Vanderbilt must fix road woes

Not so fast Commodores, put down the mirror and quit admiring yourself. Sure the new ranking and lopsided win over Saint Mary's are impressive but you still can't be considered a great team until you beat a decent squad on the road. Don't get me wrong, wins over top 25 programs are nice but you still haven't gotten it done in a hostile environment against a good opponent.

Nebraska and North Carolina were both wins on a neutral court in front of a few hundred fans. MTSU (9-11), Vandy's only road win, is a struggling team. Away from home-- other than against the Blue Raiders-- the Commodores have blown leads against Missouri, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Why can't Vanderbilt beat a good team on the road? The lack of a killer instinct appears to be one of the reasons; the inability to hold a significant lead and then the failure to answer the challenge in crunch time. Against both Tennessee and South Carolina Vanderbilt gave up big leads and then self-destructed at the end. Missouri was a classic case of the Commodores just choking down the stretch.

Vandy also has a problem in allowing opposing players to have breakout games. Do the names Sam Muldrow, Bruce Ellington, Marcus Denmon and Brian Williams ring a bell? These players have all been thorns in the Commodores' side on the road this season.

Another problem for men in Black and Gold has been the inability to handle success, hence my earlier "put down the mirror" comment. In a similar manner as last season, we've seen the ‘Dores enter the top 25 only to be knocked out of it. We saw that at South Carolina in the SEC opener.

When a team isn't supposed to do well but has a packed house full of its own crazy fans then that team has a chance against prominent teams. If any team knows that, it's Vanderbilt. How many times have we seen No. 1 ranked teams come into a raucous Memorial Gym only to go home with a loss to an average Vandy team? If decent Commodore teams can knock squads from their No. 1 rankings then it shouldn't be a surprise that Vandy can fall on the road to these average teams.

What will the Commodores have to do to end this trend? It's simple, get it done and win on the road.

Vandy will enter a familiar situation on Thursday when it travels to Mississippi State. Again the Commodores are ranked and heading into a hostile environment. State (12-10, 2-2 SEC) has struggled this season. Don't tell the Commodores but Saint Mary's beat the Bulldogs by 22 in December on a neutral court.

Just like before with the Gamecocks and Volunteers, Vandy again has a bull's eye on its back. The Bulldogs' fine guard, Dee Bost, knows that a win over Vanderbilt can help his team get back on track.

"Vanderbilt has a nice RPI and if we beat them… it should help us a little bit," said Bost to Genespage.com.

Bost should be optimistic because Vanderbilt has not won in Starkville since the 1992-93 season when Eddie Fogler was still the ‘Dores head coach.

Despite the Bulldogs recent struggles Vandy will need to put together a complete game in order to win in Starkville; anything less and the ‘Dores will again be out of the top 25 again and sporting a losing SEC record.

It's time for players like Jeffery Taylor, Festus Ezeli, John Jenkins and their teammates to take a stand and play on the road like they have at home all season, with toughness. The season is rapidly passing by and continued breakdowns on the road could wreak havoc on a potential fine Vanderbilt season.

Put down that mirror and get back to work.

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