Commodore win over USC big for several reasons

Ask the average SEC basketball fan if the Commodores had much of a chance to pick up a win in Columbia, South Carolina Saturday night and their answer would have been "Heck No!". Thankfully our Commodores believed in themselves and battled the favored Gamecocks tooth and nail for 40 minutes to pick up their second straight SEC win of the season, 60-51 over South Carolina.

An SEC win is always good medicine for a team at anytime, however, this win was big for several reasons. 

First of all, the win got the Commodores out of the SEC East cellar.  Less than a week ago Vandy stood at 0-3 after opening double-digit losses to Georgia, Alabama and Florida.  Now the 'dores are a more respectable 2-3, ahead of both our beloved Tennessee Vols and South Carolina who both sit at 1-3.  Vandy suddenly finds itself just a half game behind the 12th ranked Kentucky Wildcats.

The win has bolstered the young Commodores team confidence.  After the initial SEC losses, the team appeared to be hurting emotionally and morale had dropped to an new low.  The Commodores had just set a team record for consecutive SEC losses dating back to last year.  Even the Vanderbilt skipper, Kevin Stallings, showed signs of panic after the loss at Alabama.  Many Commodore faithful that were on hand Saturday night in Columbia will attest to the fact that the Commodores had reached an emotional high and appeared energized.  

After starting off the conference season so poorly the Commodores are back in the hunt for a postseason berth in either the NCAA or NIT.  With a record of 12-6 and 13 games remaining (including at least one game in the SEC tournament), if Vandy can win 5 of the remaining 13 games they'll be 17-15 or so entering NCAA/NIT tourney time.  Postseason play is important to a young team.  If a team makes it to the NCAA then they are suddenly looking at a minimum of at least a week of extra practice time.  This is needed to develop young players further.  Any postseason play is also great exposure for a college basketball program and is a plus for recruiting purposes.

The win also bolstered the Vanderbilt coaching staff.  After the slow SEC start, the usual criticisms and verbal attacks on the staff took place, even here on VandyMania. The Kevin Stallings staff had planted the seeds for a great team by reaping two outstanding recruiting classes but the SEC losing streak had some doubting if he really has what it takes to win in the SEC.  Kevin Stallings is again the man who can turn around Commodore men's basketball fortunes.  He always has been. 

The Commodores hope to get more good, winning medicine Saturday when they host the Georgia Bulldogs.  Who knows?  If the 'dores win Saturday and then point guard Russell Lakey returns to the team, anything can happen.  Don't sell the 2001-02 Commodores short just yet.  There is a lot of basketball left to be played and a lot of good medicine to be taken.


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