Latest Team Rankings
Free Text Alerts
|ShopMobileRadio RSSRivals.com Yahoo! Sports|
|College Teams||High Schools|
February 25, 2007QUICK FACTS
Kentucky (19-8, 8-5 SEC) at Vanderbilt (18-9, 8-5 SEC), Sunday, Feb. 25, 2007. Tip-off: 1 P.M. CT, Memorial Gymnasium (14,316)
RPI: Kentucky: 8 (2 SOS); Vanderbilt: 34 (21 SOS)
Rankings: Vanderbilt is ranked No. 17 in the coach's poll and No. 21 in the ESPN/USA Today poll. Kentucky is not ranked in either poll.
Sagarin ratings: Kentucky: 15; Vanderbilt: 53
Line: Vanderbilt is favored by two points
Series info: 168th meeting; Kentucky leads the overall series 128-39; Kentucky leads 74-14 in Lexington, 47-22 in Nashville and 6-3 at neutral sites.
Coaches: Kevin Stallings is in his eighth year at Vanderbilt (140-105) and his 14th year overall (263-168); Tubby Smith is in his 10th year at Kentucky (260-79) and his 16th year overall (384-141).
Radio: In Nashville, the game is carried on the ISP Radio Network (WGFX 104.5 FM).
Television: Television: Lincoln Financial Sports (LFS). Tom Hammond provides play-by-play alongside color analyst Larry Conley. Note: Game has been blacked out in Nashville.
3 - Alex Gordon, G, 5-11, 164, Jr., Pensacola, Fla. (8.0 ppg, 3.6 apg)
32 - Shan Foster, G/F, 6-6, 200, Jr., Kenner, La. (14.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg)
4 - Derrick Byars, G/F, 6-7, 230, Sr.-Tr., Memphis, Tenn. (16.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.0 apg)
20 - Dan Cage, G, 6-5, 215, Sr., Indianapolis, Ind. (11.6 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.0 apg)
41 - Ross Neltner, F, 6-9, 247, Jr.-Tr., Fort Thomas, Ky. (10.0 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 2.3 apg)
5 - Derrick Jasper, G, 6-6, 213, Fr., Paso Robles, Calif. (4.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 3.2 apg)
3 - Ramel Bradley, G, 6-2, 176, Jr., New York, N.Y. (14.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.7 apg)
32 - Joe Crawford, G, 6-5, 211, Jr., Detroit, Mich. (14.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.6 apg)
13 - Bobby Perry, F, 6-8, 215, Sr., Durham, N.C. (6.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg)
33 - Randolph Morris, C, 6-11, 259, Jr., Atlanta, Ga. (15.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 2.0 bpg)
There's more than pride at stake today, to be sure. Vanderbilt and Kentucky enter the weekend one game ahead of Georgia and Tennessee in the race for the division's No. 2 seed, and first-round bye, in the upcoming SEC Tournament, March 8-11 in Atlanta.
But, make no mistake about it, pride is definitely a big part of today's equation for Kentucky. Before last season, VU had never beaten UK in Rupp. And, VU hadn't swept the Wildcats in forever.
Vanderbilt beat Kentucky in Rupp again in January. And now, VU is actully favored by oddsmakers to sweep the series again this year. For a fan base that brazenly used to call Vanderbilt's Memorial Gym "Rupp South," it's simply unconscienable that these are the times they now live in.
But while UK may be down, they are not out. Kentucky still ranks second in the SEC in field goal shooting percentage (.484), field goal shooting defense (.421), scoring margin (+6.7) and assists per game (16.15).
Vanderbilt is coming off a terribly one-sided defeat at Mississippi State, where the Commodores were never in it. But, Vandy is 6-0 at home in SEC play and have won 12 consecutive games at Memorial Gymnasium -- the longest streak under Stallings.
A win today would secure Vanderbilt's first winning record in SEC play since 1997. But more importantly, it would leave no doubt that Vanderbilt would be among the at-large invitees to the NCAA Tournament field of 65.
A loss to Kentucky today would raise more doubts about whether Vanderbilt can sustain their incredible January run. But, it would also drop VU below both Georgia and Tennessee in the SEC East, setting up a must win scenario against both South Carolina and Arkansas. Even with wins over those two, VU still might end up playing on Thursday in Atlanta in the SEC Tournament.
Vanderbilt won the first game on the back of Byars, who was 7-12 from the field, including 4-7 from 3. Cage scored all 10 of his points in the second half. The Commodores shot 50 percent from the field, including 11-23 from 3.
Kentucky, on the other hand, shot just 42 percent from the field, and just 27 percent from 3. Crawford missed 13 of the 17 shots he attempted from the field, and had just three assists.
Normally one might assume that Kentucky would be motivated for payback today. But after losing five of their last six games to Vanderbilt, Kentucky may well be more motivated to just not lose again.
Vanderbilt has been the Cinderella story of the league this year, but have looked shakey of late. Blowout losses at UT and MSU have to bring some doubt to anyone who has followed their fantastic journey thus far. But, those losses were both on the road against teams playing for their postseason lives.
At this point of the season, there are no secrets. Vanderbilt cannot win unless they shoot well from outside, which is how they won at Rupp earlier this year. But where VU has surprised is on defense, and that is the untold story of the season.
There are many so-called X-factors today, but the one I will pay attention to is officiating. If Vandy can get the benefit of close calls on both ends of the court, UK will likely end up having to degenerate into having Crawford shoot them into or out of the game. I like VU's chances under those circumstances.
Another interesting side story will be Ross Neltner's game against his hometown school. Neltner took great pride in watching from the bench last year, when his team swept UK. He was even prouder when Vanderbilt soundly defeated the Wildcats in Rupp in January. He will no doubt be as motivated as ever today, to get some serious bragging rights for the home folk up in northern Kentucky. He'll have to stay out of foul trouble guarding Morris, something Neltner has struggled with at times this season.
I like Vandy to shoot well today, but I also expect Kentucky to rise to the occasion. This one will go right down to the wire...and then some.
Vanderbilt 79, Kentucky 77 (OT)
The Crawford-Morris-Bradley tandem is a good one, but other than that, there just isn't a lot of firepower in the Wildcat offense. The Commodores need to keep it that way; far too often, it seems, a UK bench player has had a career game against Vandy. If the 'Dores can keep that from happening again, there's at least a 50-50 chance of a Commodore win.
Offensively, Vandy's spread-the-floor, shoot-it-from-the-outside offense neutralizes Morris's influence inside, and should keep him from having his way on the glass or from preventing too many backdoor layups. But if UK goes zone, or otherwise stations Morris underneath inside, I think that Neltner could have one of his best college games with the top-of-the-key 3-pointer that's been so effective of late.
As always, a lot of "if's" and "but's" here, but the bottom line is this: The Commodores proved they were the better team when they won in Lexington, they're playing at home, they'll be ticked-off and ready to redeem Wednesday's embarassment in Starkville... none of which bode well for Kentucky on Sunday.
Prediction: Vanderbilt 77, Kentucky 66
VandySports.com Guest Writer
The Wildcats have pinned all their hopes on the junior trio of Crawford, Bradley, and Morris. Freshmen like Derrick Jasper and Jodie Meeks have made nice contributions in their own right, but the three juniors are clearly the core of this team - stop them, and you win the game. But that's easier said than done.
Crawford and Bradley are the perimeter threat - both can shoot the three well, but they also share some weaknesses. Neither is a threat for an offensive rebound, neither is really capable of getting to the freethrow line frequently, and in terms of size and strength they will be outmatched by Byars and Foster. Vanderbilt matches up well on the perimeter.
Morris will find himself facing Vanderbilt post players with fresh legs for much of the game. As Kentucky's only big offensive threat down low, he can expect Kevin Stallings to have his best, freshest post players defend him, with occasional double teams coming from Dan Cage and others. Neltner, Metcalfe, and Skuchas have 15 fouls to give, and Morris should be on the receiving end of every foul they commit. Dan Cage and JeJuan Brown are both capable enough to outmatch any other Kentucky post threat - severely limiting their offense, and in the case of Cage embarrassing them on the other end of the court.
Tubby's gameplan will almost certainly include extension of his half court defense to well outside the three point line, which has been a successful tactic against Vanderbilt in the past. Expect Crawford and Morris to play a 2-man game in the early minutes, hoping to put Byars and/or Neltner in early foul trouble. The players to watch in the game are Crawford and Byars - this matchup may decide the #2 spot in the SEC East and the SEC POTY contest.
The X factors is Derrick Jasper. Vanderbilt will surely look to exploit Jasper's propensity for turnovers, but Tubby will expect Jasper to take the ball to the hoop (drawing more VU post fouls) and feed the ball to Ramel Bradley, who often goes silent when Jasper is not assisting him. A turnover-heavy day versus a freethrow and assist-heavy day for Jasper could decide the contest.
Kentucky always seems to get the big calls and big breaks when they are on the ropes. But looking up at Vanderbilt in the standings, playing in Memorial gym, this advantage will be nullified and the Commodores extend the winning streak to 5.
Vanderbilt 75, Kentucky 73