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Q/A Hoops Preview of Vanderbilt with Anchor of Gold

Anchor of Gold has been featured on FTRS a few times as Tech took on the 'Dores in hoops and football. Check out their responses to our questions below as we preview Nashville's premium college hoops squad.

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Bird: In general, a lot of Tech fans see Vandy and Tech as very similar ideologically and enjoy meeting up in football and hoops. When Tech was in the SEC, the two met almost every year in football from 1924-1967 (minus WWII and the mid 50's) and every year in hoops from 1924-1964 (minus 1945-1950). Both are prestigious academic institutions in major metros surrounded by the unwashed hordes of a big brother's massive fan base. With that preface, what are the athletic goals of Vanderbilt playing in the SEC in hoops and football on a season to season basis?

Christian @ AOG: Football, briefly, turned our expectations into attending a bowl game every year. After Derek Mason's first year, those ideals have been downgraded to "try not to be a full-blown alcoholic by the time the season's over." It's been...difficult. Still, the die hard fans are hopeful that a turnaround is possible, even if much of James Franklin's fan building in Tennessee was undone by a godawful season.

We have higher standards for basketball. Kevin Stallings has been at the helm of a revival for Commodore basketball, and while some of his teams have underperformed and his roster management teeters into questionable in certain years, he has the team moving in the right direction. That said, a third straight year without a postseason bid will be tough to deal with, even if it is expected. Beyond that, Vandy fans are optimistic about the future thanks to a talented young core...but after losing Kedren Johnson, Kevin Bright, Dai-Jon Parker, Sheldon Jeter, AJ Astroth, and Eric McClellan before their eligibility was up in the past 2.5 seasons (!!!) we're beginning to stop counting our chickens before they hatch.

Bird: In last year's meeting, Damian Jones picked up 3 offensive rebounds but was not a big threat to score. This year Jones is leading the team in free throw attempts, personal fouls, points, and rebounds by some pretty big margins. Is Jones the leader beyond the stats on this team (or is that someone else)? How has his play progressed since last season?

Christian @ AOG: Jones is learning to harness his athleticism around the hoop, primarily through the addition of some useful post moves that has enhanced his scoring ability. He's balanced out his ability to score with either hand, and he's doing a better job of identifying help defense and passing out of double teams. He's been the guy opponents have been zeroing in on early in this season.

That has given other players the chance to step up - particularly freshman Riley LaChance. LaChance is a dynamite pure shooter who plays much tougher than he looks (to be fair, he looks like an eighth grader). If Jones isn't doing much damage in Atlanta, then it's a safe bet that LaChance is.

Bird: I know the losses to Rutgers and Baylor (by a combined 6 points) had to be frustrating. Last season, Tech struggled mightily in the second half against power 5 squads (see Vandy). What cost Vandy the wins against Rutgers and Baylor this season?

Christian @ AOG: This team lacks a veteran presence who can steady them late in the game. The Commodores have only one upperclassman who is getting rotation minutes this winter - James Siakam. As solid as Siakam has been, he's a role player rather than the kind of guy who can put this team on his shoulders and lead them through the wilderness. The 'Dores have been plucky and put together big comeback efforts against both Rutgers and Baylor, but they just haven't had that extra veteran boost to keep the team together long enough to get over that hump.

Bird: Tech and Vandy have met up 5 times since 2006 with Vandy holding a 3-2 margin in the modern series. What type of game keeps Vandy ahead in the modern series record? What type of game evens the modern series up at 3-3?

Christian @ AOG: Vandy wins if they can feed Damian Jones early and use his strength to draw fouls in the post. If Demarco Cox can't rein him in on his own, the 'Dores have had success in beating double teams down low through ball movement - they're averaging over 17 assists per game. Jones is the engine that makes this team's offense run, and if he's feeling it up front that will make Vanderbilt a tough victory for any opponent to claim.

Georgia Tech wins if they can do what Baylor did - take advantage of the learning curve in Vandy's defensive backcourt and kill the 'Dores with three-pointers. The Bears went 8-17 from long range, and Western Carolina used a similar strategy to put a first half scare into Kevin Stallings's team on Tuesday. If the Yellow Jackets can find their range early, they'll put a lot of pressure on a young team that's still learning to respond to those situations.