
At this point, the Commodores expect it.
“That’s kind of been the story of my life here at Vanderbilt,” senior Shan Foster said. “All four years, we’ve been the underdog. Even going into the tournament last year we were the underdog. We just take the same attitude and approach that we have all season.”
VU hopes the lessons it learned in last year’s NCAA Tournament hold sway this week.
Three Commodore senior starters — Foster, Alex Gordon and Ross Neltner — were starters last season as VU toppled George Washington and Washington State before losing to Georgetown in a controversial East Region semifinal.
“Having that experience last year will really benefit our team this year just because we understand what it takes to win and the tournament format,” Neltner said. “We have a lot of guys coming back who played a lot of minutes in last year’s tournament. The upperclassmen will try to convey that to the younger guys, that everyone steps up their game a level.”
That’s what Stallings is counting on.
“I think tournament experience is really important,” he said. “If you haven’t been there, you don’t know what it’s like. We’re hopeful that that is beneficial to us and we think it will be.”