TAMPA, Fla. – Here we go again, Vanderbilt says.
Another basketball season. Another NCAA Tournament. More lack of respect.
Many analysts around the nation this week have pegged the No. 4 seed Commodores as an upset victim against No. 13 seed Siena in tonight’s first-round Midwest Region game at the St. Pete Times Forum.
VU hears the chatter.
“All you have to do is turn on ESPN,” senior guard Alex Gordon said.
Or any other network or media outlet, apparently. Seth Davis of CBS picks a Siena upset, as do all five prognosticators from Sports Illustrated.
Meanwhile, the Commodores scratch their heads in bewilderment. A year ago, as a No. 6 seed pegged by many for an early flameout, VU crushed George Washington 77-44 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
This season, Vanderbilt comes in as a No. 4 seed, its highest in 15 years, and is fresh off winning 26 games. It is also No. 12 nationally in the latest Ratings Percentage Index [RPI].
The Commodores are 4-2 in their past six NCAA Tournament games and have advanced to the Sweet 16 in each of their past two tournament appearances.
“We’re kind of confused as to why we keep getting picked,” senior forward Ross Neltner said.
“We probably don’t get the respect we’re due based on 26 wins and playing in the Southeastern Conference,” added VU coach Kevin Stallings said.
Siena, a small school from Loudonville, N.Y., appears to have become a media darling as it prepares for its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2002.
The Saints were greeted by a press horde when their Southwest Airlines flight from Albany, N.Y., landed in Tampa on Wednesday. The Tampa Tribune dedicated a column and photo essay to the team.
The staff at Siena’s hotel in Tampa even greeted the squad with a round of applause. Everyone, it seems, loves an underdog.
The sudden attention has surprised the Saints, winners of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament championship.
“A lot of people can’t even spell Siena or know where it’s at,” guard Tay Fisher said.
Rest assured, Vanderbilt knows how to spell Siena now.
In preparation for tonight’s game, Stallings has reminded his team that few expect it to win and advance to Sunday’s second-round game.
“That’s the coach’s job, to challenge his team,” Gordon said. “That’s what he’s been doing.”
Still, the Commodores can’t figure why their success is perceived to have been accomplished with smoke and mirrors.
“That’s something I haven’t been able to understand for four years,” Foster said. “You know, we’ve won 26 games. We’re not a 4 seed by a miracle.
“We’re confident that we’re going to go in and execute, give it all we’ve got and come out with a victory. Really, that’s all that matters.”
Siena admitted Thursday it relishes this David vs. Goliath opportunity. The Saints’ 1989 NCAA Tournament upset of No. 3 seed Stanford is still often discussed around campus, and it flames the hope of a similar knockout.
“We feel we have a legitimate chance to win,” Siena coach Fran McCaffery said.
Apparently, so does everyone else.
Vanderbilt vs. Siena
St. Pete Times Forum
TV – CBS