Sunday, January 10, 2010

Thoughts on the Florida Win

Yesterday's 95-87 win over the Gators to open SEC play was the kind of outing Commodore fans were hoping for. I know I wasn't the only one who went into yesterday's game concerned that the progress the team had shown after the Western Kentucky loss back in mid-December wouldn't hold up against a quality opponent. Thankfully, I was wrong.

Having watched or listened to every game this season, there is little doubt that Vanderbilt played it's most complete game of the season to beat the Gators at Memorial. Despite allowing 87 points, I thought Vanderbilt played solid defense. The Gators opened up the game on fire, hit their first 7 shots and lead by 7 points early in the first half. But Vanderbilt hung in their. John Jenkins' 2 threes off the bench got the crowd energized.

Vanderbilt showed off their depth yesterday, with 8 guys playing 12+ minutes. Our call for The Future to get more minutes was answered, with the freshman playing 26 minutes, and pouring in 13 points on 4-8 shooting (3-7 from downtown). Coach Stallings also got a big lift off the bench from Lance Goulbourne who did a sensational job spelling Jeffrey Taylor, playing 15 minutes, scoring 7 points and doing a good job on defense.

The stars for the Commodores are obviously A.J. Ogilvy and Jermaine Beal, who stepped up and assumed the leadership roles Commodore fans had been hoping for. Sure, Jermaine took a couple ill-advised shots (especially in transition). With that said, if any one of those 3's fall, it was quite possible the roof on Memorial would have blown right off. And, he his several jumpers that slowed Gator charges in the second half. Here's Beal's line: 22 points on 6-14 shooting (2-8 from 3), 8-8 from the charity stripe, 5 assists, and 2 turnovers. That is a complete game.

A.J. Ogilvy started out a little slow, and looked a little passive early. But that didn't last long. The junior scored 24 points, including a few great cuts to the basket, 7-13 from the field, 10-12 from the line, and 8 rebounds. A.J. scored the Commodores first 8 points in the second half, and gave every coach in the SEC reason to fear him.

The unsung hero of the game, to me, was sophomore forward Andre Walker. Walker might have had the most complete line with 8 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists. Coach Stallings referred to Andre as a "glue guy" in a column in today's Tennessean by David Clymer. I couldn't agree more. Andre's ball-handling was extremely effective at alleviating the Gator press, and he made point passes that many point guards can't make. I tweeted yesterday that his play reminded me, at times, of Scottie Pippen. While he might not be a future hall of famer, I stand by the comparison.

While the emergence of Andre Walker as a press-breaking, offense-settling presence, coupled with the continued maturation of John Jenkins is great for Commodore fans, it certainly spells trouble for guard Brad Tinsley. Brad's shooting woes continued yesterday, going 0-6, including 0-3 from downtown. On the year, Tinsely is averaging just 30% from 3, and 37% from the field. But most telling for Brad is that, on the year, he's averaging 27 minutes a game. Yesterday, he played just 16 minutes against Florida. Coach Stallings is clearly frustrated with Brad's play. But he also knows that he's a good shooter and is capable of breaking out of his shooting slump at any time. CKS doesn't want to do anything to hurt Tinsley's already shaky confidence. With that said, Brad isn't contributing much. He's looked shaky when he's spelled Jermaine and played the 1, has not handled pressure particularly well, and as discussed above, is not scoring. That, coupled with Andre Walker's ability to distribute the ball and alleviate pressure, combined with Jenkins' play means it's more likely than not that Brad's minutes will continue to diminish. Right now, Vanderbilt's best line-up is Beal, Jenkins, Walker, Taylor, and A.J. While Lance, Festus, and Steve T. are also contributing more off the bench than Brad is. I personally think Vanderbilt can be extremely effective with a 9 man rotation that includes Brad Tinsely. I also think that it's time for John Jenkins to crack the starting line-up.

Vanderbilt travels to Alabama on Wednesday in what will be another important game for the Commodores. The Crimson Tide, under new head coach Anthony Grant, is 11-4 and handily handled LSU 66-49 to open SEC play yesterday. In year's past, Alabama was an incredibly dangerous, and erratic team, that always had a lot of talent, but a team that always appeared more interested in a highlight reel than wins and losses. I think that'll change under Grant. Vanderbilt has to be feeling good after their Gator win, let's just hope their isn't a let down Friday.

A quick note about Tennessee's win over Kansas

While it is certainly impressive, that amid all the off-the-court controversies, the Volunteers were able to knock-off undefeated #1 Kansas at Thompson-Bolling 76-68, I still think Bruce Pearl's team, as the season goes on, will have lost too much to be a real factor nationally. They are certainly capable of beating any team any time out, but I still see the race in the SEC East coming down to Kentucky trying to out-pace Florida and Vanderbilt. Bruce Pearl is a good coach and he's got a lot of talent, even without the services of Tyler Smith and the other 3 suspended players, but if the Volunteers finish better than .500 in the SEC, I'll be shocked.


Anonymous said...

Anyone think we'll crack the top 25 tomorrow?

Chuck Heston said...

No, not even close for either poll. We got 1 vote last week so it will take wins against Bama and USC to get back into the Top 25. Given the strength of the SEC this season, I think Vandy will flirt w/ the Top 25, but unfortunately will have a loss or 2 every time they're about ready to crack it.

TN not finishing better than .500 in the SEC right after they knock off Kansas?!? I agree that this game may be more of Kansas losing than TN winning, but the game showed that even in the absence of the suspended players, TN has depth. While I'm no Vols fan, I think it was a great win for the SEC. TN will be in the Top 25 for sure come Mon. and may stay there for a while.

Here's my predicted order of finish for the SEC East: 1. KY, 2. TN, 3. Vandy, 4. FL, 5. USC, 6. UGA. No surprises, clearly. However, I also think it's entirely possible that the top 4 in the SEC East end up having a better overall record than any team in the SEC West.

Anonymous said...

defintly agree with The
Future takin Brad's place...BUT if brad corrects whatever is ailing him and gets his shot back into rythm and we put brad and jenkins in at the 1 and 2 we could really do some damage

Anonymous said...

UK isnt going to win the east. Have they even played a single road game this year? I think one, at a horrible Indiana. UK will lose Tuesday night at Florida and the meltdown will begin.

Andrew Smith said...

Tennessee's win is also good for Vandy. It makes the SEC look tougher to the computers and to voters. It will also increase the value of any wins that Vandy scores on the Vols.

On a less optimistic note, the Tennessee game makes me worry anew about our athleticism. I looked at some of the cuts and runs that basically all the Vols can make and I know that nobody on our team except Taylor can do likewise.

And I remain worried about our strength. Our skills won't do us much good if we come up against a Big East style team were the players at every position are two inches shorter but 40 pounds (of solid muscle) heavier. Even the best outside shooters cannot drain it if they're boxed out to the fourth row of seating.

(Actually, I'm not sure that any team can beat the Big East style of play unless the refs actually call fouls to a point that makes that style of play useless. Otherwise, I think everyone in college is going to have to go that way because there's just no way a lighter team can endure 40 minutes of being beaten up by misplaced football players.)

That said, I'm really excited about this team. If Tinsley wakes up, the big guys continue to develop and Jenkins makes as much progress as I expect, we'll be a top 20 club. If all that happens, Beal gets less selfish and Taylor develops a 10-15 foot jump shot, we'll be top 10.

Slimbo said...

Some bold predictions on the wire today.

Bobby, I can't get on board with a sub-.500 UT in SEC play. If they're at full post-Tyler strength, they will put some real hurt on the less athletic teams in the conference. They're scary deep.

Also, UK cements its number one ranking in Gainesville tomorrow night. Just my $.02

Anything but Gatorade said...

Kentucky played like trash on Saturday; if they do that against anyone but Georgia they probably lose. We'll see if it's fixed tomorrow.

On this game, the MVP has got to be Andre Walker. He got every big rebound, played great defense, and didn't make any mistakes. He even got a few baskets in transition. Obviously he's the glue guy on this team and deserves to start.

VandyGold28 said...

i don't know about the kentucky comment Bob Loblaw. georgia beat a good georgia tech team who just beat duke. granted they aren't great, they can be and can play awesome. georgia on the road scares me this year.

i completely disagree tennessee is sub .500. i think they are still the favorite for 2nd in the east.

i also am not sure how much of a challenge or threat vandy is on the road. this team did win a true road game at st. mary's but that was a long time ago and a completely different team and environment than we'll see again. we weren't very good at illinois, so we'll see how we do against a talented bama team this wednesday. if we can get 2 W's this week i'll be really impressed. typically we don't take many on the road and for this team to show it's different that is exactly what it has to do. it's even more important because if we lose both of these, we have auburn at home, than at uk and ut. that could start us off 2-4 in SEC play and in a lot of trouble every which way you think about it. the dores HAVE to clamp down and beat alabama for us to continue this progress.

tinsley is really worrying me. he just keeps missing. lots of those balls go right in and then bounce out. if they start falling we're even more dangerous. he just needs to get out of this slump. granted, when beal is not in the game i'm so nervous. tinsley can not handle the ball at all. walker is a much more effective PG than he which is very strange to say.

i still like jenkins coming off the bench. just like the fire.

VandyGold28 said...

votes in both polls, but definitely didn't crack. only one vote in the coaches poll. 21 votes in the AP poll (essentially 35th place). i'm honestly surprised we only got one vote still in the coaches poll. if we can win 2 road games this week we'll be closer but maybe still not in. if we lose either one, we'll receive no votes and be in some big trouble.

Anonymous said...

why would anyone want to be in the top 25? over the past 5 years vandy has gone out and sucked after being ranked. this team would do well to stay humble and hungry. the less attention the better. we are really starting to put some pieces together, but we are not the kind of team that can bring our B game and sneak with away with a win.

-how does jenkins pull down two more defensive rebounds than AJ? until AJ learns how to get physical and block out he is a role player that can hit some shots. what is the difference between him and cole aldrich. CA is a 6'11" 245 Junior, sound familiar. coordination, athleticism, footwork, experience are there...its all in the head. aldrich plays with incredible confidence knowing that he is better than anybody on the court. there is no reason he can't be the same kind of player for us.

-tinsley is playing terribly but he needs to stay optimistic. he is a good athlete, great court vision, great shooter, and will rebound from this. he will get there.

Anonymous said...

Tinsley is done! Maybe if he would stop wishing bad on others he could do something.Jealousy!