Meanwhile the Tennessee Vols experienced a nightmare at Florida, losing 95-57, their worst loss ever to the Gators. It was only their second loss of the season, the other one coming at Nebraska (77-62). The Vols have won nine games including an 89-65 home win over Georgia in their conference opener. Their non-conference victories were over Wofford (81-70), Tennessee State (81-56), Texas A&M (108-84), The Citadel (99-49), Georgia State (87-71), UNC-Asheville (80-67), and at Massachusetts (74-66). Tennessee still has one non-conference game to play, at home against Louisville on January 25.
The star for Tennessee is 6-5 junior Scooter McFadgon, a transfer from the University of Memphis. He is scoring 18.8 points per game, hitting 42% of his threes, making 93% of his free throws, and pulling down 3.9 rebounds per game. Shutting him down appears to be a good way to beat Tennessee-- McFadgon scored only 12 points vs. the Gators and went just 3-of-13 from the field.
McFadgon's running mate is point guard C.J. Watson, a 6-2 sophomore. Watson was arguably the best at his position in the SEC last year, and this year is handing out 6.5 assists per game. He has an assists-to-turnovers ration much better than 2:1. After averaging 9.1 points per game last year, he has increased his output to 11.5 and is knocking down 45% of his threes.
6-10 junior Brandon Crump is the center and a good one. He has recovered from the broken jaw that ex-teammate Elgrace Wilborn gave him last summer to score 15.6 ppg and grab 7.1 rebounds. He is a 235-pounder from Texas who had a redshirt year. Crump does all of his shooting from close in, and is making 63.9% of his shots from the field.
The high post starter is 6-8 sophomore Jamere Hendrix, a transfer from Clemson. He is scoring 8.5 ppg and helps out tremendously on the boards (6.8 rebounds per game). Like Crump, he restricts his shooting to the proximity of the basket.
The fifth starter is 6-5 sophomore Stanley Asumnu, who is scoring 7.7 ppg. Actually, 6-3 sophomore John Winchester (6.7 ppg) has also started at this position and has had more playing time than Asumnu. Unlike Asumnu, Winchester is a threat from outside (35% success on threes). Asumnu is the more athletically gifted of the two, but more prone to turning the ball over.
6-3 freshman Dane Bradshaw is scoring 4.5 ppg and shows considerable promise. He has displayed self-confidence and poise in the 15 minutes per game he has played. 6-6 junior Justin Albrecht, a transfer from Iowa Western Community College who had to sit out last season with a foot injury, plays 11 minutes per game and scores 3.6 ppg. He is a good passer and capable of making the three.
6-10 sophomore Boomer Herndon, a 235-pounder who played at Donelson Christian Academy near Nashville, has been seeing about nine minutes of action per game and is scoring 3.6 ppg. 6-10 freshman Major Wingate plays more than Herndon (13 minutes on the average) and scores 2.8 ppg.
Other than three rarely-used walk-ons and injured freshman Jordan Howell (who considered coming to Vanderbilt after deciding not to play at Georgia), the ten players mentioned above are the full Tennessee roster. They give the Vols ample height and rebounding potential, superior playmaking, and good shooting. However, the team is not as experienced as Vanderbilt, with no seniors and just one junior that has played much under Coach Buzz Peterson.
It is impossible to predict what effect the Florida debacle will have on the Vols. On the one hand, their self-confidence may have been damaged. On the other, they will be determined to redeem themselves, and indeed it is not unusual for a team that has suffered an unexpectedly bad beating to come back strongly.
If the Commodores are able to shut down McFadgon (a job likely to fall to Jason Holwerda) and get back on the boards after a couple of poor rebounding games, they should win. They have more experience and depth and have as much athletic ability as the Vols. Vanderbilt is picked here to win a close one in Knoxville, by three to eight points.
Photos by Wade Payne, Associated Press.