Scouting Report: Beating Gators would boost RPI

The Vanderbilt Commodores, 16-10 (6-6 SEC), visit the Florida Gators, 16-7 (8-4 SEC), in another key conference game for both teams. VandyMania's VeeMan givs us a scouting report on the Gators and makes a predicts the winner of the game. <P> <i>Tipoff: 7 p.m. CST<br> Radio: 104.5 The Zone<br> TV: JP Sports </i>

Against the Arkansas Razorbacks on Saturday, the Vanderbilt Commodores played their best game since the home and road conference openers with Alabama and Tennessee. They roasted the Razorbacks 79-63 and led nearly the whole way. It was the combination of excellent outside shooting (27-12 on threes), good ballhandling, and spirited defense, that made the Commodores so efficient. Shan Foster scored 25 points, his career high to date, and Mario Moore finally returned to form with 20 points and 13 assists (also a career best). Jason Holwerda added ten.

The Florida Gators come into this game with an 8-4 conference record, 16-7 overall. After looking shaky in non-conference play, and then losing starters Matt Walsh and Adrian Moss for several games after conference play got under way, the Gators have been more consistent of late. Their most recent losses (69-66 to Kentucky and 77-73 to LSU) were good efforts on the road. Earlier in the season they lost at home to Tennessee (83-76) and at Mississippi State (71-57). In other conferences games, they have defeated Auburn (84-78), Vanderbilt (82-65), and Tennessee (84-73) on the road and won home victories over Arkansas (82-74), Georgia (70-47), South Carolina (80-72), Alabama (85-54), and Mississippi (90-53).

The big three for the Gators are all playing well. 6-6 junior Matt Walsh (left) is averaging 14.7 ppg, and hit for 18, 18, 23, 16, and 17 points in his last five games. 6-1 junior Anthony Roberson (right)has been on-range with his outside shots lately and is now scoring 18.3 ppg. Inside, 6-9 senior David Lee has increased his point production to 13.3 ppg and is now snaring 8.1 rebounds per outing. Walsh is making 45.3% of his threes, and Roberson (who takes 7.6 threes per game) is hitting on 41.4%.

Two 6-8 freshmen, Corey Brewer and Al Horford, continue to start. The slender Brewer carries only 185 lbs and is the team's defensive specialist, while scoring 7.3 ppg. Horford is a burly 235-pounder who is second to Lee in rebounding (7.0 per game) and scores 6.5 ppg.

The Gators have good depth, although it is inexperienced except for 6-9 junior Adrian Moss (2.8 ppg). 6-2 sophomore Lee Humphrey (5.7 ppg) is a good outside shooter and capable defender. 6-8 sophomore Cliff Richard (3.7 ppg) packs 255 pounds and is a strong rebounder. 6-0 freshman Taurean Green (4.3 ppg) has speed, handles the ball well, and hands out assists. 6-11 freshman Joakim Noah (4.5 ppg) is active inside and runs the floor extremely well. 6-4 freshman Clifford Ingram (1.6 ppg) doesn't play as much as the others, who each see eleven to twenty minutes of action per game.

Playmaking is a team-effort for the Gators. They rank second in the SEC in assists per game, yet Walsh (the high man in that category) is averaging just 2.8. Florida is also second in the SEC in assist/turnover ratio.

In other team categories, Florida is first in points scored per game, field goal shooting, and scoring margin, and second in three point shooting percentage and rebounding margin. They rank third in blocked shots and three-point shots made per game, fourth in free-throw shooting, sixth in number of points allowed per game, eighth in steals, and fifth in turnover margin. Roberson is the leading scorer in the conference and Lee is sixth in rebounding.

Although still one of the most inexperienced teams in the SEC, the Gators clearly are on their way to another appearance in the NCAA tournament. In addition to the Vanderbilt game, their remaining dates are with Georgia and Kentucky in Gainesville and South Carolina on the road.

Vanderbilt has a chance to win this game if they play as they did against Arkansas, and make a high percentage of three-point shots. But that was at home and this game will be in the decidedly unfriendly setting of the O'Connell Center. The prediction is a win for Florida in the six to twelve-point range.

David Lee

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