Monday, December 4, 2006

Because we only beat Toledo in Overtime, Your East Tennessee State Preview

The East Tennessee State University Buccaneers come to Memorial tonight boasting a 5-4 record and riding a three game winning streak. Not a team to be taken lightly, the Bucs make the trip from Johnson City 6th in the nation in points per game, averaging 81.6 points in their first nine. An inconsistent team, ETSU has won its last three after dropping the three before that. ESTU’s trip to Nashville is the final game in a seven game road trip including an appearance in the South Padre Invitational. Head Coach Murry Bartow’s squad lost three players to graduation, including the programs all-time leading scorer Tim Smith. They are not without weapons however. According to Atlantic Sun Conference expert Uncle O’Shea, red-shirt senior Brad Nuckles “is one of the most underrated frontcourt players in the south. He is very physical and has scoring ability...a double-double machine when healthy.” Nuckles is averaging 12.8 and 8.2 on the season. Nuckles, paired with undersized Sophomore Guard, Courtney Pigram could spell trouble for the Commodores. The Bucs leading scorer with 16.6 ppg, Vanderbilt has had a difficult time guarding offensive-minder perimeter players so far this season, and if Pigram goes off, it could be a long night for the Commies. The final piece of ETSU’s offensive puzzle is Freshman Dequan Twilley. Twilley, who returns to the Bucs after an absence due to family reasons, is averaging 7.8 assists a game in the four games he has played this season. While Twilley has started in every game he has played (4), look for him to come off the bench tonight for Coach Bartow.

For Vanderbilt to be successful they will need to prevent ETSU from getting off to a quick start. This season, the Bucs are 4-1 when leading at halftime, with their only lose coming at Auburn; conversely, they are 0-3 when going into the locker room trailing. ETSU likes to run a 1-3-1 defense and force turnovers. The Bucs are 5-0 when they force more turnovers than their opponents, they are 0-4 when they turn the ball more. Effectively handling the 1-3-1, and taking care of the basketball will be key for the Commies. Piggybacking this point, ETSU is 4-1 when scoring over 60 points, and 3-0 when surpassing 70. Coming off a 98-93 overtime win against Toledo, this does not bode well for Stallings’ defensively challenged squad. If we can step up on the defensively side of the ball, Vanderbilt should be able to put themselves in position to win. The Commies' defensive woes are exemplified most ably in their opposition's field goal percentage, allowing opponents to shoot almost 50% from the floor in 5 games. Holding the high-scoring Bucs beneath this percentage is critical, as is crashing the boards and limiting ETSU’s second-chance points. Whoever is guarding Nuckles will have to box-out and stay out of foul trouble. If Brad is able to control the boards, ETSU might earn their first win against the Commies in 8 meetings. For Vanderbilt, Foster and Byars need to continue to shoulder the offensive load. If Ross Neltner can continue to pick up the slack left after Demarre’s exodus to Missouri, and Dan Cage and Jermaine “Dolla” Beal can continue to provide quality minutes, Vanderbilt should able to get back to .500. This is not a team to overlook, especially given the Commies' play thus far. A win in Memorial, however, gets this team moving in the right the direction as they look ahead


Stanimal said...

My question is, when are we going to get George Drake in the mix here?

McDonald's All-American nominee and one of two rivals 4-stars we have on the team (the other one is playing, Jermaine Beal).

Bobby O'Shea said...

Is it possible that Stallings isn't playing him so the team won't come to rely on his play too much when he inevitably transfers?