The Black & Gold Standard is an all-new VandyRadio Blog featuring general commentary and advanced statistical breakdowns following every Vanderbilt Men’s Basketball game. Robbie Weinstein of The Homefield Advantage (along with, on occasion, Max Herz) will be bringing you the best analysis of Commodore basketball throughout the year as the team looks to build on the success of last season. Check out the Black & Gold Standard for all kinds of new content as the young ‘Dores fight through the 2015-16 schedule.
Scheduling season is officially over in the SEC. With Wednesday night’s announcement on the SEC Network, we now know Vanderbilt’s entire schedule for 2015-16, complete with game times and the television schedule for conference matchups. You can view the entire schedule here. Now for a quick breakdown of VU’s SEC slate and what it means for their season.
Toughest game: @ Kentucky, January 23
No competition here. UK appears to have the nation’s best backcourt and also boasts my personal frontrunner to be next year’s top pick in the NBA Draft in Skal Labissiere. Kentucky is heavily favored to win the league once again, so a January trip to Rupp Arena will almost assuredly end up as the Commodores’ most difficult challenge of SEC play.
Easiest game: vs. Missouri, February 10
Again, no contest. Mizzou is just as heavy a favorite to finish last in the league as UK is to win it. The cupboard is bare in Columbia, and we still don’t know if Kim Anderson can coach. This will look a lot like last year’s blowout.
Toughest stretch: February 20-March 5 (5 games)
Vandy’s final five regular season games collectively represent the most intriguing and most important portion of the entire 2015-16 schedule. The slate: vs UGA, at Florida, vs Kentucky, vs Tennessee, and at Texas A&M. I’ve found it extraordinarily difficult to pick between Vandy and A&M in my preseason predictions (coming up later this fall), and that last regular season game of the year could decide seeding for the SEC Tournament. Four of these five games represent legitimate résumé building opportunities when VU will need them the most, and the fifth is a home matchup against the hated rival to the east. A 3-2 record or better will be necessary for both NCAA Tournament purposes as well as for momentum heading into the conference tournament.
Least interesting stretch: January 5-January 16 (4 games)
It’s hard to pick out a truly boring or insignificant string of games for any team with NCAA Tournament hopes, because avoiding bad losses is nearly as important as piling up quality wins. After what looks like a juicy opener at home against LSU, VU heads to Arkansas and South Carolina before playing host to Auburn and Alabama. The Hogs, Tigers, and Tide all look like bottom-half teams, while South Carolina plays a slow and boring defensive style and hasn’t yet proved it can be a top-half SEC team. If you’re a big Vandy basketball fan and need a week or so to head somewhere warm this winter, take advantage of these 12 days early on in conference play.
Most important game: @ Texas A&M, March 5
Both the ‘Dores and the Aggies are likely top-4 SEC teams, which means both would receive a double bye in the conference tournament. This is a season finale that should have seeding ramifications regarding the next week’s SEC Tourney in Nashville, and it’s even possible the winner could be able to avoid Kentucky until the title game while the loser faces the Cats in the semis. Regardless, this represents VU’s final chance to snag a quality road win. These wins are the most valuable assets for any NCAA Tournament team, and the committee routinely punishes squads that don’t have more than two. This type of win can add a full seed line depending on the circumstances.
Upset alert: @ Arkansas, January 5
The Hogs are nearly unbeatable at Bud Walton Arena, as the ‘Dores learned last season when Mike Anderson’s guys forced VU into 22 turnovers (31.4 percent!!!). Arkansas lost a ton of production to the NBA, graduation, and disciplinary issues, so while they don’t project as a strong team they can beat just about anyone in this conference when playing at home.
Most fan-friendly game: vs Georgia, February 20
If you’re looking for the best value with respect to ticket prices and don’t want to deal with obnoxious fans (hello, Big Blue Nashun) while still seeing a strong opponent, then this is the game for you. UGA should finish in the top half of the league and could even make the NCAA Tournament, plus these two teams played two tight games last season. With an 11 a.m. tipoff on a Saturday you don’t have to go straight from work and can even stop by Moe’s afterward to redeem those free queso coupons if the ‘Dores can put together a good enough performance. It’s a nice and solid yet relatively low profile game.
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