Sunday, January 27, 2008

Don't Panic (But Don't Not Panic, Either)

As Aaron wrote in the comments section for the Florida Preview, no one who watched today's game can be happy with the Commodores performance. It's not just that we lost the game, it's that we were never really in it. Let's give credit where credit is due: Florida is a very talented team that played one of, if not their best game of the season. The fact that Vanderbilt opened up the game 2-16 from the field and allowed Florida to go on a 23-0 run didn't help matters either. During the first 12 minutes, it honestly appeared as if there was a lid over the basket. We must have missed 6 or 7 shots around the basket early, and of AJ's 6 missed from the floor (he was 2-8), all of them were within 3 feet of the basket.

While there are a number of things that disappointed me, I think Shan's play was the most disconcerting. Perhaps it wasn't his fault, but he appeared to me to be a shrinking violet, especially when UF went on their 23-0 run. Shan was no where to be found to blunt the momentum. Big time players want the ball, demand the ball, and have the ball in their hands when their team needs them (see Derrick Byars). That wasn't Shan today. Again, I don't know how much of that was Vanderbilt's chaotic offense, and how much of that was Shan not "stepping up," regardless, that element of the game was what really bothered me.

Vanderbilt turned the ball over 16 times. That's not great, but it's not terrible. We didn't lose because of turnovers, we lost because we couldn't hit the broad side of a barn born for about 8 minutes. And if it hadn't been for Andre Walker, it would have been worse. Ross Neltner (heretofore Focker), despite my lady friend's affection, played terribly. Metcalfe appeared to be hell-bent on shooting whenever he touched the play, and AJ couldn't get anything to fall. All in all, it was a terrible performance.

With all of that said, it's important not to completely panic. We have had as tough a schedule as any team in the SEC: Rupp, Thompson-Boling, and the O'Connell Center are probably the three toughest places to play in the conference, and going 0-3 in those buildings isn't completely unexpected.

Vanderbilt's game in Oxford on Wednesday is as close to a must win as a 17-3 team can have in January. But Ole Miss is struggling and Vanderbilt needs to prove they can actually be competitive beyond Memorial if we aren't going to be completely dismissed as a team with early season success aganist inferior opponents. Vanderbilt's trip to Oxford is followed by a game aganist Auburn in Memorial, and then trips to Athens and Columbia. We need to do no worse than 3-1 over this stretch before hosting Kentucky, Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee over a 14-day period that will solidify what Vanderbilt's road to San Antonio looks like.

I know VSL Nation's got a lot to stay about today's game, so let's hear it.


Seamus O'Toole said...

We looked soft. O'Shea makes a valid point about the difficulty of playing on the road in the arenas we've played in, but the reality is the best teams feed off of the energy of an opposing crowd, use it to their advantage, and step up their tenacity in hostile environments. I haven't seen us do that in an opponent's gym all season. We need to get angry or something, start hitting the floor for loose balls, step towards passes to cut off defenders, flush the ball down instead of putting up fadeaway layups in the lane (um, AJ?), rip rebounds out of other people's hands, and just generally find some desire somewhere in the jock strap.

Unknown said...

I agree with Seamus - we never looked like we wanted to win. We got out hustled on both sides of the court the entire day and the only two players who really seemed to want a win were Walker and Bell. Great to see that they care, but I was in disbelief watching the team get worked all afternoon.

If Shan doesn't step up on offense and AJ learn how to play an entire game we won't have much to watch come March. It ain't over yet, but two blowouts is hurting my confidence - and I can only assume its doing the same for the team.

Anonymous said...

That game... speechless. Question: why is Neltner worthy of a nickname? Other than "The human turnover machine," or something else equally derisive, I see no point. He's like a hockey defender with a -23... just seems to make the team worse when he's on the court. We had a kid like him on my 4th grade soccer team. Forget the name, but he was a black hole of terrible. Long story short, he quit the team mid-season, and we didn't lose a game after that. If only he stood between Tonya Harding and a shot at Olympic gold...

Well, enough wishful thinking. Now onto the other nickname-centric concern: Why Faulkner? Is it because Southerners generally consider him great without any evidence to back that up? Or is it that his effectiveness in games leads one to ponder the title "As I Lay Dying?"

Bobby O'Shea said...

In my haste, I failed to read over the post. Ross' nickname is now Focker, as in Greg Focker male nurse from Meet the Parents.

Aaron said...

Beal is the only highlight in sec play 30 assists to 3 turnovers.

Anonymous said...

Vanderbilt has already been dismissed nationally as a team that enjoyed early season success against weak opponents. Even if VU beats TN and FL at Memorial, they'll still say "at home, benches under the baskets", et al.

At this point it's about getting a 5 seed or higher and coming to play in the tournament.

Anonymous said...

Is that not what it's all about, getting a seed in the tournament? I actually like the way our SEC schedule was planned. We have already played our three toughest games (on the road at UK, UT, and UF) and we wrap up regular season SEC play with 5 of our last 7 games in Memorial (away games against Alabama and Arkansas). I really think this gives us a chance to get synched up for March. To me, regular season hype is just that: nothing more than hype. Only thing that matters is whether or not we can be ready when it comes time to dance.

Now that leaves something to be seen in itself. It is up to us to turn this team into a March competitor because I think the past three weeks have us all wondering. This team has extraordinary talent; coupled with the end of the regular season schedule, this team has all the right elements for a deep tourney run. Let’s put it together... GO 'DORES!!!