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The next five games will make or break Vanderbilt’s basketball season

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Do we rally the troops, or do we wait for Darius and Simi to arrive?

NCAA Basketball: Middle Tennessee State at Vanderbilt Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

In the 2017-18 season, Vanderbilt is 5-0 against teams outside the KenPom top 100, and 0-8 against teams in the top 100.

If that pattern continues, Vanderbilt will end the regular season with a 5-26 record. That’s a bit of hyperbole, but there aren’t any teams ranked outside the top 100 remaining on the schedule. Every last SEC team — and TCU, whom Vanderbilt will play in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge later this month — is ranked in the top 100. Unlike years past, there aren’t any truly awful teams in the basement of the SEC.

Obviously, when you’re 5-8 on the season, every game matters. Or it doesn’t matter. But the upcoming five-game stretch will likely determine the trajectory of the rest of the season. Vanderbilt probably won’t be favored in any of them, but there aren’t any games in the stretch that are unwinnable.

  • #44 Alabama (49% chance to win, per KenPom)
  • at #62 South Carolina (33% chance to win)
  • #20 Tennessee (37% chance to win)
  • #17 Kentucky (35% chance to win)
  • at #68 Mississippi State (36% chance to win)

Vanderbilt’s odds of winning all five are less than one percent. Then again, the odds of losing all five are around 9 percent. The Commodores should win 1.9 games.

Suffice to say, if Vanderbilt goes 2-3 in this stretch, they’ll be 7-11 and 2-4 in the SEC. Of course, last year’s team was 8-10 and 2-4 at the same point, so it can be done. But it’s not a good idea to bank on going 8-3 down the stretch, so Vanderbilt probably needs at least three of these next five — and four or all five would, of course, be great.

This stretch is where we decide if the season is over — and we start planning ahead to 2018-19, when a top ten recruiting class joins the fold — or if we’re going to rally and make a push for a tournament bid. Because if it’s not happening now, it’s not happening.