Mar 11, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; Vanderbilt Commodores pose for a photo after defeating Kentucky in the finals of the 2012 SEC Tournament at the New Orleans Arena. Vanderbilt defeated Kentucky 71-64. Mandatory Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-US PRESSWIRE
The Vanderbilt Commodores were coming off a 23-11 season in 2010-11 that ended with a first-round loss to the Richmond Spiders. Vanderbilt had made the NCAA Tournament in four of the last five seasons under head coach Kevin Stallings, reaching the Sweet 16 in 2006-07. Before the season, a select panel of both SEC and national media members gave the Commodores four first-place votes in the SEC preseason poll, ranking second behind the Kentucky Wildcats.
Junior guard John Jenkins led the Commodores in scoring this season, averaging 20 points per game while doing most of his damage from beyond the arc, hitting on 118-of-256 (46.1 percent) of his three-point attempts. Senior forward Jeffrey Taylor averaged 17.1 points per game and shot 51.2 percent from the floor, including 45.1 percent on 133 three-point attempts, adding nearly six rebounds per game. Center Festus Ezeli averaged 10.1 points and had a team-high 45 blocked shots, while senior swingman Lance Goulbourne led the team in rebounding (6.8 per game) while chipping in nearly nine points per game.
The Commodores finished 21-10 in the regular season, posting a 13-5 record at home and a 2-0 mark in neutral sites. Vanderbilt was at its best during an eight-game winning streak in the middle season, including a four-win start to their conference schedule. Though the Commodores would cool off though, going 5-5 over their final 10 games entering the SEC Tournament, they got hot at the right time, advancing all the way to the final where they shocked top-seeded Kentucky, handing the Wildcats just their second loss of the year -- and their first to an SEC opponent.
Vanderbilt will open the NCAA Tournament as the No. 5 seed in the East, facing No. 12 Harvard in their first game.
For more on the 2012 NCAA Tournament bracket, stay with SB Nation's Selection Sunday StoryStream, and stick around SB Nation's NCAA Tournament hub for a complete printable NCAA Tournament bracket and tons of analysis on who was snubbed, who got the best bracket, and who will make it all the way to New Orleans and the Final Four.