Vanderbilt responded to an 0-3 start to SEC play by posting a perfect slate last week. A win on Wednesday against Tennessee could even up their conference record.
The team will face a tough matchup in Knoxville. The Volunteers have struggled through an up-and-down season, but the dynamic scoring of senior Kevin Punter has helped prevent them from dropping below .500. They'll have to hope that their star-powered offense can overcome Vandy's depth in Knoxville. The Commodores have six different players that average at least eight points per game.
For Vanderbilt, this game is more than just a rivalry matchup. The 'Dores have been one of the college basketball's biggest disappointments in 2015-16. They went from a top 15 ranking to a spot on the ugly side of the NCAA Tournament bubble thanks to a 3-7 skid that lasted from November into the new year. Beating the Vols on the road won't just give him an SEC victory, it will also provide some much-needed evidence this team can win big games in hostile environments. Vandy is 0-4 in true road games this season.
Tennessee (9-8, 2-2 SEC, unranked in either poll and ranked No. 76 in Ken Pomeroy's ratings)
Worst Loss: vs. Auburn (8-8. No. 160 KenPom, No. 78 CBS RPI), 77-83
Other Losses: at Georgia Tech, vs. George Washington, vs. Nebraska, at Butler, vs. Gonzaga, vs. Texas A&M, at Georgia
The Volunteers also have a bad defeat against Nebraska on the books this season, but their loss to an Auburn team - the same team that sat idly by while Luke Kornet blocked all its shots a week later - got the call as their worst showing of 2015-16. Tennessee did everything that typically leads to a Vanderbilt loss back on January 2nd. The Vols out-rebounded the Tigers, forced more turnovers than they gave up, and put up 26 (TWENTY-SIX) more shots than Auburn did. However, despite the best efforts of Admiral Schofield and Kevin Punter (53 combined points), they still ate a six-point loss in Alabama. So how can the Commodores replicate that result?
Point of emphasis: Three-point defense. Tennessee shot 28 three-pointers in their conference opener. They made three of them. Only one Vol - Derek Reese, who has attempted five threes this season - shoots better than 37 percent from long range. For comparison, Vanderbilt has FIVE different players who have taken at least 30 threes this season and have made at least 44 percent of their attempts. The Commodores should have a huge advantage from behind the arc on Wednesday.
Keys to the Game: