Sunday, March 15, 2009

Jamie Graham just keeps on breaking up passes — Some notes on Vanderbilt football and basketball

Ah, this time last year Vanderbilt was about to get a sweet seed in the Big Dance. Things change. Those Commodores got waxed in first round by a team named after a color from the really big Crayola box.

Now Jamie Graham is on the football field, having given up basketball. (He's pictured above, showing why he was the only player who seemed to give a darn last year in the loss to Burnt Siena.) And now he's practicing at defensive back, where he's got the best chance to play on Sundays. And he's looking good there, too. This weekend, in playing conditions reminiscent of last season's Wake Forest game, he made a beautiful interception and has broken up a couple of passes. For more spring training news, click here.

Speaking of football, Mo Patton has a nice article about five little-used football players from the 2008 season who could make a big difference in 2009. He names quarterback Larry Smith (R-SO) — of course — and also receiver John Cole (R-FR), running back Kennard Reeves (R-JR) and defensive backs Casey Hayward and Sean Richardson, who are both sophomores who played special teams last season as true freshmen and showed loads of promise in the Music City Bowl.

Speaking of champions, the Lady Hoop Dores are headed to the NCAA tournament. Seeds and bids and all that stuff will be announced Monday night.

In the world of male college hoops, brace yourself for only two NCAA tournament bids for the SEC if Tennessee beats Miss State in the SEC championship game; it's tied right now with the second half just starting. The Vols and LSU appear to be locks, with all the other teams apparently sliding off the bubble. Here's where all the teams stand in the current RPI:

18-Tennessee, 21-11 (10-6)
37-LSU, 26-7 (13-3)
52-Florida, 23-10 (9-7)
58-South Carolina, 21-9 (10-6)
63-Auburn, 21-11 (10-6)
67-Miss State, 21-12 (9-7)
78-Kentucky, 20-13 (8-8)
82-Ole Miss, 16-15 (7-9)
93-Vanderbilt, 19-12 (8-8)
108-Alabama, 16-14 (7-9)
149-Arkansas, 14-16 (2-14)
192-Georgia, 12-20 (3-13)

I seemed pretty certain yesterday that Vanderbilt would be going to the NIT, but I took a closer look at the RPI and I'm not so sure anymore. Looks like Florida, South Carolina, Auburn, Miss State and Kentucky would get the nod before the Dores, and maybe even Ole Miss.

Why are all the SEC teams down this season in the RPI? It's simple: They couldn't hang with teams from other conferences. Vanderbilt, for example, got smoked by Illinois-Chicago, which ain't going nowhere. I think the biggest out-of-conference victory by an SEC team was Arkansas' victory over Texas, but that didn't help Vanderbilt any when the Commodores beat the Razorbacks, because the Hogs were on their way to a 14-16 record and an RPI ranking of 149.

Anyway, NIT bids are announced at 9 p.m. tonight. It's televised on ESPNU and ESPN2, if your life is really that miserable.

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