Vanderbilt basketball got its first non-conference opponent for 2014-2015 - and it's a good one.
The Commodores will host the Baylor Bears on December 4th as part of ESPN's SEC/Big 12 Challenge - a matchup that will give each team a national showcase early in the season. The game will replace the annual SEC/Big East Challenge game that had pitted Vandy against teams like Providence, Villanova, and Marquette in years past. Thishome game will likely be one of the biggest non-conference games to hit Memorial Gym this winter.
Both teams will be rebuilding in 2014 after losing key senior contributors. The 'Dores will be without leading scorer Rod Odom and wily veteran Kyle Fuller, while the Bears will have to find reinforcements for a team that has lost four of its top six players this spring. Baylor will be without graduating seniors Brady Heslip, Cory Jefferson, and Gary Franklin. Sophomore center Isaiah Austin, who emerged as one of the best big men in the Big 12 last season, has declared for the NBA Draft and will also no longer be with the team. His departure, according to rumors made up right now by AoG, was due in part to his fear of matching up with Vandy center Damian Jones.
Other key matchups from the SEC/Big 12 Challenge include:
- Florida at Kansas
- Texas at Kentucky
- Missouri at Oklahoma
- and Kansas State at the smoking crater that used to be Tennessee
This matchup should give the Commodores a solid test early in the season. Vandy will have to mesh veteran talents (Dai-Jon Parker, Josh Henderson, Kedren Johnson) with young contributors (Damian Jones, Luke Kornet, Matthew Fisher-Davis, Wade Baldwin) to make a return to the NCAA Tournament. A showdown with Baylor will give them a chance to notch a resume-building win.