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Preview: Vanderbilt Looks to Derail Tennessee's NCAA Tournament Hopes

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Vanderbilt is trending up after two straight wins. Tennessee is moving in the opposite direction. Can the Commodores earn a third straight win by defeating their in-state rival on Wednesday?

Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

Vanderbilt and Tennessee are two teams headed in two different directions. After a seven-game losing streak, the Commodores have won two in a row and have rekindled hope of a postseason appearance. The Volunteers, on the other hand, have lost four of their last five after starting SEC play 4-1.

Kevin Stallings's young team will try to keep those trends rolling when they host their rivals on Wednesday. Vanderbilt will introduce five freshmen to this unique brand of in-state hate and give players like Riley LaChance and Wade Baldwin IV the opportunity to develop an instinctual aversion to creamsicle orange. They'll butt heads with a UT team led by 6'6" slashing guard Josh Richardson and the outside shooting of Kevin Punter.

Vandy's returning players will also be waiting for a measure of revenge after last year's 76-38 pasting in Knoxville. Damian Jones, Luke Kornet, and James Siakam all had to suffer through a game in which they shot just 22 percent and trailed by 20 points just 15 minuets into the game. This will be the first meeting between these two teams since the Vols forced every Commodore fan in the middle Tennessee area to begin drinking at 11am last season.

Of course, Wednesday's white out game is about more than just a SEC matchup. It's a rivalry showdown between two programs that are battling to be considered the best in the Volunteer State. The winner will own the state - until the next time these two meet on February 26th.

The Opponent: The University of Tennessee  (13-9, 5-5 SEC)

KenPom Rankings: Tennessee is 98th. Vanderbilt is 48th.

Key Stat: 289th. With just 11 assists per game, the Volunteers barely crack the top 300 in terms of the biggest ball movement stat. That inability to create open shots through passing has left UT shooting just 43 percent from the field. A big part of their problem comes from no longer having a reliable post scorer like Jarnell Stokes on the roster, but the Vols too often fall into lulls where they pass the ball around the perimeter and hope that something will open up. When it doesn't, they force a bad shot or pass. If Vanderbilt can play cohesive man-to-man defense and attack Tennessee's already limited passing prowess then they'll be able to force UT down into the muck.

Matchup to Watch: James Siakam vs. Tariq Owens, Derek Reese, and the rest of Tennessee's forwards. Siakam has been playing the best basketball of his career over the past week, averaging a double-double and 3.5 blocks while shooting 75 percent from the field. It's no coincidence that this performance fell in line with Vandy's first two wins since early January. That means that UT's power forwards - a position of weakness in 2015 - will have to focus their efforts on stopping Siakam's efficient close range scoring.

Starters and Rotation Players:

Vanderbilt
Pos. Player PPG RPG APG
G - Wade Baldwin IV"]" style="padding: 2px 3px 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom;">Wade Baldwin IV 7.9 3.7 4.3
G - Riley LaChance"]" style="padding: 2px 3px 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom;">Riley LaChance 12.8 3.2 2.6
F - Jeff Roberson"]" style="padding: 2px 3px 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom;">Jeff Roberson 4.7 3.7 1.1
F - James Siakam"]" style="padding: 2px 3px 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom;">James Siakam 8.8 5.6 0.6
C - Damian Jones"]" style="padding: 2px 3px 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom;">Damian Jones 14.8 6.6 0.9
Key Reserves
F - Luke Kornet"]" style="padding: 2px 3px 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom;">Luke Kornet 8.5 3.7 0.9
G/F - Matthew Fisher-Davis"]" style="padding: 2px 3px 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom;">Matthew Fisher-Davis 5.8 2 1
G - Shelton Mitchell"]" style="padding: 2px 3px 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom;">Shelton Mitchell 4.6 2.3 3.6
Tennessee
Pos. Player PPG RPG APG
G - Josh Richardson"]" style="padding: 2px 3px 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom;">Josh Richardson 15.6 4 3.7
G - Robert Hubbs III"]" style="padding: 2px 3px 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom;">Robert Hubbs III 6.8 2.7 0.8
G - Kevin Punter"]" style="padding: 2px 3px 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom;">Kevin Punter 10.9 2.4 1.9
F - Tariq Owens"]" style="padding: 2px 3px 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom;">Tariq Owens 0.8 0.9 0.2
F - Armani Moore"]" style="padding: 2px 3px 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom;">Armani Moore 10.4 7 2.1
Key Reserves
G - Detrick Mostella"]" style="padding: 2px 3px 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom;">Detrick Mostella 4.1 1.1 0.5
F - Derek Reese"]" style="padding: 2px 3px 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom;">Derek Reese 5.4 5.2 0.7
F - Willie Carmichael III"]" style="padding: 2px 3px 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom;">Willie Carmichael III 3.5 2.5 0.4