A win against No. 18 Texas A&M on Saturday would make everything much, much easier for Vanderbilt basketball.
The Commodores can all but guarantee an at-large NCAA Tournament bid and set themselves up for a free pass to the quarterfinals of the SEC bracket by notching the biggest road win of their season. Vandy already has one victory over the Aggies - a 77-60 thrashing in Nashville - but it will face a much tougher test in College Station.
Texas A&M has rebuilt its season with a five game winning streak, but there isn't much substance in its recent schedule. The Aggies earned a big home win when they toppled then-No. 14 Kentucky at home, but the rest of their Ws have come against Ole Miss and SEC bottom-feeders Mississippi State, Auburn, and Missouri. Of course, to A&M's credit, Vanderbilt suffered defeats to the first two teams on that list, so...¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
Neither of these teams has tasted defeat in more than two weeks, but one of them will head into the conference tournament on a one-game losing streak. So how can Vanderbilt upset the ranked Aggies in their own house? Here's how the Commodores were successful the last time these teams met.
No. 18 Texas A&M (23-7, 12-5 SEC, ranked No. 23 in Ken Pomeroy's ratings)
Vanderbilt didn't just lock down the biggest win of its season to date on February 5th; they also nearly derailed Texas A&M's whole season. Vandy's home victory sent A&M into a four-game spiral that pushed the then-No. 8 Aggies out of the rankings altogether.
Damian Jones and the 'Dores came out firing, striking out to an early 11-1 lead that forced Billy Kennedy to burn his team's first timeout less than two-and-a-half minutes into the first half. The Aggies turned that deficit into a 28-24 lead 12 minutes later, but that momentum was not sustainable. Vandy tore this game open with a 9-0 run to start the second period and led by double digits the rest of the way for a comfortable home victory.
Point of emphasis: Timely shooting. It seemed like every time the Aggies pulled close, Vanderbilt answered with a huge jump shot - and not just from its usual sources. Luke Kornet and Camron Justice each hit huge, momentum-squashing three-pointers late in the game that stopped any hope of an A&M run. Wade Baldwin's half-ending three sent the 'Dores into the locker room with a seven point lead. When TAMU threatened, Vandy's shooters had a response.
Keys to the Game: