When Florida travels to Memorial Gym to face Vanderbilt, as it does this Tuesday night at 9 p.m. (ESPNU or WatchESPN) interesting things tend to happen. There was an ugly, scrappy loss in 2015. The first 21-0 team in SEC history only barely survived in 2014. Florida didn't lead until late in the second half of a 10-point loss there in 2012.
The Gators, it suffices to say, don't love playing at Vandy.
And while that has something to do with Memorial Gym's funky layout, with a court on an elevated platform and coaching staffs tucked onto the baselines, it has plenty more to do with how good Vanderbilt has typically been under Kevin Stallings. This year's 'Dores are good without much to show for it, an 11-8 outfit that still ranks No. 32 in KenPom, with a luck rating rivaling that of 2014-15's star-crossed Gators.
That ranking is based largely on smart, stingy defense. Vandy's three-point percentage defense is No. 2 nationally, its effective field goal percentage defense No. 14. It's hard to get a good shot against the tall Commordores front line, and their guards close well, too, which might put a damper on Florida's recent success from distance.
But Florida's a better defensive team on the year, and is nearly as good at forcing bad shots as Vandy is. The Gators are also much better at creating steals — which, as live-ball turnovers, tend to fuel Florida's offense. If Florida can shoot like it did against Auburn on a regular basis, it can go quite deep in the NCAA Tournament — but if it merely shoots almost that well while also playing fine defense, the Gators will be a tough out on any night.
On this one, they might just add a happy memory to their recent history at Memorial Gym.