The Big 12/SEC Challenge will force Vanderbilt to hit the road to face off with a powerful opponent - but it will also give the Commodores a much-needed opportunity to notch a quality win.
Vandy has struggled against quality opponents this season after going 1-6 against RPI Top 50 foes. On Saturday, they'll face a Texas team currently ranked 21st in the CBS RPI. Beating the Longhorns will give the team a talking point for the NCAA Tournament selection committee to ponder. A loss in Austin will be another wasted shot to reconcile this team's talent level with their win-loss record.
The Commodores will bring two potential NBA Draft lottery picks to Texas, but big performances from Damian Jones and Wade Baldwin IV might not mean a thing if the team can't keep their turnovers down and their rebounding up. Vandy's struggles to prevent second chance points have been its Achilles' heel in 2015-16, and an opportunistic Longhorn team won't waste extra possessions as they roll towards a postseason berth.
So how does Vanderbilt win on Saturday? Here's how a sub-.500 TCU team did it three weeks ago.
Texas (13-7, 5-3 Big 12, ranked No. 36 in Ken Pomeroy's ratings)
TCU beat Texas for the first time since 1995 when they shocked the Longhorns in Fort Worth early in the Big 12 schedule. UT led with under two minutes to play, but a 90 second scoring drought couldn't stop the Horned Frogs' upset bid. TCU missed four straight free throws down the stretch, but Texas did them one better by missing four straight shots from the field to drop to 9-6 on the season. Like Vandy, they've gone 4-1 over their last four games.
Point of emphasis: Three-point defense. Shaka Smart has given the Longhorns the green light to shoot - they've taken more three-pointers than the Commodores so far this season. However, unlike Vanderbilt, they've only got one player who shoots better than 35 percent from long range. TCU held Texas to 3-21 shooting and held the Longhorns starters to just an 8.3 percent success rate from behind the arc.
Keys to the Game: