Monday, March 14, 2011

Vanderbilt vs. Richmond: Good News / Bad News

My early impressions of the first-round matchup with Richmond -- starting, in the spirit of Douglas James, with the positives:

The Good News

If you consider that Vanderbilt has played the 18th-toughest schedule in the country and Richmond has played the 126th-toughest, you can make a strong case that Vanderbilt is the more battle-tested team. The Spiders have played only six games against teams in the RPI Top 50, whereas Vanderbilt has played 13 such games. Also, Richmond doesn’t get a ton of offensive rebounds (291st in Division I), something that has really been an Achilles heel for the Dores this season. Under Coach (and Princeton grad) Chris Mooney, the Spiders play a Princeton-style offense that is slow-paced and does not often yield big scoring runs in short bursts -- which, as we’ve seen over the course of this season (most recently in the late going against Florida), can be debilitating to Vanderbilt in terms of affecting their poise and leading some players (cough, Jenkins) to try to single-handedly overcome a deficit in one play. Talent-wise, Richmond’s bench does not go especially deep. Finally, depending on how you calculate (and please feel free to correct my back-of-the-envelope observation on this), Vandy has played in eight or nine games this season that came down to either one or two possessions in the final seconds; UR, by contrast, has seen only two or three such contests.

The Bad News

Believe it or not, there are reasons other than the existence of a vast anti-Vanderbilt conspiracy why everybody seems to be picking Richmond to beat Vanderbilt. Most notably, the Spiders are on fire right now, having won their last seven straight games and going 16-3 since the beginning of conference play en route to taking home the A-10 Tournament title.  Vandy has dropped three of the last five.  The Spiders play exceptional defense, posting the 15th best effective FG% defense in America and holding opponents to a mere 61 points-per-game. They complement that with highly efficient offense (#21 eFG%, #11 3P%), headlined by sharpshooters Justin Harper and Kevin Anderson. Richmond is stingy with the ball, putting up the nation’s 16th-best turnover percentage. As for their schedule, they may have faced fewer strong teams than Vanderbilt, but they beat Purdue (to add to their 5-1 record on neutral courts) and went 3-3 against the RPI Top 50, compared to Vanderbilt’s 5-8 record against that group. Finally, the Spiders are led by an experienced group of seniors, four of whom fill out the starting five, and those guys are no strangers to the Dance.

Initial Conclusions

When I first heard this matchup announced, my disappointment was not simply a product of the fact that this game will divide the rooting interests of my family. It’s clear to me that Richmond -- with its 27-7 (16-3) record, A-10 title, quality wins, and lights-out play over the last several games -- got jobbed in the seeding process. That means Vanderbilt, which is seemingly right where we should be at a 5-seed, also got jobbed by having to face a first-round opponent that is more realistically (in my opinion) a 9- or 10-seed, effectively downgrading our seed to a 7 or 8. Vegas has this game as a virtual toss-up, with VU a 1.5-point favorite. Based on the lack of predictability that has characterized Vanderbilt’s season to this point (e.g., Will JT show up? Will Festus get in foul trouble? Will Jenkins be able to get good looks against blanket defense?), I’d say the oddsmakers have it about right. Give the athleticism and physicality edge to Vandy, but the execution advantage to the Spiders.  Expect to see a good game from two pretty evenly matched teams.

8 comments:

SavDore said...

I am still shocked that this team is our match up as a 5 seed. It seems that almost every 6-8 seed has been given a more favorable match up.

Looking at their profile, I have to agree with Seamus that Richmond got jobbed on their seed - which means we did too. Andy Katz was right when he said that Vandy can't catch a break with these match ups. I'd rather play a middling high major.

I also think the negative reaction of many folks on here to the media's skepticism of Vanderbilt's chances against Richmond is silly. We have given them reasons to be skeptical. Not just our showing in similar circumstances over our last two NCAA appearances, but also our recent inability to win against quality opponents - either at home, on the road, or at a neutral site.

I think we can win, but what I've seen from this team this season leads me to predict a loss. If we play with energy on defense and effort on the boards, and if we let the offense run through Festus and JT, then no question we win this game and probably a couple more - but that has been the "if" of this season hasn't it?

If that happens, it will be a great ride in the tradition of 2006. Here's hoping, and praying (vandy div grad), for that kind of run.

Ben said...

Regardless...If we can not beat Richmond...then we shouldn't be in the field...I promise the next game will be tougher agianst Louisville (assuming they win)!

Anonymous said...

VU 88 - Spiders 79

Book it!!

Vandy-Montana said...

We absolutely need to finish when we get the ball to the rim (Taylor).

AspenVU said...

Vu needs to dictate pace by getting defensive rebounds and then not give up double digit leads in the second half. Play to potential and we will have no problems.

Anonymous said...

I'm scared.

Anonymous said...

The good news is we will beat Richmond. The bad news is...
well, if like like Richmond, the bad news for you would be VU is going to beat Richmond.

Anonymous said...

Jeffery Taylor is playing his best ball right now. Thats who we need to beat Richmond. Jenkins 2nd, Festus 3rd...