Young Vandy Team Visits Wednesday

When Alabama hosts Vanderbilt in a Southeastern Conference basketball game Wednesday night, Crimson Tide Head Coach Mark Gottfried will be able to look out on the court and see a basketball team that is younger than his Bama squad. The Commodores will start one senior, three sophomores and a freshman. "Finally," Gottfried said, "somebody's younger than we are. We're still relatively young, but we have a lot of experience now."

The Crimson Tide is expected to open Wednesday night's game with four juniors and a freshman, but the juniors have over 300 starts for the Crimson Tide.

Tipoff for the contest will be at 7 p.m. CST. Bama moved up to 15th in the nation this week in the Coaches' Poll conducted by ESPN. Alabama has won seven consecutive games and is now 13-2 overall, including 1-0 in SEC play after rallying to defeat LSU, 76-74, in Tuscaloosa Saturday. Vanderbilt is 10-4 overall and lost its SEC opener to Georgia, 82-69, in Athens.

Gottfried said he expects Vanderbilt to put a good team on the floor, a team similar to the one that defeated Bama, 68-62, in Nashville last year. (Alabama avenged that defeat with a 78-59 win over the Commodores in the SEC Tournament in Nashville.) The star for the Commodores last year was 6-9, 226-pound Matt Freije, who is now a sophomore. "Freije is as good as anyone in the league," Gottfried said Monday. "He has great size and he can go outside. If you guard him with a post player, he goes outside. If you try to guard him with a smaller guy, he goes inside. And they surround him with good shooters." Freije averages 16.4 points per game. Also in double figures for the Commodores are guards Chuck Moore (13.3 points per game) and Brendan Plavich (10.6) and forward Sam Howard (12.4).

The Tide coach said that Vanderbilt "has a lot of sets and a lot of plays and they shoot as good as anyone in the conference. You have to get to them defensively." Vandy is fifth in the SEC in shooting percentage at 47.5 per cent, but Alabama is third in the league in defense against shooting, allowing only 38.1 per cent from the field.

Gottfried pointed out that college basketball today is "a point guard, a post player, and the three best players in between them." The Tide's point man is 6-1 freshman Mo Williams, who is averaging 9.9 points and 4.7 assists per game. Bama's post man is 6-8, 260-pound junior Erwin Dudley, averaging 13.9 points and 8.5 rebounds per outing. In between, all juniors, are the Tide's leading scorer in 6-8 Rod Grizzard (15.0 points, 5.7 rebounds per game), 6-9 Kenny Walker (10.6 points, 6.3 rebounds), and 6-2 Terrance Meade (12.3 points, 4.1 rebounds).

Saturday Bama will make its first conference road trip this season when Bama goes to Auburn to take on the Tigers in a game that will tip off at 4 p.m. CST and be regionally telecast by Fox.

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