The Gators return home tonight to face the Vanderbilt Commodores, a team that has put some impressive wins on their resume over the last few weeks. This includes wins over Kentucky in Lexington, LSU, Alabama and Tennessee. The Commodores currently have the second best record in the SEC at 5-2 (15-6 overall).
The Gators are coming off a trouncing of the Auburn Tigers, 91-66, in the kind of performance we've been expecting out of this team all season. With the win they ran their record to a perfect 6-0 in the conference and 19-2 overall.
Here is a look at what Vandy brings to the table tonight:
The Commodores, much like the Gators, have a very balanced scoring attack from their starting 5. Overall 4 of the starting 5 for Vandy have a scoring average in the double digits, with two of their players, F Derrick Byars and G Shan Foster, scoring more than 15 a game. With this in mind the Gators will need to focus on every single player on the court tonight to avoid any one of them getting hot from the field.
Something that the Gators know all to well about is shooting 3-pointers -- which is something that the Commodores have used to their advantage this season as well. Currently Vandy averages 9.3 3-pointers a game, 1.5 better than the Gators. The problem with looking at just the numbers made is that you don't see how many they are throwing up, which could tell you something about their shot selection.
The Commodores shoot 38% from beyond the arc on the season -- pretty good, but not as good as the Gators 44%. Vanderbilt tends to shoot quite a few 3s, so the Gators will need to come up with a defensive gameplan to battle this. If they can play strong perimeter defense and keep everything in front of them, we could see shot poor shots out of the Commodores tonight -- something that could favor the Gators quite a bit.
Vandy has a negative rebound margin, meaning that on average they are outrebounded by their opposition. The Gators, on the other hand, have done a fine job of nabbing boards this season with their large frontcourt. A huge key to this game could be the second-chance opportunities for both teams -- something that could easily favor the Gators if the rebounding trend continues.
The Commodores' tallest starter is 6-9 Ross Neltner, who comes in listed as tall as Florida's third tallest player in F Corey Brewer. This, just like almost all opponents this season, looks like a size advantage for the Gators. However, Vandy has 4 players all over 6-5, meaning some of the undersized Florida guards will be giving up 3 or 4 inches on defense tonight. This is something that will need to be countered with good, intense team defense this evening.
Overall the Commodores are a lot like the Gators. They have a balanced scoring attack fueled by unselfish basketball and a high shooting percentage. The both like to shoot the 3. However, I feel that the Gators inside presence will do what it knows tonight, forcing Vandy into foul trouble with physical play in the paint and slowly wear them down in the second half -- something they have done several times this season at home against conference opponents.