Tragically, Douglas James and I are unable to join the Stanimal, O'Shea, and the ESPN GameDay crew to witness in person Vanderbilt's highly anticipated matchup against the #1-ranked Kentucky Wildcats, who enter Memorial today coming off a 78-58 beatdown of the Florida Gators. Rest assured though, we'll be there in spirit, even if it means nearly destroying the TV set every time Anthony Davis gets away with a hack while blocking one of his 4.8 shots. Even if it means having to crash early because we are sapped of all energy following a heartbreak finish, a la the “John Wall block” game of 2010.
It hardly needs repeating that this season hasn’t played out the way we'd all hoped it would. Preseason expectations have not been met. Star center has been injured and is still less than full-strength. Bench has not carried the weight many of us thought it could/should carry. Good players, to be sure. But the results? Underwhelming. To be perfectly frank, I’ve gotten a little bored. We need something. Anything. A spark. An injection of excitement. Perhaps a touch of...dare I say it...Linsanity?
Yes, yes indeed. Like many in America, I did not feel very invested in this NBA season following all the drama with the lockout. But after what Jeremy Lin did this week, and especially last night in dropping 38 on Kobe and the Lakers to lead New York to its first win over LA in 10 tries, I’m opening up space on my calendar to watch Knick basketball. Count me in. I’m on the Lin bandwagon. I love it -- the story, the attitude, the energy. I have no allegiance to the Knicks, but I’m all about Linsanity. The guy has reenergized a team that appeared to be on the brink of collapsing under the weight of injuries and letdowns. In one week, he turned the tide of enthusiasm for a team that, despite some star power (Melo, Amare), had become -- not unlike the Dores (JT, JJ) -- a little, well, boring.
This is my fondest hope for Vanderbilt basketball in 2012: That today will mark the beginning of an epic momentum swing leading clear into March. It’s not that I’m looking for some hero to step in off the bench and save the day. We’ve got the horses. With Festus coming off his best game of the season, he could make a statement against arguably the best big man in America. JJ could go for 30. Jeff could put the team on his back. Lance could grab 20 boards. Whatever. It’s not about the “who.” This is the most efficient offensive team we have seen to date -- we need to rebound and limit second-chance opportunities and points in the paint. We need to get to the free-throw line and get them in foul trouble. Limit Davis’s minutes. We need to hit threes, play D, curb their transition offense, move without the ball, set screens to free up our shooters. It’s execution and effort we need, and we need Memorial Magic to feed it. Lest we forget, VU has won four straight against #1 teams at home. We got this. I’m not looking for our Jeremy Lin, folks. I’m looking for Linsanity.
VSL Nation, I ask you to help bring that tonight. Happy GameDay.