Vandy's Looking Quite Dandy

By Josh Herwitt - December 13, 2007

While we didn't see nearly as many signature upsets in last year's NCAA Tournament as the analysts and experts seemed to be picking in early March, one of the biggest surprises last season turned out to be Vanderbilt.

Behind the stellar play of Derrick Byars, the Commodores managed to finish third in the SEC East (behind two-time national champ Florida and Tennessee) and reach the Sweet 16 with impressive wins over George Washington and third-seeded Washington State in the Big Dance.

But if you thought Vanderbilt wouldn't be the same without Byars, then you got another thing coming.

Because, after all, Kevin Stallings' squad is off to its best start at 10-0 since the 2003-04 campaign, when the Commodores opened the season with 12 straight wins, after escaping Wednesday night at DePaul with a 91-85 overtime victory.

And while it wasn't necessarily pretty, the Commodores, somehow, some way, were able to get it done down the stretch.

"We were extremely lucky to win the game," Stallings, the 2007 SEC Coach of the Year, admitted after the game. "Their team played better than us for more of the game, and I told [DePaul coach] Jerry [Wainwright] that at the end of the game. But we found a way, and that's what these guys do. If we play good, they find a way, and if they play bad, they find a way."

The Commodores, in fact, trailed by as much as 18 points with less than five minutes to go after Dar Tucker threw down a huge alley-oop dunk that had the DePaul faithful roaring and Vanderbilt clearly on its heels.

But that's when Stalling's team woke up, as A.J. Ogilvy found his game at the right time and pulled the Commodores to within four with three minutes left in regulation.

"I'm proud of their belief in what we do," Stallings said of his team. "They believed they could do it, and they did it."

Though Ogilvy, who along with Shan Foster currently top the SEC in scoring, clearly struggled through the first 35 minutes of the game, the freshman sensation from Down Under did finish with 19 points and nine rebounds in 27 minutes of action. Foster, meanwhile, managed to tally 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting, and Alan Metcalfe also contributed to Vandy's stat sheet with 18 points and six rebounds.

And while the list of unbeaten teams continues to diminish as this season further progresses, you have to think that with the next six games at home, the Commodores could quite possibly walk into Thompson-Boling Arena on Jan. 17 to face No. 12 Tennessee with a zero still sitting in the loss column.

Posted by Josh Herwitt at 01:55 PM on December 13, 2007

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