December 21, 2012
Previewing Vanderbilt vs. MTSU
Vanderbilt (5-4) vs. Middle Tennessee State University (8-3)
Friday, December 21 - 8 p.m. CST
Nashville, Tenn. - Bridgestone Arena (20,000)
Radio: Vanderbilt Radio Network from IMG College, vucommodores.com
Sagarin: MTSU (32) 84, Vanderbilt (191) 72
Pomeroy: MTSU 64, Vanderbilt 56
Odds: MTSU by 5.5
Scouting MTSUHead coach Kermit Davis is almost certainly wondering what could have been. Last year, the Raiders had perhaps Davis' most talented MTSU team yet, but lost in the Sun Belt tournament and ended up not making the Big Dance as a
Davis returns all but one of his starters from last year's team, but the one he lost was his best overall player. Do-it-all power forward LaRon Dendy, the Sun Belt Player of the Year is gone, and in his place is a group that focuses more on guard play and defense.
If anything, MTSU has tremendous depth and experience. MTSU is the second most experienced team in the NCAA: Twelve of Middle's players are either juniors or seniors (five are JUCO transfers and two transferred in from other D1 programs) and will go nine players deep in his bench. Five different players have scored 19 points or more in a game this season.
That contrasts dramatically with Vanderbilt, which has virtually no depth -- especially on the front line -- and starts a freshman and a sophomore at guard.
Middle plays small ball, and could start four guards tonight against VU. Three senior guards carry the load for Davis: 6-foot senior JUCO transfer Raymond Cintron, and 6-3 Bruce Massey and Marcos Knight.
Cintron plays erratic and is turnover-prone -- but also has proven capable of having the hot hand. Cintron shoots 44 percent from the field, both from 2 and from 3, which is easily the best accuracy on the team, and had a season-high 21 points in Middle's road win over Savannah State.
Massey and Knight are the bellweathers for their team's fortunes. When the two are effective shooting and handling the ball, MTSU has won in impressive fashion. But when one has been off, the other has been even moreso -- and that is when MTSU has looked vulnerable.
At Florida in Gainesville, MTSU went into halftime down just 29-26, but the Raiders were blown out in the second half when Massey and Knight went a combined 3-for-18 from the field. This past weekend, Middle fell to Belmont when Cintron, Massey and Knight went a combined 4-for-22 from the field. For the game, Middle shot just 28 percent, compared to an even 50 percent for the Bruins.
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