10 things to look for: Vandy vs. Ole Miss

Memorial Gym will be rocking on Saturday when Vanderbilt battles Ole Miss. Here are 10 things to look for when the Commodores and Rebels hit the floor.

1) Can Vanderbilt beat an SEC team that it's expected to beat? After letdowns at Auburn and Georgia Vanderbilt can ill afford to blow the Ole Miss game. Even though Auburn and Georgia are much better than they appeared to be when the 'Dores played them it's important that the home team wins on Saturday.

2) Can Vanderbilt get five SEC wins in the first seven games of the conference schedule? The best the Commodores have done under Kevin Stallings in the first seven conference games of a season was during the 1999-00 season when the good guys won four of their first seven. The Commodores just missed the NCAA that year when Arkansas, with a losing record, swept through the SEC tournament and kept Vanderbilt out of the Big Dance. Five wins in the first seven games would be a significant step for Vanderbilt in making the NCAA Tournament. Let's hope they are ready to play.

3) Will Dan Cage continue to provide quality leadership to his teammates? Vanderbilt has been on a tear since Alan Metcalfe went down to injury in November. Nothing against Metcalfe, he's a fine player, but the insertion of Cage into the lineup has been a shot in the arm for the Commodores. Cage's ball handling, leadership and shooting ability have caused opposing SEC coaches some sleepless nights. On Thursday head coach Kevin Stallings commented that Cage has emerged as the team's main leader. Hopefully he can continue to provide that leadership along with his aggressive play.

4) Can Vanderbilt continue to show improvement on defense? After a horrible start of the season defensively, Vanderbilt is allowing a respectable 68 points a game. On Wednesday night Vanderbilt held #24 LSU to an unthinkable 53 points on the road. Even though Vanderbilt is only ranked #10 in scoring defense in the SEC it's likely that the Commodores are playing some of the best defense in the league right now. Previously Vandy held the Kentucky Wildcats to 67 points at Rupp Arena and the #10 Alabama Crimson Tide to 73 in Nashville.

5) Will the Commodores move into the Top 25 with a win over Ole Miss? Vanderbilt hasn't been in the AP Top 25 since January 2004 when they got in with a 13-2 record. It's possible. If Vanderbilt wins they'll be 15-6. Right now USC is ranked #25 with a 15-5 record and Virginia Tech is #24 with the same record.

6) Can Vanderbilt continue to rebound effectively? Wednesday night against LSU, Vanderbilt ruled the boards, collecting 42 to LSU's 36. In fact, Vanderbilt point guard Alex Gordon grabbed 10 rebounds by himself. After early nightmares with rebounding the Commodores seem to be turning this facet of their game around.

7) Can Vanderbilt continue its domination of Ole Miss? The two teams have been playing since the 1924-25 season when Vanderbilt won 19-18 in Oxford. Vanderbilt holds a commanding 68-38 lead in the all time series versus the Rebels. The Commodores have won five in a row and have built a lopsided 45-7 lead in games played in Nashville.

8) Will Vanderbilt be able to shut down the Mississippi tandem of Clarence Sanders and Bam Doyne? The pair average over 31 points a game for the Rebels and give Ole Miss a chance in every game. The Rebs have already defeated Arkansas and Tennessee and are eyeing Vandy for their possible third conference win.

9) Will new Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy pick up his first SEC road win in Nashville? Kennedy came to Ole Miss from Cincinnati where last season he served as interim head coach for the Bearcats after Bob Huggins resigned. Kennedy led Cincinnati to a 21-13 record, which included a trip to the NIT quarterfinals. Kennedy has the 13-7 Rebels playing well this season but has yet to win an SEC road game after falling in trips to LSU, Kentucky and Florida. Let's hope he's still winless on the road after Saturday's game.

10) Will Memorial Gym be sold out for the Ole Miss game? Vanderbilt's only home court sellout this season was against rival Tennessee; the Alabama game was a near sellout. With the team's recent success expect a good turnout for the game with the Rebels despite the game being televised. Vanderbilt will play six of its remaining ten SEC games at home. Hopefully Memorial Gym will be rocking for all of them!


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