The Commodores are now 0-12 in SEC and get to face a wounded animal after Kentucky knocked of the former No. 1 team in the country this week. Tennessee, however, is the team that Vandy came closest to beating this season, so maybe a trip to Knoxville will produce an unexpected result.
Here are the three keys:
By Steve Wright
Stop Grant Williams
This should be an obvious key to anyone that watched the first meeting between the two schools in Nashville earlier this season.
Williams was a monster that day as he scored 43 points in the Vols overtime victory, putting the team on his back and carrying them to a win. While his ethics may have been questionable after a late foul call was given in Williams’ favor, there is no doubt that the Tennessee player was the best on the court by far over the course of the game.
Williams is a hard player for Vanderbilt to match up against one on one because of his freakish combination of size and speed. Hopefully some of the ‘Dores interior defenders will have more of an idea of how to slow him down in the second meeting between the two schools because if not it is going to be a long night.
Crash the boards hard
There were many reasons that Vanderbilt almost upset Tennessee in January. One of those was the way that Vanderbilt battle for every rebound on offer.
The ‘Dores outrebounded the Vols 33-30 in Nashville and odds are that they will again need to win the battle of the boards if they are to have any chance of forcing an upset on the Vols own floor. Aggression and desire is going to be as much of a key here as technique, with the ‘Dores at times looking lethargic and not particularly engaged during this losing skid.
Playing in a rivalry game though tends to change things and it will be interesting to note the effort and effectiveness of the Vanderbilt bigs as they play against a Tennessee squad looking to atone for their loss on Saturday.
Get to 75 points
75 seems to be just about the magic number for Vanderbilt this season.
The Commodores are 0-15 when failing to hit that number and they are 9-1 when scoring 75 points or more. Ironically that one loss came to Tennessee as Vanderbilt scored 83 points in an overtime loss, but 75 remains an important number to consider when Vanderbilt play.
The Commodores defense is not good enough to win games when the offense isn’t shooting well. Last time the two schools met, Vanderbilt shot 50 percent from the floor and 47.6 percent from three-point range as they gave Tennessee all they could handle. In their win against Tennessee this week, Kentucky mirrored that output by shooting 54.7 percent from the floor and 38.5 percent from three.
Tennessee is a good team, but it is one prone to game long bouts of defensive let downs. It will be interesting to see if Vandy can take advantage if Tennessee is in that funk again on Tuesday.