The top half of the SEC is starting to break away.
The bottom five have already been cut adrift, and Alabama is holding on for dear life... but there are still eight teams in the thick of the fight for the conference's four (potentially five) NCAA tourney bids.
We've done a great job securing a position on the right side of that line, but now we have to stay there. Soon, the schedule will give us an opportunity to fight our fellow tournament hopefuls, but for the meantime... we have to take care of business against the dregs. Two of our next three games are against squads with 1-6 records, and any conceivable path to the NCAA's demands a 2-0 record in those games. The first opportunity comes today, with struggling Vanderbilt coming to Reed Arena.
1) Five for five
Basketball momentum is building on campus, which has led to a goal of having five thousand students at Reed Arena this Saturday. Current students, we sat down with the Reed Rowdies to talk about everything related to the student basketball experience. If you haven't been, come check it out. And wear white.
2) The Dores haven't gone down easy
Sure, Vanderbilt is 1-6... but aside from a twelve point loss at Arkansas, they've been pretty competitive in every SEC game this year. Which includes trips to Kentucky and Georgia. They stick around, because like every smart-school team in the history of college basketball, they can shoot the lights out. The 'Dores lead the SEC in 3PT % and FG%, and they can't be trusted alone outside the three-point arc. No smart kid can. Vanderbilt also protects the rim surprisingly well, averaging 4.55 blocks per game (good for 4th in the conference).
All in all, they're a perfect snapshot of the improved depth of the SEC.
3) Can we turn it on against lower competition?
During this conference run, the Aggies have made a habit of juuuuuuuust bringing enough to the table against inferior opposition. Does MSU require a C performance at home to win? Here, take a C+. What about Auburn? They probably take around a B- on the road, right? Here's a B. You'll take that and get nothing more.
As I mentioned at the top, we're rapidly approaching a piece of the schedule with little room for error. It would be nice for the Ags put this one to bed early and get ready for the upcoming @Miss/@Mizzou/UGA/UF/LSU stretch... as those five will likely dictate the type of postseason basketball we'll be playing. We know that our A game can beat Vandy by 20... we just don't know if we can dust it off when it's not necessary.
Personally, I think that's exactly what happens. I think we get a fantastic crowd, the team starts rolling behind the best home support of the season, and we're up 17-20 by the time we're midway through the second half.