Men's hoops preview: Vanderbilt vs Panamericana

The 2004-05 Vanderbilt men's basketball season gets underway Tuesday, as the Commodores host Universidad Panamericana at Memorial Gymnasium. VeeMan, VandyMania's college hoops expert, offers this scouting report on the exhibition matchup. <i>Tipoff is tonight at 7 pm CT (104.5 The Zone). Tickets are still available.</i>

The 2004-05 version of the Vanderbilt Commodores gets its first public viewing in a pair of exhibition games. However, the NCAA no longer permits Division I teams to play exhibitions with non-collegiate teams, and they will no longer take on the likes of Marathon Oil, the California All-Stars, or Athletes in Action. Division I teams must now play schools from outside the United States or from lower divisions of the NCAA. That is why we have already heard of Florida playing Florida Southern, Duke taking on St. Francis Xavier of Canada, and Kentucky meeting Northern Kentucky.

Vanderbilt's first exhibition opponent is Universidad Panamericana of Guadalajara, Mexico. Panamericana is a school of about 2,500 students, and the team is on a tour of the eastern United States in which they will meet seven opponents. They opened with Mississippi State on Saturday, losing 102-54, and will go on from Nashville to play Florida State, James Madison, Bridgewater, Rhode Island, and West Virginia.

Very little is known about the Pantera basketball team. They are traveling with at least ten players: Alberto Lopez, Gerson Hernandez, Bryan Ramirez, Demetrio Ramirez, Froylan Verdugo, Enrique Hernandez, Fernando Soto, Roberto Valle, Carlos Dehesa, and Rafael Mendez. The heights of the players are unavailable.

Mississippi State outscored the Panteras by the identical score of 51-27 in each half and out rebounded them 55-23. Panamericana made only 36.5% of its shots from the field, including five of thirteen from the three-point zone. Verdugo and Soto started at forward, Gerson Hernandez at center, Lopez, and Bryan Ramirez at guard, and Enrique Hernandez was the sixth man and saw 25 minutes of action. State played without its star, Lawrence Roberts, who was held out because of a broken nose suffered in practice.

Coach Kevin Stallings has a favorite expression about games in which the Commodores are big favorites, which may be paraphrased as "This game is about us, not them." In other words the Commodores are expected to win by 25 to 50 points or more and all that it should take for an easy Commodore victory over Panamericana is for the players to keep their minds on the game. The chief interest of an exhibition game such as this one is that it gives fans a chance to see the players, especially the newcomers, in action. How will the veterans look in comparison to last season? Which of the newcomers seem likeliest to play a lot of minutes and which may not?

Losses by NCAA division I teams in exhibition games with touring teams have sometimes occurred, but those teams were composed of experienced former collegiate players, some of whom had been stars. This new set of exhibition opponents will seldom have the manpower to trouble Division I NCAA teams. Kevin Stallings will doubtless substitute freely and will be looking at how different combinations of players function together. Neither he nor the fans can reasonably expect stiff competition.

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