The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Vanderbilt Women’s Basketball exits SEC Tournament early, upset by Florida 62-59

Even with the Commodores falling flat against the Gators, their tournament chances remain high.
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Barrie Barto
Shea Ralph coaches in Vanderbilt’s matchup against LA Tech, as photographed on Dec. 3, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Barrie Barto)

As a No. 6 seed in the SEC Tournament, Vanderbilt was slated to take on No. 11 Florida in the second round. Vanderbilt beat the Gators in January 63-57, but that result would be different in their second matchup of the season. The Gators came out fast and aggressive, eventually blowing Vanderbilt out of the water early. Although the Commodores managed to mount a late rally, they fell short, losing 62-59.

One of the biggest factors in Vanderbilt’s loss was Florida’s senior guard Aliyah Matharu, who posted a career-high 35 points, 8 rebounds and 4 steals while shooting 56% from the field. Matharu was a force to be reckoned with all night, and the Commodores had no answer for the third-highest scorer in the SEC. Iyana Moore led the way for Vanderbilt with 20 points and 4 assists with freshman phenom Khamil Pierre adding in a double-double with 16 points and 15 rebounds.

The Commodores trailed by as much as 15 against Florida and were plagued with inconsistent offense. Vanderbilt scored just eight points in the second quarter and went into halftime down 32-22. Trailing by 11 with just over five and a half minutes to go, Vanderbilt began to storm back, led mostly by the aforementioned Moore and Pierre. Down by three with 12 seconds left, Moore would get a solid look at tying the game but her shot would sail past the rim, ending Vanderbilt’s conference tournament run in its first game.

Regardless of the loss, the most important question is where the Commodores stand in terms of the NCAA Tournament? Recently, this team has bounced around spots in the bubble, but since its loss to Florida, Vanderbilt has actually moved up in the bubble. Coming into the Florida contest, Vanderbilt was marked as the “Last Team In” but as of the morning of Mar. 10, ESPN’s Charlie Creme has Mississippi State as the new “Last Team In.” The Commodores have moved up two spots and if the tournament started today, they would face Texas A&M in a First Four matchup. 

Vanderbilt’s resume is stout and full of positives, but some glaring negatives could play a role in the Commodores’ chances of booking a spot in the Big Dance. One of these blemishes is Vanderbilt’s NET ranking. Vanderbilt is the lowest in the NET of the four teams in the “Last Four In.” At the moment, the Commodores rank 57th, as Texas A&M, Arizona and Mississippi State rank 41st, 34th and 48th, respectively. The teams Vanderbilt is barely slipping into the tournament by, such as Green Bay and Penn State, also rank higher in the NET at 52nd and 26th.

On the other hand, Vanderbilt has eclipsed the 20-win mark for the first time since the 2012-13 season and went 9-7 in SEC play. No SEC team with at least 8 conference wins and at least 20 regular season wins has been left out of the NCAA Tournament in the past 20 years.   

Secondly, Vanderbilt has some solid wins across the board. The two other SEC teams who currently sit as a part of the “Last Four In,” Texas A&M and Mississippi State, both have lost to Vanderbilt this year. Auburn, who is also on the bubble as one of the teams in the “Last Four Byes” lost to the Commodores as well. Outside of the conference, Vanderbilt is the only team to beat 26-1 Fairfield, a team that is currently ranked No. 25 in the nation. The Commodores also knocked off Iowa State, who is 38th in NET, and recently defeated both No. 17 Baylor and No. 15 Kansas State. 

A lot of what Vanderbilt will be doing until selection time is waiting and hoping that teams currently listed in the top 64 win their conferences to limit any bids being stolen. Most notably, Princeton, a current No. 9 seed, definitely has to win the Ivy League over Columbia. In the Horizon League as well, Cleveland State, a current No. 13 seed, is being chased by bubble team Green Bay. Any magical conference tournament runs from Penn State and Washington State or another team not projected to win their conference could also spell doom for the Commodores’ hopes. 

Nevertheless, even after an early SEC Tournament exit, the Commodores are set to go dancing if all goes to plan.

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About the Contributors
David Hernandez
David Hernandez, Lead Sports Analyst
David Hernandez (‘26) is a student in the College of Arts and Sciences double majoring in political science and law, history and society with a minor in communication studies. Outside of writing for The Hustler, you can find him playing basketball, catching up on his favorite shows and mourning the tragedy that is New York sports. He can be reached at [email protected].
Barrie Barto
Barrie Barto, Editor-in-Chief
Barrie Barto ('25) is majoring in medicine, health & society with neuroscience and communication of science & technology minors in the College of Arts and Science. She previously served as Photography Director. When she's not strolling around campus with her camera, you can find Barrie cheering on the St. Louis Blues or tracking down the best gluten-free food in Nashville. She can be reached at [email protected].
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