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Vanderbilt Falls to Missouri in OT 85-82

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Content provided by Vanderbilt Sports Line.

Tough loss for the ‘Dores tonight who played valiantly in a tough road game. Though this game was within reach, this is hardly a “bad” loss. Missouri is a good team, and they just managed to get the last punch in. Congratulations to them on a battle well fought.

Post your post-game comments here.
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Live-Blogging Vanderbilt at Missouri

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Vanderbilt at Missouri Live-Blog

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Live-Blogging Vanderbilt @ Missouri

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Coaching Search Update

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Mr.SEC.com has a great recap on the state of play in the Vanderbilt coaching search. The search for a new head football coach run by Vice Chancellor Williams has been a model from which future searches will be run in college (if Williams ever decides to run a seminar, I’d recommend Tennessee’s Athletic Director Mike Hamilton attend. Biddle and Climer can chip in for the registration fee). According to the Mr. SEC report and Jeff Lockridge’s Tennessean piece in yesterday’s paper, the remaining candidates are: Tulsa Coach Todd Graham, Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson, Maryland offensive coordinator James Franklin, Michigan State offensive coordinator Don Treadwell and Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Doeren. Of these 5 supposed candidates, only 1 is a head coach, 3 are offensive coordinators, and 1 is a defensive coordinator. Notably, 2 of the candidates come from the Big Ten, with 1 from the ACC, Big 12 (although soon to be member of the Big 10), and C-USA. The SEC does not have a representative according to the lists that are out there. According to Mr. SEC there are still people in Nashville who say Randy Shannon might not be completely off the list at this point, although FootballScoop.com says: “[Kentucky Head Coach] Joker Phillips is interested in hiring Randy Shannon to run the Kentucky defense.”

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Good Luck Robbie Caldwell and Bruce Fowler

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FootballScoop.com is reporting that Furman likely plans to hire either Robbie Caldwell or Bruce Fowler as head coach. VSLNation wishes both former Commodore coaches the best.

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VSL Gets You Ready: Previewing Vanderbilt vs. Missouri

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The Commodores face their toughest match-up of the year tonight when they take on the Missouri Tigers at the Zou (which is an awesome nickname for their arena, by the way). The game is at 9/8 CST and will be shown on ESPNU.

Vanderbilt has a chance to really make a statement if they can pull out a win in a difficult road match-up. However, that will be easier said than done, as Mizzou is capable of exploiting Vanderbilt’s greatest weakness. Mizzou loves to run a fast-paced, full court press and force teams into mistakes with a lot of pressure. From the traditional statistical point of view, Vanderbilt is averaging 16 turnovers per game, good for 252nd in the nation. This does not bode well against a Missouri team that averages 10.7 steals a game and wins the turnover margin by an average of 6 a game.
That being said, the same was true of last year’s match-up, and Vandy came away with a 6 point win at home. Vandy committed 24 turnovers in that game, but overcame that deficit with a solid performance from the free throw line and solid defense that kept Mizzou’s field goal percentage down. They also significantly won the rebounding battle 45-24, including 14 rebounds in that game. It’s worthy of note that Festus did not play in that game last year. Andre Walker and Jeffery Taylor were huge, however, as Jeff had a double-double and Walker had 12 rebounds.
The real linchpin in this game is how Festus will handle the post duties and fill in for A.J Ogilvy. To this point in the year, looking at the numbers, it isn’t difficult to argue that the team is operating better with Fez in the post than Ogilvy. According to Kenpom.com, our offensive rebounding percentage is vastly improved (basically a calculation of the number of second chances we get), and perhaps MORE importantly our offensive rebounding percentage allowed (the number of second chances we give our opponents), is ALSO vastly improved. When I say vastly, I mean that we are well over the D-I average in both categories, and more than 5 percentage points per game higher than last year’s squad. The basic point? This team controls the boards better than last year’s squad, and it’s because of Festus who ranks SECOND IN THE NATION in Offensive Rebounding % as a player.
In order to win this game, Vandy has to try to limit turnovers, but more importantly, Vandy has to control the glass, get second chance looks, shoot well from the perimeter and the inside, and get to the line. More especially, Vandy has to do their best to slow down Mizzou’s pace offensively. The more this is a half-court game, the better the result will be for the ‘Dores.
Missouri is not a large team, and they are not great defensively except for their Turnover %. They do a good job of forcing turnovers and blocking shots, but they will allow points from the perimeter in a half-court offense. That being said, they are a solid offensive squad, and they have a great deal of balance. Players to hate immediately are Ricardo Ratliffe, Marcus Denmon, Laurence Bowers, Michael Dixon, and Kim English. All five are averaging double figures in points, with Denmon leading the way with 16.4 ppg. He’s a junior guard who is deadly from three point range and from the free throw line. Dixon is the facilitator and averages almost three steals a game. English, who scored 24 against Vandy last year, has not had as much success shooting the three this year, but he is still a player to be aware of.
VSL will be live-blogging the game, and yours truly, as well as Bobby O’Shea will be in attendance. Get ready Vandy fans, because this should be a real good one.
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Festivus (Festus) For The REST-OF-US!!!!!

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Festus Ezeli was named SEC Player of the week(http://www.secdigitalnetwork.com/NEWS/tabid/473/Article/217326/sec-mens-hoops-players-of-the-week.aspx). This marks the 3rd SEC POTW award for the Black and Gold (3 out of 4 overall). Pretty impressive if I do say so myself. It tells me that in any game a different player can step up and lead the Commies to victory.

P.S. I find tinsel distracting!

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So The National Media Wants A Story? Look No Further than Festus Ezeli

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Not surprisingly perhaps, the Commodores have not gotten a whole lot of national media love. The ESPN analysts consider us to be a solid underdog team, as does Jeff Goodman at foxsports.com. We can’t really get a peep out of Gary Parrish at CBS, but he didn’t give us any love until we beat Tennessee on the road last year either. They’ll praise Cal and the Wildcats until the cows come home and the little guy as well, but we are not on the national radar yet.

Unlike last year where I lobbied vehemently that this team get some national recognition, I am fine with us not getting the love at this point in the season. We’re going to have a lot of coverage leading into a true measuring-stick game against Missouri on the road, and as I will argue later, I believe this team is ahead of where it was last year. That being said, there is one story that is not being recognized by the national media enough, and that is the outstanding development of Festus Ezeli.
In observing the national landscape, people are quick to point out how Kemba Walker has put UCONN on his shoulders and developed into a national player of the year candidate. I completely agree that Kemba Walker is a total stud, but he was a five-star recruit coming out of high school, so it’s hard to say that he was all that unheralded. I also agree that Derrick Williams of Arizona is a great story, as a three star recruit who has become the unquestionable anchor of Arizona’s front court. But while they give the love to Williams for his 27 point performance in a loss against a talented Kansas squad, how can the National Media ignore the performance of Festus Ezeli over the past 6 games?
This was a guy who had barely played organized basketball before he came to Vandy, the very definition of a development project, and as I will point out in the coming weeks, he is the very reason that, despite Ogilvy’s offensive prowess, we do not miss the Big Aussie all that much. I took Kevin Stallings to task for starting Ezeli at the outset, where I was not impressed in his performance against a large Nebraska front court, and I will gladly stick my foot in my mouth at this point. Since that game, Ezeli has averaged, AVERAGED, 15 points, 8 boards, and 2 blocks per game, to say nothing about his 15 and 9 against UNC, or his most recent 24 and 10 against Belmont. Without question, he has filled the void that Ogilvy left, and while Ogilvy may have been able to get to the free throw line and shoot with more consistency, Festus is a superior defender. He still fouls a tad bit too much, but that part of his game is also vastly improved.
As a matter of fact, I don’t think it’s unfair to say that he has performed at least as well as ANY big man in the SEC at this point, if not better. Georgia’s Trey Thompkins has played well since returning from injury, but he is averaging 16 points and 8 boards against competition that is not comparable. There’s been lots of talk about the veteran posts on Florida’s squad, as well as the heralded freshman Patric Young, and yet NONE of them are averaging in double-digits in either points or rebounds. Kentucky doesn’t really have a true big man, and the closest player, Terrence Jones, plays a vastly different style of ball, though statistically he’s performed at a similar level. If you compare his performance against UNC to Ezeli’s performance against UNC, however, his 9 points and 6 boards is not as impressive as Ezeli’s 15 points and 9 boards.
And then there’s Brian Williams of Tennessee, who everyone suddenly thought was a solid player for some reason after the NCAA Tournament. Williams hasn’t even been close to Ezeli’s performance on offense or defense at this point. Freshman Tobias Harris has been fantastic, but he is also more of a Terrence Jones type player who does things a little differently from Festus. Marshawn Powell is not statistically close.
The point is, Festus, at this point in the season, is RIGHT up there as the best big man in the SEC, and as I’ll explain more in depth this coming week, the Commodores are better because of it.
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Vandy Tops Belmont 85-76

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It certainly wasn’t easy, but Vandy wins at Memorial. Turnovers were still an issue as the team committed 20. Credit must go to Belmont for their defense on Jenkins. I haven’t done the research, but this might be the first game John has ever failed to hit a three.

Regardless, Vandy had 5 players in double figures. The gameball goes to Festus Ezeli who was an absolute monster. 24 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks, just an amazing performance. If you’re going to rag on Taylor, give him props for turning it on at a time of need. 16 points and 8 boards is a solid performance. MUST give Lance props for a great performance. He had 15 points and 6 boards, and if he cuts down on his turnovers he can be such a valuable contributor. Finally, Tinsley had a solid game scoring with 14 and shot well today, but having only 2 assists is concerning.
Anyway, that’s my analysis of the stats. Anyone who was at the game with anything to offer?
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VSL Gets You Ready: Previewing Vanderbilt vs. Belmont

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Content provided by Vanderbilt Sports Line.

It’s not often that a coach is disappointed with a 20-point blowout of an opposing squad, but that’s exactly the way Kevin Stallings felt after Wednesday’s win over Western Kentucky. If that’s the case, Belmont should start feeling slightly nervous about the Commodores potential. But when the Commodores invite the Bruins to Memorial at 1:00 CST, they should be careful not to underestimate them.

Belmont is a solid team, with it’s lone loss coming in a tough road matchup at Tennessee in the NIT season tip-off, where the score didn’t quite represent how close the game was. Though they got behind very early, the Bruins ran off a 22-6 run in the last 7 minutes to make it a 1 point game with 36 seconds remaining. Forced to foul, the Bruins were put away by some solid free throw shooting by the Vols, but certainly they are capable of putting a scare in supremely talented teams. Since that game, Belmont has won five in a row, though none of their opponents was a stalwart. This will be the Bruins toughest test since that Tennessee game at the beginning of the season.
Players to hate immediately are Ian Clark, Mitch Hedgepeth, and Scott Saunders. Clark is a 6’3″ sophomore guard from Memphis who is averaging 13.7 points and is shooting .419 from three. He had 18 points against Tennessee in the season opener. Mick Hedgepeth is second in scoring, averaging 13.0 points and snagging 6.3 boards per game. He’s a 6’9″ junior post player and will be banging against Festus, Andre, Stevie Thunder and Goulbourne for boards. Against Tennessee he had 10 points and 5 rebounds. Saunders is a 6’10″ junior post player who is averaging 11.8 points and 4.8 boards per game. He had 5 points and 2 rebounds in 15 minutes of play against Tennessee, but also had a monster game against Marist with 24 points and 6 rebound. Belmont has 10 players averaging more than 10 minutes a game, and 9 of them average more than 5 points per game, showing that they have a bit of offensive diversity.
Belmont ranks 30th in the nation in team assist-to-turnover ratio, where Vandy is ranked 79th. They are ranked 9th in turnover margin, where Vandy is ranked 198. They are also ranked 16th in the nation in steals. My point in harping on these statistics is that this is how the Bruins can upset the Commodores. That 22-6 run against the Vols was a product of forcing turnovers with pressure and getting quick buckets to bring them back into the game. It’s no secret that Stallings was primarily displeased with turnovers in our last matchup against Western Kentucky. While I believe these concerns will be alleviated as the team finds its offensive identity, they are certainly things to keep in mind as Vandy takes on this scrappy Belmont team, as well as a Missouri team that thrives off forcing turnovers.
The game isn’t on ESPN3 or Full Court as the Vandy game notes indicate, but it is on CSS regionally. As a result, I won’t be able to watch, but will be following via gametracker. I would love to see how we play in this game, because it will tell us a lot about how we might play against a tough Missouri team next Wednesday.
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