So. The losing streak is now up to 19 games. There is no better time to end such a streak than in conference tournament play where the pressure is off.
By Steve Wright
Here are the three keys as Vandy takes on the Aggies:
The benefit of a home/neutral court
The 2019 SEC Tournament is taking place at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. That presents the Commodores with a unique challenge/benefit of being at a neutral site that is inside their home city.
This has been a long, long season for Vanderbilt basketball. As the losses have piled up it has become increasingly difficult for Vandy to play either at home or on the road. Home games have been tough because the crowd, while generally supportive, has been becoming more dissatisfied by the week. In addition, there is nothing worse than getting ready for a game in a locker room where you continue to lose.
Road games have been just as bad. The opposition expects to beat Vanderbilt at this point, so arenas are full of fans just looking for a reason to cheer on a scoring run. This has made it very hard for the Commodores to be effective.
Bridgestone Arena will be a welcome change of scenery. Something as small as a neutral site venue could be what Vanderbilt needs to finally pick up a win.
Compete for everything
The Commodores may not have the same level of confidence and fundamental play as the Aggies, but they can do everything possible to make this game close by playing with heart.
This was not an issue for most of the season as the Commodores were competitive in many of the losses (the overtime defeat by Tennessee being a standout example) but were just never able to push over the finish line. That though was not the case this week as Vanderbilt was smashed by 36 at home by Arkansas and then by 21 on the road at LSU.
Texas A&M is one of the teams that Vandy had a shot at during the regular season. The ‘Dores were down by just one point with two and a half minutes to play against the Aggies before a typical late swoon let the College Station team pull away for a 64-57 win.
Bryce Drew needs to prove he has not lost his team here as they must hustle for every rebound and dive for every loose ball to try and claw out what would be a spectacular upset win.
Let the young talent shine
If you take Darius Garland out of the equation (which we sadly have to) then the Commodores three leading scorers this season are a sophomore and two freshmen.
Saben Lee (12.5 points per game), Aaron Nesmith (11.2), and Semi Shittu (11.1) all average in double figures for the season. Any one of the three could go off against the Aggies in a tournament where youth and the joy of playing knockout basketball is just as important as experience.
Vanderbilt has been playing against the losing streak for months. Now the young players can come out and ball knowing that a win means so much more than a win that would have made the ‘Dores 1-12 or 1-15 in conference play.
The inexperience of the ‘Dores players works to their advantage here as a net positive. Expect to see them put everything on the line against the Aggies as they go hunting for a win.