To be fair, Vanderbilt didn’t string together a non-conference schedule full of cupcakes, like we tend to see from other high-majors. Of their four losses, two have come to ranked teams, including Louisville, who lost their first game last night, to Georgetown.
On top of all that, senior forward Festus Ezeli is still working his way into the flow of things, having sat out the first eight games of the year with a sprained right knee, playing limited minutes in two, and then resting, once again, in the last two contests.
But when you come into the season as highly-ranked as Vanderbilt was, it’s difficult to look at the Commodores’ 8-4 record, thus far, and come up with adjectives other than (on the softer side of the spectrum) “underachieving” or “disappointing.”
Losses to Xavier, Louisville, and Indiana State highlight Vandy’s recurring problems.
In those three games, the Commodores combined to turn the ball over a whopping 49 times, while blowing second half leads of 10, nine, and six, respectively.
“I wouldn’t say we struggle at the end of games. We’ve won a bunch of games at the end, but we went in a scoring drought there at the end of this game and we just couldn’t make baskets,” Stallings told the City Paper after his team’s loss to Indiana State.
On Thursday night, Vanderbilt has a chance to score their biggest win of the season, on the road against No. 13 Marquette, in their last big non-conference test before SEC play.
The Golden Eagles have lost just once, to LSU on Dec. 19, and are top 20 in the nation in scoring, behind Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder.
Against LSU, Marquette was lit up from distance, with 7-of-11 Tiger shooting from three, including 4-of-5 from guard Ralston Turner.
If John Jenkins can get the three-ball going for Vandy, they could put the Golden Eagles in a similar hole.
But, if the Commodores turn the ball over and allow Marquette to get out on the run, things could get out of hand quickly.
Vanderbilt has fallen considerably since their early-season ranking in the top 10, but a win over Marquette would do well to get them back on track before meeting Auburn in conference play on January 7th.