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The 24th Greatest Basketball Program In The South: Vanderbilt Commodores

Posted by Ryne E. Hancock on September 25, 2007

Vanderbilt University

Location: Nashville, Tennessee

Nickname: Commodores

Reason for Nickname: The school was named in honor of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, which would explain the reason for the nickname Commodores. Vanderbilt died in 1877, two years after the first students enrolled at the school.

Colors: Black and Gold

Conference: Southeastern Conference

Arena: Memorial Gym (built 1952, capacity 14,168)  

Memorial Magic Indeed: Vanderbilt began playing basketball in 1901-02 and is regarded one of the winningest programs in college basketball history. In the Commodores’ history, they have won three SEC championships, winning them in 1965, 1974, and 1993 and also the 1952 SEC Tournament under coach Bob Polk. Vanderbilt has been invited to the Big Dance nine times, making their debut in 1965 and making it all the way to the Elite Eight under coach Roy Skinner and has been part of five regional semifinals in 1974 under Skinner, 1988 under C.M. Newton, 1993 under Eddie Fogler, and in 2004 and 2007 under Kevin Stallings. In addition to Vanderbilt’s trips to the Big Dance, they also have 11 NIT appearances (1983, 1987, 1990, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2005, and 2006) and one championship that came in 1990, the first major men’s basketball national championship of any kind in the state of Tennessee.

Coaching Legacy: Despite the size of Vanderbilt, the school has been dotted with great coaches in its basketball history. Bob Polk is credited with the building of the basketball program into a force in the SEC during the 1950’s, while Roy Skinner led the Commodores to six 20-win campaigns and their first conference championship in school history in 1965, Future Kentucky AD C.M. Newton led the Commodores to the 1988 Sweet 16 and four postseason appearances during his tenure. Under Eddie Fogler, the Commodores won the 1990 NIT and 1993 SEC Championship. That success would be followed by an appearance in the 1997 NCAA Tournament under Jan Van Breda Koff where they would lose to Xavier (Ohio) in the first round. Since Stallings took over in Nashville, the ‘Dores have been to the Sweet 16 twice, making him the second coach in school history to take the ‘Dores to Sweet 16s twice along with Roy Skinner.

Big Man On Campus: Vanderbilt’s most famous player is former NBA center Clyde Lee, who during the glory days of the 1960’s was responsible for having the balconies in Memorial Gym built giving the nickname of them as “The Balconies That Clyde Lee Built.” Today, Lee is one of two players in Vanderbilt history to have their jerseys retired, the other one being Perry Wallace, who was the first black player in the SEC. Other notables include Dan Langhi, Barry Booker, former Chicago Bull Will Perdue, Matt Frejie, Sam Howard, Derrick Byars, and Mario Moore.

Rivalries: Vanderbilt and Tennessee have a long and storied rivalry that dates back to beginning of the 2oth century. Unlike the football side of the rivalry, the Commodores have been more competitive against the Vols in basketball. Another rival for the Commodores in basketball would be the Kentucky Wildcats, who in recent years has given the Wildcats fits.

Did You Know?: Since the 3-point line was introduced in college basketball in 1986-87, Vanderbilt along with Princeton and UNLV are the only schools to make a three-pointer in every game.


5 Responses to “The 24th Greatest Basketball Program In The South: Vanderbilt Commodores”

  1. raptorcox said

    [quote]Did You Know?: Since the 3-point line was introduced in college basketball in 1986-87, Vanderbilt along with Princeton and UNLV are the only schools to make a three-pointer in every game.[/quote]

    Sounds like good trivia material, eh! Nice write up fellas!

  2. Thanks, man. I appreciate it. I grew up wanting to play basketball in Memorial Gym as a kid.

  3. Steven said

    Yeah, that is a very interesting factoid. Good job doc!


  4. Will said

    A team that has been to 2 Sweet 16s in the past 4 years and is 4th (I think) all time in SEC wins is only the 24th best program in the south?

  5. Well, Will, I wanted to rank the Commodores higher than that. This list is my own personal list of basketball programs in the South.

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