Vanderbilt notched the biggest win of its season when the Commodores beat No. 8 Texas A&M on Thursday night. Now they need to avoid a letdown against 14-8 Ole Miss.
Vanderbilt's schedule has hit cruising altitude after a tough stretch to start its SEC schedule. The 'Dores faced each of the league's top five teams in the first half of conference play and went just 2-3. Now, they'll get a five-game stretch where their opponents are a combined 15-30 against SEC foes.
Of course, just because Vandy should win these games doesn't mean they will. The Commodores have dotted 2015-16 with disappointing results, and they've still got plenty to prove on the hardwood. If they can take care of business, VU will enter the final two weeks of the regular season with a 10-4 SEC record and a strong grasp on an at-large NCAA Tournament bid. If they slip up, there's no telling where they'll land on the postseason bubble.
That journey starts on Saturday in Oxford, Mississippi. Ole Miss hasn't been great this winter, but Stefan Moody and the Rebels still have the firepower to defend their home court and erase whatever goodwill Thursday's win brought the Commodores. They'll do everything in their power to keep Vandy from turning an upset victory into a winning streak. Here's how Kevin Stallings and his team can beat them.
Mississippi (14-8, 4-5 SEC, ranked No. 100 in Ken Pomeroy's ratings)
While a road loss to Mississippi State weighs down Ole Miss's record, it can't compare to a neutral-court beating at the hands of a team that has lost to Colgate, Towson, James Madison, and St. Bonaventure by double-digits this winter. The Rebels came back from a 12 point second half deficit to tie the game with four minutes to go, but the Patriots' clutch shooting prevented a come-from-ahead loss at the Charleston Classic.
Point of emphasis: Make Damian Jones look like a (black and) golden god. The Rebels allowed George Mason center Shevon Thompson to have his best performance of the season in their loss to GMU in November. Thompson made eight of his 10 shots and dominated the boards en route to a 19-point, 16-rebound, three block game. The Patriots' big man is a solid player, but he doesn't have the tools or athleticism that Jones will bring to the paint on Saturday. As long as Vandy's guards can find outlets for him, the Commodore center should have plenty of chances to score on an undersized Rebel team.
Keys to the Game: