A Preview of the Vanderbilt -Tulane Game

Vanderbilt has won four consecutive close home games, one over a ranked team (Western Kentucky) and three over lightly regarded opponents (California Poly, Southeast Missouri, Centenary). The Centenary victory was a nail-biter, in which a three-pointer by Brendan Plavich with three seconds to go pulled the game out of the fire. Next the Commodores move into action on the road against a team from a major conference.

The Tulane Green Wave belonged for many years to the SEC, but since then the Greenies have moved around, and are now in Conference USA.  This game will be the first between Vanderbilt and Tulane since 1966.  The Dores won the last thirteen games that the teams played as SEC foes.
The Green Wave is coached by Shawn Finney, who directed the team to a 9-21 record last year, his first at the helm.  Finney was an assistant coach at Kentucky before coming to Tulane and prefers the fast-breaking, quick paced game that is generally associated with Kentucky basketball.    

The Greenies come into the Vanderbilt game with a 5-1 record, the only loss being to Florida at Gainesville, 81-65.  The wins were over Virginia Commonwealth (a road victory), 76-72, and at home over Loyola of New Orleans (87-47), Centenary (92-76), Norfolk State (89-67), and New Orleans University (74-63).
Two Tulane players have been on suspension since the beginning of the season and won't return until after the Vanderbilt game.  They are 6'8" senior Linton Johnson and 6'3" freshman Ben Bowling.
The leading scorer and rebounder for Tulane is 6'6" junior Nick Sinville, a transfer from Minnesota.  Sinville is averaging 15.3 ppg and 7.7 rebounds.  He is a husky 230 pounder and all of his scoring is done on the inside. 

The second leading scorer is 6'2" shooting guard Brandon Spann (14.3 ppg), who takes most of the three-pointers (he is 37-13 to date).  6'8" junior Brandon Brown, a 220-pounder, plays underneath with Sinville and is pulling off 7.3 rebounds per game. 

The team leader is point guard Waitari Marsh, 6'2" junior, who is scoring 13.0 ppg and is averaging 4 assists.  Finney considers Marsh to be "a great athlete," and he is likely to give the Commodores plenty of trouble off the dribble. 

The fifth starter is wing forward Wayne Tinsley, 6'5" sophomore, 7.8 ppg and 4.2 assists.  Tinsley is making 53% of his shots from the field but, like Marsh, hasn't been taking many three-pointers.  Spann and Marsh are good at the free throw line, but the other regulars have been erratic there.

5'11" freshman Marcus Kinzer, is the sixth man.  He is averaging 3.8 ppg.  Other players who will see significant action are:  6'5" freshman Karl Hollingsworth (3.7 ppg); 6'10" sophomore Ivan Pjevcevic (3.6 ppg); 6'1" junior Byron Parker (2.0 ppg); 6'4" freshman Ben Benfield (1.7 ppg); 6'10" sophomore George Brown (1.6 ppg); and possibly 6'0" sophomore Justin Amick, who played a lot last year but has been in only two games so far this season.  Kinzer and Brown are Nashville natives.

Obviously Tulane doesn't have much height in the starting lineup, but can bring two tall reserves off the bench.  The team must have good overall quickness because it has an average of eleven steals in the first six games.  Spann, Marsh, Tinsley, and Kinzer are all ball thieves.  The Greenies definitely don't have the outside firepower that the Commodores possess, but they drive to the basket better, and they are probably the quicker team.

Even though Tulane is being picked well down the ladder in the National Division of Conference USA, this game is a serious test for the young Commodores.  A Vanderbilt road win over an opponent from a major conference would be as big as the Western Kentucky victory. 

The Dores won't be favored to beat the Green Wave.  Expect Tulane to win, but if the Dores keep it close, maybe their experience in close games will be a factor in their favor.


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