In leaping to an 11-0 start, Vanderbilt, which failed to win a regular-season game on the road the previous year, has won both of its road contests with ease. The Commodores looked almost scary-good Saturday in crushing TCU 95-60 in the team's first out-of-town road trip of the season. The turnaround has been dramatic.
"I think that [in the past] we've had some 'chemistry-killers' on our team, and [this year] we don't have any of those," Stallings said. "I think that's made a huge difference.
"But also I think our team has really taken it upon themselves to be a close team and really enjoy each other. They're a fun team to coach-- they really are, because of how they like each other, and how much they cheer for each other. It's really an enjoyable basketball team."
Vandy returned ten players from a team that won only three conference games and 11 games total in 2002-03. The only departure was Brian Thornton, who transferred after his sophomore year to Xavier. Since then the team has added freshmen Ted Skuchas and Dan Cage, both of whom have won roles in Stallings' 11-man rotation.
"We played really well Saturday night," Stallings said. "On the one hand I didn't know what to expect, but on the other hand, we had practiced very, very well leading up to the game, and I thought we were ready for a good performance. Our guys were very ready to play the basketball game.
"As much as anything else, it just tells me we're better [than last year]. It just shows that our confidence is real, and it's not just a function of us playing at home and building a good record. It's a team that believes in itself and its ability, and that's a gratifying thing.
Stallings' team could become the first Vanderbilt team in history to start a season 12-0 with a victory over SEC foe Auburn Wednesday.
"We have a lot of respect for Auburn," Stallings said. "They're very athletic, very powerful inside, and have some terrific shooters on the perimeter. We're excited that the league season is here, and are looking forward to getting it going."
Stallings also said Monday he is becoming increasingly more confident in the play of freshman guard Dan Cage (right). The Indianapolis native had 11 points off the bench vs. Lehigh and 12 points vs. TCU, and even more impressively, has connected on 7-of-8 three pointers over the two-game stretch.
"For the most part he knows what to do now," said Stallings. "When he gets it on the floor, you have to respect his ability to shoot the basketball. In that way, he extends the defense, and that's something that's valuable for us.
"The more we can extend defenses and create space for our offense and for some of our inside players, the better off we are. Dan can stretch the defense because of his shooting ability, so we're getting to that point where we're hoping he can come in on a consistent basis and contribute."