Tuesday, December 8, 2009

VSL Gets You Ready: Vanderbilt Travels to Champaign

This marks the last foreseeable tough week for Vanderbilt as the Commodores play at Illinois tonight and then face-off against the Western Kentucky Hilltopers at the Sommet Center Friday.

Vanderbilt's trip to Illinois completes a home and home series with Fighting Illini who beat the Commodores last year at Memorial. This year, the Illini are 5-2 and are predicted to finish in the middle of a stronger Big Ten. After losing two straight in the Las Vegas in pretty heart-breaking fashion, giving up a 16 point half-time lead and lost on a buzzer-beater to Utah 60-58 only to come back and lose in the Consolation Game to Bradley after the Braves ended the game on an 11-2 run to win 72-68, Bruce Weber's team gave as good as the got beating #19 Clemson 76-74 on the road in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Fighting Illini were down 20 at the half, 47-27, only to charge back in the second half behind an 35-10 run.

Illinois starts 3 guards, a forward and a center. They've got a good mix of experience and youth with 3 juniors and 2 freshman in the starting line-up. The starting 5 also has good balance, with all 5 starters averaging in double figures. The team's leading scorer is 6'9 forward, junior Mike Davis, who was a pre-season second-team All -Big Ten. Davis is averaging 13.6 points and 10.1 rebounds in just over 30 minutes a game. Junior guard, Demetri McCarney averages 12.6 points and 5.6 assists a contest. The 6'3 guard was third-team All-Big Ten and plays over 26 minutes a game. A pair of 6'3 freshmen guards, D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul have made an impact early, 10.3 and 12.3 points respectively. Richardson is playing 28 minutes a game, and has shown an early ability to knock down 3's, shooting 53.6% from downtown and taking as many 3's as shots from inside arc.

Center Mike Tinsdale will be a big test for the Commodore defense, especially A.J. Ogilvy. The 7'1 Tinsdale is a junior who is averaging 10.9 points and 5.5 rebounds a game. Tinsdale, like A.J. is a good free-throw shooter at 89.5%. Rounding out the

The Illini aren't particularly deep, going at best 8 deep. The heir to Air Jordan, Jeff, is getting 19 minutes a game, but only averaging 1.7 points, 2 rebounds, and 2.33 rebounds a game. Senior forward Doninique Keller is getting 14 minutes a game, averaging 6.6 points and 2.4 boards a game. Finally, 6''9 junior Bill Cole is getting 14 minutes a game and 2.6 points and 3.6 rebounds when in there. Basically, the Illini are only as good as the starters play.

As a team, the Illini are averaging 79.2 points a game, have a +6.6 rebounding edge and +2.8 turnover edge on their opponents. In both losses, Illinois shot 39% as compared to 48% in their wins. On the year, Vanderbilt opponents are shooting 39% againt the Commodores which would seem to indicate that it VU can play the kind of defense they have through their first 7, they'll give themselves a chance on the road.

Looking at the Commodores, it's apparent that they are a second half team. Vanderbilt only has a 2 point edge over opponents in the first, but is +71 in the second half. They are averaging more turnovers a game than their opponents (-.7), but are clinging to +.9 rebounding margin (amazing given how badly the Commodores were out-rebounded against Cincinnati).

Given the team's depth, I would think Vanderbilt would look to run and get into an up-tempo game. Additionally, the fact that Vanderbilt has 3 bona fide big men to match up with Mike Tinsdale certainly bodes well for Kevin Stallings.

Despite a slow start, A.J. Ogilvy is playing like the player the Commodores need him to be. Averaging 14 points and 6.6 rebounds a game, A.J. has come on strong recently averaging just under 20 points in his last 3, and recently named SEC Player of the Week. Jeffrey Taylor has probably been the Commodores best player this year and leads the team in scoring and rebounds with 15.4 and 7.6 a contest. I absolutely love the way Andre Walker is playing. It's not necessary showing up in the stats, but Walker has been a great option bringing the ball up, is second in steals (1.43), and third on the team in rebounds (6) and assists (1.5).

Jermaine Beal has been inconsistent. He's averaging 13.7 points a game, but only has a 1.4:1 assist to turnover ratio (compared to 2:1 last season). Still, he has time and again hit big baskets, even if he seems like effective at running the offense. Brad Tinsley has certainly struggled this year and has drawn the ire of Commdore fans and VSL Nation. On the other hand, John Jenkins, as far as I'm concerned, is progressing nicely. He's averaging 9 points a game, has yet to miss a free throw, and is only shooting 36% from downtown, which means there is certainly reason to think his scoring will increase even more. I'd love to see John's minutes creep over 20 heading into SEC play, and truly wouldn't be surprised to see him crack the starting line-up when conference play begins (if not sooner).

I think Steve Tchiengang and Festus Ezeli will have significant roles to play against Illinois, as will Lance and Darshawn. Right now, the team has a 10 to 11 man rotation (depending on whether you include Charles Hinkle or not) that will have to be widdled down somewhat. Before yesterday's DePaul game, CKS told Joe Fisher he thinks the rotation will be down to 8 or 9 as the season wears on. These next few games will be a big for guys looking to make the top 8 or 9.

Should be a good one. Game will be televised on the Big Ten Network starting at 7:30 central. We'll have an open-thread or a live-blog during the game depending on the availability of the editors with finals.


Anonymous said...

We'll see tonight if Vandy wants to preserve its Top 25 ranking. Such motivation should inspire a team to give a solid performance, however, not so when it comes to Vandy (see the Cincy game as an example this year, there have been others in years past). Another poster commented that this matchup has all the hallmarks of one where Vandy gets behind early and never really gets back in the game. That's my (uneasy) feeling as well. I don't mind a hard-fought loss, but would be bitterly disappointed with an uninspired, high turnover, sub-par performance from Vandy.

Owen said...

i'm surprised that Stallings would indicate that he's looking to only run 8 or 9. who are the 6 to 11 players in ranking order i wonder?

Stanimal said...

Anonymous, I'm with you on the concerns. We wouldn't be Vandy fans if we weren't worried about games like this would we?

Owen, that's an interesting topic of discussion. I'll take a stab ranking them as of this game.

6. Jenkins
7. Steve T.
8. Fez
9. McClellan
10. Goulbourne
11. Hinkle

I think the first 3 are locks to get continued minutes. Stallings loves the ability to rotate his bigs, and Steve T. and Fez both bring a little something different to the table. Up to this point I think you have to give the edge between McClellan/Goulbourne to McClellan. He comes in and does a good job on the glass, plays decent defense, and doesn't make too many mistakes. Lance has tons of upside, but he lacks concentration and makes too many mistakes. I do believe Stallings would like to see Lance improve and he knows the potential is there, but he hasn't seen enough to put him out there with confidence.

Douglas James said...

I totally agree w/ your 6-11 ranking Stan. I wish Lance would get more playing time but he has been pretty non-existent recently. He must be struggling in practice because I thought he was the 2nd best freshman at points last year (though not overall)

Unknown said...

tisdale has good back to the basket moves and can knock down an open jumper, but he's not scaring anyone. mccamey, paul, and davis are the heart of this team (although richardson has been making waves lately too). AJ should have a feast against tisdale who has really slow feet and is really weak and we should get lots of second chance opportunities.

Unknown said...

Great post about the game. I think this is the first time I'm going to watch the Big 10 Network

J.B., M.D. said...

Not one Brad Tinsley reference either in the post or comments. I'll throw it out there that Tinsley will take more threes (he's at 41% for the year and didn't pull the trigger on a few great opps against Depaul) and handles the ball well against Illinois (he had a 4:1 assist:turnover ratio v Depaul), making a big impact.

I have little justifiable basis, just hoping for some positive change in Brad's game.

Ball handling is key. It looked like we were telegraphing almost every easy, perimeter pass (pretty lazy in my view). With a fast team like Illinois, they may jump on a few more than Depaul.

Owen said...

in my mind, Lance could be the #6 or #7 game based on his potential but he definitely has not shown that thus far. that said, i definitely agree with your rankings except for maybe McCllelan. i'm sick of him throwing up the 3s!!

Bobby O'Shea said...

Right now, McClennan and Lance are 9a. and b. Depending on what the team needs on a particular night would seem to dictate who gets in. If it's an enforcer who will play good defense, throw a body around, and crash the boards, it's Darshawn. If you need someone to slash or shoot, it's Lance. Both have weaknesses. For Darshawn, it's taking too many bad shots (i.e. anything outside of 12 feet); for Lance, it's not playing under control and blowing defensive assignment.