Know your Nashville Rival: Vanderbilt

USA TODAY Sports

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A slow-it-down team with iffy (at best) offense and decent defense. It only feels as if Mizzou has already played Vanderbilt three times in conference play, but I promise you, the Tigers haven't.

Vanderbilt Commodores (8-9)


VU
Opp.
Pace (No. of Possessions)
62.5
Points Per Possession (PPP)
0.96 0.97
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.18 1.16
2-PT FG% 44.9% 47.6%
3-PT FG% 35.1% 29.6%
FT% 59.4% 71.5%
True Shooting % 50.9% 50.7%




VU Opp.
Assists/Gm 11.5 10.8
Steals/Gm 5.9 6.3
Turnovers/Gm 13.9 13.2
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.25 1.29




VU Opp.
Expected Off. Rebounds/Gm 10.5 10.8
Offensive Rebounds/Gm 9.8 9.9
Difference -0.7 -0.9

Walking the ball up the court.

In a conference rife with slow-it-down teams, Vandy is, at press time, the second-slowest. Florida ranks 291st in Adj. Tempo, Georgia 311th, Alabama 316th, and Vandy 327th. Only Texas A&M (336th) averages fewer adjusted possessions per game than the 'Dores. They have good reason for that, of course. As I've said about at least one other Mizzou opponent in January, when you can't put the ball in the basket, you want to slow the game down to as few possessions as possible in which you have to try to put the ball in the basket. The Commodores' defense is good enough to keep them in the game for a while, and if they get hot from 3-point range (lord knows they take a lot of them -- they're 12th in the country in 3PA/FGA), they'll hang around. Right after Ole Miss romped over Missouri, the Rebels went to Nashville and almost lost to Vandy. And if you believe in the transitive property, it bears mentioning that VU just beat South Carolina by seven points on the road. Certainly more impressive than Mizzou's 6-point home win over the Gamecocks.

Still, if Mizzou and VU played 10 times at Mizzou Arena, the Tigers would probably win 6-7 of the games comfortably and 1-2 more by a tight margin. Ken Pomeroy, whose numbers are not in any way high on Missouri at the moment (the Tigers fell from 34th to 43rd after the South Carolina game -- they were 23rd when Laurence Bowers got hurt), still says the Tigers have an 89% chance of winning, with an average score of 67-55. So it's unlikely the 'Dores will keep this one too close. It was also unlikely that South Carolina would do it, of course.

Ken Pomeroy Stats

VU Offense vs MU Defense Ranks

VU Offense MU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 243 65 MU big
Effective FG% 175 49 MU big
Turnover % 251 295 VU
Off. Reb. % 259 86 MU big
FTA/FGA 153 6 MU big
MU Offense vs VU Defense Ranks

MU Offense VU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 31 74 MU
Effective FG% 133 110 VU
Turnover % 109 162 MU
Off. Reb. % 11 92 MU
FTA/FGA 231 98 VU big

Where the Commodores are weakest

Honestly, their biggest issue is simply that they have no touch around the basket. Vandy is making less than 45 percent of its 2-pointers, which is awful (265th in the country), and is making under 60 percent of its free throws. The bigs struggle to make 50% of their freebies, and only one guard makes more than 68%. Bad, bad, bad.

Oh yeah, and they can't stop turning the ball over, and they don't grab offensive rebounds. And the people they foul are probably guards who will make their FTs (283rd in Def. FT%).

And they have no bench (235th in Bench Minutes) or experience (320th in Experience). Vandy really did lose almost everybody of consequence from last year's team, and this year's squad is a) better than it was in November and b) still figuring things out.

Where they are best

Their defense really isn't that bad. They are long enough to impact some shots, and depending on your view of 3-pointers, they might be pretty good at defending them. Opponents are only making 30% of their 3-pointers, but they do take a lot of them (meaning Vandy 'allows' them to take a lot, meaning they have been pretty lucky in the number that have, or have not, gone in).

On offense, they do take, and make, quite a few 3-balls. Over 43 percent of their shots are 3-pointers (12th-highest ratio in the country), and if somebody like Rod Odom or (most likely) Kedren Johnson gets hot, he can keep Vandy in the game with such a slow pace.

Vandy's Season to Date

  • Wins (Team Rank is from KenPom.com)
    at No. 88 Xavier (66-64, OT)
    vs. No. 100 UTEP (73-49)
    No. 167 Auburn (73-61)
    at No. 194 South Carolina (58-51)
    No. 227 William & Mary (64-50)
    No. 263 Cornell (66-55)
    No. 290 Nicholls State (80-65)
    No. 336 Alabama A&M (71-46)
  • Losses
    No. 19 Kentucky (58-60)
    No. 22 Ole Miss (79-89, OT)
    at No. 23 Oregon (48-74)
    No. 31 Butler (49-68)
    vs. No. 47 Middle Tennessee (52-56)
    at No. 61 Arkansas (33-56)
    No. 78 Villanova (52-62)
    vs. No. 112 Davidson (62-75)
    vs. No. 281 Marist (33-50)

Vandy vs. Top 50, Average Score: Opponent 69.4, Vandy 57.2 (-12.2)
Vandy vs. No. 51-100, Avg. Score: Opponent 57.8, Vandy 56.0 (-1.8)
Vandy vs. No. 101-200, Avg. Score: Vandy 64.3, Opponent 62.3 (+2.0)
Vandy vs. No. 201+, Average Score: Vandy 62.8, Opponent 53.2 (+9.6)

Vandy ranks just 145th in Pomeroy's rankings, but as you see, they have fared reasonably well versus teams outside of the Top 10. So your view on this game depends, more or less, on your view of Mizzou. Are the Tigers a Top 50 team without Laurence Bowers? (And, of course, is Bowers going to play?) Mizzou showed against South Carolina that it has an offense incredibly reliant on the 3-pointer in Bowers's absence, which could certainly be scary considering Mizzou doesn't make that many 3's, nor do Vandy opponents.

Vandy Player Stats

Player AdjGS*/Gm GmSc/Min Line
Kedren Johnson (6'4, 215, So.) 14.8 0.45 33.1 MPG, 15.1 PPG (51% 2PT, 36% 3PT, 65% FT), 4.0 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.5 SPG, 3.2 TOPG
Kyle Fuller (6'1, 200, Jr.) 9.9 0.32 30.6 MPG, 10.8 PPG (48% 2PT, 28% 3PT, 67% FT), 2.9 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.9 TOPG
Kevin Bright (6'5, 210, Fr.) 8.1 0.28 28.8 MPG, 6.8 PPG (38% 2PT, 51% 3PT, 50% FT), 5.9 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.7 TOPG
Rod Odom (6'9, 215, Jr.) 7.1 0.24 29.6 MPG, 9.2 PPG (36% 2PT, 32% 3PT, 65% FT), 4.2 RPG, 1.8 TOPG
Sheldon Jeter (6'7, 215, Fr.) 6.1 0.37 16.5 MPG, 5.3 PPG (55% 2PT, 41% 3PT, 48% FT), 3.1 RPG
Dai-Jon Parker (6'3, 190, So.) 5.6 0.22 25.4 MPG, 5.8 PPG (35% 2PT, 32% 3PT, 71% FT), 3.1 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.8 TOPG
Josh Henderson (6'11, 230, So.) 4.2 0.22 19.1 MPG, 4.2 PPG (43% 2PT, 48% FT), 3.1 RPG, 1.1 APG, 1.6 TOPG
Shelby Moats (6'8, 225, So.) 3.9 0.19 20.7 MPG, 3.7 PPG (44% 2PT, 30% 3PT, 38% FT), 3.5 RPG, 1.2 APG, 2.6 PFPG
James Slakam (6'6, 210, So.) 1.9 0.18 11.0 MPG, 1.9 PPG (44% 2PT, 50% FT), 2.2 RPG

* AdjGS = a take-off of the Game Score metric (definition here) accepted by a lot of basketball stat nerds. It redistributes a team's points based not only on points scored, but also by giving credit for assists, rebounds (offensive & defensive), steals, blocks, turnovers and fouls. It is a stat intended to determine who had the biggest overall impact on the game itself, instead of just how many balls a player put through a basket.

  • Highest Usage%: Johnson (29%), Fuller (23%), Odom (22%)
  • Highest Floor%: Jeter (38%), Johnson (37%), Fuller (36%)
  • Highest %Pass: Parker (57%), Moats (55%), Johnson (51%)
  • Highest %Shoot: Odom (49%), Jeter (46%), Bright (34%)
  • Highest %Fouled: Slakam (26%), Odom (17%), Fuller (13%)
  • Highest %T/O: Slakam (17%), Henderson (12%), Bright (11%)
  • I've already used my "_____ and the Pipps" line with Georgia and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, but VU really is dictated by Kedren Johnson's play almost as much as Georgia with KCP. The 'Dores do have some size, but most of it is buried on the bench because of either offensive ineptitude or foul trouble.

Keys to the Game

  1. Brown and Ross. Until Laurence Bowers is 100% healthy (and even if he plays on Saturday, we can't figure he'll be 100% right away), this defense is still reliant on Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross to not shoot Mizzou out of the game. They were once again abysmal from the field against South Carolina, and it almost cost the Tigers dearly. Mizzou doesn't need the pair to shoot 50% from the field ... but 40% would be awfully nice.

  2. Be! Aggressive! Be, be aggressive!. The only big advantage VU has in the table above is in the fouls department when Mizzou has the ball. The Tigers drew plenty of contact against South Carolina, and their free throw shooting bailed them out of a potential disaster. Kevin Stallings isn't Frank Martin; in other words, they don't play Murderball. But Mizzou still needs to steal as many free points as possible from the line.

  3. First 10 minutes.
    Average Score after 10 minutes in SEC Play: Opponent 15.2, Mizzou 11.6 (-3.6)
    Average Score over the final 30 minutes: Mizzou 55.4, Opponent 53.2 (+2.2)

    Mizzou was down 14-4 after 10 minutes against Ole Miss, 22-7 against Florida and 17-13 against South Carolina. And, of course, the Tigers were losing to SEMO at halftime back in December. Starting fast has been an issue for this team. It cannot be if the Tigers are going to meet their potential from this point forward.

Prediction

Pomeroy projects a 67-55 Mizzou win. It's obviously difficult to make a prediction about this game when we don't even know if Laurence Bowers and/or Keion Bell will play (or how much). But assuming that both play limited minutes with reasonable effectiveness, I'll say Mizzou wins, 72-63. If the Tigers get hot from 3-point range, it could be a blowout with or without Bowers, but ... counting on Mizzou to make 3's is an iffy proposition right now, huh? Prove me wrong, boys.

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