Friday, February 3, 2012

VSL Gets You Ready: Previewing Vanderbilt at Florida

Vanderbilt takes its second difficult road trip of the week to Gainesville for a Saturday 1:00 PM matchup against the Florida Gators. The game is televised on CBS.

Make no mistake, the O-Dome is an exceptionally difficult place to play. Florida, like Arkansas, is also undefeated at home this season and Vandy has only won there only once in the past five seasons. For whatever reason, the 'Dores have always had trouble with the Gators, particularly last year when we lost to them three times, and there should be a great deal of warranted concern about this matchup.

That being said, KenPom suggests that this years edition of Florida actually matches up favorably for us. The reason is that, despite having the most efficient offense in the country, they are not a very good defensive team. Last year they were basically our kryptonite because they could snag rebounds, but this year they are nowhere near as potent on the glass, mostly because they run with a much smaller lineup. They don't force a lot of turnovers either, though. Finally, this is about an even tempo game, as Florida does not try to run and gun you much.

This will be a huge test for the defense though, because Florida is simply immaculate on offense. They are number 1 in the country in offensive efficiency, and are exceptional at scoring from 3 and from 2. They have tons of offensive weapons. After very poor defensive performances against MTSU and Arkansas, Commodore fans should be very concerned about this match-up, particularly on the road.

This isn't a must win for the 'Dores, but there's no question that, if we want to be seeded any higher than 6, we probably need to split the UK or Florida series and not trip up in games that should be wins. Our most difficult road games left will be this one, UK, and Ole Miss. I think we can afford drops at those three (with at least a win at home over Florida or UK), and still get to about a five seed. That may be wishful thinking, but I'll stick to it. For a season where the bar was initially set in the top-10 range, maybe its time to start being a bit more realistic. After all, even if this hasn't been the regular season we'd hoped for, it still doesn't mean we can't have a magical March.

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