Really to no one's surprise, Vanderbilt basketball still manages to receive zero attention from the nation's media, despite an 11-3 record, a six game winning streak in which no team has come within 15 points of us, and a strength of schedule that ranks 4th in the SEC ahead of Florida, Alabama, South Carolina, Mississippi State, Georgia, Arkansas, and Auburn (according to ESPN.com's daily RPI report).
More to what I'm getting at, Vanderbilt's SOS ranks 8 spots lower than Kentucky's, which is pretty close. Kentucky is 11-4, with better losses than us to UNC, Miami, Louisville, and Virginia Military.
Let's be honest, the SEC is not a great conference this year, and is arguably not a good one either. Lunardi currently only has 3 teams slotted to be in the tournament from the SEC: Tennessee, Florida, and Kentucky. We're among a list of bubble teams in the Daily RPI.
If we want to alert the nation that we're a tournament team this year, we need to beat Kentucky in the head-to-head. I don't think splitting will do, we need to win both games against Kentucky. Winning at Rupp is always a daunting task, one the Commies will try to pull off on Sunday, but it's not impossible by any stretch.
This isn't to say that we don't need to win in the SEC, I would say that 10 wins is going to be necessary to get us to where we want to be. But beating Kentucky both times this season is a good goal for Stallings squad to maintain, because despite the fact that they have more experience, they aren't all that good.
Kentucky is a very imbalanced team, with two primary scorers (albeit excellent scorers) in Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson. By contrast, Vanderbilt does a phenomenal job spreading the wealth. They have four players averaging in double figures (AJ, Taylor, Beal, Tinsley) and a number of players who seem to be "getting it" (Goulbourne, 10 pts in his last two games, McClellan, 10 pts against UMass). But the real story, unlike last year's high scoring affair, has been the defensive side of the ball.
Vanderbilt has allowed more than 70 points only once the entire season (Illinois-Chicago), and has held opponents to less than 60 points in their last three games. This has been without Jamie Graham, who returned to practice this past Monday after playing in Vanderbilt's victorious Music City Bowl. Vanderbilt ranks 4th in the nation in opponent field goal percentage. The defense is only going to get better.
We certainly can beat Kentucky this weekend, and if we do, perhaps we'll garner a bit more respect. But for right now, we'll have to settle for being overlooked.