When the Florida Gators made their return to the floor for the first time in three weeks by blasting Vanderbilt in late December, it was viewed as a positive sign that they could survive — even thrive — as a basketball team without the services of Keyontae Johnson.
With Vanderbilt making a return trip to Gainesville on this Wednesday night (6:30 p.m., SEC Network or WatchESPN), the Gators once again find themselves on the rise — but the Commodores are, well, not exactly in good shape.
Vandy’s dropped all five of its SEC contests, and comes to the O’Connell Center off two consecutive 20-point defeats to Tennessee and Arkansas. The ‘Dores are the only team outside the KenPom top 100 in the SEC, and do very little well other than jack threes — threes which are distributed widely enough that having three 38 percent shooters (Dylan Disu, D.J. Harvey, and Trey Thomas) still only has Vandy shooting 34 percent as a team.
Of course, Vandy also goes as Scotty Pippen Jr. goes, and revolves around him more than virtually any other team does around any other player. Pippen is fourth nationally in usage rate and has taken fewer than 10 shots just once this year. And while Pippen isn’t bad as a lead option, especially taking his excellent playmaking into account, he also hasn’t cracked 20 points against an SEC opponent after scoring 24 or more points in the Commodores’ first six games of the year.
Barring an explosion from Pippen, or a flurry of threes from someone else, it’s hard to imagine Vandy threatening a Florida team that is playing with increasing confidence and efficiency and will be adding Scottie Lewis back to its lineup tonight.
But that is, as they say, why the games are played...