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Preview: Can Vanderbilt Rebound From Wednesday's Crushing Loss by Winning in Tuscaloosa?

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Vanderbilt suffered the most painful loss of their season when they blew a five point lead with 15 seconds left against Tennessee. Can they rebound with a road win against Alabama?

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday, Vanderbilt blew a five point lead with 15 seconds to play. At home. To their arch rivals.

So how do you come back from a loss like that?

This young Commodore team put their greatest weakness on display when composure failed them late against Tennessee. Vandy failed to corral important defensive rebounds and made just six of their 13 free throws in the final five minutes to allow the Volunteers to steal a win at Memorial Gym. The 'Dores looked alternately tired and frazzled as they watched what would have been a building block victory slip away in front of a packed house.

Now, they have two options. They can use that loss as a painful learning experience and rally from it, or they can curl into a defensive shell and let that UT defeat define this rebuilding season. We'll get the first glimpse at the path they've chosen when they regroup to face Alabama on Saturday.

The Tide will likely be without second leading scorer Ricky Tarrant, who has missed his last four games with a lower leg injury. The Tulane transfer is averaging more than 13 points per game this season, but he's also an inefficient gunner who can he just as detrimental as he is helpful. Let's take a closer look at what Alabama will bring to tomorrow's matchup.

The Opponent: The University of Alabama (15-9, 5-6 SEC)

KenPom Rankings: Alabama is 48th. Vanderbilt is 54th.

Key Stat310th. Alabama is the rare answer to "whose ball movement sucks worse than Tennessee's?" Thanks to a limited post presence and a slashing guard game that relies on drives into the paint, the Crimson Tide are averaging fewer than 11 assists per game this season. If Vandy can limit 'Bama's action on the perimeter, then they'll force them to fall back on an underdeveloped passing game instead.

Matchup to Watch: Levi Randolph and Rodney Cooper vs. Vanderbilt's backcourt defense. The Commodores' guards were shredded by Tennessee on Wednesday and allowed the Vols' starting guards to score 46 points in that overtime loss. Vandy certainly missed Shelton Mitchell's defense, but it's still unclear whether he'll return on Saturday thanks to concussion-like syndromes that kept him on the bench earlier this week. If Mitchell can't go, Riley LaChance, Wade Baldwin IV, and Matthew Fisher-Davis are going to have to elevate their defensive games in order to clamp down the primary source of Alabama's scoring. Cooper is a skilled shooter while Randolph excels at getting to the rim for high percentage finishes. The 'Dores will have to prove that they can handle UA's versatile attack to secure a road win.

Starters and Rotation Players:

Vanderbilt
Pos. Player PPG RPG APG
G - Wade Baldwin IV 7.9 3.7 4.4
G - Riley LaChance 12.5 3.2 2.6
F - Jeff Roberson"]" style="padding: 2px 3px 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom;">Jeff Roberson 5 3.6 1.2
F - James Siakam"]" style="padding: 2px 3px 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom;">James Siakam 9 5.7 0.6
C - Damian Jones"]" style="padding: 2px 3px 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom;">Damian Jones 14.9 6.7 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 5.9 2 1
G - Shelton Mitchell 4.6 2.3 3.6
Alabama
Pos. Player PPG RPG APG
G - Levi Randolph 14.8 4.9 2.3
G - Rodney Cooper 10.3 3.9 1.6
G - Justin Coleman"]" style="padding: 2px 3px 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom;">Justin Coleman 4.8 1.1 1.4
F - Jimmie Taylor"]" style="padding: 2px 3px 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom;">Jimmie Taylor 4.5 4.5 0.3
F - Shannon Hale"]" style="padding: 2px 3px 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom;">Shannon Hale 8.4 3.2 1.1
Key Reserves
G - Riley Norris"]" style="padding: 2px 3px 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom;">Riley Norris 4.5 3.7 0.6
F - Michael Kessens"]" style="padding: 2px 3px 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom;">Michael Kessens 6.4 5.7 0.9
G - Devin Mitchell"]" style="padding: 2px 3px 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom;">Devin Mitchell 0.6 0.3 0.4