Vanderbilt had the momentum of a three-game winning streak implode when they suffered a 19-point loss to No. 23 Kentucky. Now, they can get back on track - and lock down a win over an RPI Top 25 program - by beating conference rival Florida at home.
That won't be an easy task. The Gators are currently 5-2 in conference play and are tied for second place in the SEC alongside two other teams that have already beaten the Commodores - Kentucky and LSU. Florida was supposed to be in flux after last year's 16-17 record and the departure of longtime head coach Billy Donovan, but a solid performance in 2015-16 has the team on track to return to the NCAA Tournament.
Vandy is trending in the opposite direction. Though a recent three-game winning streak helped boost morale, it's difficult to argue this team hasn't been a major disappointment. The 'Dores were ranked as high as No. 12 in the nation before hitting a 3-7 skid that dropped them out of the rankings and onto the unpleasant side of the tournament bubble. A win over Florida would give them their first real quality win of the season - something they'll need in order to show the selection committee they're more than just a collection of underachieving talent.
Florida (13-6, 5-2 SEC, ranked No. 26 in Ken Pomeroy's ratings)
For the second game in a row, Vanderbilt faces a team ranked 26th in the KenPom rankings. Kentucky rose up to 22nd after thrashing the Commodores with an array of acrobatic shots in the paint, leaving the Gators and their three-game winning streak to fill that void. Florida has only lost twice in league play this season - once to No. 15 Texas A&M, and once in a surprising 14-point loss to Tennessee.
The Volunteers trailed for exactly 66 seconds early in the first half and then beat the tar out of Florida to take a commanding 53-31 lead into the locker room. The Gators gave up a 35-11 run that effectively ended this game just 19 minutes after the opening tipoff. Tennessee led by as many as 30 points in the second half before letting off the gas and cruising to a 14-point victory.
Point of emphasis: Big performances from star players. Tennessee got 26 points - including a 3-3 performance from three-point range - from star guard Kevin Punter. Though Admiral Schofield's 17-point, eight rebound game also played a big part, Florida's inability to stop UT's best player was a huge part of their defeat in Knoxville. Vanderbilt has two guys that share the "No. 1 threat" crown - Wade Baldwin IV and Damian Jones. Both should be pretty hungry after a humiliating loss in Lexington on Saturday.
Keys to the Game: