If I were Kevin Stallings, I'd have the scoreboard at every practice since Monday's game against MTSU reading Home 69, Visitor 94. I'd have bulletin boards littered with the trash written by folks likelabeling Vanderbilt and some of the players individually as soft. IT'S ALL POPPYCOCK BUFFOONERY.
The Commodores were thoroughly outclassed in Memorial Gym last season by a hot-shooting Chandler Parsons and the Florida Gators. On second thought, "brutalized" might be more accurate.
This needs to be a statement game for the Commodores. Too many times on national tv has the team had the opportunity to show the world its talent, only to lay an egg in front of the sportswriters of America. It has to stop. Tomorrow. At least if the Commodores want to make things a little easier on themselves in their quest for an NCAA bid.
Florida is certainly a very capable, talented team. They were fortunate only to lose one player with eligibility remaining in Nick Calathes (who left early to play professionally in Greece), as Alex Tyus announced he was leaving the team only to change his mind. Florida also welcomed Vernon Macklin, a Georgetown transfer who is starting after sitting out last season due to NCAA rules, and Kenny Boynton, a talented 5-star combo guard, among others.
***Through Games Played Thu Jan. 7, 2010***
As you can see, Vanderbilt ranks as the 3rd toughest team both offensively and defensively that Florida will have faced so far this season. On the other hand, the Gators will be the 8th best unit offensively and the 2nd toughest defensively that Vanderbilt will have faced. (Chaminade's numbers are not included as they are not a D-I program).
Vandy has solid leads in three of the "four factors" (eFG%, OReb%, FTRate) and only trails by a small margin in the other (TO%). All this despite a much tougher schedule.
Traditional Statistics - Florida Gators
It's time to see how much of the progress the team appears to have made over the last 5 games is real. Florida is a solid team, but the numbers say Vanderbilt is better. Ken Pomeroy's statistics predict that Vanderbilt wins this matchup at a 75% clip (71-64, to be precise). Tomorrow at 1100 CT on ESPN2, we'll find out which side of the line is reality.
"Passion is always necessary to play basketball," Ogilvy said. "Fes is always like that. He's always yelling and screaming. I've been concentrating on trying to lift myself up and getting my teammates involved in the game more. "Anytime you can get the fans involved at Memorial, that's a good thing. It's a hard place to play once it gets loud in here." Production at the center position is one reason why Vanderbilt believes it can contend in the SEC East. Over the last five games, A.J. Ogilvy and Festus Ezeli have combined to average 20.4 points, 9.6 rebounds and 4.2 blocks while shooting 61.4 percent from the field. Ezeli's emergence has been the main cause for the spike in output. The redshirt sophomore and Nigerian native has come a long way since arriving on campus in 2007. "He insisted that he redshirt because he had never been on a team before, and he didn't want to have to play his first year while he was learning how to be a teammate," Stallings said. "It's rare that you get a guy that raw." "I'm still raw," Ezeli said. "I'm still working on it. The first coach I ever had (in California after moving from Nigeria) was at the game the other day and we were talking about it. He knew me when I couldn't even make a suicide sprint. We were sitting down over dinner and we were both like, 'That's a lot of progress.'
Since hitting 12 of 20 against Jacksonville early last month, the Gators have made 33 of 126 (26.1 percent) from behind the arc. Senior Dan Werner has missed his last 15 3-pointers. Erving Walker, the scrappy point guard who shot 42 percent from 3-point range as a freshman last year, has missed 21 of his last 26 from that distance and fallen to 29 percent this season. "Players go through it some time in their career," Walker said. "This is one of the first times for me." He's hardly alone. Talented freshman Kenny Boynton, considered one of the nation's top recruits because of his ability to score from anywhere on the floor, has made just 26 of 102 (25.5 percent) shots from 3-point land.
Vanderbilt 76 Florida 62
Interested to see what the Florida perspective is? Head on over to Alligator Army. Joakim Noah was their Florida Gator Basketball Player of the Decade. I can understand the choice based on the numbers...but would you really want this to be the face of your program for the last decade?
As always, the open game thread will go live about an hour before tipoff. Remember to visit Stat King to make your selection for the game. Share your thoughts and predictions on the matchup below.