Vanderbilt Guard Dai-Jon Parker Suspended

Posted by KAlmekinder on October 31st, 2012

Coming off its first SEC Tournament title since 1952 and losing a majority of their offense from last season due to the NBA Draft or graduation, Vanderbilt already knew it would have to replace many pieces on this season’s team. Today, they will have to add sophomore guard Dai-Jon Parker to the list because of a non-academic suspension. Head coach Kevin Stallings announced Tuesday that the projected starting shooting guard will be suspended indefinitely because Parker “failed to uphold the high standard that we expect of a Vanderbilt basketball player and will be disciplined accordingly.” Parker and sophomore Kedren Johnson were expected to fill the voids left by Brad Tinsley, John Jenkins, and Jeffery Taylor, all upperclassmen who left after last season due to graduation or to pursue professional careers. The guard trio of Tinsley/Jenkins/Taylor provided Vanderbilt’s most dangerous weapon: 244 three-pointers on a blistering 43% clip and high offensive efficiency numbers. Parker and Johnson, on the other hand, were substituted into the rotation last year with very minimal roles.

Who will replace Dai-Jon Parker in Vanderbilt’s already depleted backcourt?

The departures of Tinsley, Jenkins, and Taylor, as well as experienced defensive big men Festus Ezeli, Lance Goulbourne, and Steve Tchiengang, made up arguably Vanderbilt’s most well-rounded team in the Kevin Stallings era. The Commodores’ offensive efficiency (115.7) ranked #11 in the country while their defensive efficiency (92.7) was solid at #30. Sky-high expectations after winning the SEC Tournament over heavily favored Kentucky  quickly came crashing down when Vanderbilt lost to Wisconsin in the Third Round of last year’s NCAA Tournament, one step short of the school’s first Sweet Sixteen since 2007.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 Morning Five: 03.19.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 19th, 2012

  1. They were the last hope for the Pac-12, and for 30 minutes or so, it looked like Colorado had a good chance to extend their Cinderella run through the weekend. But too much Brady Heslip and too little defensive rebounding doomed the Buffaloes against Baylor, sending the conference to an early end in the NCAAs. But, looking back on the season for Colorado, it was a magical run, including a five-game win streak taking them from the outside of the tournament bubble to a Round of 32 appearance with a Pac-12 Tournament title mixed in there. All things considered, it was as good of a season as could have been expected of a Buff team that was missing its four leading scorers from the previous season and was picked as low as 11th in preseason Pac-12 rankings. And, despite the loss of seniors Carlon Brown, Nate Tomlinson, and Austin Dufault, the future is bright in Boulder.
  2. There are a handful of Pac-12 teams whose season still go on in lesser tournaments, highlighted by Oregon, who pulled off a 108-97 win over Iowa on Sunday in the  second round of the NIT in the highest scoring game in regulation this season. The Ducks trailed by as many as 15 in the game, but behind E.J. Singler’s 25 points and four other players who scored in double figures, the Ducks advanced.
  3. And the Ducks next step is a trip up I-5 to Seattle for a quarterfinal matchup with conference rival Washington, who advanced by slamming Northwestern on Friday night, 76-55. The Huskies earned the win by using their athleticism to kill the Wildcats on the glass, force plenty of bad shots and just generally get them out of rhythm. Oh, and Terrence Ross lit them up for 32 points and eight rebounds. Tony Wroten, who took a lot of heat in the aftermath of the Huskies’ Pac-12 Tournament loss has struggled to rediscover his scoring touch (just 11 points on ten field goal attempts in two NIT games), but has handed out 15 dimes. Oregon State is the final Pac-12 team still playing, and they’ll get their season back underway tonight when they host TCU in the CBI.
  4. While we’re on the topic of the three remaining Pac-12 schools, all in the northwest, The Columbian points out that one of the reasons that the Pac-12 may be down is their inability to tie up local prospects. By way of example, Greg Jayne points out that the quintet of Peyton Siva, Brad Tinsley, Terrence Jones, Kyle Wiltjer, and Brian Conklin – all kids from either Oregon or Washington who are playing elsewhere – would be a pretty darn good start on an NCAA Tournament team. The gauntlet is thrown for Lorenzo Romar, Craig Robinson, and Dana Altman: keep your local prospects at home.
  5. Lastly, in what must be considered good news for UCLA and Ben Howland, Shabazz Muhammad will be taking his final official visit to the Westwood campus at some point in early April and then will announce his decision a couple of days later. While Muhammad hadn’t previously intended to use an official visit at UCLA (since he had already visited the campus on multiple occasions unofficially), the plan is to check back in with the Bruin program in the wake of last month’s controversial Sports Illustrated article and “get the nuts and bolts of that,” according to his father Ron Holmes. Still, as UCLA has long been considered the favorite to earn the services of the elite high school prospect, the fact that he is heading back to Los Angeles just days before his announcement at the very least gives Howland and company to make the final big sales pitch.
Share this story

Rushed Reaction: #4 Wisconsin 60, #5 Vanderbilt 57

Posted by AMurawa on March 17th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Players making plays. Down the stretch, it seemed just about all of the star players in this game made significant plays. There was Festus Ezeli with a giant swat on one end followed up by a soft lay-in on the other. There was a great play by Jeff Taylor to bring Vanderbilt back within one possession. There was the John Jenkins dish to Ezeli to put the Commodores up a point just before Jordan Taylor answered with a dagger three-pointer. And then, down the stretch, Wisconsin ran down two straight long offensive rebounds, allowing them to take over a minute off the clock. Still, after Josh Gasser missed the front-end of a one-and-one, Jenkins had a pretty good look at a three with six seconds left, but it was not to be.
  2. Starting strong, finishing strong. Ryan Evans scored ten points right out of the gate, including eight in the first four minutes of the game, then disappeared for about 20 minutes after picking up his second foul with four minutes remaining in the first half. But, with the game in the balance, Evans soared above bigger Vanderbilt players to snatch a huge rebound following that missed Jenkins three in the closing seconds, then proceeded to hit a free throw to extend the Badger lead to three, which was the final margin.
  3. Balance. In a game like this, with solid fundamental defensive teams, no one player was able to stay hot for long, which led to balanced scoring all the way around. Five different Badgers scored in double figures, led by Jordan Taylor’s 14, but with players like Jarred Berggren, Mike Bruesewitz, and even freshman guard Ben Brust stepping up and making plays. Brust wound up with 11, all in the second half, including three big three-pointers.

Star of the GameFestus Ezeli, Vanderbilt. In a tight game that went down to the wire, Ezeli was the one unstoppable force in the game. Despite not starting, he wound up with 14 points and 11 rebounds and had a hand in three of the final four Commodore hoops (two baskets and one assist). While his career ends, Ezeli was the one athlete who stood out among a company of equals.

Sights & Sounds. While some portions of the Baylor and Colorado section did not fill up until halftime of this game, just about every other seat in this arena was filled early. And with two excellent bands, filling up the pregame, halftime and extended timeouts, the environment inside The Pit was every bit as electric as you would hope March basketball would be. As the game went down to a wire, all the neutral fans in the arena seemed to wind up just rooting for whoever was behind in the game, making for a loud and exciting conclusion.

Wildcard. For much of the final stretch in crunch time, Vanderbilt senior guard Brad Tinsley watched from the bench as freshman Kedren Johnson ran the point. While other lesser leaders might be hurt by such a perceived slight, Tinsley was there ready to give the youngster advice on leaving the timeouts. Call it a passing of the torch, as the quartet of Commodore seniors wraps up their careers with just one NCAA Tournament win to their names.

What’s Next? Wisconsin will face Syracuse in the Sweet 16 on Thursday night. While the Orange looked excellent in advancing to the Sweet 16, the ineligibility of sophomore center Fab Melo may leave them susceptible on the inside where the Badgers interior tandem Bruesewitz and Berggren can make an impact.

Share this story

Bracket Prep: Michigan State, Florida State, Vanderbilt, St. Bonaventure, Long Beach State, & New Mexico State

Posted by EJacoby on March 11th, 2012

Selection Sunday is here! We’ve been providing you with summaries of every automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, and this post concludes all of the conference tourney winners. Big Ten, SEC, ACC, A-10, Big West, and WAC were the last ones to complete their championships. Here’s everything you need to know.

Michigan State

Draymond Green is the Force Behind the Spartans' Strong Attack (AP Photo/A. Goldis)

  • Big Ten Champion (27-7, 16-5)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #4/#3/#3
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +17.3
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #1

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

  1. After winning the Big Ten Tournament, expect Michigan State to steal the last #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. There’s nothing that this team hasn’t done to deserve the top line. 27-7 against the #1 strength of schedule, co-champion of the best conference in the country, and Big Ten Champions. This is a classic Tom Izzo team that’s ferocious on the boards and executes efficiently on both offense and defense. The Spartans run through their Big Ten Player of the Year, but this is a deep team that relies on many contributors in different areas. A late season ACL injury to blossoming freshman forward Branden Dawson was horrible news and is potentially devastating. But Dawson was still not much of an offensive factor and the team won the Big Ten Tournament without him, showing an ability to adapt.
  2. Draymond Green is the Big Ten Player of the Year who does everything that you want in a senior star leader. 16.2 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.0 blocks per game is what Green provides. The 45% field goal percentage doesn’t look great until you realize that Green does much of his work on the perimeter, including hitting the most three-pointers on the team. The rest of this team is loaded with strong athletes and defenders, from the interior duo of Derrick Nix and Adriean Payne to the perimeter players Keith Appling and Brandon Wood, and beyond to the reserves. Appling is crucial to this team as the playmaking point guard with explosive agility to make plays for his teammates and himself.
  3. Most things in March Madness are unpredictable, but one of the few guarantees is that Tom Izzo’s teams will play their best basketball in the NCAA Tournament. This Izzo team is loaded and ready to dance with as difficult a combination to beat as nearly anyone in the country. A +17.3 adjusted scoring margin is the fourth best in the nation, led my MSU’s elite defense. The Spartans allow just 37.7% defensive field goal shooting, the second best in the land. Their 89.9 defensive efficiency also ranks in the top 10. Throw in their own 47.7% field goal shooting, and this team’s shooting percentage disparity is fantastic, which is always a top formula for success. Their 55.2% rebound percentage is top 10 in the nation, as well. The numbers look great for Michigan State. But this team just lost its best athlete to the ACL injury and it doesn’t have the amount of elite scorers that a usual #1 seed does. Instead, this team is so efficient defensively that it will be difficult to knock off. Teams that gave Michigan State trouble were those that caught fire from the outside while holding their own defensively, like Indiana. Expect an awesome clash of styles between MSU and its opponent in a Sweet Sixteen matchup, if it can avoid an upset from the 8-9 seed, or 10-7 seed if it receives a #2 seed.

Florida State

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

SEC Set Your TiVo: 03.03 – 03.04.12

Posted by EMoyer on March 3rd, 2012

Eric Moyer is the RTC correspondent for the Southern Conference and Atlantic Sun Conference and a contributor to the RTC SEC Microsite. You can find him on Twitter @EricDMoyer. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

#1 Kentucky @ # Florida- Noon EST Sunday on CBS (****)

  • Kentucky will look to complete its first perfect SEC regular season since 2003. The Wildcats have posted 11 of the 15 undefeated league records in SEC history.
  • At 15-0, Kentucky is one of three schools (Long Beach State – Big West; Texas-Arlington – Southland) in NCAA D-I with an unblemished record in conference play.
  • Florida holds a 2-8 record all-time vs. the No. 1 team in the country, including 0-8 vs. Kentucky. The Gators’ two wins over the No. 1 team came in the NCAA Tournament, defeating Duke in 2000 and Ohio State in 2007.
  • In those eight games, Kentucky has beaten Florida by an average of 29.1 points per game.
  • The Gators have already sealed a first-round bye in the SEC Tournament and can reach the No. 2 seed with a win. If Vanderbilt defeats Tennessee on Saturday, Florida would be guaranteed at least the No. 3 seed,

Vanderbilt @ Tennessee  – 4:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN2 (***)

  • Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins leads the SEC in scoring at 20.1 points per game. If he finishes atop the league, he will be the first player to lead the SEC in scoring in consecutive seasons since LSU’s Ronnie Henderson in 1995 and 1996. His 115 made three-point field goals leads the nation.
  • Vanderbilt is the only team in the SEC that sports three 1,000-point scorers in Jenkins (1,837), Jeffery Taylor (1,547), and Brad Tinsley (1,192).
  • Tennessee’s 110 wins over the Commodores are the most by the Vols over any opponent,
  • The Volunteers can score the final first-round bye in next week’s SEC Tournament with a win and an Alabama loss.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

SEC Morning Five: 01.23.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 23rd, 2012

  1. Jarnell Stokes has already been a huge factor for the Tennessee Volunteers, just three games into his collegiate career. It was Stokes’ 16 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks that helped the Vols defeat the defending national champion Connecticut Huskies on Saturday. Teammates certainly see the benefit of having him around. “Oh, gosh,” said junior guard Skylar McBee. “It’s great having Jarnell. He’s such a big presence in there.” Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin saw enough in Stokes’ first two games to grant him his first career start against UConn. “He had some breakdowns defensively,” said Martin, “which is expected because he’s learning as we go. But I thought his energy, his toughness, his will to receive the ball and desire to score the ball really helped us get over the hump.” The addition of Stokes could be too late to gain any traction for the NCAA Tournament this season. The Vols are 9-10 overall, and 1-3 in conference play. However can Martin and Tennessee talk Stokes into one more year in Knoxville with all the attention he is receiving for his positive play?
  2. Senior Darius Miller has proven to be a reliable free throw shooter in the clutch for John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats. Miller was 4-of-4 in the final minute of Kentucky’s 77-71 win over Alabama Saturday, making him a perfect 6-of-6 in the final three minutes on the season. Freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had nothing but praise for the veteran. “He is everything. He is [one of] the only seniors on this team, and he means a lot.” Miller picked a great game to step up at the charity stripe. Kentucky shot just 36.4% from the free throw line in the first half.
  3. Free throws were a big factor in another SEC game this weekend. Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury felt the number of free throw attempts by his Bulldogs were key in their overtime win against Vanderbilt. “They shoot nine free throws and make five and we shoot 21 free throws,” Stansbury said. “That tells you that ball is being drove to the paint and thrown to the paint. We’re playing without creating a bunch of silly fouls. You’ve got to do that on the road to have a chance.” The Bulldogs finished with 14 points from the foul line, which was nine more than Vanderbilt.
  4. While there was a large discrepancy in made free throws, Vanderbilt had an opportunity to beat Mississippi State in overtime. Actually, they had three opportunities. Point guard Brad Tinsley was forced into two ill-advised shots because of the Bulldogs’ ability to cover up offensive threats John Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor. First, Tinsley took a three-pointer with the shot clock winding down, and then drove into the lane for a possession that the Commodores would love to have back. Tinsley shouldn’t receive all of the blame here though. The Vanderbilt blog, Anchor of Gold, says, “The ultimate failure here was pushing forward with a bad shot rather than resetting, regrouping, and using the team’s final timeout.” This isn’t the first time Kevin Stallings‘ management of late-game situations has been questioned. And for good reason. Vandy has lost its last six overtime games. Perhaps declaring the Commodores’ turnaround as an elite team was slightly premature.
  5. Arkansas‘ victory over Michigan was quite the statement for the Razorbacks, but the home court advantage provided by Bud Walton Arena makes the Razorbacks tough to beat at home. The atmosphere at Saturday’s game had to give Razorbacks fans visions of the mid-1990s. Arkansas coach Mike Anderson agrees that Bud Walton provides an automatic advantage. “That atmosphere, with our players it takes us up eight or 10 points,” Anderson said. Arkansas is 14-0 at home this season, with home games against Vanderbilt, Florida and Alabama coming up in the month of conference play.
Share this story

Night Line: Is Vanderbilt Back? Commodores Are Getting Stronger Every Game

Posted by EJacoby on January 20th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC contributor and correspondent. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games.

The popularity of Alabama’s basketball team might pale in comparison to that of its National Championship football squad, but the boys on the hardwood win its games in a similar fashion: defense, defense, and more defense. So the fact that Vanderbilt showed up in Tuscaloosa on Thursday night with the more physical defensive effort was impressive, especially considering how poor the Commodores struggled on the defensive end just a few weeks ago. Kevin Stallings’ team allowed just 59 points in the road win, and Vanderbilt (14-4, 4-0 SEC) is a much tougher team now with physical force Festus Ezeli back in the lineup. This group is a changed bunch from the team that lost to Indiana State at home in December, and the Commodores must be taken seriously now as a team with the formula to make a run in March.

With Ezeli Back, Vanderbilt is a Much Tougher Team Defensively (Getty Images/G. Halverson)

Vanderbilt entered this season a preseason Top 10 team, bringing back all five starters and three NBA prospects in Jeffery Taylor, John Jenkins, and Ezeli. Jenkins has held up his end of the bargain, leading the conference in scoring at 19.8 points per game. He’s arguably the best shooter in college basketball, currently leading the nation in three-point field goals (67) at a 45.3% rate (third in the SEC). Taylor has done his part, too, displaying his all-around game to the tune of 16.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.4 steals per game on 53.6% field goal shooting and the ability to hit from deep (45.3% on 3.5 attempts per game). But Ezeli missed six games due to an NCAA violation-related suspension, and another three recovering from knee surgery, and the Commodores struggled without him. While he doesn’t provide the statistical production of his fellow team leaders, Ezeli is their only true interior threat and most impactful defender. Take away those two aspects, and Vanderbilt barely looked like an above-average team for the first 10 games of this season.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

SEC Morning Five: 01.12.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 12th, 2012

  1. ESPNU will debut the latest in the SEC “Storied” documentary series on February 11 with 40 Minutes of Hell. The film goes behind the scenes on former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson‘s success with the Razorbacks in the early 1990s. The “40 minutes of hell” fast paced and pressing style that Richardson employed in the SEC won him the National Championship in 1994. Richardson’s separation from the university was anything but amicable as he slapped Arkansas with a wrongful termination lawsuit. The Razorbacks hired Richardson’s protege, Mike Anderson, as head coach helping to bring the former coach closer to fans, players, and the University of Arkansas. Not to mention, the hire also brought back a style of play that is modeled after Richardson’s championship winning system.
  2. Senior forward Lance Goulbourne has found his role on Vanderbilt’s roster, and he is making his impact felt on the defensive end. Goulbourne has limited the role of several prominent big men in recent games, holding Marquette’s Jae Crowder to 30.8% shooting and Auburn’s Kenny Gabriel (just to name a couple) to just 2 points on 1-7 shooting. “He’s done an unbelievable job about three games in a row where the team’s best player was the four man,” Vanderbilt guard Brad Tinsley said. “He’s really figured out how to take what the coaches tell him and put that out on the court.” With the return of center Festus Ezeli and solid defense from Jeffery Taylor, Goulbourne’s defense is an added plus for a team known more for its offense. The Commodores’ commitment to the defensive end has their defense ranked ahead of their offense in latest Pomeroy efficiency rankings.
  3. Kentucky coach John Calipari has a theory for why his Wildcats haven’t been effective on the road in the last couple of years. He says the SEC is not an easy league to compete in, and declares that the league could have as many as five teams competing in the Sweet Sixteen. “This league, with the top five teams that we have, that are all NCAA Tournament teams, and really,” said Calipari. “I’ll make a prediction, other than us, of those five, I would say four of those, without us, will be Sweet 16 teams. How about that?” It’s not that far-fetched of a prediction. Vanderbilt and Florida have the talent to compete with anybody in the nation, and Alabama and Mississippi State have both proven its legitimacy within the top 25 teams in the country. And of course, Kentucky, which Calipari didn’t put as a Sweet 16 team, will be competing well into March and most likely early April.
  4. Billy Donovan wasn’t happy with Florida’s defense in its loss against Tennessee, but the Gators played with much more intensity in their win Tuesday night over the Georgia Bulldogs. With all eyes on the defensive end, Florida held the Dogs to just 36.4 percent shooting on the night. Donovan was satisfied this time around. “I thought we defended them very, very well,” Donovan said. “We held them to 48 points. I think if you hold any team to 48 points you’ve done a pretty good job defensively.” The Gators, however, continued to neglect Patric Young in the post, as Young attempted just five shots on the night. If Florida can continue to hold opponents to 48 points, the lack of a post game may be a moot point.
  5. Mississippi State’s big man Renardo Sidney didn’t start on Saturday for the Bulldogs because of a coach’s decision. “I wanted to save him some foul trouble,” head coach Rick Stansbury said. “He had two fouls early in all those games.” The strategy wasn’t very effective as Sidney still committed three fouls in the first half. The fast paced action perpetuated by Arkansas’ full court pressure limited Sidney’s effectiveness. He scored just six points and four rebounds in 22 minutes of play. His replacement in the starting lineup, Wendell Lewis had similar issues. Lewis was limited to two points in 14 minutes of action.
Share this story

Vanderbilt Moving Into SEC Play Full Speed Ahead

Posted by nvr1983 on December 30th, 2011

Bill Hupp is a correspondent for RTC who filed this report after Thursday night’s Vanderbilt-Marquette game. Follow him on Twitter (@Bill_Hupp) for his thoughts on hoops, food, Russian nesting dolls, and life.

It’s not necessarily a chip on his shoulder, but Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings is keenly aware of the perception that his team isn’t tough enough to contend for an SEC or National Championship. So when his preseason #7 Commodores started this season 6-4 after two gut-wrenching OT losses to ranked opponents (Xavier and Louisville), sandwiched between home upsets by Cleveland State and Indiana State, the whispers must have sounded deafening.

The Commodores Have Responded To Stallings' Challenge

Gone and temporarily forgotten from the national rankings, Vanderbilt has rolled off three straight blowout wins since that Indiana State defeat and seems to be rounding into expected form with SEC play straight ahead. On Thursday in front of a electric crowd at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, the Commodores bolted to a 31-6 first-half lead and never looked back, rolling to an impressive 74-57 non-conference road win over #14 Marquette. “Our goal coming into this game was to establish that there is some toughness to this team,” Stallings said afterwards. “We’re a little bit maligned for not being tough, but I thought we showed some pretty good toughness tonight.”

Vanderbilt (9-4) is known for its offensive firepower, but it was its defense against Marquette that was most impressive. Keying in on Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder, the Commodores held Marquette’s offensive leaders to 3-19 shooting in the first-half. They alternated between tough man-to-man and a 2-3-matchup zone in the second half, using their length to bother the smaller Golden Eagles. They will need that defensive intensity in the SEC where teams like Mississippi State and Alabama would prefer to grind it out on a nightly basis.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big East/SEC Challenge Face-Off: Other Friday Games

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 2nd, 2011

To preview the match-ups in the Big East/SEC Challenge, the RTC Big East & SEC Microsites are facing off in conversational analysis. Brian Joyce and Michael Lemaire take on Auburn vs. Seton Hall and Louisville vs. Vanderbilt. 

Vanderbilt v. Louisville

Vanderbilt and Louisville will feature two top 25 teams facing off in the KFC Yum! Center.

Mike: The matchup has all the makings of a classic offense v. defense battle. Even without senior center Festus Ezeli, the Commodores are a prolific scoring team (#23 in adjusted offense) and swingmen John Jenkins (20.2 PPG) and Jeffery Taylor (15.4 PPG) can fill it up in a hurry. Of course they haven’t played a team as talented as Louisville. Even with the injuries to Wayne BlackshearMike MarraStephan Van Treese, and Rakeem Buckles, the Cardinals are still undefeated and the main reason why is they play suffocating defense (#3 in adjusted defense). However, with apologies to Butler, Louisville has played a relatively easy opening slate, and their depth will be tested against Vanderbilt’s talented lineup. Offensively the Cardinals don’t have a go-to scorer per se, but they do have seven players who average at least seven points per game, led by sweet-shooting forward Kyle Kuric (12.5 PPG). They also have a rugged, albeit thin, frontcourt which is led by talented freshman Chase Behanan (9.8 PPG, 8.7 RPG) and center Gorgui Dieng (8.3 PPG, 8.2 RPG) who has been one of the best shotblockers in the country thus far and is a big reason why Louisville is so successful on defense. But as balanced as Rick Pitino’s club is, star guard Peyton Siva is still what makes the team go, and he hasn’t quite found his comfort zone yet, missing two games with an ankle injury. Siva had 11 points, five assists and five steals in the team’s last game, a win over Long Beach State, but he also turned the ball over six times. No matter how good Louisville’s defense might be, Siva and fellow guard Chris Smith cannot be careless with the ball, because Vanderbilt is too efficient on offense to be gifted with so many extra possessions. What do you think, Brian?

Will Rick Pitino employ his full court press against Vanderbilt's struggling guards

Brian: I agree that this should be a great one. I think Vanderbilt will really be tested in this matchup. The Commodores haven’t taken good care of the basketball, and Louisville is a team that uses a full court press and creates lots of turnovers. Brad Tinsley has struggled when pressured, and it will be interesting to see how he responds to the Cardinals’ defense. You pointed out Vandy’s efficient offense, but you were nice by not mentioning its struggling defense. The ‘Dores have struggled to cut off opponent’s three-point shot allowing three teams to shoot at least 40 percent from outside the arc so far this year. Louisville loves to shoot the three, so it could be a long night for coach Kevin Stallings if his team lets the Cardinals get hot. It will be interesting to see how Stallings handles the defensive assignment for Siva. Siva is a player who could really hurt Vanderbilt with his penetration. He can score, as you point out, and he can also find open teammates. And one of the teammates he may find in this one is Dieng. Dieng is still developing his offensive skills, but his 6’11” frame could be difficult for Vanderbilt’s post players to defend. 6’9″ Steve Tchiengang and 6’8″ Lance Goulbourne will be down low for Vandy, but they will have to box out better than they did against Xavier when the Musketeers grabbed 25 offensive rebounds.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

A Quick, Fake Summary: All Else is Castles Built In The Air

Posted by Gerald Smith on November 28th, 2011

Festus Ezeli busted a deal and spun the wheel. (He also spun his MCL; he’ll be out for a while.) Vanderbilt has been spun about without him, though it might not be due to his absence.

At the beginning of the season, it was theorized that Vandy’s seniors would rise up and contribute more with Ezeli out. Against Xavier tonight, the Commodores of Musictown still couldn’t barter themselves a decent offense. Senior forward Lance Goulbourne (18 points on 8-17 FG seven rebounds), junior guard John Jenkins (20 points on 8-18 FG & 4-9 3FG) and senior forward Jeffery Taylor (18 points on 6-11 FG, five rebounds) all led the charge defensively but faded as near the end. Not one Commodore scored a single point in the last 3:56 of the second half.

Earlier in the that half, senior guard Brad Tinsley had controlled drives into the paint that resulted in easy assists. Like the rest of the ‘Dores, Tinsley tried to do too much late in the game. With his limited defensive ability, Xavier guards Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons finally took control and powered the Musketeers to a 82-70 overtime victory.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Vanderbilt needs a big win with or without Festus Ezeli

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 28th, 2011

This is a big week for the SEC, and an even bigger week for Vanderbilt. The  Commodores play two top 25 home games this week, against #11 Xavier on Monday night and at #6 Louisville on Friday night. I know the Commodores are without starting center Festus Ezeli. Undoubtedly, this will be a different team once Ezeli returns, but a loss in late November or early December still counts as a loss. Even without Ezeli.

Ezeli isn't walking out on the court tonight for Vanderbilt (Associated Press)

Why do I think this week is a Make or Break week for Vandy? Besides the fact that they’re playing two Top 25 ranked teams, the implications could be further reaching than more early season losses.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story