Vanderbilt Commodores (26-7) vs. Siena Saints (22-10)
When: Friday, 7:10 p.m.
1. It's Shan "Rhymes With Pain" Foster. Perhaps more peculiar than the spelling of his name is the form of his jump shot: Foster shoots the ball with his hands virtually behind his head. This causes trouble for almost every defender, as he is able to get off any shot with a defender in his face. He recently went 9-for-9 on 3's in the 2nd half in a career-high 42-points peformance (and a game winner) against Mississippi State. That game helped the Commodores to finish the season 18-0 at home. The 6'6" Senior from Kenner, La. is averaging 21 points and 5 rebounds this season. Foster has recently become the school's all-time scoring leader and is 42 points shy of the 2,000 mark for his career (this is before the SEC Tournament). After Derrick Byars won the award last season, Vanderbilt has the chance to pick up back-to-back SEC Player of the Year awards for the first time in school history.
2. The Big Man From Down Under. Much of Vanderbilt's success this season is due to former Utah (and now Gonzaga assistant) Ray Giacoletti. After bringing Andrew Bogut to Utah in 2004, Giacoletti had become familiar with the talent in Australia - specifically at the Australia Institute of Sport - a school setup by the government to train people for the Olympics. After using their last scholarship on a Juco transfer, Giacoletti recommended to Vanderbilt's staff that they go down and check out the latest Australian talent: a 6'11" big man named A.J. Ogilvy. Although he was under the radar at that time, A.J. Ogilvy exploded onto the scene at the FIBA U-19 World Championships where he averaged 22 and 10 while shooting 70 percent from the field and 79 percent from the stripe. Ogilvy has averaged 17 points and 7 boards this year and provided a steady force in the paint - something that Vanderbilt teams of the past have sorely missed. There are some strange connections between Ogilvy and Vanderbilt's Last dominant big man: Ogilvy is from Syndey, Australia, while Will Purdue grew up in Melbourne, Florida. Other players to watch out for include a British rugby player named Alan Metcalfe, Jamie Graham, a cornerback on the football team who joined the basketball squad after the football season ended, and 5th year senior Ross Neltner whose 8 points and 6 rebounds a game are overshadowed by his near-Kordell-esque affinity for hugging players in moments of drama.
3. Who Ya With?! While a lot of the talk the past two seasons has been about Florida winning back to back titles in basketball, Vanderbilt has picked up back to back titles themselves, in an endeavor slightly more noble than basketball. Both the 2006 and 2007 Nobel Peace Prize Winners were affiliated with Vanderbilt. Mohammad Yunus, an Indian Economist who popularized microlending, picked up the prize in '06 and Al Gore (who enrolled several times, but never graduated) won it last year. And while Kentucky gets lots of attention for famous fans (read: Ashley Judd), Vanderbilt is no slouch themselves: country stars Amy Grant and Vince Gill are easily spotted on the sidelines of any Vanderbilt home game. — Mark Bashuk
1. Fun facts Siena is a Catholic college established in 1937 by the Franciscan order, named after Saint Bernardine of Siena. (Who's the patron saint of gambling addicts, actually.) The campus was built on an old asparagus farm.
2. "We love our Saints." That is the slogan the college uses to promote their men's and women's basketball teams. But until 1988 Siena's athletic teams were known as the Indians, not Saints. The name was changed out of respect for Native Americans, and to honor St. Bernadine who the school was named after. (Ed. Note: It happens.) This explains why Siena uses a St. Bernard dog as their mascot; Bernardine is Italian for Bernard. This is Siena fourth NCAA appearance. In 1989, they defeated No. 3 seed Stanford, and the team's big win this season also came against Stanford.
3. Senior leadership......literally. Siena guard Tay Fisher is the only senior on this years team. With practically the whole team returning next season, one has to believe Siena will be favored to repeat as MAAC champs. — Upstate Underdog