Back in October, the first day of formal practice for the current season, Kevin Stallings spelled out the attitude he wanted from his Vanderbilt team when it came to playing games.
“Anytime, anywhere,” senior point guard Jermaine Beal recalled Monday afternoon.
In terms of timing, no team in the Southeastern Conference has a longer wait until its next contest.
The Commodores (23-7) will play either Georgia or Arkansas in the last of Friday’s four quarterfinal contests of the SEC tournament. Those, of course, will follow the four first-round games scheduled for Thursday.
Tip-off is scheduled for 8:45 p.m. (CST), but given the nature of tournament basketball, it’s likely the contest will start even later than that.
“Any time you get the late start time — any time during the season — those are long days,” coach Kevin Stallings said. “It’s better having those days at home, I think than being on the road. … We’ll just go through what we normally go through. We’ll have a shoot-around, scouting report, watch the scout tape, a pre-game meal and we’ll play.”
They will be in town, but they won’t exactly be at home. This year’s SEC tournament is at the Bridgestone Arena (formerly Sommet Center), which should cause some amount of discomfort.
Arguably Vanderbilt’s worst performance of the season came there back on Dec. 11, when it lost 76-69 to Western Kentucky. Many players considered that a turning point, and the Commodores won their next 10, including their first five in conference play.
It would be understandable, therefore, if they were not in a hurry to get back. Yet, the players admitted that the long wait on Friday will be a test to their patience.
“Yeah, you get anxious when you play those late games,” sophomore forward Andre Walker said. “But you can’t do anything about it.”
The same it true of the location, which was selected long before this season or the loss to WKU.
“We learned that it’s anytime, anywhere,” Beal said. “I remember the first day of practice coach Stallings came in and said that. So we’ll play anytime, anywhere.”
• Saturday’s loss to South Carolina caused a drop in the polls for the Commodores. They fell from 13th to 20th in the Associated Press top 25 and from 19th to 23rd in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll.
In both cases, it is their lowest ranking in a month.
“We just need more focus,” Walker said. “We’ve become a little careless. … When we’re focused and clicking on all cylinders it’s a site to see and it’s really fun to be a part of.”
• Sophomore guard Brad Tinsley was at practice Monday with a brace on his left knee, which he injured Saturday against South Carolina. He was not expected to participate in any workouts before Wednesday, though, and his status for the tournament remained undetermined.
“We need to get Brad back,” Stallings said. “We need to get Brad back to do what we want to do.”