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Monday Hoops Roundup (Jan. 17)

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(Photo by Joe Howell)

VANDERBILT MEN'S BASKETBALL SCHEDULE/RESULTS

Last Week
Wednesday, Jan. 12: Vanderbilt 73, No. 24 Georgia 66
Saturday, Jan. 15: Tennessee 67, Vanderbilt 64

This Week
Wednesday, Jan. 19: Ole Miss at Vanderbilt, 8 p.m. CT, TV: CSS
Saturday, Jan. 22: No. 21/22 Saint Mary's at Vanderbilt, 1 p.m. CT, TV: None (VUcommodores.com webcast)


NCAA MEN'S BASKETBALL RANKINGS

After going 1-1 in conference play last week, Vanderbilt remained in the "others receiving votes" category in both major polls released Monday. The Commodores are 34th (46 votes) in the Associated Press Top 25 and 35th (eight votes) in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll.

One note: No. 21/22 Saint Mary's, Vanderbilt's opponent on Saturday, jumped into the rankings for the first time this season. The Gaels, winners of 10 straight, are 16-2 with blemishes only to top-10 teams San Diego State and BYU.


BRACKETOLOGY UPDATE

The latest NCAA projections weren't posted as of Monday evening. I'll follow-up with a new blog post when the brackets are released.


QUOTES FROM MONDAY'S SEC TELECONFERENCE WITH KEVIN STALLINGS

Listen to teleconference on SECsports.com

Stallings' opening statement...
"We had a tough game on Saturday (at Tennessee) and a good hard, fought game against Georgia on Wednesday. The Mississippi game is a big game for us. We've been a little inconsistent in our play, and a little more inconsistent on the road probably than at home. Ole Miss has great guard play and some very athletic guys up front. They're very good off the dribble and do a lot of good things on both ends of the floor. We're going to have to have really good preparation and a good sound approach in order to beat them. Hopefully we can have two good days of practice to get ready for what we feel is a very good Mississippi team."

On every SEC team already having a loss in league play...
"One, I think it's early and two, I think there are probably not any dominant teams in our league maybe like Kentucky was a year ago. But nevertheless, I expect it to be a battle to the end of the 16-game schedule for the conference championship. We'll just have to wait to see how it plays out. Certainly winning and winning on the road is very difficult, and we're all finding that out."

On if he has any concerns about his team closing out games...
"Yes, I do. It's just something we have to work on and have to try to get better at. We need to play a little bit more intelligently and aggressively. We need to defend better, run better offense, rebound better, take care of the ball better; everything you can imagine we need to do better."

On Festus Ezeli's development...
" ... The first organized team he was on was when he came here as a freshman ... He came here on the condition only that if we redshirted him. He was bright enough to know and articulate that he didn't know what it meant to be on a team. I think his development has occurred later because he got started later. We're very proud of the progress he's made. He's a great kid and deserves all the success he's having."

On if there's a carry over effect on losing games down the stretch...
"Sure, I think it's like anything. If something happens once then you kind of write it off to a one-time occurrence. If it happens twice, now you start wondering if it's becoming a trend ... It's just one of those things that you have to man-up and fix. I think the bright spot for us is that we're showing that we're capable of putting ourselves in position to win against good teams on the road. If we continue to do that, we'll win some games ... We need to get that fixed and play better with leads, play a little better in the second half and at the end." 


COMMODORE NEWS


Tennessean: Andre Walker undecided on senior season

Tennessean: Tennessee Vols rally to defeat Vanderbilt

City Paper: ESPN adds atmosphere to VU-UT games


MORE COLLEGE BASKETBALL NEWS


The SEC named Dee Bost (Mississippi State) the SEC Player of the Week, and Terrence Jones (Kentucky) the SEC Freshman of the Week.

SECsports.com released its Hoops Notebook with tidbits on each team.
"The Commodores have been outscored 123-102 in the second half in the last three games, and have been outrebounded 70-48, including 37-15 on the offensive glass."
ESPN.com's Andy Katz says he's looking forward to the Commodores' matchup with Saint Mary's Saturday. Watch Video

Also, Eamonn Brennan has Nashville as one of the places to be this week in ESPN.com's Weekly Watch:
"This is a sneakily good game, primarily because both Vanderbilt and Saint Mary's -- especially Saint Mary's -- are sneaky-good teams. The Gaels have replaced forward Omar Samhan with an impressive trio of forwards (Mitchell Young, Tim Williams and Kenton Walker). Buoyed by the beautiful shooting of Mickey McConnell and Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary's is scoring 1.21 points per possession (adjusted) this season. That's the fourth-most efficient offense in the country, a unit that can utterly destroy you from beyond the arc before you have a chance to realize what's happening."
Monday columns: SI.com's Seth Davis' Hoops Thoughts, CBSsports.com's Gary Parrish's Monday Look Back, FoxSports.com's Jeff Goodman's Weekly Recap, and ESPN.com's Andy Katz's Observations from the week that was.


Get my updates on Twitter by following @BarcaBlog

First time's a charm for VanderBears

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(Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

In his postseason debut, quarterback Jay Cutler tallied four touchdowns to lead Chicago to a convincing 35-24 win over Seattle in the NFC Divisional Playoffs Sunday at Soldier Field.

Cutler and the Bears will face longtime rival Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game next Sunday at 2 p.m. CT in Chicago.

"After last year and the disappointment and the struggles we've had offensively and kind of rebuilding, it's been a fun ride," Cutler said. "But it's not over yet. We've still got some business to take care of."

Cutler completed 15 of 28 passes for 274 yards, rushed for another 43 yards, and committed no turnovers. He became only the second quarterback in league history to have two TDs rushing and two passing in a postseason game (Otto Graham, Cleveland, 1954 and '55).

"I don't know if you're going to get any better performance out of a quarterback in the playoffs," said tight end Greg Olsen.

Three more former Commodores contributed in the victory: wide receiver Earl Bennett had 22 total yards from one reception and rush, defensive back D.J. Moore made five tackles, and starting left guard Chris Williams was effective for an offensive line that opened holes for 176 rushing yards.

Chicago and Green Bay will renew the league's oldest rivalry next Sunday for the right to go to Super Bowl XLV. The teams have played 181 times overall, but their only previous postseason meeting was in 1941 with the Bears winning 33-14 at Wrigley Field.

The Bears and Packers split their two regular season meetings this year with the home team getting the victory each time.

Get my updates on Twitter by following @BarcaBlog

Bears begin playoff journey Sunday

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Just a reminder.... Chicago will take on Seattle today at noon CT in a NFC divisional playoff game at Soldier Field.

The winner will advance to host Green Bay next Sunday for the right to go to Super Bowl XLV.

Four Commodores will make their playoff debut for the Bears: WR Earl Bennett, QB Jay Cutler, DB DJ Moore and LG Chris Williams.

You can watch today's action on FOX, or log on to ChicagoBears.com.

Get my updates on Twitter by following @BarcaBlog

Saturday's SEC Men's Basketball results (Jan. 15)

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SATURDAY'S SEC RESULTS

Tennessee 67, Vanderbilt 64

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Tobias Harris hit a layup and a pair of free throws in the final 1:09 as Tennessee erased a 17-point deficit to beat Vanderbilt 67-64 on Saturday. Read More

Kentucky 82, LSU 44
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Brandon Knight scored 19 points, Terrence Jones added 17 in his second game coming off the bench and No. 13 Kentucky beat LSU 82-44 on Saturday. Read More

Arkansas 70, Alabama 65
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Marshawn Powell scored 17 points as Arkansas remained undefeated at home this season in rallying for a 70-65 victory over Alabama on Saturday. Read More

South Carolina 72, Florida 69
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) - Bruce Ellington scored 23 points, including the final six for South Carolina, and the Gamecocks beat Florida 72-69 on Saturday. Read More

Georgia 98, Ole Miss 76
OXFORD, Miss. (AP) - Gerald Robinson scored a season-high 22 points and No. 24 Georgia put five players in double figures Saturday in a 98-76 victory over Mississippi. Read More

SUNDAY'S SEC SCHEDULE

Auburn (7-9, 0-2) at Mississippi State (9-7, 1-1), 2 p.m. CT, FSN

SEC STANDINGS

East

Florida 2-1
Georgia 2-1
Kentucky 2-1
South Carolina 2-1
Vanderbilt 1-2
Tennessee 1-2

West

LSU 2-1
Arkansas 2-1
Alabama 2-1
Mississippi State 1-1
Auburn 0-2
Ole Miss 0-3

Saturday morning hoops articles (Jan. 15)

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Keep up with the new blog at vucommodores.com/blog. You can also follow me on Twitter @BarcaBlog.

The Commodore basketball teams will make their first ever appearance on ESPN's College GameDay Saturday against Tennessee in Knoxville. GameDay coverage will begin at 9 a.m. CT on ESPN. The men's game starts at 11 a.m. CT followed by the women's game at 7 p.m. CT. Get ready for the action with today's stories on the doubleheader.

AROUND THE WEB


Men's Basketball: Dores, Vols receive national attention from ESPN (Tennessean)

Men's Basketball: Pearl's bold declaration: 'Must win' (Knoxville News Sentinel)

Men's Basketball: Here's all you need to know on VU-UT (Knoxville News Sentinel)

Men's Basketball: ESPN loses its leading man in Pearl (Knoxville News Sentinel)

Men's Basketball: Vandy typically tough (247sports.com)

Women's Basketball: Vanderbilt women at Lady Vols (Tennessean)

Women's Basketball: Stronger cast for Lady Vols (Knoxville News Sentinel)


OFFICIAL GAME PREVIEWS AND NOTES


Men's Basketball: Vanderbilt travels to Tennessee (VUcommodores.com)

Men's Basketball: UT's gameday central (UTsports.com)

Women's Basketball: VU's ready for spotlight (VUcommodores.com)

Women's Basketball: Commodores set for primetime game (VUcommodores.com)

Women's Basketball: Lady Vols welcome Vanderbilt (UTsports.com)


THE BLOG


Men's Basketball: Dores getting respect from Vols

Men's Basketball: Video: Emergence of Ezeli

Men's Basketball: Dores on ESPN's College GameDay

Men's Basketball: SEC MBB weekend schedule


NATIONAL NEWS


Andy Katz: Weekend Watch (ESPN.com)

Gary Parrish: Friday look ahead (CBSsports.com)

Seth Davis: Weekend picks (SI.com)


Note: If you missed Friday's collection of news from around the web, click here

Franklin delivers positive message on 104.5

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(Photo by Jacob Underwood)

Football head coach James Franklin brought "a ray of sunshine" to his first appearance on Nashville's top-ranked afternoon sports talk show on Thursday.

For one hour, Franklin stayed upbeat while taking on tough questions from 104.5 Sports Zone co-hosts George Plaster and Willy Daunic as well as local callers. 

Fifteen minutes into the segment, Franklin wanted to turn the mood around.

"Can we start talking at some point about all of the positives of the program because there's a bunch of them," he said.

Plaster explained that fans have been told it was going to be a new era for the last 40 years, and that they're looking for a legitimate sign that it's going to be different.

"All I can tell you is that I've come here for a specific reason," responded Franklin, calmly and confidently. "There is nothing in my makeup about failure. We're going to find a way to get it done here, one way or another. We're going to get it done together. I feel really, really good about the commitment that's being made."

LISTEN TO THE ENTIRE INTERVIEW

More notes from the show:

*Coach Franklin described his first month on the job as "controlled chaos." He's busy recruiting before signing day, assembling his coaching staff and meeting with people in the community.

*On how he was hired, Franklin said he was first called about the Vanderbilt job to determine his level of interest. He liked his situation at Maryland and had no intentions of leaving. After talking to VU's administration, he was impressed and intrigued with the position.

*On why he'll have success at Vanderbilt, he believes he's been hired at the right time. "The administration, the community and the university as a whole have gotten to a point where they've said, 'enough's enough, and we're ready to do this the right way.'"

*On what's different with Vanderbilt's commitment to the football program, he said he can't speak about the past, but since he's arrived, several discussions have been based on a well-planned out expansion project to the facility, but he wants to make sure it's right. At the moment, he believes the players should be taken care of first. "I'm going to fight for those kids."

*On not having a good home field advantage, Franklin said, "It's our job to put a product on the field that people are excited about. With the facilities, with the recruitment, with the staff I'm putting together, we're going to have the ability to do that. We're going to be aggressive with everything we do. We're going to attack recruiting, we're going to attack our opposition, and we're going to keep asking and pushing from an administration standpoint so we can get to the point where basketball and baseball are."

*On selling the program, he expressed that he's willing to do whatever it takes to make the program succeed. "Failure is not an option." Once things slow down after signing day, he plans to put on his "marketing hat."

*He had his first team meeting the day before, since students were on break when he was hired. He told the squad about his direction of the program and asked them to "take a leap of faith" with him and his staff, and to trust his leadership. "I'll fight for them in every aspect of their lives."

*On the recruiting front, he thinks they'll make a bigger impact next year since they only have a few scholarships left for this year's class. "We're going to take a national approach and sell all the reasons Vanderbilt makes sense."

*He said he's willing to look at the football models used by Stanford and Northwestern.

*On non-conference scheduling, he explained: "Initially, you have to take a Kansas State/Bill Snyder philosophy. You'll have to schedule teams that you think you're going to have an opportunity to be competitive with and teach your guys how to win. The best way to do that is by winning. I think it's very important how we schedule from here on out." He added that he'll be very involved in the process.

*On getting local fans back in the stands: "I'll be out selling the program as much as I possibly can, but for the time being, I have to prioritize. Right now, my focus needs to be putting my staff together and recruiting so we can put a great product on the field. I'm willing to do whatever I have to do to get people excited about the program."

*He said administration stepped up by giving him salaries to hire a successful staff.

*On turning things around: "I think our fans are hungry, I think the community is hungry for a winner, and I think the administration is willing to do what they have to do to be successful. I know looking in those players eyes last night, they want to win more than anybody."

*On improving the offense, he said he has a diverse coaching staff that will be able to come up with a flexible plan to take advantage of their strengths. "We going to be aggressive with everything we do and we're not going to be afraid to make mistakes."

Get my updates on Twitter by following @BarcaBlog

SEC MBB weekend schedule (Jan. 15/16)

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Live Scores  |  SEC Standings

Saturday, January 15

Vanderbilt (12-3, 1-1) at Tennessee (10-6, 0-2), 11 a.m. CT, ESPN

Alabama (10-6, 2-0) at Arkansas (11-4, 1-1), 12:30 p.m. CT, SEC Network

South Carolina (10-5, 1-1) at Florida (13-3, 2-0), 12:30 p.m. CT, SEC Network

LSU (10-7, 2-0) at Kentucky (13-3, 1-1), 3 p.m. CT, SEC Network

Georgia (12-3, 1-1) at Ole Miss (12-5, 0-2), 4 p.m. CT, FSN

Sunday, January 16

Auburn (7-9, 0-2) at Mississippi State (9-7, 1-1), 1 p.m. CT, FSN

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Commodores getting respect from Vols

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With a 0-2 start to conference play and their in-state rivals coming to town Saturday, the Vols are saying all the right things when it comes to the Commodores.

Don't believe me? Here are quotes from articles by Tennessee beat writers:

Head Coach Bruce Pearl:

"Kevin (Stallings) has solid sets and he tweaks them based on his scout(-ing report). But (John) Jenkins is as Lofton-like of a shooter as anyone I've seen, and (Jeffery) Taylor is a beast, probably the best defender in college basketball, and he'll be all over guarding Scotty.'' (Mike Griffith, Knoxville News Sentinel)

C Brian Williams:

"Since I've been here, they've been a shooting team, but I think that's changed. They're mixing it up now with both physicality, and they've got shooters. They've got every aspect of the game you need to win. In my personal opinion, they were the best (SEC) team coming into the season besides us." (Wes Rucker, 247sports.com)

"You can't out-physical (Festus Ezeli). He's one of the strongest people I've ever gone up against ... He's always been a monster down there, but now he's got game. Great for him." (Wes Rucker, 247sports.com)

G Trae Golden:

"All our upperclassmen have a lot of respect for them. That says a lot." (Wes Rucker, 247sports.com)

G Cameron Tatum
"Vandy has always had good shooters. But now they've added some athletes, and they're more than a one-dimensional team.'' (Mike Griffith, Knoxville News Sentinel)

G Josh Bone
"(John Jenkins) shoots it as well as anybody in college right now. He's a tough cover." (Mike Strange, Knoxville News Sentinel)

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Video: Emergence of Ezeli

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Vanderbilt junior center Festus Ezeli was the centerpiece of two columns in area newspapers on Friday (The Tennessean and Chattanooga Times Free Press).

Just watch these four plays from the Georgia game to understand and appreciate the emergence of Ezeli.



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Dores on ESPN's College GameDay

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Looking for more information about the Commodores' first ever appearance on ESPN's College GameDay Saturday? Schulzie's game preview has the information you need, especially if you're making the trip to Knoxville.
The eyes of the nation will be on Vanderbilt basketball on Saturday when the men's and women's teams play at Tennessee in a pair of games that will be showcased on national television as part of ESPN's College GameDay airing from Knoxville.

GameDay coverage will begin at 9 a.m. CT on ESPN and will continue on ESPNU leading up to the tip of the men's game at 11 a.m. The men's game will be called by Dick Vitale and Dan Shulman with Doris Burke working the sidelines.

ESPN will resume College GameDay coverage at 6 p.m. CT leading up to the women's game, which will tip at 7 p.m. CT on ESPN. Shulman (play-by-play) and Burke (analyst) will have the call of the women's game.
For more on GameDay in Knoxville, click here.

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