Now, Vandy hasn't always played the toughest schedule outside the conference, but the strength of schedule has begun to increase over the last several years.
But when we talk about whom the best teams in college basketball are, sometimes we make the mistake of looking to see who has the best overall player, or the best two players. However, sometimes it is about who has the best combination of players, from top to bottom. And right now, you have to say Vanderbilt is one of the best teams in the country. The Commodores currently sit at 7-0 on the season, and have made it to that point by playing total team basketball, which is something Coach Kevin Stallings has to be excited about this early in the season.
We knew that replacing Derrick Byars would be tough, which is why this kind of start is so important for this team. With the young guys getting a lot of minutes early on, it is preparing them for SEC play, which will definitely be at a level some of these guys aren't used to. And playing the way the Dores are right now goes a long way towards replacing a guy like Byars. Last year, Byars made the plays when they had to be made. This year, there are multiple guys making plays when they have to be made. Whether it be Shane Foster hitting a three, A.J. Ogilvy stepping through a trap and scoring, or Alex Gordon making a great defensive play, the entire team is contributing in ways that most of us probably weren't expecting this early into the season.
The Georgia Tech game was the prime example of how this team is progressing. On Thursday night, the Dores looked sluggish on the defense, but finally pulled out the double overtime win against South Alabama. But on Saturday, the team realized the type of effort it would take to beat a team like Ga. Tech, and they put on a defensive clinic. Adjustments were made, and the Dores were a totally different team defensively on Saturday. This is the type of progress that has to excite the coaches and the fans. It's unusual to see a team mesh this well, this early, especially when you're throwing four freshmen into the mix. It's a little too early to begin predicting an SEC Championship, or another Sweet 16 appearance, but if this type of progress continues to be made, neither of those is out of the question.
Yes, experience is crucial in SEC play, which is another reason why it's good to see the freshman guys getting this much playing time. They are getting playing time of the college level, and are proving that they belong at a program like Vanderbilt. A.J. Ogilvy has definitely been a welcoming addition to this time, as he is consistently contributing for this team. Keegan Bell seemed to get in a groove shooting the ball against the Yellow Jackets, and looks to be confident in his abilities at the point guard position. Andre Walker and Darshawn McClellan are playing their roles, and are very good defensively as well. Seeing these young players look comfortable when they're on the floor is without a doubt a welcoming sight for the fans.
Right now, this team is clicking. That's really all there is to it. The defense hasn't been incredible in every game, but greatly improved in the Georgia Tech game. On Wednesday, the Commodores host another ACC squad, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. While Wake probably isn't as talented overall as Tech, they are still going to provide a tough challenge for this team. But, if we see the same Vandy team that showed up Saturday, the Demon Deacons will have a difficult time coming out of Memorial Gym with a victory. And for that matter, if Vandy continues to play with such unselfishness, many teams are going to have a difficult time coming out of Memorial Gym with a victory.
It's a great time to be a Commodore basketball fan. This is an exciting team to watch, and hopefully the excitement continues throughout the season. If we keep seeing the total team effort we saw against Georgia Tech, you can bet the excitement is going to continue on West End