It's gut check time for Vandy

Off to its best start since 2003-04, the 9-0 Vanderbilt Commodores face a stern test tonight when they visit the DePaul Blue Demons. There's no mistaking it, this Vandy squad is good but they are not infallible. Tonight's game (7 p.m./TV: ESPN Classic) will be Kevin Stallings' toughest test so far this season. Can VU pull off the season's tenth victory? It's gut check time for Vanderbilt.

When you think of the DePaul Blue Demons you think of Mark Aguirre and a winning basketball tradition. While the Commodores are 1-0 all-time against the Blue Demons Vanderbilt is just 21-36 all-time against the Big East conference. In fact, Vanderbilt's most recent loss came against Big East opponent Georgetown in the semifinals of the NCAA Regional in Newark, N.J. DePaul, like Vanderbilt, also happens to be pretty darn good when it comes to playing on their home court. The Blue Demons have won a staggering 74 percent of their games in Allstate arena and sport a 273-94 record there.

Remember Vandy's big win over the No. 1 ranked Florida Gators last season in Memorial? The Commodores played with passion and energy and pulled off a stunning home victory on national television. Look for the 2-3 Blue Demons to try to do the same thing to Vanderbilt tonight in Rosemont, Ill. A big win over a top 20 Vanderbilt team could rejuvenate their season and get them on the right track after a disappointing start.

Don't let DePaul's 2-3 record fool you either. They have a home win over a good Northwestern team and despite an 84-66 loss at No. 3 Kansas they have talent. DePaul seems to have discovered a player in Draelon Burns, a 6-4 guard who recently had back-to-back 32-point outings before a 10-point showing at Kansas.

With Vandy just coming off a lopsided win over Lipscomb and DePaul still nursing its wounds after the loss to Kansas a Commodore letdown game could be in store tonight in Chicago. It's a scary thought to Vandy fans but the setting is right for a possible DePaul upset of Vanderbilt.

Can the Commodores stay focused and keep the 18,000 Blue Demon fans out of the game? If not look for the Commodores to head back to Nashville 9-1. If the Commodores show up executing their offense while playing solid defense and avoiding dumb mistakes they'll likely arrive home with double-digit wins.

Look for Shan Foster and company to keep close tabs on Burns. The Commodores will need another big night from center A.J. Ogilvy who'll be facing another freshman in 6-foot-10-inch Mac Koshwal who had 10 rebounds at Kansas. Koshwal is not a scoring machine but could present problems under the basket for the Commodores. However, Ogilvy's quickness should give him an advantage over Koshwal.

We will learn a lot about this Vanderbilt team tonight. Are they a great team or just a good team? Great teams pick up road wins in hostile environments against the teams they are expected to beat. Good teams win often at home but blow some games that they are favored to win on the road. It's gut check time for Vanderbilt.


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