Friday, February 9, 2007

I Volunteer to Kick UT's...

Vanderbilt/Tennessee is always a game that Commie and Volunteer fans circle. They hate us, we hate them, their uniforms are ugly…you get the idea. Despite the shared animosity, rarely have meetings between the men’s teams been meaningful. Saturday’s game at Thomson-Boiling Arena is certainly the exception, as this is a very big game for both squads. For Tennessee, who currently sit at 16-8 overall and 4-5 in conference, this is a game to get themselves “back on track.” For the Commies, this could be the game that all but seals up their invitation to the NCAA tournament.

Tennessee has not lost a game at home this season, a streak Vanderbilt would love to break up for the Vols the same way they broke it up for LSU a few weeks back. Chris Lofton, Tennessee’s best player and most potent offensive weapon, will be playing in only his second game back, after missing the previous four with a sprained ankle. Tennessee was 1-3 during that stretch, with their only win coming at home against Georgia. While Lofton makes BPB’s team go, Junior JaJuan Smith and Freshman Ramar Smith have been picking up the slack for in Lofton’s absence. JaJuan has scored 20 points or more is 4 of this last 6, and is averaging 17.2 in SEC Play, while Ramar is averaging 14.8 a tilt, making him 10th in scoring in SEC games. Lofton, bum ankle and all, is still Tennessee’s best offensive weapon, but containing Chris is not necessarily sufficient to stop the Vols. Ramar was particularly effective against he Commies in Nashville, dropping 17 and adding 3 assists. Lofton hurt the Commies for 29 points on 11-15 shooting, including 6-7 from behind the arc. Lofton is determined to be more than a jump-shooter, but regardless of how he is getting his points, this guy can score.

To their credit, Vanderbilt has been playing much better defense as of late. They have been physical with teams and haven’t really had the kind of defensive let-downs Commie fans have grown accustomed to seeing. Except for the second-half against Florida, Vanderbilt’s defense has held up well since their loss at Georgia in early January. Hopefully, that streak will continue tomorrow. If Vanderbilt can play well on the offensive end, there is no reason they shouldn’t be able to win.

Derrick Byars has been feeling the love from CBS' Clark Kellogg and ESPN's Andy Katz, and deservedly so. Byars is second in scoring in the SEC since league play began (19.1). He dropped 25 on UT in Nashville and will need to have another big game for the Commies tomorrow. Dan Cage and Shan played well against the Vols at home, but will both need to have big games tomorrow. Shan, in particular, needs to have a big game tomorrow. He is only averaging 13.9 in SEC play, and has really not been a gp-to guy as of late. If Shan can assert himself offensively, he will make Byars, Cage, and the rest of the Commie offense that much more potent.

The Commie Keys:

  1. Rebounding:
    When they played in Memorial, Vanderbilt out-rebounded the Vols 40-33. Tennessee has lost 7 games when they have been out-rebounded by their opponents (they have won 5).
  2. Taking Care of the Basketball:
    Tennessee is forcing close to 19 Turnovers a game. If Vanderbilt can hold onto the Basketball, particularly in a hostile environment, they should be able to put themselves in a position to win.
  3. Long-range shooting:
    Vanderbilt’s road wins in SEC Play this season have come when they have shot 40% or better from outside (40% @Kentucky, 48% @LSU). While they didn’t shoot the ball that great from outside in their first meeting, they were able to eek out a win. Regardless, playing on the road is a different animal, and nothing silences the home-crowd like a couple of well timed threes.


Douglas James said...

I know this is a basketball article but we just beat Rice in baseball. As in the #1 team in the country and it was in Texas (not necessarily a home game for them but def more impressive for us!) In terms of Basketball, what has happened to Shan? In one of the best stretches in Vandy sports ever he seems to have lost his game or at least lost his confidence. Considering he is going to be our only returning scorer next year he needs to get back on track.

Anonymous said...

i know all vandy fans who read your blog, should be reminded the blue raiders[reminder, they are the school that always beat the "commies" in footbal...and who vandy will never re-schedule] are on the deuce at 1pm cst....mtsu vs wku.