November 22, 2012
Previewing Vanderbilt vs. Davidson
Vanderbilt(1-1) vs. Davidson (1-2)
Thursday, November 22 - 1 p.m. CST
Orlando, Fla. - ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex (5,000)
Radio: Vanderbilt Radio Network s
TV Talent: Rich Hollenberg (play by play), Len Elmore (color)
Twitter Updates: @VandyMBB
Sagarin: Vanderbilt 87, Davidson 80
KenPom: Davidson 78, Vanderbilt 65
Davidson has long been the class of the Southern Conference. This year was certainly expected to be more of the same. The Wildcats return all five starters, from a team that went 25-8 last year and 18-1 in the SoCon.
So far, though, the season has not been kind to DU, having lost back-to-back games against New Mexico and Wisconsin-Milwaukee (2-2).
If you want to point a finger, that finger would probably be directed at 6-foot-10 235-pound senior center Jake Cohen. Cohen, arguably the best player in the Southern Conference, has been inconsistent at best so far this season. He's made just 32 percent from the floor, including 22 percent from 3, and a paltry 62 percent from the free throw line.
Verus Milwaukee, Davidson out-rebounded Milwaukee 47-38, but couldn't throw it in the ocean in the second half. Cohen went 3-for-11 from the field and played with foul trouble for most of the second half.
De'Mon Brooks, a six-foot-7 junior from Charlotte, is the other player VU must contend with. Brooks led the Wildcats with 20 points in last year's loss to VU, but also gave up 30 to VU's Jeff Taylor.
Senior J.P. Kuhlman, at 6-4, will play nearly all of the minutes at the two. Not a defensive stalwart, Kuhlman is the team's most consistent outside shooter.
So far, it has been as expected for a Commodore team that lost all but a handful of its points to graduation and/or the NBA.
The Commodores are coming off an embarrassing 26-point loss at a mediocre Oregon squad, in a game that was over at the half with the Ducks leading 41-20. In that contest, Stallings was ejected midway through the second half, and the team made just 16 buckets for the entire contest, including four of 21 3-pointers.
The bright spot for VU has been the play of sophomore point guard Kedren Johnson. Johnson barely scored last season (of course, he didn't have to), but this year he has emerged as VU's points leader. Scoring most of his points off the dribble, Johnson is averaging 19.5 ppg, third in the SEC. Johnson will have the edge in height and weight today from the point.
A surprisingly big contributor has been junior Kyle Fuller. Fuller, a point guard, has been pressed into action at the two and has averaged 37 minutes per game. Fuller is averaging 16 points and 3.5 assists per game.
Freshman import Kevin Bright will likely get the start again at the wing. Bright is leading the team in rebounding with eight per game, and though he has not shot the ball much he also has a team-leading 58 percent shooting touch, including four of five 3s.
The big issue, no pun intended, has been on the front line for VU.
Junior power forward Rod Odom had an abysmal performance on both ends of the court against Oregon, hitting just three of 13 from the field, including just one of six 3-pointers. Far more glaring, though, is the fact that Odom had just three rebounds -- two of those coming well after the game was decided -- and four turnovers.
Shelby Moats had an even worse outing on the left coast. Moats played the whole game before fouling out, but managed to not attempt a single 2-point shot. Moats finished with with no points, two rebounds, and five fouls in 22 minutes. That's not going to cut it if Moats expects to play meaningful minutes in SEC play.
Moats, to be fair, has had to play out of position because of a lack of depth at center. That's because center Josh Henderson continues to recover from foot injury issues that have kept him either out of most games, or largely ineffective. Henderson played 21 minutes versus Oregon and did not score, and registered four fouls. If Henderson cannot be a factor in Orlando, it seems clear VU is going to have a very tough time being competitive.
After those five, it's down to the freshman wings. So far, neither Sheldon Jeter nor A.J. Astroth have shown much that is promising for this year's season.
Stallings continues to be mum on the status of suspended two guard Dai-Jon Parker. Parker would be a huge lift for this team were he to be cleared to play this weekend. But we won't know anything until tip-off.
Vanderbilt was expected to be out-manned for much of this season. There were hopeful moments in their two exhibition games and their season-opener versus Nicholls State. But the manner in which Oregon demolish VU was shocking, even considering the personnel issues Stallings is dealing with.
Davidson was down 18 in last year's game with VU, but stormed back and nearly got the Commodores at the end. It took a surprisingly early return by Festus Ezeli and an other-worldly performance from Taylor to pull out the win. If Davidson plays as well as everyone knows they can, and Vanderbilt doesn't somehow find some game from Odom and Moats, this could be another ugly game for the Commodores.
Mike's Prediction: Davidson 76, Vanderbilt 68
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