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Vanderbilt Commodores (21) @ Kentucky Wildcats (20): Game Preview

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Tonight in Rupp Arena, the Kentucky Wildcats welcome the Vanderbilt Commodores for a contest pregnant with SEC Tournament implications.  Let's look a the SEC standings and a comparison of the two team's season so far, courtesy of Statsheet.com:

 

SEC standings:
W-L Splits: Kentucky Vanderbilt
Split W-L Pct W-L Pct
Rnk Team W-L Conf Home 14-0 1.0 14-2 0.875
1 Florida 22-6 11-3 Away 2-7 0.222 5-4 0.556
1 Alabama 19-9 11-3 Neutral 4-1 0.8 2-1 0.667
3 Vanderbilt 21-7 9-5 Conference 8-6 0.571 9-5 0.643
4 Kentucky 20-8 8-6 Conf Home 7-0 1.0 5-2 0.714
4 Georgia 19-9 8-6 Conf Away 1-6 0.143 4-3 0.571
6 Arkansas 18-10 7-7 Conf Neutral 0-0 - 0-0 -
6 Tennessee 17-12 7-7 Top 25 3-4 0.429 2-2 0.5
6 MState 15-13 7-7 RPI 1-50 6-5 0.545 5-5 0.5
9 Mississippi 18-11 6-8 RPI 51-100 2-3 0.4 5-1 0.833
10 South Carolina 14-13 5-9 RPI 101-150 5-0 1.0 2-1 0.667
11 LSU 11-18 3-11 RPI 151-200 2-0 1.0 3-0 1.0
12 Auburn 9-19 2-12 RPI 200+ 5-0 1.0 6-0 1.0

 

The interesting thing about this game is the various tiebreaker scenarios for the number 2 overall seed, the only one of the four first-round SEC tournament byes for which Kentucky can mathematically remain eligible.

For Kentucky to get the #2 east seed, they must win tonight and Sunday in Knoxville.  That would place Kentucky and Vanderbilt tied at 10-6, assuming Vanderbilt also wins at home versus Florida.  If Vanderbilt loses that game also, Kentucky will be the #2 seed.  If Vanderbilt wins, then the Georgia Bulldogs must lose one of their last two games, either against the LSU Tigers or at the Alabama Crimson Tide.  Otherwise, Vanderbilt also wins the #2 seed.

There are other scenarios where Kentucky could win, and even scenarios where Tennessee can win, but for UK to have any chance at all, they must defeat Vanderbilt tonight.

For the Vanderbilt side, be sure to visit the excellent Anchor of Gold, SB Nation's Commodore side.

More after the jump.

Personnel


Vanderbilt Commodores Basketball Roster

# Pos. Comments
W H College
Joe Duffy 50 F Minor reserve 225 6-8 senior
Festus Ezeli 3 C Starter, main post threat, 2nd leading rebounder, best OR%, 2.3 BPG, foul prone
255 6-11 junior
Kyle Fuller 11 G Reserve 200 6-1 freshman
Lance Goulbourne 5 G Starter, leading rebounder
230 6-8 junior
Josh Henderson 40 G Redshirting 230 6-11 freshman
John Jenkins 23 G Starter, leading scorer, 43% 3pt shooter, Kentucky killer
220 6-4 sophomore
Darshawn McClellan 21 F Redshirting 229 6-7 senior
Chris Meriweather 10 G Rarely plays 180 6-0 senior
Aaron Noll 14 F Rarely plays 220 6-7 junior
Rod Odom 45 F Major reserve, 41% 3pt shooter 215 6-9 freshman
James Siakam 35 F Redshirting 210 6-6 freshman
Jordan Smart 12 G Rarely plays 200 6-6 sophomore
Jeffery Taylor 44 G Starter, 2nd leading scorer, 38% 3pt shooter, lead steals,
225 6-7 junior
Steve Tchiengang 33 F Major reserve, defense, 40% 3pt shooter 245 6-9 junior
Brad Tinsley 1 G Starter, leading assists, 37% 3pt shooter
210 6-3 junior
Andre Walker 54 F Major reserve, gets starter's minutes, rebound and defense 220 6-7 junior

John Jenkins has reached frightening levels of 3-point accuracy considering the number of 3's he takes.  Vanderbilt as a team is the #1 3-point shooting team in the SEC, and Kentucky is #3, considering conference play only.

Injuries

Starting forward Jeffrey Taylor has a sore wrist, but is expected to play tonight against Kentucky.

Aaron Knoll is out with a broken foot, and will not be back for 4-6 weeks.

Kentucky has no known injuries.

Four Factors Analysis

The Four Factors in this game are almost evenly split.  Kentucky is a better ballhandling and slightly better offensive rebounding team.  Vandy is a fraction of a percentage point better shooting team, and gets to the line significantly more often.  At home, you should figure that these factors favor Kentucky by a bit, but the FTR% does concern me -- it's what beat us at Florida and arguably at Vanderbilt, but the home court gives us theoretical help there.

Overall Analysis

Matchups:

Point Guard:  Advantage Kentucky.  Brad Tinsley is a very solid SEC point guard and a dangerous shooter, but Brandon Knight is head and shoulders better than Tinsley is in most statistical areas.  Tinsley has a better A/T ratio, but Knight is a scoring point guard.  Tinsley also leads in steals, and is arguably a slightly better defender.

Off Guard:  Advantage Vanderbilt.  Doron Lamb is good.  John Jenkins is better.  Lamb is a better percentage shooter, but Jenkins is a go-to player who thrives under pressure.

Small Forward:  Advantage push.  Taylor gets to the line more and passes better.  Miller shoots it better and they get offensive rebounds at about the same rate.  If Miller plays like he has been the last couple of games, he could be the linchpin of a Kentucky victory.

Power Forward:  Advantage Kentucky.  Terrence Jones has the advantage in most statistics over Lance Goulbourne.  This is Kentucky's biggest advantage.

Center:  Advantage Vanderbilt.  Ezeli is the better scorer, Harrellson the better offensive rebounder, but not that much better.  Ezeli is a better defender than Harrellson, but he turns the ball over more also.  This is close, but I figure Ezeli has the advantage here.

Everything Else:

In the last game against Vanderbilt, the Commodores beat Kentucky by shooting the lights out.  UK shot an eFG% of 52.5% in Memorial Gym, enough to crush most teams, but Vanderbilt outshot them by 4% and got to the line more often.  In any case it turned out to be a narrow 4-pt loss for Kentucky.

In Rupp Arena, it's hard to imagine the Commodores outshooting Kentucky, especially with Jeffrey Taylor at less than 100%.  John Jenkins could do what he did again, of course, but you have to figure the Wildcats have been working on that problem.  How effective their solution will be is anybody's guess.

This game is likely to hinge on the play of Terrence Jones and Darius Miller.  Jones had a big offensive game down in Nashville, but it took all of it just to stay close to the Commodores.  Darius Miller had a poor game last time, but if he plays like he has been lately, it could make this another convincing home win for the Wildcats.

Another barometer for this game will be DeAndre Liggins.  Liggins was out of control down in Nashville, but he has tightened that up in the last game and is likely to be looking for some redemption.

Overall, this is a tough game against a tough team that will demand nothing less than Kentucky's best.  If they don't bring their "A" game, expect them to lose tonight.  Like the Gators before them, the Commodores are talented and have all the right pieces in place to beat anyone, even Kentucky at home.

 

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