The Texas-Pan American Broncs are an independent Division I school from Edinburg, Texas, in the far south of the state, and this will be their first game ever with Vanderbilt. The two teams would normally have played in November or December, but scheduling problems forced them to meet rather late in the season.
The Broncs come in with a record of 11-11. Their best victories are over Wright State (77-59), Texas-San Antonio (90-78), and Birmingham Southern (69-57), all at home. A few of their games have been with better known opponents, all resulting in decisive road defeats (Oklahoma 94-54, Air Force 84-51, UNLV 74-54, and Northwestern 56-48). Last season they did upset a good Air Force team in Edinburg, while on their way to a record of 14-14. Most of their other games this season have been with opponents of the caliber of Northern Colorado, Texas A&M Corpus Christi, Utah Valley, Sam Houston State, and Texas-Permian Basin.
Texas-Pan American is coached by 39-year old Robert Davenport, who is in his first season at the helm. He was an assistant coach there from 1999-2004, before succeeding Bob Hoffman, who took an assistant coaching position at Oklahoma. Earlier in his career, Davenport was an assistant coach at Collin County Community College, Oklahoma Baptist, and LeTourneau University, and for one year was head coach at Missouri Baptist. He played college basketball at Oklahoma Christian and Oklahoma Baptist and had a brief stint with Athletes in Action.
The leading scorer for the Broncs is 5-10 senior point guard Sergio Sanchez (16.8 ppg, right). Sanchez shoots a lot of threes and makes 42.7% of them. He also leads the team in assists. He is one of the best free throw shooters in the country (89.6%) and gets to the line often. Not always noted for the quality of his shots in the past, he has been choosier this year to date.
Texas-Pan American will probably start three guards. The other two are both seniors, 6-5 Matt Berry and 6-1 Eric Montalvo. They are scoring 8.6 and 8.4 ppg, respectively, shoot the threes, and are the two best defensive players. They also do some rebounding, 4.5 per game for Montalvo and 3.4 per game for the athletic Berry. Another guard, 6-5 senior Ray Castillo, usually comes off the bench to score 8.6 ppg and he takes a lot of threes, making 37.9% of them.
The two starting big men are both seniors, 7-0 Alvaidas Gedminas and 6-5 Chris Fagan. Gedminas, a Lithuanian, is a 255-pounder and Fagan packs 225 pounds. They are the second and third leading scorers, with Fagan at 10.1 ppg and Gedminas at 9.0 ppg. Gedminas grabs 6.4 rebounds per game and Fagan snares 5.0 per outing. Fagan, a New York City product, is an explosive leaper.
The best of the other players is 6-8 junior Derrick East (7.4 ppg and 5.0 rebounds), who spells Fagan and often starts, and has been much improved this season. Others are 6-7 freshman Zach Trader (3.3 ppg), 6-11 senior Ryan Lange (2.6 ppg and Gedminas's replacement), 6-3 freshman Thomas Sanders (1.8 ppg), and two 6-0 freshman point guards, Dexter Shankle (2.5 ppg) and Danny Puente (0.8ppg).
UTPA does have good size, but the team has not competed well against upper level Division I schools. The Broncs seem to be about on a par with Tennessee State and Central Michigan, two teams that Vanderbilt defeated handily in pre-conference play. Unless the Commodores totally fail to show up mentally and emotionally, they should win by 15 to 30 points.
Photo, above right: Texas-Pan American guard Sergio Sanchez by the APs Brody Schmidt.