By David Siegel
The NCAA women’s 2014 Final Four is in Nashville. The talk all season has been about the Tennessee Lady Vols trying to get to play in the Final Four in their home state My question to you though, is #WhyNotVandy?
The “other” school in-state that plays in the SEC, the Commodores are a hot team that is on the rise, as shown in this week’s jump in the polls. In the Associated Press poll, they are up eight spots from No. 24 to 16 this week, and in the USA Today Coaches’ poll they are up six spots from No. 25 to 19.
Since losing at South Carolina, 76-66 on January 5, Vandy has won four in a row, including home court victories over archrival Tennessee and top 15 ranked LSU. They are sitting at 16-3, the other losses being to third-ranked Duke, and a loss to Marquette, the one question mark on a great start.
It has been said that guard play is the key to a championship run. If that is in fact the case, Vanderbilt has one of the strongest backcourts in the nation, with their two seniors, Jasmine Lister and Christina Foggie. Lister, the point guard, already has been named National Player of the Week by espnW, the U.S. Basketball Writer’s Association and College Sports Madness for her stellar play. She is averaging over 16 points per game, with an assist-to turnover-ratio of 2.0. Perhaps the most important statistic is her free throw shooting (91.3 percent) which helps the Commodores put away opponents at the end of close games. Foggie, who was injured down the stretch last season and was nowhere near 100 percent in their season-ending loss to Connecticut, is the team’s leading scorer at over 19 points per game, dishes out 3.8 assists per game, and is actually third on the team in rebounding as well.
Head coach Melanie Balcomb has been a model of consistency since she arrived at Vanderbilt. In her previous eleven seasons, the team has won 20 games each season, and made the tournament each year. What she freely admits is missing from her resume though, is that one big year; the deep tournament run.
Balcomb joins Dishin & Swishin for the first time this week, to discuss her team, the roll they are on, and the big rematch this weekend (ESPN2, Sunday,2 p.m. ET).
Staley has her South Carolina team playing at heights previously unattained by the program. They are an aggressive team that suits the personality of their coach and take their keys from her personality and style. A team with only one senior on the roster, they have climbed into the top 10 by holding their opponents to a ridiculously low 52 points per game. Sophomore Tiffany Mitchell and junior Aleighsa Welch are their leading scorers, but 6-4 freshman center Alaina Coates has been a difference maker inside.
Former WNBA star and future New York Liberty coach Katie Smith will be on the call for ESPN2, and it is always a pleasure to welcome her back to Dishin & Swishin to break down the game. With her wealth of experience in so many facets of the game, she is a great analyzer of the game.
It will be a great matchup of two upstarts in the SEC Enjoy the game, but first, enjoy the podcast!