Can we believe what we just saw? Do we dare to buy?
Where Vanderbilt is concerned, the apprehension is understandable. So many years, so many promises left undelivered.
Including this season -- the season it was supposed to all come together, the big finish, the real deal. Picked to finish second in the SEC -- a legitimate threat not only to unseat Kentucky but also go deep (maybe Final Four deep) in the NCAA tournament -- the Dores instead did what the Dores always do. They failed to beat anyone of any consequence. Kansas, Baylor, Purdue, South Carolina, Kentucky, every ranked team that came into Vanderbilt’s crosshairs walked out unscathed, stretching a streak of futility against Top-25 opponents that began all the way back in 2012.
Which leads to this, a 77-60 thumping of No. 8 Texas A&M, a win that not only ends the slide against good teams but makes you want to believe in the Commodores again.
Because this was the promise delivered -- a hot-shooting team that can hurt you from everywhere. Four players finished in double figures, with Wade Baldwin IV dishing out eight assists as he played pick your poison against an Aggies team that actually is pretty good at defense.
It was a game played so well it was almost pretty, the sort of game folks expected Vanderbilt would play all season.
But is it enough to actually bank on? Vandy is 13-9, 5-4 in the SEC, as bubbliciously bubble as a team could possibly be. Before we can even talk about what the Commodores could do in the NCAA tournament, they have to get in the field.
So is this the turning point, the beginning of the good team we expected to see instead of the disappointing one we’ve grown accustomed to watching?
Just maybe it is.
Because here’s the twist. What has ailed this team hasn’t been its defense -- the end of the floor that's not exactly a hallmark of Vanderbilt squads. The Dores actually rank first in the nation in 3-point field goal defense and ninth in field goal percentage defense, two areas that particularly stymied Texas A&M. The Aggies shot just 7-for-22 from the arc, 21-of-57 from the floor.
Their Achilles' heel has been their bread and butter: their offense. Turnovers and crummy shooting have conspired against Vanderbilt all season. In the Commodores' most recent losses -- to Texas and Kentucky -- they managed just 58 and 57 points respectively.
The 77 points against the Aggies, meantime, was their third-most prolific performance since the start of 2016 (and one of the other two came in overtime).
It has been three long years since Vanderbilt found its way on to the bracket, three years of October hopes dashed by March swoons. But with a forgivable schedule -- the Dores play just two more ranked opponents, Kentucky at home and A&M on the road -- there is more than enough time to get on the right side of the bubble, if not off of it altogether.
And then the bigger big question: Do you dare to buy Vanderbilt in March?
Just maybe you do.