ESPN's College GameDay comes to town to witness the Vanderbilt Commodores square off against the top ranked Kentucky Wildcats in Nashville. Vanderbilt is among the best, historically, in toppling top-ranked foes. Vaunted Memorial Gym is the opera house of terror, as the forces of Memorial Magic and end-line benches always seem to combine to disrupt the innate abilities of traditionally invincible college basketball player-gods. Will this Kentucky team overcome such powerful forces? Vanderbilt has defeated the last four top-ranked teams to enter Memorial Gym.
Click through the jump for a breakdown of each team's opponents thus far and a closer look at their respective personnel.
To date, Vanderbilt has played 24 total games, 15 at home, 2 on neutral courts, and 7 on the road against an average KenPom rated opponent of 109.0. Kentucky has played 25 total games, 16 at home (including 1 semi-home game), 3 on neutral courts, and 6 on the road, against an average rated D-I opponent of 128.7. Based on their performances to date, Kenpom rates Vanderbilt to be the fifth most efficient offensive and ninth most efficient defensive team that the Wildcats will have played. Kentucky rates as the most efficient offensive and defensive team that the Commodores will have played. Keep in mind that these numbers do not account for players that have missed games.
Based on previous opponents offensive and defensive efficiencies, neither team closely resembles any of the previous opponents on either team's schedule.
Looking solely at the tempo free statistics, Vanderbilt has a strong edge at the starting positions -- really everywhere but at center. Kentucky has a strong bench advantage. Keep in mind that the individual statistics are not adjusted for the strength of the opponents and the location of games.
No doubt NBA scouts will be looking to see how Anthony Davis measures up to a center with a tremendous size and strength advantage that actually boasts a longer wingspan. Much has been made of Anthony Davis' 7-foot-4-inch wingspan. And while his ratio of height to length probably bests Festus Ezeli's, Festus out-wingspans him at 7-foot-6-inches.
The most unfortunate part of this is that Ezeli's injury still has him somewhere in the neighborhood of 80%. While I think a fully-fit Festus could be the solution to the Anthony Davis problem, I'm not sure the Festus we've seen thus far will be able to neutralize Davis. Here's what we're missing from the big fella so far this season (KenPom numbers):
I'm hoping that the adrenaline Festus will be feeling from the atmosphere might help him push through the pain he's been experiencing during play. If so, fans of both teams could be in for a classic big man slugfest in the paint. If not, Vanderbilt will probably need to rely even more on the perimeter in order to match Kentucky.
Another concern for both teams could be the officiating. I'm undecided on who would benefit from the refs -- either making lots of calls or swallowing their whistles. Foul trouble could very well be the deciding factor in this game.
Four Factors: Kentucky has a pretty good edge in all four factors, which is not unsurprising for a team as dominant as they've been this season. Interestingly, turnover percentage appears to be the closest of the four. Prediction: Vanderbilt wins eFG% and FTRate. Kentucky gets TO% and OReb%.
Ken Pomeroy predicts a 73-65 Kentucky win in a game with a tempo of 66. He rates Vanderbilt's win percentage at 23%.
Traditional Statistics -- Kentucky Wildcats
Tipoff is scheduled for 2000 CT and the game will be available on ESPN (as well as ESPN3). Our open gamethread will go live twenty minutes before College GameDay -- that's right, an all-day thread. Also, don't forget to head over to Stat-King to submit your predictions for the game.