Reminder: This game is a "black-out," as John Calipari correctly predicted.
Strictly in terms of the strength of the opponents, Vanderbilt vs. Kentucky is the biggest matchup of the season in Memorial Gym. For two seasons now, Kentucky and Vanderbilt have been rated as the conference's two strongest teams. Though Kentucky commands just over a 3:1 ratio of victories in the series (133-43), the series has been much more competitive over the last seven seasons, splitting games 7-7 since 2004.
Kentucky swept Vanderbilt last season, including a hard-fought 58-56 win in Nashville. Who has the edge this year?
According to Kenpom, Vanderbilt has played the 48th toughest schedule as compared to Kentucky's 23rd ranked schedule. Based on performances to date, Kentucky would be the second best offensive and third best defensive team that the Commodores will have played. Vanderbilt will be the third best offensive team and tenth best defensive team that the Wildcats will have played.
The closest opponent to Vanderbilt that the Wildcats have already played is Notre Dame. Notre Dame rates better offensively but slightly worse defensively. Kentucky beat Notre Dame 72-58 in a "semi-home" game in Freedom Hall in Louisville. The closest opponent to Kentucky that the Commodores have already played is North Carolina, though Kentucky is much better than North Carolina offensively and slightly worse defensively. Vanderbilt beat North Carolina 72-65 in Puerto Rico on a neutral court.
Ken Pomeroy predicts Kentucky to win 74-72 in a game with a pace of 69. He gives Kentucky a 59% chance of leaving Nashville with a victory.
Individually, the teams match up very well, though Kentucky appears to have an edge among the tempo free statistics. Keep in mind that these individual statistics are not adjusted for the quality of opponents.
I'm especially interested to see how Stallings utilizes Jeff Taylor defensively. I would imagine that he will start out on Miller or Brandon Knight with Lance on Terrence Jones. If a less than 100% Goulbourne can't handle Jones, Stallings might slide the Swedish Eagle over to contain the freshman phenom. Does Andre Walker finally see action? If so, how long will he be able to play and how effective will he be?
Kentucky is a magnitude of order better from behind the 3 point line than they were last season. Unless Vanderbilt gets into early foul trouble, I wouldn't expect to see a lot of zone defense from the Commodores. Of course, this will delight Bill Raftery.
Four Factors: Vanderbilt holds a strong edge in FTRate and a slim lead in eFG%. Kentucky has a strong edge in TO% and a slim lead in OReb%. Prediction: Vanderbilt wins FTRate. Kentucky wins TO%. I think the other two will probably be a toss up but will assume they hold true to form, with Vandy winning eFG% and Kentucky winning OReb%.
Traditional Statistics -
Tipoff is scheduled for HIGH NOON CT and the game will be televised by CBS (Comcast ch. 5 or 233 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.