Sports, Thrill of Victory

Three-Point Play: Vandy reaches its breaking point

Conference play is officially here in college basketball. That means you should be doing nothing but going home after work and setting up eight TV’s so that you can catch all the action.

When you’re done with that, set up shop in the recliner and catch up on all the best hoops storylines around Nashville.

1. Is Vandy in danger of missing the NCAA tournament?

The funny thing about January is that it’s January. It’s not March.

However, that doesn’t mean what you do is January is meaningless. Just ask the Vanderbilt Commodores.

Damian Jones is playing better for the Commodores, but Vandy is still struggling. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

Damian Jones is playing better for the Commodores, but Vandy is still struggling. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

After starting the season as a consensus Top 15 team in the country, Vandy currently sits at the bottom of the SEC standings after opening conference play with back-to-back losses to LSU and Arkansas.

Even more concerning, the Commodores have yet to pick up an NCAA tournament “resume” win all season long.

They’ve had opportunities against teams like Kansas, Baylor, Dayton, Purdue, and LSU. All resulted in losses.

Vandy’s record is now 8-6. The Commodores play at undefeated South Carolina on Saturday.

Any way you look at it, this isn’t good. Which begs the question:

Is Vandy in serious jeopardy of missing the NCAA tournament?

The answer to that question is an emphatic “yes.” There’s nothing right now that should make anyone think otherwise.

There are certain seasons when everything bounces in the opposite direction. It’s been that sort of season for the Commodores.

They’ve lost heartbreakers. They’ve endured injuries to key players. They just can’t catch a break.

But at some point, it has to click. Everything has to come together. Especially for a team that has three potential NBA draft picks.

The problem is that it has to happen soon. Real soon.

Or else a team with Final Four aspirations will be on the outside looking in on Selection Sunday.

2. The march to March begins for Belmont

The Belmont Bruins started Ohio Valley Conference play just like we thought they would.

Rick Byrd’s team traveled to take on Southeast Missouri State in their opener, and as expected, the preseason OVC favorites came out with a hard-fought 92-82 win.

OVC Preseason Player of the Year Craig Bradshaw leads the Bruins into OVC play. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

OVC Preseason Player of the Year Craig Bradshaw leads the Bruins into OVC play. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

The victory came on the heels of a revenge win over Valparaiso, which without question gave Belmont a boost heading into the conference opener.

And then the Bruins kept the momentum going with a win over SIU Edwardsville in Illinois.

Another game, another win.

That’s all Belmont has to do. Simply stay the course.

This team has been in this position before. They know what it’s like to be the one that everyone else is aiming for.

Belmont’s next challenge comes on Saturday when it hosts Eastern Illinois, a team with only four wins to its credit this season. SIU Edwardsville only had three.

But make no mistake about it, the records don’t matter when you’re the hunted.

And the Bruins will continue to be the hunted as the season goes along.

That’s the only way you get to March. Survive and advance.

3. Lipscomb puts in strong performance at Akron

The season has not gone according to plan for the Lipscomb Bison.

Few expected the Bison to challenge for the Atlantic Sun crown, but they also didn’t expect this: a 4-13 start to the season.

Lipscomb head coach Casey Alexander has his work cut out for him in A-Sun play after losing star player Josh Williams for the season. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

Lipscomb head coach Casey Alexander has his work cut out for him in A-Sun play after losing star player Josh Williams for the season. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

Everything has seemingly gone wrong for Casey Alexander and company. Of course, the biggest problem for the team came when Josh Williams went out for the season with an ACL tear in the team’s loss to Princeton in mid-December.

Now Lipscomb is riding a five-game losing streak heading into their A-Sun opener against Kennesaw State.

However, there’s hope. Especially after the team’s most recent loss at Akron.

The Zips now sit at 11-2 on the season, but had trouble dispatching of the Bison. Although Akron wound up winning the game 80-73, it was certainly an encouraging performance for Alexander’s squad.

Lipscomb played tough the entire way and actually held a lead midway through the second half. Against a team that’s really, really good.

The loss obviously wasn’t want the Bison wanted. Moral victories do show up on the stat sheet.

However, it was without a doubt a quality effort against an above average team.

It was the kind of effort that has to give Alexander and his staff some confidence heading into conference play.

This week’s mid-state schedule:

January 7

UTEP at MTSU – 6 PM CT

January 9

Vanderbilt at South Carolina – 2 PM CT

Eastern Illinois at Belmont – 2 PM CT

UTSA at MTSU – 3 PM CT

Lipscomb at Kennesaw State – 3:30 PM CT

SIU Edwardsville at TSU

January 12

Auburn at Vanderbilt – 8 PM CT

And-1:

Vandy’s upcoming schedule doesn’t get much easier after South Carolina.

The Commodores will come home for tough games against Auburn and Alabama next week before hitting the road for back to back games against Tennessee and Kentucky.

Anything else I need to know about in Nashville hoops this week? Let me know on Twitter.