Not long ago Vanderbilt lost to Missouri by 20 on the road. A team that took a terrible L in Columbia has won four straight and seven of their last nine. A team that once appeared to be finished now has an opportunity to make the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s a great opportunity,” first-year head coach Bryce Drew told the media yesterday. “To be in this situation considering where we were a few weeks ago, it’s a great compliment to the guys and their hard work. They’re coming together and playing real well. Now we’re playing for something and we have a lot at stake this week.”
The NCAA Tournament isn’t a far-fetched dream for the Commodores (16-13, 8-7). They have wins over South Carolina and Florida. In Joe Lunardi’s Monday edition of Bracketology, Vanderbilt was a 12-seed in the “last four in.”
“It’s nice that we’ve gotten some wins that some people are talking about us, but we know we have to win to stay in those conversations,” Drew said.
To keep their hopes alive, Vanderbilt must win in Lexington, something that’s only happened twice (’06 and ’07) since 1974. Still, John Calipari believes the Commodores are “very dangerous.”
“They’re playing their best basketball. They’re making shots. They’re cutting hard. They played us all zone last time, and now they’re not playing zone at all. They struggled defensively and they’re not now,” Calipari said yesterday. “They’re playing together and they’ve figured it out.”
Drew’s team is rolling. He has never coached at Rupp Arena, but he knows a thing or two about upsetting Calipari at Rupp. His brother Scott handed Coach Cal his first home loss as UK’s head coach when Baylor came to town in 2012.
“Hopefully he doesn’t take that out on me ever in the future,” Drew said with a chuckle.
If Kentucky does stop Vanderbilt’s four-game winning streak with a win on Senior Night, the Cats will clinch a share of the SEC regular season title, the fifth under Calipari and 48th in school history.