Vandy Not a Must Win, but Close

Florida's last minute giveaway to South Carolina Wednesday night puts added pressure on the Gators as they get set for another SEC road game this weekend. The Gators travel to Nashville for a Sunday afternoon game with the Vanderbilt Commodores that will have a significant impact on this team's psyche.

A win in Memorial Gym will let the Gators put the Carolina loss behind them and improve the team to 4-1 in the SEC with the bulk of the league schedule still to come. However a loss would put Florida in a two-game losing streak and would almost certainly get Gator fans and perhaps the players thinking this could be another NIT season.

Vandy is struggling coming into this one as well. The Commodores have dropped their last two SEC games and are 1-3 in league play, 12-6 overall. Their big problem has been inconsistency on offense, especially in SEC play where the ‘Dores are averaging just 59.8 a game. Traditionally Vanderbilt is an excellent three-point shooting team, but this Vandy squad has just two long range shooters who make more than a third of their tries.

The big concern for the Gators has to be 6-11 sophomore A.J. Ogilvy who is the team's top scorer and rebounder (15.8/6.8). The Australian big man was one of the top rookies in the SEC a year ago and causes Florida all kinds of match up concerns. The other experienced threat is junior guard Jermaine Beal (11.9/4.1) who is one of the two guys who can score from outsider the arc consistently (39%). Vandy has two freshmen scoring in double figures in 6-7 forward Jeffery Taylor (12.2/6.2) and 6-3 shooting guard Brad Tinsley (10.2/2.3). Tinsley has made 39 of 100 shots beyond the arc. Other than Tinsley and Beal the rest of the ‘Dores are shooting just 25 percent behind the line.

Vanderbilt is a pretty good team on the boards with a plus-five rebound differential, so Florida will have to take care of business there as well.

Of course, there's always the unique issue of playing at Vanderbilt with the benches at the ends of the court. Florida has not fared too well up there, losing the last two trips and seven of 12 under Billy Donovan. Historically Florida has done even worse, with a 14-42 record on Vandy's home floor.

Veterans Must Show Up

For all the talk about how young the Gator team is that youth is not being served well in terms of veteran productivity. Florida's lone senior, Walter Hodge is averaging just 7.8 points in SEC games and has made just 41 percent of his shots, 28 percent from three point range. Junior forward Dan Werner has made only a third of his shots in Florida's four SEC games and has done little on the glass as well. His scoring (6.0) in SEC games ranks seventh on the team and his 2.5 rebounds in SEC games might be the lowest of any front court start in the conference. It's hard to see how this team can finish above .500 in the SEC if those two guys don't pick it up.

Nick Calathes missed that key one-and-one opportunity against Carolina and had a bad turnover that was not completely his fault. But the sophomore guard is far and away Florida's best player and nowhere is that more evident than in SEC action. Calathes leads the team in points (21.0), rebounds (7.8), assists (6.3) and steals (2.0). He's played the most minutes (36.5) and has become Florida's top three-point shooter (13-29, .448).

Florida is also hoping Chandler Parsons can come out and play well Sunday. The 6-9 sophomore was having his best game as a Gator before missing that free throw at South Carolina with just 3.3 seconds to play. It's tough for a player to take the positives out of a game that ended so negatively, but the Parsons who scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds is a guy Florida needs to see as often as possible.

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