Tonight is the first SEC game for the Kentucky Wildcats as they take on the Vanderbilt Commodores in Memorial Gym. Vanderbilt is in a rebuilding year after losing almost as many player to the NBA draft and to graduation as Kentucky did. Unfortunately for the Commodores, reloading is a lot harder for them than it is for Kentucky
Here's how the teams have fared so far:
|Rank and Records||UK||Vandy|
|Strength of Schedule||#50||#95|
|RPI Top 50||0-3||0-2|
Kentucky is 136-45 all time against the Commodores, but since Kevin Stallings came to Nashville, he has made Vandy into a seemingly perennial conference competitor. This year, however, is a bit different.
Since John Calipari came to Lexington, the Wildcats are 7-2 versus the 'Dores, the most recent loss being in the SEC tournament last season when they upset the eventual national champion Wildcats in the finals.
MajR= Major Reserve
The go-to player for the Commodores this year is sophomore guard Kendren Johnson. Johnson is a good offensive plyer both inside and out, and is a dangerous 3-point shooter. Unlike most years when the Commodores are extremely adept from long range, this year they are only slightly above average as a team, shooting 35.5%
The leading rebounder, and this is somewhat indicative of Vandy's problem, is shooting guard Kevin Bright. Bright is also a very good 3-point shooter.
This chart speaks for itself. Kentucky is simply better in every statistical area, and significantly so.
This is not the Vanderbilt team we are used to seeing over the last four years. This year's team is small, young, and not especially talented. The are also, in a bizarre reversal from the norm for a Commodore squad, loathsome free throw shooters, averaging only 57.9% as a team.
Kevin Stallings prefers a man-to-man defense, but this year he finds himself going more and more to the zone because of the youth of his squad. You will see a lot of that zone against UK tonight.
Unlike last year's Vandy team which played at a fairly high pace, this year's team plays slower and more deliberately. Vandy has struggled to score, also, managing only 33 points in a lost to Marist and only 49 points in a loss to Butler. Their last game was a win against William and Mary at home.
In spite of the fact that Memorial Gym is always a tough place to play, this Vanderbilt team simply doesn't have the horses to compete with Kentucky for very long this year. Vandy doesn't match up well with UK at any position, are smaller and less athletic, and don't shoot the three well enough to sustain a challenge against a team like Kentucky.