At last we reach the first game of our conference schedule. In recent years, our games with Vanderbilt have been highly indicative of how our season was likely to turn out. Beat them in Rupp Arena, and all is well. Lose to them, and things tend to go downhill a bit.
Last year we pulled off a big upset in Rupp, and this year we are looking to bounce back from the loss at Louisville. That tends to magnify this game somewhat, and makes it a very important beginning to the SEC conference schedule. Vanderbilt, on the other hand, is on a six-game winning streak, their latest being a 30-point victimization of UMass.
Player Statistics (Courtesy of BBState)
Team Statistics (Courtesy of Kenpom.com)
|Effective FG%||51.4||87||51.2||5||56.1||12||42.8||19||UK Big||UK|
|Turnover %||21.9||229||18.6||287||24.7||317||20.8||177||Vandy Big||UK Big|
|Offensive rebound %||33.6||163||29.9||73||35.2||112||29.1||42||UK||UK|
|Free throw rate||34.5||9||29.4||54||32.2||23||34.2||141||Vandy||Vandy Big|
|2-point FG%||51||65||36.2||1||58.4||4||38.8||5||UK||Vandy Small|
|Free throw %||73.7||37||66.5||94||78.4||7||70.2||229||UK||Vandy Big|
|Block %||9.2||192||12.5||42||6.9||64||18.8||5||UK Big||UK|
|Steal %||11||248||9.2||221||11.1||250||9.5||203||Vandy Small||UK|
Vanderbilt has a very young but talented front court. Andrew Ogilvy is tenth in the SEC in scoring and eighth in rebounding. He is one of the best low-post players in the SEC and will provide a serious challenge for the Kentucky front-court duo of Patrick Patterson and Perry Stevenson. Freshman Jeffrey Taylor was a Rivals top 100 player (52) and has already claimed SEC Freshman of the Week honors once this year. Andre Walker is a sophomore who plays mostly an inside game.
Patrick Patterson currently ranks 5th and 3rd in the SEC in scoring and rebounding respectively, and as good as Ogilvy has been, Patterson as been significantly better. Perry Stevenson and Jeffrey Talor are very similar players both in build and game, except that Taylor is a better scorer and Stevenson is a better defensive player. Both Patterson and Stevenson are in the top 15 in the SEC in field goal percentage, and neither of the two Commodores are so high. I have no idea who will start at the 3 for Kentucky, but it will probably be Ramon Harris.
Overall, I give Kentucky an edge in the front court. Patterson is a better offensive and devensive player than Ogilvy, and is much more athletic. Stevenson and Harris are both far more eperienced than their counterparts, and just as talented.
Vanderbilt has two deadly 3-point shooters in the back court, point guard Jermaine Beal and freshman (and former UK recruit) Brad Tinsley. Both are shooting over 40% from outside the arc, and Beal is a junior with outstanding ball skills.
Jodie Meeks currently leads the SEC in scoring and is fourth in the nation. He is second in the league in minutes and sixth in true shooting percentage. He will likely be joined by Michael Porter, who played a good game against Louisville and has matured quite a bit in the last several games.
Vanderbilt has a slight advantage in the back court. They have better depth and a more stable point guard situation. They also have excellent shooting in the back court.
Overall, Kentucky is statistically a somewhat better team than Vanderbilt, although Vandy continues to field solid, high quality talent. Vanderbilt's biggest problem in this game will be containing the Patterson/Meeks duo. Unfortunately for Vanderbilt, they don't have anyone with the combination of size and athleticism to handle Patterson. Meeks' athleticism is trouble for everyone, but if his shot happens to be off this game, UK will need someone else to step up and produce.
Both teams get to the line a lot and shoot a high percentage. Neither team gets a lot of steals, and of course, there is that whole turnover thing with Kentucky, which has been a serious bugaboo for the 'Cats all year. Kentucky plays somewhat better defense and somewhat better offense than the Commodores, and if that holds to form, the 'Cats should be in the driver's seat.
One big concern for both teams is fouls. If either team's big man gets into foul trouble, that could be a very big problem. Kentucky has struggled this year with 3-point defense, and that could be deadly against Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt has three very capable three-point shooters, and Kentucky really only has one -- Michael Porter has shown some competence, but he is a reluctant shooter.
In the final analysis, these are two very similar teams, statistically, and this matchup should be a good one. Kentucky is more efficient on both offense and defense, and although Vanderbilt has better three point shooting, Kentucky has an advantage both athletically and size wise in the back court that should neutralize that to some degree. Rupp Arena will also provide an advantage that was strong during SEC play last year, and I don't expect that to change this year.