With the conference season complete, Kevin Stallings figured there were no more secrets.
“Our team is not without weakness,” Vanderbilt’s coach admitted following Saturday’s 86-76 loss to Florida. “It’s not as though we’re this armored truck and we have no weaknesses. We have weaknesses and they were exploited [Saturday]. People know what our weaknesses are.
“When you get through with 16 [conference] games you’re fully exposed.”
The challenge as the Commodores enter this week’s Southeastern Conference tournament is to minimize the impact of their shortcomings against teams that know where to look for them.
Vanderbilt (21-9) enters the event as the No. 3 seed in the East. It plays the final game of Thursday’s opening round (9 p.m.) against LSU, a team it defeated by 31 a little more than a week ago.
There’s nothing it can do between now and then to fix its flaws, some of which were obvious in the loss to the Gators.
In particular, its perimeter defense can be problematic when it faces teams that can put more than one speedy, athletic player on the floor at a time.
Jeffery Taylor has the attributes and the versatility to shut down guards or forwards. But Brad Tinsley and John Jenkins are not always successful in that regard.
Against Florida, Taylor — at times — was responsible for Kenny Boynton, Erving Walker and Chandler Parsons in the Commodores’ man-to-man defense. Gators coach Billy Donovan said he and his staff asked whatever player was being guarded by Taylor to think ‘pass’ rather than ‘shoot.’
“Taylor is really, really a great, great defender,” Donovan said. “… Taylor works so hard on defense, and Kevin’s smart, he moves him around to different players. … We were going to accept the switches, and then just try to play through the switches based on where we thought we had a mismatch or where we thought we could drive the ball or post feed or create some screening action.”
Walker, Boynton and Parsons all finished with at least 13 points. All did the majority of their damage when they were not confronted with Taylor.
“They were trying to find matchups that were good for them,” Taylor said. “And we didn’t get any stops at all.”
Florida became the ninth different team to make at least seven 3-point shots against the Commodores. Six of those nine were conference opponents. Not only that, Vanderbilt lost three of its last four games — its worst stretch of the season,
All of which makes it seem opponents have gotten a better sense of how to deal with them the more games were played.
“We had a tough week,” Stallings said. “We played two of the best teams in the league. One [Kentucky] hasn’t been beaten at home and the other one [Florida] is the league champion.
“So the sky is not going to fall in on us because we lost two games [last] week. It’s disappointing that we lost them, but they’re both very good teams. We just have to figure out a way to defend a little better.”
No secret there.
2011 SEC MEN’S BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT
Game 1: Auburn vs. Georgia, noon, WUXP-TV (Comcast 14, 236)
Game 2: South Carolina vs. Ole Miss, 2:30 p.m., WUXP-TV (Comcast 14, 236)
Game 3: Tennessee vs. Arkansas, 6:30 p.m., WUXP-TV (Comcast 14, 236)
Game 4: LSU vs. Vanderbilt, 9 p.m., WUXP-TV (Comcast 14, 236)
Game 5: Alabama vs. Game 1 winner, noon, WUXP-TV (Comcast 14, 236)
Game 6: Kentucky vs. Game 2 winner, 2:30 p.m., WUXP-TV (Comcast 14, 236)
Game 7: Florida vs. Game 3 winner, 6:30 p.m., WUXP-TV (Comcast 14, 236)
Game 8: Mississippi State vs. Game 4 winner, 9 p.m., WUXP-TV, (Comcast 14, 236)
Game 9: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, noon, WKRN-TV (Comcast 2, 231)
Game 10: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 2:30 p.m., WKRN-TV (Comcast 2, 231)
Championship: Game 9 winner vs. Game 10 winner, noon, WKRN-TV (Comcast 2, 231)