Advantage Vandy?

The Vanderbilt Commodores will be coming off basketball's version of football's open date when they invade Thompson-Boling Arena for Saturday's 3 p.m. tipoff with Tennessee. That might not bode well for the Vols.

Just ask former UT head football coach Phillip Fulmer. His gridders faced four teams coming off open dates last fall. Here's a recap:

- The Florida Gators had an open date Sept. 13 before trouncing UT 30-6 on Sept. 20.

- The Georgia Bulldogs had an open date Oct. 4 before dusting Tennessee 26-14 on Oct. 11.

- The South Carolina Gamecocks had an open date Oct. 25 before thumping the Vols 27-6 on Nov. 1.

- The Kentucky Wildcats had an open date Nov. 22 before losing to the Big Orange 28-10 on Nov. 29.

Now consider this:

- Tennessee had an open date Sept. 6 before belting UAB 35-3 on Sept. 13.

- Tennessee had another open date Nov. 15 before defeating Vanderbilt 20-10 on Nov. 22.

For those keeping score at home, the Football Vols went 2-0 last fall when they were coming off an open date, 1-3 when the opponent was coming off an open date. So, the fact Vanderbilt's basketball team had extra time (due to no mid-week game) to rest and prepare for Saturday's game with Bruce Pearl's Vols should provide a bit of an advantage for the Commodores.

Vandy coach Kevin Stallings concedes that his team will be a little healthier and better rested thanks to the mini-layoff.

"Obviously, we didn't play mid-week this week, so we have tried to use this week for two different purposes: One, to get better and, two, to get healthier," he said on Thursday's SEC teleconference. "I'm hopeful we've been able to accomplish both of those."

If Vandy has an edge in rest and preparation time, though, Stallings figures it's negated by Tennessee's athleticism. After watching the Vols' 79-48 drubbing of Georgia Wednesday night, the Commodore coach believes Pearl's team has improved significantly since it beat the 'Dores 76-63 Jan. 20 in Nashville.

"It looks to me like Tennessee is playing very well," Stallings said. "Obviously, anytime you win a game in this league by 30 points, you've done something well.

"They look like they're playing much better than the first time we played them, so we know we've got a tremendous challenge in front of us."

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