The Vanderbilt men’s basketball squad couldn’t match their football counterparts in 2017 as they dropped a game against Kansas State 84-79 in Nashville. It is a quick turnaround now for a meeting on Wednesday night against Middle Tennessee.

Here are the three keys to this one:

Start the game hotter

What started off as a blip has become something of an alarming trend over the last few games. Vandy just cannot come out of the gate hitting buckets. This happened again against Kansas State, as Vandy shot just 33 percent in the first half, while the Wildcats were firing at a 62 percent clip. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that this is a huge problem, as the Commodores cannot dig themselves out of deep holes every single game.

It is hard to say exactly what the problem is or how Bryce Drew can go about fixing the issue. The outside shots that are the ‘Dores biggest weapon in 2017-18 just seem to take a while to get going. It would be nice to see a concerted effort against Middle Tennessee to only take shots in rhythm and see if that makes a difference.

Help Jeff Roberson

We said it last time out and we will say it again. Vanderbilt simply has to find a way to help Jeff Roberson if the ‘Dores are going to win games. The senior forward went off again against Kansas State, this time delivering a performance where he scored 22 points and had 10 rebounds to put up his fifth double-double of the season. He was a perfect 4-of-4 from three-point range, proving he can do a little bit of everything.

It is weird with the level of dominance that Roberson has had at times this season that the Commodores aren’t playing better off the back of his success. Middle Tennessee will try their best to game plan Roberson out of the game, so Vandy should take advantage of this and get their other shooters more open looks.

Protect the basketball

This game against the Blue Raiders is one that could cause Vanderbilt problems. Middle Tennessee is 5-1 and ranked sixth in the country in the first RPI rankings announced this season. They score 11 more points per game than Vanderbilt and they give up six fewer points. They also shoot at a better percentage (47.3 percent to 40.6 percent) and average marginally more rebounds per game. The big difference though is in steals per game.

Vanderbilt has not been good so far this season when it comes to taking the ball away. Vandy averages just 4.5 steals per game, while MTSU average 8.2 steals per game. In a contest that Is going to be close, those extra possessions could be critical. The Vanderbilt guards cannot make bad decisions and gift the ball back to the Blue Raiders if Vandy is to pick up this win.

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