Commodores return to the Top 25; await Vols

Monday, January 25, 2010 at 3:40pm
Staff Reports

Vanderbilt’s nine-game win streak has not gone unnoticed.

The Commodores (15-3, 4-0), one of two unbeaten teams in Southeastern Conference play, returned to the national rankings Monday at No. 21 in the Associated Press Top 25 and at No. 23 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll.

It is the third time this season they have been ranked but the first they have been in both polls concurrently. It also is the highest they have been ranked this season.

They were No. 24 previously for one week in each Top 25 but both times lost their next contest.

“We know we have to stay focused and stay humble and go into hostile environments this week,” senior guard Jermaine Beal said. “Hopefully we come out with some wins.”

The ranking raises the stakes for Vanderbilt’s next game, Wednesday at Tennessee (6 p.m., ESPNU). The Volunteers (15-3, 3-1) are No. 14 in both polls, down six spots from a week ago.

The last time the two schools met when both were ranked was Feb. 26, 2008. Then, Vanderbilt upset Tennessee days after the Volunteers climbed to No.1 in the polls.

“I don’t think there’s a lot of hype needed for this game,” VU coach Kevin Stallings said. “I think people tend to get pretty excited about this game regardless of if both or either team is ranked.”

On Saturday, the Commodores play at Kentucky, which replaced Texas as No. 1 in both polls (3 p.m., ESPN).

“I feel very good about our team this year,” Beal said. “I’m not saying I didn’t feel good about it other years, but I feel very good about this team. … The whole key to winning the game Wednesday is staying poised and staying confident in the gameplan.

“Hopefully we can make some winning plays.”

Vanderbilt is the only Top 25 team in the Coaches Poll that was not ranked last week. In the AP Poll, Connecticut (No. 19) entered the poll higher.

The Commodores are 4-0 in conference play for the first time since 1965-66, and their current overall win streak is their longest since they started 16-0 in 2007-08.

“Ever since we lost to Western Kentucky (76-69 on Dec. 11) our team has been on a whole new pace, a whole new attitude,” Beal said. “The main thing is just to keep everything going is a positive directions.”

Moving up in the polls, for instance.