The SEC Tournament begins on Wednesday and as one of the four worst teams in the conference this year Vandy will be playing on that day. The 14th seeded Commodores will take on the 11th seeded Arkansas Razorbacks, a 19-12 bubble team that somehow has fallen to this position in the SEC bracket.
By Steve Wright
Here are the three keys for the ‘Dores:
Believe a win is possible
Vanderbilt went 3-15 in SEC play this season. While a better record would have resulted in a better seed in this tournament, records don’t matter anymore as we are down to a single elimination format to decide who is the best team in the SEC. This is great news for Vanderbilt – a team that nothing is expected of – especially as they start up against a team that has been in free fall for some time.
Arkansas entered SEC play with an 11-1 record. They then fell apart down the stretch to finish 7-11 in conference, going 4-10 in their last 14 games. Five of those losses were without sophomore guard Isaiah Joe, a player who is back in the lineup but who is still not 100%. This is a team that Vanderbilt can play to a close game if the ‘Dores show up.
Stop Mason Jones
This was a key the last time Vandy played Arkansas and it will be against here. While Joe does his part – he scores 16.8 ppg – the main threat in all the areas on this Arkansas team is Jones.
He leads the Hogs in per game averages in points (22.0), rebounds (5.4), assists 3.3) and steals (1.6). Jones is also on a tear as of late as he hasn’t scored less than 26 points in any of Arkansas’ last four games. That includes a 37 point outing against Tennessee and him dropping 36 on LSU. Jones scored a season low one-point when these two met earlier in the year in a game Arkansas still won by 20.
Ride Saben Lee
We all know that Lee has had his ups and downs in the black and gold of Vanderbilt. On some nights he is completely unplayable, while on others he can turn the ball over at a crucial time when it is the last thing that is needed. Thankfully for the ‘Dores, Lee is heating up at the right time of the season. He was just named co-SEC player of the week on the back of a pair of games where he averaged 28.5 points, six rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.5 steals in wins over Alabama and South Carolina. His 38-points against ‘Bama were the second most ever on the road by a player in a Vanderbilt uniform and if Lee (and Scottie Pippen Jr.) can take over this game then the ‘Dores will win.