Time: Nov. 15, 8:00 pm CST
Venue: Memorial Gym, Nashville, TN
TV: Fox Sports, MASN
GU Radio: WTEM-980
VU Radio: WGFX-104.5
Season record: 0-0/0-0
Vanderbilt opens its 2006-07 season Wednesday at home in Memorial Gymnasium. For head coach Kevin Stallings, his eighth year poses his most challenging coaching situation since arriving in Nashville. With just 10 scholarship players, including two redshirts and two true freshmen, Stallings is switching to a faster offense to try to overcome glaring personnel deficiencies.
The Commodores return the best wing tandem in the SEC in Shan Foster and Derrick Byars. Foster led the team in scoring last year, at 15 ppg. VU started true freshman point Jermaine Beal in their only exhibition game of the year versus Northern State. VU will rely on just four frontcourt players to replace its starting center (Julian Terrell) and power forward (DeMarre' Carroll) from last year. LSU transfer Ross Neltner will start at the four, and junior Alan Metcalfe will likely get more minutes tomorrow than he got in any game in his previous two years in Nashville.
Vanderbilt defeated Georgetown 68-61 in the nation's capitol in last season's opener, in a game where Foster scored 20 points by connecting on five of eight 3-pointers. 7-2 Hoya center Roy Hibbert, who had scored 20 or more points in Georgetown's first two games, finished with just six points and zero boards. Georgetown shot just 27% from three in that game, and out-rebounded VU 29-28.
Coach: John Thompson III (42-23/110-65 career)
Season record: 1-0/0-0 (Big East)
Rankings: #8 (AP)
John Thompson III is looking for the 2006-07 season to be the year of the Hoya -- and for good reason. Georgetown is picked to contend for the Big East title, with one of the most fearsome frontcourts in the nation.
The Hoyas got their season off to an inauspicious start on Saturday, with a lackluster 69-59 win over Hartford. The game was actually even closer than the final score indicates, as Hartford was down just four with five minutes left. In that contest, G'Town shot just 41.5% from the field, and 26.1% from three -- being "led" by a 3-12/1-8 shooting performance by junior co-captain Tyler Crawford. The Hoyas made up for it with a 39-23 rebounding advantage.
Georgetown will start 7-2 center Roy Hibbert in the post, and match him with 6-8 Jeff Green at the four. Both were named to the preseason All-Big East team. If that weren't enough, JT3 will also bring in two of the highest rated recruits in the nation in 6-9/191-pound Vernon Macklin and 6-8/225-pound DaJuan Summers. Macklin, who was also offered a scholarship by North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Maryland, was rested in their season-opening win over Hartford last Saturday.
The X-factor for Georgetown will be how they replace last year's "glue man," Ashanti Cook. Cook ran the ultra-complex high post offense that Stallings first made famous at Vandy, so the Hoyas will be breaking in a new court general against the one team that knows their system as well as they do.
Despite losing to Vandy last year, the Hoyas went on to make the NCAA Tournament as an at-large selection with a 23-10 record. Georgetown fell to eventual national champion Florida in the Sweet 16.
HOW WE SEE IT
My Take: Hindsight is 20/20, but I doubt Stallings could have picked a tougher season opener. Then again, it's not as if CKS doesn't know what JT3 is going to do: Georgetown runs the same offense CKS ran for the last four years at VU. The operative word here is "ran:" Word is that Vandy is going decidedly uptempo this year. So, maybe Stallings can count on the surprise factor to turn things his way. Regardless, Georgetown has a front line from h*ll, and, well, Vandy doesn't.
It may be impossible to overstate the importance of this game for Stallings. A win would validate CKS' move to a style of play that fans (and others) have begged for for years. It would also put VU on the national map for the selection process in March. A loss, though, would do just the opposite -- with fans, media, and more importantly, the players. And G'Town is more than capable of taking this, or any team, to the woodshed.
If ever there was a year that VU needed a Wofford as its opener, it's this one. Unfortunately, they get a team that has an outside shot at the Final Four. It may be unfair, but this game is a precursor for the entire season for Vanderbilt. My heart is with Vandy, but my head says otherwise.
1. Key to a Vandy win: Don't let the Hoyas get out to an early lead, and keep Neltner, Skuchas and Metcalfe out of foul trouble.
2. Player to watch: Ross Neltner. He's our best hope at containing the Hoya frontcourt.
3. X-factor: Ted Skuchas. Skuchas frustrated Hibbert in last season's game in D.C. Can Ted do it again?
4. And the winner is: Just too many questions at VU, and too many answers at Georgetown, for me to feel good about Vandy's chances tomorrow. It kills me, but my head says...
Georgetown 80, Vanderbilt 69
VandySports.com Recruiting Analyst
My take: Well, Digger Phelps might have just given Georgetown the kiss of death on Monday night, naming them one of his "Top 5" teams. I think Georgetown is a team with a lot of potential with Green and Hibbert, but the guard play to me is their question mark.
With Vanderbilt, we know that guard play, especially the wings, is without a doubt their strength. So the question to me is, which team's strength wins out? Georgetown can dominate the paint, but Vanderbilt does have a possible 10 fouls to give off the bench with Skuchas and Jejuan Brown. Vanderbilt could dominate from the perimeter and we've seen before that when Vanderbilt has a hot shooting night in a big game, they usually win in Memorial.
The fact this game is in Memorial, a place that is tough to play when you've never been there before, is a big deal and could be the ultimate key to a Vanderbilt win.
1. Key to a Vandy win: Foster and Byars providing a consistent scoring punch. VU will probably lose the rebounding battle with G'Town, but VU has the horses to out score them if both Foster and Byars can score a combined 40 or more points.
2. Player to watch: Metcalfe. He doesn't have to win the rebound battle, but he at least has to keep things a little honest and not get into foul trouble.
3. X-factor: Memorial Gym. Opening game, against a Top 10 team, it should be a good crowd for the game. With an envigorated Memorial atmosphere, coupled with the fact that no one from the Hoyas has played or coached there before, could be a major factor in the game.
4. And the winner is: I think this is the kind of game that in the past, VU pulls out. For some reason, I feel because the game is at Vanderbilt, the Commodores will win.
Vanderbilt 73, Georgetown 67
VandySports.com Basketball Board Moderator
My Take: It seems that a lot has to be said this season and it shouldn't be done in the papers or on the electronic bulletin boards. It all has to be said on the court. Since every season opener since the wedding was over in Year Three of the current regime has supposedly been a defining moment, I don't feel this game has any more significance than any other opener...other than the fact that Georgetown is good and Vandy wants to find out where it stands.
1. Key to a Vandy win: Progress must be made in the frontcourt obviously, but the if the Commodores are to succeed they will need to excel at the third so-called guard exploiting the 13 to 17 foot range off the penetration pass.
2. Player to watch: As we know what to expect from the highly touted and proven wing duo I think the player to watch is Beal. However well he runs the point in a new offense is how well Vandy performs overall.
3. X-factor: The newcomers. If George Drake is all we think he is and can contribute significant minutes and points this season can go far better than the writers poll predicted.
4. And the winner is:
Georgetown 73, Vanderbilt 72
VandySports.com Contributing Writer
My Take: The win at Georgetown last season was an impressive one even at the time, and became all the more so as the Hoyas carved their path through the postseason. One of the biggest stories last season was the Commodores' ability to mitigate Hibbert's impact in the post. If Vanderbilt wins again this season, you can bet that will be a big story once again.
What will Vanderbilt try to do this year to soften Georgetown's edge down low? The Hoyas' opener against Hartford showed some vulnerability to a collapsing zone. The matchup zone that Vanderbilt featured at times last year is very similar -- expect Vandy to utilize the matchup zone and force Georgetown to make some outside shots. Vanderbilt will push the tempo and put defensive pressure on Georgetown's young backcourt, hoping to cause turnovers and further fatigue the opposing post players. With Vanderbilt's guards packing plenty of height and offensive firepower, it will take a strong shooting night or dominant post play for Georgetown to outscore the Commodores.
1. Key to a Vandy win: Effectively implement a zone defense to neutralize Georgetown's advantage in the post, while still boxing out effectively to collect defensive rebounds.
2. Player to watch: Alan Metcalfe. His ability to defend a Hoya in the post without going into foul trouble could prevent depth from becoming a liability for Vanderbilt.
3. X-factor: Home court advantage. With a young point guard and a team with no players who have played in Memorial, Georgetown could have a great deal of trouble adapting to this particular road environment. The baseline benches could particularly be a problem if Vanderbilt heavily utilizes the hard to recognize matchup zone.
4. And the winner is: The bottom line is that it will take a lot for Vanderbilt to pull an upset. Georgetown's post advantage may turn out to be more than the 'Dores can handle, and nobody expects the Hoyas to shoot as cold as they did in their opener. The Dores will, however, set the tempo throughout most of the game, so expect a high scoring contest.
Georgetown 80, Vanderbilt 78
My take:First games are always difficult to pick, since you never know how newcomers will perform and how a team's talent "gels."
The Commodores will debut Ross Neltner, George Drake, and Jermaine Beal, all of whom should help right away.
However, Georgetown brings in 6-foot-9 McDonald's all-American Vernon Macklin in the front court, and compliments him with Indiana transfer Patrick Ewing, Jr., and 6-foot-8 high school superstar DeJuan Summers as well. The Hoyas already had a huge advantage in the paint, and the newcomers would seem to tilt the matchup more in Georgetown's favor if the hype can be believed.
Meanwhile, the Commodores will try to neutrailze that height with Kevin Stallings new up-tempo offense, which promises to be fun to watch. Shan Foster and Derrick Byars will be tough for anyone to guard, and with the Commodores bombing away from three-point range, it might neutralize what should be a huge Georgetown advantage on the glass.
1. Key to a Vandy win:Get stars Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert in foul trouble, and keep them under 35 points combined. Conversely, the 'Dores need to stay out of foul trouble, as the last thing Vandy needs is Green or Hibbert posting up Dan Cage should the big men wind up fouling out.
2. Player to watch: Alan Metcalfe. Metcalfe has shown flashes of solid offensive play, but gets lost on defense and ends up in foul trouble far, far too often. If Metcalfe could give Vandy 10 points and seven boards, that would be huge.
3. X-factor Vandy breaks in a new point guard in Beal, who draws a tough assignment for his debut.
4. The winner is: Stallings tried to downplay the transfer of DeMarre Carroll to Missouri, and while Carroll may have caused some chemistry issues, no one on the team comes close to providing the hustle, defense, and rebounding that he offered on a team that was already poor at defending and rebounding. This is a game where he'll sorely be missed, as Georgetown should exploit Vandy badly inside. Absent a 30-point night from Foster or Byars, it could be a long night for the 'Dores.
Georgetown 80, Vanderbilt 70
Ricky Smoot, aka BighornSheep
VandySports.com Contributing Writer
My Take: What a way to start the season, with the mighty Hoyas coming to town. I do question this game a bit, as what program in their right mind would want to have their first game against the #8 ranked team in the country, especially when you are starting basically three new players from last year (Metcalfe did see more action at the end of last year, but overall he played very little).
And, I actually think that is what worries me the most about this game, that GTown has already played a game, and VU has not. I know, VU played a few scrimmages, but, there is nothing like a real game, and with 50% of your roster having very little playing experience (Metcalfe and Neltner very little, Beal, Drake and Brown none), I think this could really bite them in the rear.
Yea, I hear the Hoyas are young in the backcourt, but don't discount John Wallace (6-1 guard), an unsung player on last years team, who I think will be the glue of the backcourt on this years team (Wallace averaged over 30 minutes a game last year and scored 13 in the opener). This Hoya team is long and athletic. And, they absolutely have one of the best and most talented players in the nation in Jeff Green. They are not ranked #8 for nothing. The Commodores will have to be at their best to win this one!
1. Key to a Vandy win: VU does have an advantage at the wing, so Byars and Foster must have big games in all phases (scoring, rebounding, defense). And, VU doesn't have to be on the good side in rebounding, they just can't get destroyed.
2. Player to watch: Green for G'Town and Beal/Gordon for VU. Green can have a good game, but he can't have an unstoppable type game -- and I'm not sure how VU stops him. Beal/Gordon has to give VU solid play for a victory.
3. X-factor: Style of play. VU knows how to play vs Princeton based offenses, but will Gtown be prepared for whatever system VU uses. This will be interesting to watch.
4. And the winner is: Boy, this is tough, from all angles. From it being VU's first game, to what type of style are they really going to play, to how much being at home in Memorial brings them up. I sooo bad want to pick VU in this game, and actually a VU close win would not shock me. But neither would a G'Town close win or even a relatively easy win, so here hoping I am sooo wrong.
Georgetown 85, Vanderbilt 78