The Kentucky Wildcats took a huge step to another SEC Title over the weekend by knocking off Florida, but they have not clinched yet.
They welcome a Vanderbilt team to Rupp Arena that is desperate for a win, and that gave them a good battle about six weeks ago. They also face a desperate team as the Commodores (16-13) are on the outside of the NCAA Tournament looking in.
The Commodores have an RPI (per Jerry Palm) of #48, and they have four wins against teams in the top #36, including one over Florida. There are 4-6 against the teams in the Top 50, however. It is the 5-6 record against the teams that are ranked 51-100 that are damaging.
The 72-52 loss to Missouri is the big problem to their NCAA resume, but that can be resolved with a win at Rupp Arena tonight.
Let's meet the Commodores.
#13 G - RILEY LACHANCE (JR, 6'2, 192) 10.1 PPG, 4.1 APG, 3.2 RPG
#24 G - NOLAN CRESSLER (SR 6'4, 210) 7.7 PPG, 4.0 APG, 1.8 RPG
#2 G - JOE TOYE (SO 6'7, 208) 5.8 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 1.2 APG)
#11 F - JEFF ROBERSON (JR, 6'6, 224) 11.1 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 1.8 APG
#3 F - LUKE KORNET (SR, 7'1, 250) 13.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.2 APG
Riley Chance has taken charge of this Vanderbilt offense and is a solid floor general. He is dangerous from long range, hitting 49.1% of his three-pointers and 47.4% overall, both career highs. He also has an A/TO ratio of over 2.0 and has 10 assists against just two turnovers in his last two games. Nolan Kresser is another player that can get hot from outside and hits 45.6% from long range. He can score from all over and hits 53.3% overall.
Joe Toye only averages 19.2 minutes a game and is an average shooter and scorer. He hits 40.3% of his shots overall and just 35.8% of his three-pointers. He has scored in double digits six times. Jeff Roberson is a pretty good rebounder and likes to battle for the loose ball. He is not a great shooter as he hits just 34.3 from long-range. He can still get hot and rack up the points. He is coming off a 23 point game against Mississippi State in which he went 5-6 from long range.
Luke Kornet is a solid rebounder and plays good interior defense, with 2.1 blocks a game. He moves well with the ball and hits 35.4% of his three-pointers. He plays more like a forward rather than a center, despite his 7'1 size, and can stretch the floor with his shooting.
#5 G - MATTHEW FISHER-DAVIS (JR 6'5, 185) 15.0 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 1.1 APG)
#1 G - PAYTON WILLIS (FR 6'4, 182) 5.2 PPG, 2.0 APG, 1.7 RPG
#12 C - DJERY BAPTISTE (FR 6'10, 240) 2.0 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 0.4 BPG
#15 F - CLEVON BROWN (FR 6'8, 219) 1.9 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 0.1 APG
Matthew Fisher-Davis was the top three-point shooter in the SEC last year, and he is still dangerous, hitting 38.9%, down from 44.6%. He averages almost seven trey attempts a game. He was off against the previous Kentucky game, going 2-10 from long range but still had 19 points, mostly from the line. Freshman Payton Willis has started several games but has been really struggling lately. He hits 42.2% of his shots but just 29.9% from long range. He has scored just 6 points in his last 71 minutes which has spanned five games.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN
This Vanderbilt team is playing a lot better than the one that Kentucky beat earlier in the season. The Commodores were in the middle of a four-game losing streak. Now, they are one of the hottest teams in the SEC, and have gone 8-3 and have wins over Florida and South Carolina.
Vanderbilt is probably playing the best defense right now in the SEC, and they allow their opponents to just 42.4% of their shots and 34.6% of their three pointers. They have given up just 104 points in their last tow games to Tennessee and Mississippi State. The Bulldogs just hit 14 shots against the Commodores for 29.8%.
The Commodores are also a dangerous team that can light it up from behind the three-point line. They shoot 38.4% as a team, and they average 10 made treys a game. They are one of a few teams that can get hot and dump 15+ treys on a team. Against Mississippi State, they went 14-29. The Commodores average 26.1 three point attempts a game. They only hit eight against the Wildcats in the earlier meeting and still gave Kentucky all they wanted.
Kentucky does have one thing going for them, and that is the momentum that comes with Senior Day. It is a special and unique day experience, and it will be a special vibe at Rupp. I also like how Kentucky has rebounded at home against teams that gave them problems on the road earlier. John Calipari has not lost at home to Vanderbilt, and that trend will continue.
Look for Kentucky to get one step closer to the SEC title with a 79-65 win.