Monday, January 25, 2010

Huge Week For Confidence and Respect

Why on earth am I still on pins and needles?

Vanderbilt is the winner of 9 straight and has gotten off to the best start in SEC play in over 40 years. They are neck and neck with Kentucky for the top honor in the SEC East at 4-0.

Maybe the lack of blowouts is what creates skepticism. I don't really know. Maybe it was the 16 point deficit at half time against Auburn. Maybe it was the 1 point victory on the road at Alabama. Maybe it's the lingering sting of the Cincinnati, Illinois, and Western Kentucky games (none of which, with the exception of perhaps Western Kentucky were "bad" losses).

Maybe it's history. While we certainly know that our basketball tradition is filled with quality teams, we haven't had much in the way of star power. We've always been good enough to be a nuisance, but not quite good enough to be more. Never in the spotlight, always under the radar, capable of spurring the big upset, and just as easily capable of complete self-destruction.

All of those things seem to cause the media to wait for the other shoe to drop. Even though Mizzou is 15-4 and 3-1 in the Big 12, and St. Mary's is 17-3 and 4-1 in the WCC, those wins don't seem to carry the weight they should. The losses to Cincinnati, who has fallen to 13-7 and 4-4 in the Big East,and Illinois, who is 12-8 and 4-4 in the Big Ten, seem to haunt us as those teams find the middle of their conferences.

The point of this illustrative glimpse into where we've been is to highlight something of tremendous importance.

There will be no more questions if the Commodores steal even one of these games this week.

I have come to the realization that the reason I'm on pins and needles is because my heart as a fan tells me we are infinitely better as a team than we were in early December, and yet my natural inclination after years of irrationally raising my hopes is to guard myself from disappointment, to believe that what the pundits think about us somehow has relevance to how good we are, and that maybe they are right that Tennessee and Kentucky are the class of this conference.

All of this, every last bit of that guarded optimism, will disappear if Vanderbilt does what it has the capability to do: knock off either of those teams on their home court.

It all starts against Tennessee. They may have weathered one heck of a storm after losing 2 key players to stupidity, but they have played with fire and intensity. In order to win this game, the Dores, who have really matured in front of our eyes over the past month, are going to have to take another step forward. They are going to have to play a complete game, from start to finish. We must answer their best punch with a counter-punch twice as strong. A.J. must channel the frustrations that Wayne Chism has given him and simply dominate him. Jeffery Taylor must evolve into the gamebreaking kind of player that he can be. Jenkins, Tinsley, Walker, and Beal must continue to play consistent, steady basketball. Our bench must continue to rise to the occasion.

NONE of these things are far-fetched if we believe what is simply the truth: that no matter what any ranking or pundit says, the only thing that matters is the standings, and ours says 4-0, theirs says 3-1. They are looking up at US, and WE are the team to beat.


VandyGold28 said...

I'm not going to be a typical guarded vandy fan this week. We are good enough and we are going to beat UT this week.

Anything but Gatorade said...

Hope you're right. UT's Tyler-Smith-less candle has got to burn out sooner or later.