With the eighth youngest team in Division I men's basketball (according to KenPom.com), as well as the departure of four seniors from last year's 26-8 squad, you knew there would be a few bumps in the road with Vanderbilt's 2008-09 team.
So how do you rebuild confidence among a team that has (a) only two upperclassmen and (b) lost three-straight conference games by an average of 15 points? Coach Stallings answered the question during Monday's SEC teleconference.
"I think that we have to continue to try to be positive with them to help them learn. I think it can come from them holding each other more accountable. But, I think the biggest way that confidence comes is by knowing what to expect and seeing success. We just don't have anybody playing at a level right now that is giving confidence to the other players.
"Generally speaking, when things are going decently you have one or two guys who you can garner your confidence from if you're another player. You have confidence in yourself, but you know this guy is going to do his part, or he's going to do well, or he's going to create opportunities for the rest of us. We just don't have any of that going on right now. "
Vanderbilt will have to regroup against an experienced South Carolina team that features eight upperclassmen under first-year coach Darrin Horn. The Gamecocks (14-4, 3-2 SEC) are undefeated in SEC home games this year with victories over Ole Miss, Florida and Auburn. And while the Commodores have won three straight in Columbia (and six of the last seven in the series), Stallings knows everything must be earned in order for the Commodores to get back on the right track.
"South Carolina seems to be playing extremely well and very confidently. Like every other opponent in our league, you get no free nights. Nothing comes easily in this league."