Sitting at 3-4 in the SEC, Vanderbilt needed a huge homestand against some of the league's best teams to get their season back on track. One week later, the Commodores stand at 6-4 and have put the rest of the Southeastern Conference on notice.
Vandy rebounded from a two game losing streak with three strong wins, getting revenge in a blowout of South Carolina and coming up big in the clutch against two of the league's best teams - Alabama and Kentucky. The final two games were the most impressive; with the outcome in question deep into the second half, the 'Dores dipped into a reserve of confidence to pull out two of the season's biggest victories. It was a display of composure the team had been sorely lacking since Andre Walker's injury, and the type of performance that should give Vanderbilt fans hope when March rolls around.
One of the most inspiring themes of February's home play has been the emergence of several different leaders on this team. John Jenkins, Brad Tinsley, Jeffery Taylor, Steve Tchiengang, and even freshmen Rod Odom and Kyle Fuller all turned in impressive performances during the team's three-game winning streak, showcasing the team's depth and versatility. More importantly, Jenkins and Tinsley have shown off not only their passion for winning, but the ability to singlehandedly swing a game's momentum with the ball in their hands. The backcourt duo has become Vanderbilt's most reliable source for run-stopping and momentum-breaking baskets in the face of adversity.
Still, this team still has a long way to go. Despite putting together their best stretch of the season so far, question marks loom about the team's ability to perform - especially on the road. Health issues and growing pains have affected the efficiency of Lance Goulbourne, Andre Walker, and Festus Ezeli, while Jeffery Taylor looks as though he'll struggle with consistency throughout the year. Rebounding and ball movement are still a concern as well, as this team can still get caught flatfooted for stretches - allowing for second chance baskets and transition points for opponents.
The Commodores can answer some of these criticisms on Wednesday when they travel to Georgia, where the Bulldogs have only lost three times this year - all against RPI Top 50 opponents. Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie will be looking to capitalize on Ezeli and Taylor's recent funks, and the team will have the opportunity to prove that they can play with composure late in the game in a hostile environment. Vanderbilt has a great opportunity to get to 8-4 in league play this week and give their fans a reason to believe in this team as the season winds down. If they can translate what they displayed over the past week to road games in the SEC, then this could be a great March for the Commodores.