Vanderbilt’s lack of NCAA tournament experience is not simply limited to the current players on the roster. It’s a generational thing.
Witness sophomore forward Jeffery Taylor, the team’s third-leading scorer whose father played at Texas Tech before he went on to an NBA career.
“He never got to play in the NCAA tournament,” Taylor said of his dad. “So he doesn’t know what it’s like and he’s excited for me to get an opportunity to see what it’s like.”
Taylor and the rest of his uninitiated teammates will find out 1:30 p.m. (CDT) Thursday when they face Murray State in a first-round matchup at HP Pavilion (WTVF-TV Ch. 5).
Half of the 10 regular contributors for the Commodores never have played in the postseason. Fewer still know what it’s like to win in the tournament. Juniors A.J. Ogilvy and Darshawn McClellan, and third-year sophomores Festus Ezeli and Andre Walker were on the team in 2008 when it was one-and-done, thanks to a first-round rout at the hands of Siena.
With that in mind, coach Kevin Stallings had senior guard Jermaine Beal — after both had met the media — address the team Sunday night, shortly after the seedings for this year’s event were announced.
“I just talked to them and told them about the experience,” Beal said.
He was able to discuss what it took to win two games in 2007 – 77-44 against George Washington and 78-74 in double overtime against Washington State – and how close that team came to going even deeper in the tournament. The Commodores were eliminated in the regional semifinal with a 66-65 loss to Georgetown.
For the rest, the positive memories don’t involve actually playing.
“I remember there were all kinds of colored balloons in our rooms and the band was playing when we got on the bus,” Walker said of his 2008 tournament experience. “It was real exciting.”
Taylor will not get to share his experiences first-hand with his father. The latter, a teacher and coach, will be at home in Sweden, where Jeffery was born and raised.
The two have talked since Sunday, though, about the best way to approach things this week.
“Just to make the most of the opportunity, to not leave anything on the court, to play my hardest,” Taylor said of his father’s advice. “We didn’t get there last year so I was really excited Sunday. I’m even more excited now, and my excitement kind of grows day by day.
“I’m just looking forward to the opportunity to play.”