Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Being a Commie is way cooler than being a Colonist

George Washington is not a team Vanderbilt can afford to look past.

The Colonials are hot, and as Andrew Alberg wrote in his GW Preview yesterday, a team not to be taken likely. The Colonials like to play an up-tempo game, which despite a Washington Post article’s claim that Vanderbilt suffers from a “general lack of athleticism,” is not necessarily a bad thing. Vanderbilt can score points in transition, and are deep enough to not have too much of a let down when they go to the bench. While Vanderbilt can play the up and down game, they can also score in a half-court setting (particularly if GW falls back into a 1-3-1 zone). GW likes to press, something that Vanderbilt has been able to handle relatively well all reason long. If they do, and Vanderbilt is able to break it, the Commies should be in good shape because the pace of the game will inevitable grind down. Conversely, GW is a team prone to droughts on the offensive end if they aren't scoring points in transition. Vanderbilt can afford to mix up the base, GW really only knows one speed: fast. Finally, Vanderbilt is a team that takes care of the basketball and GW is a team that thrives when they are able to force turnovers. Whichever teams wins this struggle will almost certainly dictate the pace of the game, and probably who wins it.

In case you haven’t heard, Vanderbilt likes to shoot the 3, averaging over nine a game. The Commies, especially against a big and physical team like GW, will have to rebound. Despite a line-up that has, according to the beat reporter of a mid-major school, a “lack of size more consistent with a mid-major team,” the Commies will be playing a team significantly less battle tested than Vanderbilt. I don’t know what Marc Carig is implying with his not so subtle shots at Vanderbilt, but if on the season GW’s average rebounding margin in a game is +1.1, and Vanderbilt’s is +1.0, given the quality of their respective opponents, it might be wise to check himself (before he wrecks himself). Regardless of my unnecessary defensiveness, Vanderbilt's ability to keep GW off the glass (particularly the offensive glass) will be a deciding factor in this 6-11 match-up.

Maureece Rice, Karl Hobb’s 6’1 guard, is the scoring spark plug for the Colonials. Averaging 16.3 points a game on the season, Alex Gordon will probably match up with the Philadelphia native. Vanderbilt has struggled all season at containing explosive guards who can both get to the hoop and hit the outside jumper (see Tre Kelly). If Stallings can get some quality minutes out of the bigger, yet decidedly more inexperienced freshman Jermaine Beal, the Commies might be able to at least slow Rice down and force Rice’s teammates beat them.

One guy capable of stepping up and doing just that is senior Carl Elliott, the team’s point-guard and emotional leader. Elliot is a big point guard and will probably have to defend either SEC Player of the Year Derrick Byars or Shan Foster. He hit the free throws to beat UNC-Wilmington in last year’s NCAA tournament and is no stranger to this time of year (as compared to Byars who, according to some reports is “happy to be [here].” While Elliot may defend Byars, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Danny Cage guard Elliot for Kevin Stallings when Vanderbilt opts for a zone.

Speaking of zone, Vanderbilt has been very effective this season when they have played an aggressive 2-3 zone looking to force traps. GW, on the other hand, is a team that grabbed 359 offensive boards on the year. If Vanderbilt is going to play the zone, they are going to have to box out and keep the Colonials from getting second chance points.

While Derrick Byars will be a key for the Commies, I really think the key for Vanderbilt will be Shan Foster. Shan has not forgotten the miss that cost Vanderbilt the win against Arkansas. Shan is hungry and will need to step up if Vanderbilt is going to make a run. Ross Neltner, given GW’s size, will be important as the Commodores try to keep the Colonials off the glass. Given GW’s desire to get out and run, Vanderbilt’s bench will also be important for Kevin Stallings. Finally, I really see Dan Cage as the “x” factor. If Dan can find a body and box out, get his hands in the passing lanes, and hit a few jumpers when the ball is reversed, Vanderbilt should be in good shape. Like DB, this is Dan Cage’s last shot at glory, and the senior has been nothing but steady all season long. I look for Danny boy to step up and go Bryce Drew for the Commies.

Don't forget, Vanderbilt Sports Bracket Challenge will close at noon eastern, don't forget to register.

1 comment:

Stanimal said...

It's fairly obvious that Mark Carig of the Washington Post spent the majority of his time at GW watching their games and failed to catch up on national TV broadcasts.

His article screams stereotype. We are typically billed as "unathletic" and "live and die by the three" because that's the way most of our teams have been in the past. However, I think he, and the rest of the GW crowd who fall into that trap are going to be very surprised to discover just how athletic this edition of Vanderbilt Basketball really is.

Sorry GW, but your running game and 1-3-1 trap play right into our hands. You think that defense is a good idea against a team that was 4th in the SEC in turnover margin and 2nd in assist/turnover ratio? We're not going to give you the ball because you put pressure on us, we're going to find the open man and bury a three or get it inside on a backdoor cut before you even know what hit you.

I think Seamus is right for his concern, however. Vandy shouldn't be "just excited to be here". They should be "ready to demonstrate how underrated we are". That's the attitude that takes you to the sweet 16 and beyond.