Scouting Report: Florida

It will be Senior Night in Nashville as No. 14 (ESPN/AP) Florida comes to town to face the Commodores. While honoring seniors Joe Duffy and Chris Meriwether will certainly be a highlight, the Dores will be looking to knockoff this year's SEC Champions and earn a bye in next week's SEC Tournament.

Postseason success has been missing from Vanderbilt basketball. Securing a bye will help Vanderbilt in saving energy in the tournament for possible rematches with its eastern division rivals Tennessee, Kentucky, or these same Gators. Vanderbilt will earn that bye if it defeats Florida on Saturday, and either a Kentucky loss or a Georgia win.

A win Saturday over Florida may also have big implications for NCAA Tournament seeding. Vanderbilt currently sits with a projected RPI of 24. Defeating a top 15 team to finish the regular season, not to mention some SEC Tournament success, and the Commodores could lock up a No. 5 seed. To get there, the Dores need to find a way to keep Chandler Parsons from duplicating his performance in Gainesville against Vandy and to go inside with regularity in their offense.

FLORIDA AT-A-GLANCE

Coach Billy Donovan's Gators are the hottest team in the SEC. Their February 1 victory over the Commodores kicked off a stretch where Florida has seven of eight, the only loss a 76-68 setback at Kentucky. Its win over Alabama on Tuesday night clinched the SEC Championship for Florida.

While inconsistency was the Gators' issue coming into the first Vandy game, having had inexplicable losses on to both Central Florida and Jacksonville they are now extremely consistent and everyone seems to have found their role on the floor. This strong finish to the season may be what finally propels Donovan to his first SEC Coach of the Year Award, even if his team was being projected before the season to win the SEC East.

Starting Lineup

Center – Vernon Macklin
Senior, 6-10, 245; 2010-11: 11.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg,

Macklin continues to be very efficient with the basketball, as his .578 field goal percentage attests – when he gets the basketball. It has always been an issue that the former Georgetown player would get lost in the Florida offense, just as he did in the Hoyas'. Macklin however is strong in the paint with his right hand jump hook and even more important to the Gators' success, has provided leadership and a strong defensive presence on the block.

Forward – Alex TyusSenior, 6-8, 220; 2010-11: 8.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg

Tyus is dangerous because he can get up the court in front of opposing forwards and Erving Walker can find him in transition. He struggles getting touches in the half-court offense however since Macklin is anchored on the block and Tyus does not have any shooting range. What Tyus has done recently to contribute more effectively is rebound the basketball better. In three of his past five games, Tyus has grabbed nine or more rebounds. It is probably not a coincidence that his scoring numbers have also gone up slightly in these recent games.

Forward – Chandler Parsons – Senior, 6-10, 218; 2010-11: 11.4 ppg, 7.8 rpg, .384 3-PT %

Parson's regained his hot hand from two seasons ago against the Commodores with his 18 points on February 1. Parson's earned his points in a manner different from his normal 3-point shooting. He only attempted two shots from beyond the arc but somehow found his way to the foul line six times. While his minutes were limited in the February 12 Tennessee game and he missed the game at LSU due to injury, his improvement of his all-around game has led to the Gators' recent consistency and success. Starting with the first Vanderbilt game, Parsons has scored at least three points over his scoring average in the games he did not have to miss due to injury. Jeffery Taylor should draw the matchup and will have his hands full.

Guard – Kenny Boynton Sophomore, 6-2, 183; 2010-11: 13.6 ppg, 2.5 assists per game, .319 3-PT %

Something has clicked with Boynton in Florida's recent string of success. Earlier in the year, he would follow up a great performance by laying an egg. All of a sudden, Boynton is the model of consistency. Only twice in the past eight games has Boynton failed to hit his scoring average, yet even then he has been in double digit scoring. Making Boynton even more dangerous is the way he is now looking to setup scoring chances for teammates instead of standing and chucking shots as the old Boynton did. In the past three games, the sophomore from Pompano Beach has had 14 assists compared to only two turnovers. Hopefully for the Vandy faithful, if this one goes to overtime, someone will find young Kenny.

Guard – Erving Walker – Junior, 5-8, 171; 2010-11: 14.4 ppg, 3.3 apg, .377 3-PT %

The diminutive point guard from Brooklyn, NY has improved in each of his three seasons playing for Donovan. Walker is usually the anti-Boynton, meaning he does not look to hoist every shot that comes his way. When he does shoot, he is very effective, even if his 3-point numbers are down slightly from the first go-round with the ‘Dores. Maybe it is new confidence or a little bit of selfishness, but he is a dangerous threat. His shooting was not very effective against Vandy, though he did score 15 points. If Brad Tinsley can contain him, Florida's offense will be slowed considerably.

Bench

Donovan only gives significant bench minutes to two players. One, five-star recruit Patric Young is a post player with a bright future ahead of him. The other is a Gainesville native, guard Scottie Wilbekin who scores 2.4 points per game and plays about 17 minutes.

Keys to the Game

Chandler Parson's Project (Part II).
This was a key in the first game but the project never got off the drawing board. The goal was to make Parsons a defender and take advantage of the superior foot speed of whomever he were to guard. The other part of the project called for Jeff Taylor to use his athleticism to slow down Parsons as he had done the year before. Taylor's yearlong funk was on display though as Parsons scored on the Dores in a variety of ways, while earning six free throws to boot. This all led to Taylor fouling out in the first minute of overtime when Vanderbilt needed him most. Vandy needs to hope the friendly confines of Memorial Gym lead to a different result this time.
Avoid stupid fouls, especially in the paint. Twice in key SEC games, at Florida and home against Tennessee, Vanderbilt's key post players, Festus Ezeli and Steve Tchiengang fouled out. While it does not hurt to foul Macklin and put his poor foul shooting ability on the line, Stallings simply cannot afford to have his two big men capable of physical play sitting on the bench, especially against a team similar to Vandy in its finesse style Florida.

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