A Preview of the Vanderbilt-East Tennessee Game

For the third consecutive year, Vanderbilt will play the East Tennessee Buccaneers in Nashville. Last year the Commodores won 87-76 from a team that eventually had an 18-10 season; they also prevailed the year before, 70-55.

The Buccaneers, from Johnson City TN, come into Nashville Saturday with a 7-3 record, their best victories being at the expense of Radford (79-54), and James Madison (84-57), both home games, and on the road from UNC-Asheville (77-71) and Coastal Carolina (85-71).  The other three wins were over non-Division I opponents (Guilford, Shenandoah, and Virginia-Wise).  Their losses have been to Virginia (85-62), Virginia Commonwealth (79-71), and South Carolina (83-66).

The leading scorer for the Buccaneers is 6'3" senior shooting guard Dimeco Childress, who is averaging 16.5 ppg.  He is the team's main threat from three point territory.  Considering the fact that he scored 30 points against the Commodores last year, the defense will likely focus on stopping him.

6'6" sophomore power forward Zakee Wadood has surprisingly emerged as the number two scorer (14.2 ppg) and the top rebounder (7.4 per game).  He is strong (210 lbs) and active, although somewhat short for that position.

Another starter who lacks height for his position is the starting low post player and another 6'6" sophomore, Jerald Fields.   However, Fields is a 240-pounder, and is scoring 12.2 ppg, pulling down 7 rebounds per game, and averaging two blocks.  The tallest starter is slender 6'7" freshman Tiras Wade, who weighs only 190 pounds; he is scoring 11.3 ppg and is a good defender, but hasn't yet asserted himself on the boards.

In the first eight games, the starting point guard was 6'0" senior Cliff Decoster (5.9 ppg), but he was out of action in the last two games.  His replacement, Ryan Lawson, 6'2" junior, also scores 5.9 ppg, and can shoot the three, whereas Decoster hasn't made one this season and connects on less than 50% of his free throws.

Five other players could see significant duty.  Considering the lack of size in the starting lineup,  6'9" sophomore Cory Seels, a 265 pounder, might be expected to see the most action but, like Decoster, he didn't play in the last two games, and he has been unproductive in the games in which he has appeared.  6'6" junior Isaac Potter (5.4 ppg), 6'1" freshman Michael Tolliver (3.6 ppg), 6'7" JUCO transfer Shannon Huffstetler (3.1 ppg), and 6'1" freshman James Anthony (3.6 ppg) are the others.

Overall, East Tennessee suffers from a serious lack of height, especially if Seels doesn't play.  Childress and Lawson are the main outside threats.  Lawson is the best defender.  Coach Ed DeChellis says that Fields and Anthony are the best athletes.

East Tennessee is one of those dangerous, scrappy, undersized teams that is capable of upsetting a major conference opponent if taken lightly.  And it has already been shown that the Commodores can be beaten by a team of this type.  However, unless the Dores start on their Christmas vacation a day early, they should win by five to twelve points.

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