Manhattan is 3-2 in their last 5 against SEC teams. However, Ken Pomeroy's statistics project that Vanderbilt's win probability in this game is 89%. This is a quintessential "take care of business" game for Vanderbilt.
When we last left things (Mercer, 12/21), Vanderbilt finally dominated a team in the way that Commodore fans had been expecting. Shortly after the game, the players were given a few days off to travel home to see their families for the holidays. Since their return, reports are that they have been having some good practices with high intensity.
For some time, Coach Stallings has been discussing the need for a shortening of the bench. As we learned yesterday, reserve guard Charles Hinkle (4.8mpg) has decided (justifiably) that he will be an unfortunate casualty in the future (in terms of potential minutes) and that he'd like to transfer to another school prior to the start of the new semester, a move that will allow him to miss the remainder of this season and just the first half of the next and will hopefully net him more playing time in the long run. All Commodore fans should wish him nothing but the best moving forward.
Vandy fans should keep an eye on A.J. Ogilvy and Steve Tchiengang tonight. In his Call-In Show, Coach Stallings mentioned that the team needs a healthy A.J. in order for them to reach their potential. Hopefully we will begin to see A.J.'s plantar fasciitis begin to subside. To his credit, when he has been able, A.J. has looked extremely motivated of late in practice, despite playing through some incredible pain (according to Stallings). Seeing as this should be a very winnable game for Vandy, I would have to believe that you will see Festus Ezeli starting once again, with A.J. limited to about 15 minutes of action, a move that will hopefully continue to rest A.J.'s foot to some degree while not letting his conditioning slip too much if at all. As far as Steve, he apparently came down with strep throat while at home in Houston with his family. Stallings mentioned that he thought most of it is behind the power forward. Hopefully Steve will be able to play through any lingering effects.
Traditional Stats - Manhattan Jaspers
"I would imagine at this juncture more of Steve's minutes will come at the four spot than at the five," Stallings said. "With Fes starting … it's been a thing because A.J.'s foot has flared up and he's kind of been in and out. But both of them have played pretty well, so we're pleased. Our productivity from those two guys has been pretty good. We expect A.J. to be our starter again, but we need to get him back to 100 percent." Stallings said he didn't know when Ogilvy, who has had heel problems all season, would be the starter again. Ogilvy, a 6-11 junior, has averaged 15 minutes in the past three games, down from his season average of 21.7. He's third on the team at 12.4 points per game.
As always, the open game thread will go live about an hour before tipoff. Don't forget to swing by Stat-King to make your selection for the game.