Vanderbilt started their season in the right way with a 19 point (73-54) win over Austin Peay on Friday night. There is little time to rest and reflect on that victory, however, as the Commodores now travel to face local area Ohio Valley Conference school Belmont on Monday night.
Here are the three keys to this one:
Continue to use Jeff Roberson
We all knew that Vanderbilt was going to have to play a little differently this year without Luke Kornet. In the opener against Austin Peay, it was Jeff Roberson who gave the best idea of what life will be like for the Commodores in 2017-18 without their matchup nightmare in the post.
Roberson was good last year, but he was never healthy. This season Roberson is back to 100-percent fitness and his opening night display was hopefully the start of big things to come. Roberson put up a double-double in points (13) and rebounds (10) as he filled up the stat sheet. If Vandy is to be a threat in the SEC this winter then they will need performances like that from Roberson on a regular basis. Seeing him put up similar numbers against Belmont would be a great indicator that this is a possibility.
Handle a step up in class
Austin Peay and Belmont might be in the same conference, but the Bruins are a much better team than the Governors. Belmont traveled out to the Pacific Northwest on Friday night, pushing Washington all the way in an 86-82 loss. The main man to watch on their team will be Nick Hopkins, a player who scored 22 points for the Bruins in his college debut. Hopkins was especially dangerous from outside the arc, where he knocked down six three-point shots.
The three is a big weapon for Belmont. They hit 10 against Washington, but only went 4-of-14 from deep in the second half. If a couple more of those shots hit then they leave with an upset, so Vandy had better prepare for an aerial bombardment on Monday.
This is unlikely to be a game that is won with a defensive mindset. Belmont just throws up too many three-pointers for that. On the plus side, Vanderbilt seems built for a contest like this as the Commodores are loaded with scorers themselves. Taking an offensive mentality into this game is crucial. The Commodores’ players cannot get disheartened and start playing tight if they find Belmont taking a big lead. Similarly, they cannot take their foot off of the gas if they start to build a lead themselves.
Both these squads can score, so it might be first to 90 wins on Monday night.