With win at Ole Miss, VU heads to Bridgestone as one of SEC’s most dangerous teams

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 and Dan Helinek) will be bringing you the best analysis of Commodore basketball throughout the season as the team chases a postseason berth for the first time since 2012. Check out the Black & Gold Standard for all kinds of new content as the young ‘Dores fight through the 2014-15 schedule.

The future for Vanderbilt men’s basketball is officially here, and it’s bright. That much was apparent on Saturday night as Vandy punished Ole Miss 86-77 on the road in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated.

–       I’ll get to the Commodores’ smoking hot offense in a moment, but the Vandy defense had a really good showing against an elite Rebels offense. Ole Miss entered the game scoring more than 114 points per 100 possessions, good for 14th in the country, and VU managed to hold the Rebels to 42% shooting. While the Rebels still scored at a rate of 113 points per 100 possessions, their output was buoyed by a whopping 27 free throws attempted, which largely came as a result of home court advantage (Vandy is above average at keeping opposing teams off the line at 113th nationally while Ole Miss is just average at getting to the line, so I think it’s fair to point to home court on senior night as a partial explanation for this). Most of all, Vanderbilt outrebounded Ole Miss 36-32 despite fielding a three guard lineup for much of the night and despite Damian Jones being at less than 100% after an injury scare in the second half. The ‘Dores kept Stefan Moody and LaDarius “Snoop” White in check, something many teams struggle to do.

–       The Vandy offense tonight was nothing short of a masterpiece. There are many better defenses out there than that of the Rebels’, but the Commodores made it extremely tough on Ole Miss with how they moved the ball. VU had 25 assists on 30 field goals, and nearly every pass was on time and on target. Wade Baldwin made a trio of beautiful full court assists on Matthew Fisher-Davis threes, and I couldn’t help thinking that Vandy looked like they were playing a game of NBA 2k. At one point, Fisher-Davis took his man off the dribble, ran a pick and roll with James Siakam, and found Bamba with a perfect pocket pass for a dunk and the foul. Shelton Mitchell got into the lane with ease. It’s striking how much the freshmen and sophomores have improved over the course of the season, as they’ve become much smarter and more versatile players.

–       Ole Miss will likely fall out of the RPI top-50, but this is a road win over a NCAA tournament team. Vandy’s RPI is projected to rise to 90, and it’s fairly safe to say that a win over Tennessee in the SEC tournament on Thursday can clinch a Vanderbilt NIT bid. All looked lost when Vandy dropped its seventh straight game with a in College Station against A&M on January 31st, but runs of 8 wins in 10 games are what it takes to turn around a season.

–       Vanderbilt went on the road and dominated one of the better teams in the SEC, so where does that leave VU heading into the conference tournament? I think it’s hard to deny that the Commodores are presently one of the top four or five teams in the conference, and they are clearly playing at a NCAA tournament level right now. Unfortunately, the whole season counts and the NCAA selection committee no longer considers how teams are playing down the stretch. VU’s NCAA at-large chances are close to nonexistent, but with how the team is playing at the moment a SEC tournament championship is a legitimate possibility. This, however, doesn’t change the fact that Kentucky will be playing at Bridgestone Arena as well, so winning the league’s automatic bid remains an uphill battle. I wouldn’t be surprised if Vandy makes a run to the conference championship game, but UK would probably be there waiting for them.

Check out VandyRadio’s comprehensive Vanderbilt sports blog series. Building the Masonic Tradition covers Commodore football, The Black & Gold Standard covers VU hoops, and Eyes of the Hawk covers Vandy baseball. VandyRadio.com is your home for year-round coverage of your favorite Vanderbilt teams.

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