Another day, another road game for the Vanderbilt Commodores. Four road games over the first six games (including at Knoxville and at Lexington back to back), and five over the first eight. I'm not sure there's a team in all of college basketball that's had a more difficult opening stretch of conference play than Vanderbilt.
As John Wooden famously said, "things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out." Some teams and coaches might have complained to the media about the unfairness of such a schedule. Not Vanderbilt. Not only did they accept the challenge presented, they've more than overcome it. Vanderbilt is 5-0 in the SEC for the first time since 1965-66.
The most impressive thing about Vanderbilt during this recent stretch isn't how dangerous they are offensively (7th most efficient offense currently, according to kenpom.com, 5th in 2FG%, 8th in eFG%). It isn't 3 point shooting or low post play. It's toughness. This team oozes it from the pores right now. They're the mean s.o.b. that wants a fight so bad he screams for his opponent to hit him. Vanderbilt not only wants the other teams best shot, they thrive off it.
Sure, it took a few losses earlier this year to learn how to pull it off. But the training wheels are off now, and the Wildcats are more than willing to give the Commodores what they want, especially after a bitter loss at South Carolina.
Yes sir, we've got ourselves a heavyweight fight. The opening bell rings at 3pm (CT) on Saturday.
*** Through Games Played 01.28.2010 - kenpom.com ***
Wildcats fans may be surprised to see that Vanderbilt has quite an advantage in SOS (according to Pomeroy). Vanderbilt will be the toughest offense and sixth toughest defense that Kentucky will have faced. Kentucky will be the second toughest offense and the third toughest defense Vanderbilt will have faced.
Of Kentucky's opponents, Vandy's two efficiencies are most similar to North Carolina's. If you'll recall, the UNC-UK matchup took place at Rupp and went down to the wire, with Kentucky grinding out a two point victory.
Of Vanderbilt's opponents, Kentucky's combined efficiencies most resemble Tennessee's or Missouri's numbers. Vanderbilt handled Missouri at home and took care of business on the road.
One thing to keep in mind when studying this comparison, Vanderbilt's SOS is quite a bit stronger than Kentucky's to this point. While, Kentucky may have a few marquee names on their schedule that Vanderbilt does not, Vanderbilt largely avoided the number of cupcakes that Kentucky rightly scheduled for their inexperienced but talented freshmen.
Unsurprisingly, Kentucky wins most of the tempo-free categories among the starters. How much of this is a product of a less challenging schedule? How much is a product of the sheer talent among those players? Vanderbilt's bench appears to be much stronger, a fact which many Kentucky fans would rightly concede. This will be a strong gauge for both teams. I anticipate that the teams are more evenly matched than this seems to indicate.
Four Factors: Vanderbilt has leads in effective field goal percentage (eFG%), turnover percentage (TO%), and free throw rate (FTRate). Kentucky has owned the offensive glass against their weaker opponents. Again, the difference in SOS is likely a factor in the inflated nature of the wildcat OReb%. Prediciton: UK wins OReb% while Vanderbilt controls OReb% and FTRate. Like it was against UT, eFG% is a toss up in my mind. Winning that category will probably determine the winner of the game.
Traditional Statistics - Kentucky Wildcats
Game Stories - To Be Updated As Stories Are Published
Most pundits are calling Vanderbilt’s 85-76 win in Knoxville a signature win. It seems that most analysts were waiting to praise the Commodores until the squad was able to knock off a top 25 team. Well, that day is now here.
The Commodores, Kentucky's next opponent, are almost the anti-South Carolina: Whereas the Gamecocks are the Downey Show, Vandy is a balanced scoring machine. Their four leading offensive players (Jeffery Taylor, A.J. Ogilvy, Jermaine Beal and John Jenkins) all average between 10.7 and 14.1 points. Ogilvy leads the team with a shot percentage of 28.0, but the other three all hover around 25 percent. Each player in that quartet has been the team's leading scorer in at least two games this season. In Wednesday's huge win at Tennessee, which pushed Vandy into the Power Rankings and made it the last undefeated team in the league, Beal was the star, scoring 25 points and playing 38 minutes without a single turnover.
As a team that has made the road another home away from Memorial Gym this season, Vanderbilt is enjoying the quiet of shutting up opposing fans. After doing it for the first time in five years at rival Tennessee, the soaring Commodores can turn their attention to another noisy crowd at No. 1 Kentucky’s legendary Rupp Arena.
#23 Vanderbilt @ #1 Kentucky 4:00 ESPN (*****) Last week RTC said that Vanderbilt was the most underrated team in the country, and they made us look pretty smart with a 85-76 road win against Tennessee. Their current test will be even more difficult, as they have to face an angry Kentucky team in Lexington right now. Barring a complete disaster, if Vanderbilt splits their games with Kentucky this year they could be looking at a #4 seed at the very worst. Depending on how Vanderbilt and their seventh ranked offense perform the rest of the year, they could be looking at potential #2 seed. Kentucky may still be the top team to many, but Ken Pomeroy ranks them at #11 and their RPI has them at #8. With another loss, could Kentucky suddenly be looking at a three seed? It seems unlikely, especially given their resume for the whole year, but they are going to have to prove doubters wrong. In order to beat Vanderbilt, Kentucky will have to avoid another 5-point, 0-assist effort from Patrick Patterson. The Wildcats shot 39 percent in the game, and with the Commodores playing hot right now (10 consecutive wins and they have scored 80 or more points in four of their last five games) they will have to also light up the scoreboard. If VU, led by A.J. Ogilvy and Jeffery Taylor (both have scored double digits in their last six games), is able to contain the Wildcats at all they have an excellent chance to win this game.
Weekend Watch: Jan. 29-31 | ESPN - The matchup is all over the Weekend Watch.
“Patterson is a good guy. He’s big and strong. He is physical down low. Each year he always gives us a lot of trouble,” Beal said. “You would like to have him on your team. Pat is a good kid. He’s just big and strong. He looks like a pro and plays like one.
Vanderbilt (16-3) at No. 1 Kentucky (19-1)
UK 76, VU 71
What does Vandy need to do to convince a guy like me that they're for real? Well ... a road win at Tennessee with your top two scorers limited by foul trouble is a pretty darn good start. The best part about the victory is that America saw just how good a player the Commodores have in senior point guard Jermaine Beal, who had 25 points on 8-for-12 shooting. Unfortunately, Vandy can thank South Carolina's Devan Downey for making sure Kentucky will take the court in this one with maximum focus. Vandy can hang with the Wildcats, but I just can't see UK dropping two in a row.
Another interesting matchup: Vanderbilt is coming off a huge win at Tennessee, Kentucky off a bad loss at South Carolina, and suddenly the top-ranked (for now) Wildcats find themselves in second place in the SEC Eastern Division. A loss Saturday to Kevin Stallings' 21st-ranked Commodores, and UK will be two games back in their division. So this would be a good time for John Wall to turn back into John Wall, put on an electrifying performance and regain a strong grip on the National Player of the Year race that once seemed his to lose but now prominently features Ohio State's Evan Turner.
Yet another interesting matchup: The award for "toughest schedule of the week" probably goes to Vandy because of road games at No. 14 Tennessee and No. 1 Kentucky, but Georgetown's slate isn't much easier.
"This (Vanderbilt team) reminds me of my UMass teams," Calipari said. "Just a team that five guys, three guys off the bench, they all know what their jobs are, they make shots. They're tough. They're not beating themselves. You're either beating them or they beat you."
"You can't worry about one guy. Every guy that they have can shoot 3s, can bounce the ball, can pass the ball. Everybody is a basketball player, and they're physically tough. You're not going to out-punk them. That isn't happening. None of that stuff is working in this game. They're a veteran team and they're tough."
Erin (New York)
Vanderbilt. Mention Vanderbilt. Don't be afraid to say it: 10 wins in a row. 16-3, 5-0 in the SEC (3-0 on the road). Beat UT in K'ville. Lexington is about to find out...Vanderbilt...they're for real.
Jay Bilas (3:05 PM)
Okay. Vanderbilt.And, if you will recall, I was digging Vandy in Maui, but the Dores did not play well there. Now, Vandy is playing like I thought they would early. Kevin Stallings is a really good coach, and he has brought this team along really nicely. Vandy is Top 15 good.
A Sea of Blue is the Kentucky Wildcat affiliate for SB Nation. In this post they drudge up the 93-52 beatdown in Nashville from two seasons ago. Did you realize that the game was statistically over with about 17 minutes left to play? Though I disagree with their assessment that they owe us one for hanging 41 on them. I see your 41 point drubbing and I raise you our 62 point embarrassment. Seems like we're even to me...though I'd be glad for Vandy to take the game tomorrow so that we actually do owe you one...if that's how you want it. Check out their game preview here.
Tipoff is set for 15.00 CT and the game will be televised on ESPN. Join us in the game thread, which will open about an hour before the tip. Don't forget to stop by Stat King to make your selection for the game.