Adams: Vanderbilt hasn't been tested yet

With an 89-79 victory against South Carolina, Vanderbilt completed an impressive trio of games to start SEC play. Florida, Alabama, and South Carolina will all finish in the top half of the conference and will look good on the Commodores' NCAA resume. Even better, the ‘Dores should be heavily favored to knock off Auburn this Saturday at Memorial.

With a probable 4-0 start in league play, Vandy has given themselves a much-needed buffer with tough games looming on the horizon.

In Coach Stallings' post-game comments; he made reference to how the team's tough non-conference schedule has prepared them for SEC competition.

"We scheduled tough intentionally," Stallings said. "We thought we had a chance to have a good team. After nine non-conference games our schedule was the eighth toughest in the country. We've had some good wins in the non-league. We've accumulated good wins here in the league season. We have to keep going. It's a marathon; it's not a sprint. You could be 3-0 today and three and something a lot worse than that very soon. You have to keep your head down and keep driving."

He isn't kidding about possible being "three and something a lot worse." Starting next week, Vanderbilt begins a daunting five-game stretch that will make or break their season. Beginning on January 27th, the Commodores will play @Tennessee, @Kentucky, Mississippi State, @Georgia, and Tennessee.

It goes without saying that the Kentucky and two Tennessee games are going to be brutal. Vanderbilt should be competitive in all three, but it would be unrealistic to expect the ‘Dores to win more than one of those. Mississippi State is on a nice roll to start of the conference slate. Even though that game is at Memorial, it will be a great test. The same goes for Georgia. The Bulldogs are 0-3 in SEC play, but have led at halftime in all three games.

If somebody told Coach Stallings that they would go 3-2 in the above mentioned stretch, he would take it in a heartbeat. The scary thing is that it's conceivable for Vanderbilt to lose all five of those ballgames.

With all of that being said, Vanderbilt hasn't been tested by a top-flight team. Sure, they lost to Cincinnati, Illinois, and Western Kentucky; but they were always within striking distance. The Commodores have yet to step on the court against a top 10 team and see if they can keep up.

The good news is that Vanderbilt appears to be gelling together quite well. Jeffery Taylor is becoming an outspoken leader/motivator and A.J. Ogilvy is asserting himself in the low post. When they are on top of their game, the ‘Dores are really tough to beat. One concern is that both players have a bad habit of disappearing for long stretches at a time. Since neither handle the ball frequently, they need to be more aggressive to find a way to get touches.

The guard trio of Jermaine Beal, Brad Tinsley, and John Jenkins is a lot of fun to watch. Tinsley is starting to get out of his slump. With so much focus on Vanderbilt's big guys in the post, it's essential that the guards are able to knock down open jumpers. Beal and Jenkins have proven that they can do that, but Tinsley has been very cold for whatever reason.

Vanderbilt will have to be firing on all cylinders for their upcoming block of games. They have a great chance to solidify an NCAA birth if they can defeat either Kentucky or Tennessee. That would give them a signature win that they are currently lacking.

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