Saturday, March 1, 2008

Short-Lived at the Top...

For the first time in school history, the Tennesee Volunteers found themselves at the top of the AP Poll in college basketball on Monday. Fresh off their well-earned 66-62 victory over #1 Memphis, Tennessee was riding high. This proved to be short-lived. How short-lived? Well, 24 hours. The poll won't be change until this upcoming Monday, but Tennessee knew immediately after its 72-69 loss to #18 Vanderbilt on Tuesday that its time at the top had come to an end as quickly as it had started.

It certainly seems Vanderbilt has mastered knocking off #1 teams on its home court. The victory Tuesday over Tennessee was the 6th time in the last nine attempts that Vanderbilt has successfully dethroned a #1 on their court. Last season, Vanderbilt took down #1 & eventual National Champions, Florida, at Memorial Gym.

The key to Vandy's win was the exceptional play of Shan Foster. Foster dropped 32 points and added 5 boards, leading the Commodores to victory. Tennessee's guard, Chris Lofton, had 25 points and the star forward in Tennessee's win over Memphis, Tyler Smith, added 11 points and 17 rebounds of his own, but it wasn't enough. The Vols were simply out-played.

Others might suggest the key factor in Vandy's upset was the court. Unlike every other court in Division I, Memorial Gym is elevated. Because of this, both benches are located on the endlines rather than the sidelines. Some suggested that because Tennessee's coach, Bruce Pearl, was so far away from the action, it could have affected his ability to coach his team over the noise of the raucous crowd. Although it is not worth making excuses, Vanderbilt's 6-3 record versus #1 teams at home suggests there may be some truth in this assumption. Regardless, Vanderbilt's victory was very impressive and no one should take anything away from their performance.

So who is #1 now? The hot play of Texas, riding an 8 game win-streak (4 of which were vs. top 25 opponents), made it seem as if they were deserving of this honor. However, an 83-80 loss to Texas Tech today has nullified their chances. That leads me to believe that North Carolina will make the jump back to #1 with their come from behind 90-80 win over BC. Memphis should fall closely behind at #2.

Image taken from Yahoo! Sports

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