This is a monumental week for Vanderbilt as two ranked opponents loom large. Tonight, the #20 (AP) / #19 (Coaches) Vanderbilt Commodores square up against the #11 Xavier Musketeers at Memorial Gym. Friday evening, the Commodores will travel to the KFC Yum! Center to battle the #6 Louisville Cardinals in the SEC/Big East Invitational. Additionally, tonight's game will be a homecoming of sorts for former Commodore forward Andre Walker, who transferred to Xavier in order to pursue a graduate degree in Sports Administration.
Click through the jump for a breakdown of the team's opponents thus far and a closer look at their personnel.
To date, Vanderbilt has played 6 total games, 4 at home and 2 on neutral courts against an average KenPom rated opponent of 120.2. Xavier has played 4 total games, all at home, against an average rated opponent of 155.5. Based on their performances to date, Kenpom rates Vanderbilt to be the most efficient offensive team and the second most efficient defensive team that the Musketeers will have played. Xavier rates similarly for the Commodores.
Based on previous opponents, Xavier most closely resembles NC State offensively and Cleveland State defensively. While this will give many Commodore fans a bit of trepidation, hopefully the players see this as an opportunity to "right the ship" and prove that the way they handled the pressure that Cleveland State applied will be an aberration. Vanderbilt's offense is head-and-shoulders above that of any of the teams that Xavier has played so far. Defensively, the Commodores sit closer to Georgia than Miami of Ohio. Hopefully we can begin to better that mark, though I suspect that won't happen until after Festus Ezeli returns to the starting lineup and can get a few games under his belt.
Looking solely at the tempo free statistics, Vanderbilt has a slight edge at the starting positions. Xavier has the edge at the bench. Keep in mind that these statistics are not adjusted for the strength of the opponents. Vanderbilt has played the much tougher schedule thus far.
Four Factors: Vanderbilt owns a large edge on the offensive (and defensive glass). Xavier is doing a much better job of getting to the foul line than Vanderbilt (a side effect of Festus' absence). Xavier also holds slim edges in turnover rate and effective field goal percentage. Prediction: Vanderbilt wins OReb%, eFG% and FTRate. Xavier wins TO%.
Ken Pomeroy predicts a 74-70 Commodore victory in a game with a tempo of 69. He rates Vanderbilt's win percentage at
64 62%. [Note: my reading skills need improvement!] I will certainly take that. Keep in mind that home court advantage is traditionally considered to be about 4 points, so this game is essentially a statistical toss-up on a neutral court.
Xavier is a very good team and they will certainly be a great early season test for the Commodores. Hopefully we will see a Vanderbilt team that is mentally sharp tonight. Typically that is the case when the Commodores are playing a highly ranked team at home.
Traditional Statistics -
Here is a video of former Commodore Andre Walker talking about his return to Memorial Gym. I hope that he gets the warm reception from Commodore fans that he deserves.
Tipoff is scheduled for 1800 CT and the game will be televised by ESPN2 (Comcast ch. 29 or 1606 HD), though the game will also be available on ESPN3.com. 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.