TV Schedule: Saturday, Jan. 9, 3:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Arena: Colonial Life Arena, Columbia, SC
Line: South Carolina (-4)
There might not be a team in all of college basketball more disappointing than the Vanderbilt Commodores.
After racing out to a 5-0 start and playing the Kansas Jayhawks relatively close, Vanderbilt have lost five of their last seven games, including a recent overtime loss to the struggling Arkansas Razorbacks.
Once thought to be one of the top teams in the SEC and a legitimate Final Four contender, the Commodores are barely hanging on to at-large 2016 NCAA tournament hopes. That’s why a win in their next matchup on the road Saturday afternoon against the undefeated South Carolina Gamecocks could turn their season. More importantly, it could show this team that they are capable of beating above-average opponents.
That being said, the Gamecocks are no pushover team. Although their schedule is bereft of wins over top opposition, solid wins against decent opposition suggest that this squad is a legitimate threat in the SEC. Frank Martin has continued to recruit at a high level, so it is about time that everything came together for players like Michael Carrera and Sindarius Thornwell, who have seemingly been in the SEC for the last 10 seasons.
Vanderbilt will be an NCAA tournament team and get back on track soon, but I think it will be at home in Memorial rather than on the road against a confident, undefeated opponent. South Carolina continues their run in a close one and people finally start to take the Gamecocks seriously as one of the top 20 or so teams in college basketball.
Prediction: South Carolina 68, Vanderbilt 63