Vanderbilt fans might have had a hard time getting to work on Friday morning due to a lack of sleep.
The Commodores began play in the Southeastern Conference Tournament at 9 p.m. (CST) on Thursday, topping LSU 62-50 in Atlanta. The Commodores will be rewarded with another late tip and will play Mississippi State on Friday, also at 9 p.m.
“I’m not a fan. I don’t think it is fair to the players,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said of the late starts. “It is fair to the television revenue but I don’t think it is fair to the athletes. I would be more than willing to give up television revenue for their benefit.”
All 11 games of the tournament, which runs through Sunday, will be televised. The SEC Network carried the first eight.
Vanderbilt-Mississippi will be the last matchup of the second day of play, which has four games spread out at the Georgia Dome.
The Commodores (22-9) ended the regular season by dropping three of their last four — home losses to Tennessee and ranked Florida, along with a road setback against ranked Kentucky. They fell from a second-place seed in the SEC East and a first-round bye in the tournament to a No. 3 seed that will have to win four games in four straight days in order to capture the school’s first tournament title in 60 years.
“We have lost to three teams that are going to be in the NCAA Tournament so I’m not sure that it is a slump,” Stallings said. “Certainly you don’t like to lose games, you don’t like to lose games at home but we did. We have certainly been in this position before. We have actually been in the position where we lost our last regular-season game, lost the first round of the [SEC] tournament, then went to the Sweet 16 [in 2007]. It really has no bearing going forward on what is going to happen.”
The Commodores play a Mississippi State team they defeated 81-74 in Starkville. If they beat the Bulldogs, though, they would face a big test against either SEC regular-season champion Florida or in-state nemesis Tennessee, both of which swept the season series against Vanderbilt.
In their last meeting with the Gators, which was just last Saturday, Vanderbilt surrendered 86 points. It was just the third time all season the Commodores have given up more than 80 points and it raised some questions about their defense, especially on the perimeter.
Despite those issues and the recent skid, the Commodores believe they possess the weapons to make a deep postseason run.
“I don’t think it is panic time,” Vanderbilt guard Brad Tinsley said before the LSU game. “We played some great teams, definitely some games we probably could have won. But it is in the past now. ... It is a new season for everybody and a new opportunity to do something different.”