We’ve officially reached the month of February, which means we’re now only a month away from March Madness.
You might as well go ahead and start putting in for your days off now, because work just isn’t acceptable when there is great college basketball games on your television screen all day long.
A few local teams are fighting and clawing to be on your TV during March Madness. Let’s run through how the road to the NCAA tournament is going.
1. Vandy grabs elusive Top 25 win
It was there for the taking.
With the Vanderbilt Commodores facing perhaps their most important game in a few years, they answered the bell. And did so emphatically.
Vandy held nothing back in downing No. 8 Texas A&M 77-60 in Memorial Gym on Thursday night. It was the kind of performance that Vandy fans had been waiting on for years.
No, seriously. The win over the Aggies was Vandy’s first win over a ranked team since beating No. 1 Kentucky to capture the 2012 SEC tournament championship.
That’s quite the wait. But the wait is over. The question is, will this be the spark that takes the Commodores from tournament hopeful to tournament lock?
It will be if they play like they did against Texas A&M. It was a complete performance. The balance was incredible.
Jeff Roberson scored a career-high 20 points to lead the way, while Wade Baldwin had 17, Luke Kornet had 14, and Damian Jones had 13. What more can you ask for?
But let’s focus on Roberson for a second. He doesn’t get the attention that the other three get. He’s not projected as an NBA first round pick like they are. However, he may be becoming one of the most complete players on the team.
Roberson has always had a strong defensive game. This season, he’s added a lot more to that. He’s finding ways to score at the basket. He’s also found a very consistent jump-shot. The man really can do it all.
And that’s the thing. If you can get that type of production from him to go along with what the Baldwin/Kornet/Jones trio should bring each game, you’re gonna be hard to beat.
That Vandy team that was a potential Final Four contender? It finally showed up against the Aggies.
But the work is far from done. The Commodores travel to Ole Miss on Saturday night for what could be a tricky game.
Why so tricky? Well, Vandy is coming off of a highly emotional win, and then there’s the fact that winning on the road in the SEC has been extremely difficult this season for anyone.
However, Vandy should win the game. And if it looks like it did against Texas A&M, it should do so convincingly.
2. Belmont still leading the way after first OVC loss
A loss was bound to happen eventually.
The Belmont Bruins dropped their first Ohio Valley Conference game of the season this past week at Tennessee Tech, ensuring that the OVC East division title race would remain exciting for a little while longer.
We already knew it was going to be a challenge. The Golden Eagles were already on the Bruins’ heels heading into the game, and now only one game separates them at the top of the division.
Tennessee State has taken a couple of steps back to sit in third, but there’s still a long way to go, and the Tigers will likely factor into who comes on top in the division.
This trio of teams has proven that its the best that the OVC has to offer, and it’s going to be thrilling to see how the race plays out over the next several weeks.
Belmont captured a hard-fought home win over Morehead State on Thursday and will try to keep the momentum going when it hosts Eastern Kentucky on Saturday.
With only six games remaining on the OVC schedule, the Bruins just have to do what they’ve always done: stay the course.
Rick Byrd has been in the situation so many times at this point. He knows how to get his team clicking on cylinders before March. And that’s all that matters anyways.
Being at the top of your division at the end of the season is a major accomplishment. But for Belmont, it’s larger than that at this point. The Bruins want that NCAA tournament win.
Of course, you can’t get there unless you win your conference tournament.
The battle for seeding in the tournament is going to be a fun one. That much we know.
3. Lipscomb looking to get back on track
After riding a three-game winning streak, the Lipscomb Bison are once again trying to find some momentum.
Casey Alexander’s team seemed to have things back where they wanted them, but are now currently riding a two-game losing streak heading into Saturday’s game at South Carolina Upstate.
The two teams currently occupy the bottom two spot in the Atlantic Sun Conference, and the Bison are looking to avoid taking sole possession of last place should they lose on Saturday.
These teams met just a week ago when the Spartans came into Nashville and won a 92-91 overtime thriller at Allen Arena.
Revenge will certainly be on the minds of the Bison, as although making a title push is out of the question at this point, heading into March with some sort of momentum is always a good thing.
Lipscomb has struggled on the defensive end of the floor this season, with the Bison giving up 81.2 points per game, which puts them at 337th in the nation.
There’s no doubt that it’ll take a good defensive effort to beat the Spartans on the road.
Want to see a whole lot of basketball for an extremely awesome price? We have good news for you.
The 2016 OVC Men’s and Women’s basketball tournaments will take place March 2-5 at Nashville’s Municipal Auditorium, and the conference currently had a major deal on tickets.
All-session tickets are available for $60 until February 6, so head over to OVCSports.com for complete details on purchasing this steal of a deal.
Anything else I should know about in mid-state college hoops this week? Let me know on Twitter.