Vanderbilt currently has a two game lead on Florida in the race for the second bye in the SEC East. One Vanderbilt win this week assures them of an extra day of preparation for the Tournament. Florida must win both games this week (their next matchup is at Kentucky) and Vanderbilt must drop both contests for Florida to claim the bye. Probably not going to happen, but stranger things certainly have.
Florida is certainly a dangerous opponent right now. A week ago, they seemed to have locked up an NCAA tournament bid by beating UT. Uncertainty surfaced again when they dropped their road game at Georgia last weekend. Commodore fans are all too familiar with the brutality that is playing UGA at Stegeman. (Will Kentucky fans learn firsthand?) Will the selection committee recognize that difficulty when they consider the Gators? Will being back on the bubble make Florida play like their backs are against the wall?
I highly doubt the Commodores show up on cruise control against UF (as UK did against UT Saturday). First, the game is on ESPN. Second, a win locks up a bye in the SEC Tournament for Vanderbilt. Third (and perhaps most important), a win over Florida puts the pressure right back on Kentucky as they head into their matchup with Georgia at Stegeman. A loss by Kentucky and Vanderbilt can win a share of the SEC Regular Season crown by taking care of business on Saturday against Devan Downey at home in Memorial Gym. Bottom line: there's A LOT to play for on both sides of the ball.
Ken Pomeroy gives Vanderbilt a 44% probability of victory over Florida in Gainesville (72-74 with a tempo of 69). The Commodores have won when given less of a chance and certainly lost when considered more than a lock to win. All signs point to this being a great game, including kenpom's FanMatch, which rates this games as the best on Tuesday at 76.6% CPHE (chance of pleasurable hoops experience)
Vanderbilt is the 2nd most efficient offense and 11th most efficient defense that Florida will have played this season. Florida is the 6th most efficient offense and the 9th most efficient defense that Vanderbilt will have played this season. Based on strength of schedule, Vanderbilt has played a more difficult schedule to this point.
Vanderbilt has significant edges in tempo free statistics among the key contributors and a decided bench advantage as well. It will be interesting to see how Kevin Stallings uses Jeffery Taylor defensively against the Gators. I would imagine that Jeff will start off locking down Chandler Parsons, who has really elevated his game this season. For Florida to have a good shot at pulling off the upset, they will need more from Alex Tyus and Vernon Macklin than they got from them in their loss at Memorial earlier this season.
Four Factors: Vanderbilt has a comfortable lead in effective field goal percentage (eFG%) and a tremendous advantage in free throw rate (FTRate). Florida has a slim edge in turnover percentage (TO%) and a nice cushion in offensive rebound percentage (OReb%). Prediction: The most important stat is FTRate. If Vanderbilt builds off its most recent offensive showcase versus Arkansas and carves up the Florida defense with aggression, the volume of free throws it generates in its offense will exploit Florida's lack of front court depth. If Vanderbilt gets Florida's bigs into foul trouble, the Gators will need to shoot Vanderbilt out of the gym to win. Vanderbilt's ability to get to the charity stripe has been extremely consistent, so there's no reason to believe that won't be the case tonight. Vanderbilt wins FTRate and eFG%, while Florida wins TO% and OReb%.
Traditional Statistics - Florida Gators
Traditional Statistics - Vanderbilt Commodores
Game Previews (More as they come)
Seventh #19 Vanderbilt at Florida on ESPN at 7 PM on Tuesday – The Gators are coming off a tough two-point loss at Georgia, but their prior three-game winning streak has assured them a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Now they are entering a two-game stretch (home versus Vanderbilt then at Kentucky) where it might appear that they can only help their NCAA seed and a win could boost them 2-3 spots, but if they lose these two and their opener in the SEC Tournament a four-game losing streak might be enough to take them to the NIT for the third straight year. As for the Commodores, they have a treacherous two-game finish in Gainesville then at home against Devan Downey and company. They are currently chasing a #3 or #4 seed, but a loss in either of those games could cripple their chances at getting a top-4 seed (barring an upset victory over Kentucky in the SEC Tournament). Technically they still have a chance of winning the SEC regular season title (if they win out and the Wildcats finish on a 3-game losing streak), but we don’t see that happening.
Why I'm dumber than I think: At this point I should just keep quiet about Vanderbilt, let Kevin Stallings continue to win games and never do anything to remind folks I'm the guy who picked the Commodores to finish fifth in the SEC East. But is that what I do? Nope. For some reason, I felt the need to pick Vandy to lose at Arkansas just before Vandy went to Arkansas and rolled to Saturday's 89-72 win that had Vandy fans publicly mocking me, just like always.
Alligator Army is the SB Nation affiliate for the Florida Gators. Here is their tribute to Dan Werner. I'll link to their game preview if/when they publish one.
Tipoff is scheduled for 18.00 CT and the game will be televised by ESPN (Comcast ch. 11 or 202 HD). Our open gamethread will go live about an hour before tipoff. Also, don't forget to head over to Stat-King to submit your predictions for the game.