UPDATE: I've added some extra pregame articles (and a few other links to the list at the bottom. If you see anything we're missing, let us know in the comments. Also, we'd love to know your thoughts on this huge SEC matchup!
First place in the SEC (East). That's what is at stake today as Vanderbilt takes on Tennessee in Knoxville. KenPom's prediction aligns favorably with recent history: Vanderbilt has a 29% chance of victory in Knoxville (78-72 UT with a tempo of 74). In the context of the Bruce Pearl era, a six point loss in Knoxville would almost feel like a victory. Vandy's average margin of loss: 18.5 points (minimum being 7).
Have Tennessee's recent personnel issues caught up with them? Depth must be a concern as the season continues to wear down their significant contributers, who are under increased pressure to pick up the slack in production that resulted from Tyler Smith's dismissal. To their credit, Wayne Chism, Scotty Hopson and Bobby Maze have more than made up for this to date. Bruce Pearl's clearest strength is in motivating his players. You can bet the Volunteers will be fired up to play. Will motivation or lack of depth win out?
*** Through Games Played 01.26.2010 - kenpom.com ***
Both teams have played fairly similar schedules, at least in terms of SOS (according to Pomeroy). Vanderbilt will be the second toughest offense and sixth toughest defense that Tennessee will have faced. Tennessee will be the third toughest offense and the second toughest defense Vanderbilt will have faced.
Note: these statistics are based on the entire season. A large number of the games count Tyler Smith and Brian Williams as statistical contributors to the Tennessee team numbers (in black under the Vanderbilt section) above. Keep this in mind.
I was very surprised to see that when it came to tempo free numbers, Vanderbilt has a surprising advantage virtually across the board. I did not expect to see this at all, and it is certainly encouraging if you are a Commodore fan.
Four Factors: Vanderbilt has sizable leads in effective field goal percentage (eFG%), offensive rebound percentage (OReb%), and free throw rate (FTRate). Tennessee takes slightly better care of the ball, leading turnover percentage (TO%). Prediciton: UT wins TO% while Vanderbilt controls OReb% and FTRate. eFG% is a toss up in my mind. Winning that category may just determine the winner of the game.
Traditional Statistics - Tennessee Volunteers
#23 Vanderbilt @ #14 Tennessee – 7pm on ESPNU (*****)
This should be an absolutely fantastic game. It features one of the country’s favorite teams right now in Bruce Pearl’s new-look Volunteers, as well as the most underrated team in the country in Vanderbilt. These teams are in-state rivals, and a win will be huge for either team.
For informational purposes, RTC ranks 5* games thusly: "quit your job and divorce your wife if that's what it takes to watch this game live"
I’ve liked Vanderbilt all season, but even I didn’t have them at first place in the SEC East at 4-0, ahead of the uber-talented Kentucky Wildcats and Bruce Pearl’s cohesive unit across the state in Knoxville. Their schedule hasn’t been too difficult yet, but they were able to get a win on the road in two places where presumably better teams haven’t — Columbia, SC (see: Kentucky), and Tuscaloosa, AL (see: Mississippi State). If the ‘Dores can win one of their next two games (@ Tennessee and @ Kentucky), they will be in great shape heading into the second half of conference play. It’s a longshot, but they’re playing well enough to do it.
Tipoff is set for 18.00 CT and the game will be televised on the ESPNU (ESPN Full Court & ESPN360 as well - ?). Join us in the game thread, which will open about an hour before the tip. Don't forget to stop by Stat King to make your selection for the Auburn game.