Saturday SEC Storylines: Vanderbilt’s Big Blue Opportunity

Posted by Greg Mitchell on February 27th, 2016

The bubble is becoming overcrowded with SEC schools. Feel safe, Alabama? Turned your season around, LSU? Not so fast. If nothing else, all of the desperate teams in the conference could set up an intriguing final regular season stretch and SEC Tournament. With that in mind, here are three storylines to watch this weekend:

Damian Jones has been on top of his game lately (

Damian Jones has been on top of his game lately. (

  1. Will Vanderbilt put a bow on its NCAA Tournament bid? The Commodores have won four of their last five games and are on the path toward another late season surge. Damian Jones is arguably playing the best basketball of his career, combing for 42 points on 18-of-23 shooting and 23 rebounds over the past two games. Lo and behold, Vanderbilt gets the best shot the league can give it for a marquee win: Kentucky. Nothing could be better for a team trying to put the final stamp on a resume that isn’t as strong as many expected it to be. The Wildcats did a great job containing Vanderbilt’s guards in the first meeting, and they’ll need to do that again to make sure Vanderbilt doesn’t build momentum from three early. The Tyler UlisWade Baldwin match up is must watch TV, and good material for those wondering if Ulis can match up with the size and athleticism he’d face in the NBA. It’ll also be interesting to see how Kentucky deals with a confident Jones, especially since Alex Poythress played just 17 minutes in his return against Alabama.
  2. Can LSU come back from the dead? The Tigers looked done after a lackluster non-conference season before rallying back to relevance during the first part of SEC play. But losses to Kevin Punter-less Tennessee and Arkansas have them not even among Joe Lunardi’s Next Four Out. Does LSU have one final, desperate push left in it? With 12 losses, an #89 RPI and just three wins in the KenPom top-50, it’ll take an incredible run over the next few weeks to get Ben Simmons in the tournament. One thing is for sure, a loss to Florida likely buries any last-grasp hope LSU may have. The Gators themselves are on a tw0 game losing streak and have their own resume problems. The Keith Hornsby injury and Tigers’ surprising lack of urgency on the defensive end the past two games don’t inspire much confidence. But it’s not inconceivable that they play well enough at home to beat a Florida that has had a sub-44.2 eFG% its last two outings. Should that happen, the league would be effectively eating itself. LSU gets a win, but not one good enough to really change its course, while the Gators’ resume gets a little bit worse.
  3. Do South Carolina and Texas A&M keep pressure on Kentucky? Theoretically, the Gamecocks and Aggies should hold serve and put the onus on Kentucky as it plays a difficult game in Nashville. But is it really that easy with both teams on the road? Mississippi State has proven it is no push over and Frank Martin will need answers for Craig Sword and Quinndary Weatherspoon in the Hump. Over their last three games, the Bulldogs have posted a 54.3 eFG% or better against three solid defenses. For their part, the Aggies size should let them get past Missouri, but the Tigers have been playing with more life over the past two weeks. Missouri is coming off an uncharacteristically good three-point shooting night in Oxford, and Texas A&M has allowed teams to shoot 47.7 percent from deep the past two games. Could that be a recipe for an upset? Both teams have a great opportunity to tighten the race, but must avoid road landmines.
Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) (231 Posts)

Share this story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *