The Vanderbilt Commodores begin SEC play on Wednesday night with arguably the toughest game of the conference season. The ‘Dores travel down to Alabama to take on the No. 5 Auburn Tigers with upset on their minds.
By Steve Wright
Here are the three keys:
No SMU hangover
The Commodores should have beaten SMU in their last non-con game before SEC play begins. Vanderbilt had a 77-71 lead with under a minute to play, a lead that the team should be able to grind out and come out with a win from. The problem was a couple of big threes by SMU – with a bad Vanderbilt turnover on an inbound play sandwiched in between – doomed the Commodores to overtime and an eventual defeat in a game the team basically had won.
From being tied at the end of regulation the Commodores eventually dropped the decision 92-81. It was as if that last minute of play bled into the overtime period as the Commodores just couldn’t make shots that fell. With a short turnaround between games the 8-5 Commodores need to shake off that rust and come out firing against an outstanding Auburn team.
This is the highest ranked Auburn team in 20 years. They are one of just two unbeaten teams in the entire country (San Diego State) and they have won 25 of their last 26 dating back to last season. This is simply a team that knows what to do to win basketball games whether they are playing well or playing badly.
The best chance Vanderbilt has here is to upset what Auburn does well. The ‘Dores have to rebound at a high level and they have to find a way to force some turnovers and create extra possessions. They aren’t going to be able to go blow-for-blow with Auburn in s hooting contest, so making the Tigers play outside of their usual comfort zone will be massive in an upset bid.
Stop Samir Doughty
The Auburn offense runs through senior guard Samir Doughty. After averaging just 24 minutes and 7.3 points per game last season, Doughty has exploded in non-con play and he leads the team in points (16.3) and steals (1.6) now that he is playing almost 32 minutes per contest. He has stepped comfortably into the role of the team’s premier scoring threat, an adjustment not easy to make given his role the prior two seasons.
The former VCU player needs to be accounted for whenever he is on the court. He is not a player that can be lost by the defense in traffic as he is too good of a shooter and his ability to keep the scoreboard moving could prove to be a big problem for the ‘Dores.