Vanderbilt Basketball: Commodores on Powerful Surge at Just the Right Time

Chad MintonCorrespondent IJanuary 18, 2012

NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 11:  The Vanderbilt Commodores mascot visits with fans during the game against the Oregon Ducks at Memorial Gymansium on November 11, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee. Vanderbilt defeated Oregon 78-64.(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

It would've been easy to write off the Vanderbilt Commodores back in December when the team was 6-4 with losses to Cleveland State and Indiana State on their home floor.

However, now the Commodores have seemed to hit their stride at just the right time, as they're currently riding a seven-game winning streak and are 3-0 in the SEC.

That seven-game winning streak includes a romping of then-No.13 Marquette on the road.

What's made this recent surge so impressive by the Commodores is how they're getting contributions from many different players.

During their current winning streak, the Commodores have had at least three different players score in double figures in all of those games.

In fact, the Commodores have four different players currently averaging double figures in points and three players averaging more than five rebounds per game.

That's the key ingredient for the Commodores to continue to have success and climb back into the Top 25.

The Commodores are a way better team when they're balanced than when they're relying on Jeffery Taylor and John Jenkins to have All-American type performances night in and night out.

Then you have the return of Festus Ezeli, who didn't return until the game against Davidson on December 7th. Since his return, the Commodores have lost just once.

Ezeli provides that inside presence on defense that the Commodores are ordinary at best without.

That inside presence will be critical if the Commodores are even going to contend with Kentucky for the SEC, much less beat them head-to-head.

One thing that continues to plague the Commodores is their lack of production from the bench. Guys like Kyle Fuller, Dai-Jon Parker and Kedren Johnson have given up big leads time and time again this season.

These guys have to start doing a better job at holding leads while the starters rest up or stay out of foul trouble.

Now the Commodores will enter the toughest part of their schedule with their confidence restored once again.

Four of their next six games will come against teams that will likely be in the NCAA tournament, with No.15 Mississippi State being their next ranked opponent.

When you scan the remaining schedule for the Commodores, there's no reason why the Commodores can't make the NCAA tournament yet again despite the sluggish start to the season.

Maybe sneaking into the tournament will make the Commodores more hungry than in seasons past, when the Commodores have seemed to let their guard down in the first round, leading to early exits to teams like Siena and Murray State.

The Commodores still have plenty of opportunities to boost their tournament resume back up and get back to where everyone expected them to be heading into the season, when they were ranked No. 7.

They have the momentum, and they should have the confidence to make a strong run into March.