The Vanderbilt Commodores took the first step towards a possible dream season with the announcement earlier this month that Jeff Taylor, John Jenkins, and Festus Ezeli would all be returning next year. 

jenkinsThere have been numerous Top 25 rankings released since the end of the NCAA tournament. Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com has the Vanderbilt Commodores at #5, Jeff Goodman of Foxsports.com has them at #8 while Sports Illustrated hoops guru Luke Winn placed Vandy’ at #17. Vanderbilt is getting some early positive recognition across the country and for good reason.

The Trio at the Top

Jenkins was the SEC’s leading scorer (19.5) and shot 46 percent from the field, 40 percent from beyond the arc and averaged nearly four 3-pointers per game. The Commodores are also returning the best scoring big man in the conference in Ezeli (13.0 ppg and 6.3 rpg) and Taylor who averaged 14 points per game and is arguably the best defensive player in the conference. Ezeli at 6’11 255 poses matchup problems for most teams and could be the difference between Vandy’ making the NCAA tournament and advancing to the Final Four.

The 'Dores have three potential NBA first-round draft picks at shooting guard (Jenkins), small forward (Taylor) and center (Ezeli). They have a senior point guard that led the SEC in assists last year (Brad Tinsley) and improved as the year progressed. Their starting power forward (Lance Goulbourne) is one of the best rebounders in the conference (7.3 rpg.).

Strength in Reserve

Kevin StallingsBehind the senior-laden front line is the SEC’s best bench. Guards Kyle Fuller, Kedren Johnson and Dai-Jon Parker along with forwards Rod Odom and James Siakam were all Rivals Top 150 recruits and would start at many other schools. Josh Henderson gives Vandy’ a legitimate back-up to Ezeli while Steve Tchiengang might be the best sixth man in the league. This could very well be the deepest team in school history.

Coach Kevin Stallings will be entering his 13th season at the Nashville school. His club was 23-11 overall record, 9-7 in the SEC last season and made it to the NCAA tournament where they were eliminated by Richmond. Despite nine tournament appearances, NIT included, Stallings has been the subject of heavy criticism for failing to get his team to the ‘next level’. Most experts have Vanderbilt pegged as a legitimate Top 10 power and Stallings could finally get over the proverbial hump.

Kentucky is still the team to beat in the SEC but Stallings team is loaded, and Florida will be a factor as well. For the first time in a long time the SEC will have multiple title contenders. Let's see how they are stacking up in the minds of College Basketball odds makers.

Here’s a look at the current College Basketball futures; 

NORTH CAROLINA

7-2

OHIO ST

6-1

 

KENTUCKY

6-1

 

LOUISVILLE

12-1

 

SYRACUSE

12-1

 

TEXAS

15-1

 

DUKE

20-1

 

PITTSBURGH

25-1

 

CONNECTICUT

30-1

 

MEMPHIS

30-1

 

KANSAS

35-1

 

MICHIGAN ST

35-1

 

ARIZONA

35-1

 

GONZAGA

40-1

 

WISCONSIN

40-1

 

MICHIGAN

40-1

 

FLORIDA

40-1

 

XAVIER

50-1

 

UCLA

60-1

 

WEST VIRGINIA

60-1

 

WASHINGTON

60-1

 

PURDUE

60-1

 

BUTLER

75-1

 

FIELD (ANY OTHER TEAM)

75-1

 

GEORGE MASON

100-1

 

GEORGETOWN

100-1

 

MARQUETTE

100-1

 

ILLINOIS

100-1

 

INDIANA

100-1

 

ST JOHNS

100-1

 

NEW MEXICO

100-1

 

FLORIDA ST

100-1

 

SAN DIEGO ST

100-1

 

MINNESOTA

100-1

 

NOTRE DAME

100-1

 

ALABAMA

100-1

 

ARKANSAS

100-1

 

COLORADO

100-1

 

VANDERBILT

100-1

 

BOSTON COLLEGE

100-1

 

BAYLOR

100-1

 

IOWA ST

100-1

 

TEMPLE

100-1

 

WICHITA ST

100-1

 

MARYLAND

100-1

 

MISSISSIPPI ST

100-1

 

UNLV

100-1

 

BYU

100-1

 

TENNESSEE

100-1

 

TEXAS A&M

100-1

 

COLORADO ST

100-1

 

MISSOURI

100-1

 

USC

100-1

 

VILLANOVA

100-1

 

CINCINNATI

100-1

 

CLEMSON

100-1

 

BOISE ST

200-1

 

MISSISSIPPI

200-1

 

OKLAHOMA ST

200-1

 

CALIFORNIA

200-1

 

WASHINGTON ST

200-1

 

AUBURN

200-1

 

UTAH

200-1

 

OREGON ST

200-1

 

RUTGERS

200-1

 

NEBRASKA

200-1

 

LONG BEACH ST

200-1

 

DUQUESNE

200-1

 

PENN ST

200-1

 

SETON HALL

200-1

 

UAB

200-1

 

VIRGINIA TECH

200-1

 

UTAH ST

200-1

 

VCU

200-1

 

SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI

200-1

 

TEXAS TECH

200-1

 

SOUTH CAROLINA

200-1

 

STANFORD

200-1

 

ARIZONA ST

200-1

 

TULSA

200-1

 

ST MARYS

200-1

 

SOUTH FLORIDA

200-1

 

KANSAS ST

200-1

 

DAYTON

200-1

 

OREGON

200-1

 

LSU

200-1

 

VIRGINIA

200-1

 

OLD DOMINION

200-1

 

NORTHWESTERN

200-1

 

BELMONT

200-1

 

OKLAHOMA

200-1

 

GEORGIA

200-1

 

PROVIDENCE

200-1

 

UTEP

200-1

 

NORTH CAROLINA ST

200-1

 

RICHMOND

200-1

 

UCSB

200-1

 

MIAMI FL

200-1

 

GEORGIA TECH

200-1

 

IOWA

200-1