Wednesday, December 1, 2010

VSL Gets you Ready: Previewing Vanderbilt vs. Western Kentucky

The Commodores welcome, but don't really welcome, Western Kentucky to Memorial tonight. Without doubt this early season match-up should leave a bitter taste in the team's collective mouth. Western Kentucky represented what I would consider to be the "rock bottom" game which seems to be indicative of Stallings most talented squads: the point at which the team realizes they need to get things together to avoid a lost season. Last year the Commodores ripped off ten straight after losing to WKU in the Sommet Center, including big wins over Florida at home, and Tennessee and South Carolina on the road. The only thing that could be better than that performance? Ripping off ten straight...while maintaining the current winning streak by beating Western Kentucky.

Make no mistake, Western is not a slouch team. They took a scrappy South Carolina squad to 2 overtimes and seemingly get themselves into the NCAA Tournament conversation on a yearly basis. That being said, this Western Kentucky squad is 3-3 and the only quality performance was that South Carolina game. They too participated in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, losing to eventual tournament champion Minnesota in the first round, and then falling to Davidson in the consolation bracket. Given the fact that this game is not at a neutral site and is in the friendly confines of Memorial, Vandy should win this game. Vegas agrees by giving WKU 14 points in the game.

Players to hate immediately for Western are 6'5" seniors Steffphon Pettigrew and Sergio Kerusch. In addition, 6'6" senior Juan Patillo is averaging a double-double with 16.7 points and 11.2 rebounds per game. Patillo had a MONSTER game against South Carolina, scoring 24 points and grabbing 18 boards. Pettigrew is averaging 16 points per game as well. Kerusch has a reputation as a high energy power forward and is certainly capable of going off. He dropped 34 on St. Joseph's at the beginning of the year.

Vandy seems to struggle rebounding against undersized athletic forwards who work for position, but the monster play of Fez in the paint and the improvement of Lance Goulbourne should give Vandy fans reason to believe that they can start winning some of these battles. After battling an unusual cold streak, John Jenkins has found his stroke again, hitting 5 for 8 from three against Appalachian State and going 4 of 9 against Grambling. He is leading the Commodores in scoring at 19.7 ppg. Everyone is still waiting for Jeff to demonstrate that he's broken out, but he's averaging 11.3 ppg in what has become a pretty balanced Vandy offense between an inside and outside game. In addition, new guys seem to demonstrate their contribution on a game-by-game basis. When this team puts it all together....and they will.....they will be very dangerous. But in the meantime, Vandy fans need to hope that they don't need a sleepy performance to wake the team up for the stretch run. Western is experienced, tournament tested, and knows how to win. This is the kind of team that can easily knock off an unfocused group, and Vandy needs to avoid mental lapses in order to win.


Stanimal said...

Kerusch also dropped 15 on us last year. Gone is A.J. Slaughter, who scored 27 on us.

Anything but Gatorade said...

I'm not quite as worried about this game as you folks are. Western isn't nearly as good as they have been, despite Pettigrew, Kerush and Patillo. They're pretty disjointed on offense, and if Brad runs the show like he has been, the Vandy offense shouldn't struggle too much. Should be a good learning game for Vandy, but I don't think a W is in doubt.

Fun fact: my word verification for this comment is "festis"