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Are They For Real?
by Matt Fargo - 01/04/2008
At this point in the season, not many people would have thought Vanderbilt would be one of the six remaining undefeated teams in the country. But here are the Commodores, sitting at 14-0 with just one game remaining before the start of SEC action. Their final non-conference test comes on Saturday as they host Massachusetts, who comes in with a solid 11-2 record. >From there, it is 16 straight conference games for a team that was picked to finish in the bottom half of the SEC East.
Vanderbilt has always been known as a team that schedules easy and schedules at home in the first half of the season and while the latter is the case again, the schedule has not been as easy as it used to be. The Commodores have taken on and defeated Bradley, South Alabama, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and DePaul. Granted none of them are national powers but they are all solid clubs and have helped give Vanderbilt a strength of schedule raking of 253rd. While the ranking is better, it is still considered soft.
Can Vanderbilt compete in the balanced and always tough SEC? The short answer is yes and there are a lot of reasons why. First and foremost, Shan Foster is a star as he leads the team and the SEC in scoring at 20.4 ppg. He is shooting 53.6 percent from the floor including 51.8 percent from long range. He is third on the team in rebounding and leads Vanderbilt in steals showing he is a versatile player that can get it done both inside and out. He is making an early case for SEC Player of the Year.
Point guard Alex Gordon is a senior who knows how to run the show. He is averaging 3.4 apg while his scoring has gone up this season to 10.9 ppg compared to 7.8 ppg a season ago. The lone problem for Gordon is that his turnovers are up from 1.5 per game last season to 2.4 through 14 games this season. That will have to come down if the Commodores are serious about making another run at the Sweet 16. Nonetheless, he is a great leader and a true floor general.
The wild card so far this season has been freshman Andrew Ogilvy. The Australian is getting it done everywhere on the floor, averaging 18.9 ppg and 7.1 rpg while shooting an incredible 66.4 percent from the field. The 6â€™11â€쳌 center is also shooting 80.4 percent from the charity stripe showing that his aggressive play inside pays off. Many said that if Ogilvy could have gone pro, he would have been easily drafted. Forward Ross Neltner who is averaging 8.9 ppg and 5.6 rpg, an LSU transfer, compliments Ogilvy huge.
As a team, the Commodores are shooting 73.9 percent from the free throw line with all six of their top scorers shooting 71 percent or better. They have a 1.20 assist/turnover ratio so everything has gone right for them thus far. Overall, Vanderbilt shoots the ball well and defends it just as good but hitting the meat of the schedule should bring out some issues we have yet to see. The major concern is how this team does on the road, considering they went 4-6 last season away from home.
The Commodores have played only two true road games and it took overtime to defeat DePaul in one of those. After their SEC opener at home against South Carolina, four of their next five SEC games are on the road and none are going to be easy. Games at Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida and Mississippi are really going to show us what this team is made of. Even though the schedule has been light, Vanderbilt has likely already punched its ticket to the big dance barring a monumental collapse.