The Commodores went away for Christmas on the right note, beating Mercer 99-59 last Monday. With that said, the season thus far as been a lot more valleys than peaks despite their 8-3 record. Looking for some consistency heading into conference play, Vanderbilt has a good opportunity to get back into the swing of things against an over-matched opponent. Manhattan is 6-5 overall, despite playing a pretty terrible schedule thus far (their opponent's combined record is 58-69). In fact, they have yet to beat an opponent with an better than .500 record.
The Jaspers only go 7 or 8 deep, with 7 guys getting 20+ minutes, and junior Nick Walsh 5’10, 150 lbs. getting 14 minutes a content. Manhattan is definitely an experienced team, starting 4 seniors and a junior. However, experience seems to come at the expense of size as the Jaspers tallest guy is 6’9 with the second tallest standing just 6’6. Despite hearing Skee-Lo run through my head whenever I hit the hardwood, I think it's fair to say Manhattan is under-sized.
6’4 G/F senior Darryl Crawford is averaging 15.5 points and 6.8 rebounds a game (the team's leader in both categories). Junior guard Rico Pickett, is the team's second leading scorer, dropping 12.8 off the bench in 25 minutes. The 6'4 Pickett has some experience against the Commodore. Pickett is a transfer from Alabama, who scored 6 and grabbed 4 against Vanderbilt in the their meeting with the Tide back in 2008.
Manhattan hasn’t played in 11 days since beating Long Island University 71-61, so they too have the potential to be rusty. The Jaspers are averaging just 11.5 turnovers a game, and are 6-2 when holding opponents to 70 points or fewer. Some other nuggets to keep in mind: Manhattan is 5-1 when leading at the half, and they've been out-rebounded in their last 7 games.
Now getting to the good stuff. In Manhattan's 5 losses, their opponents are shooting 41.6% from the field, and 38% from downtown. In their 6 wins however, opponents are shooting 34.3% from the field, and 23% from downtown. Thus, it would seem that the key numbers for the Commodores is scoring more than 70 points, and shooting better than 41% from the field. Given the Commodores clear height advantage, you would think Vanderbilt can take advantage and score in the paint. For what it's worth, Vanderbilt is averaging 49% from the floor in their 11 games so far.
According to the Game Notes, Festus Ezeli is likely to get another start for the Commodores. Still, Vanderbilt is likely to have a height advantage at every position on the court.
As discussed above, Vanderbilt's performance against Mercer was a coming-out of sorts. To be fair, it was against a pretty awful Mercer team. Still, the offensive cohesion and energy was a welcome change to the lethargy and ineptitude Commodore fans had seen in Vanderbilt's previous outings. Vanderbilt had 5 players in double-figures, including freshman John Jenkins pouring in a career-best 17 points.
This is certainly a game Vanderbilt should win convincingly, hence the 17 point line.
Still, it will good to see if the team is continuing to progress after their time off. The game tips at 7pm central and will be available online and on 104.5 The Zone.