IUPUI is a relatively undersized team that starts three guards and two forwards. Led by 6'2" shooting guard George Hill and 6'6" forward Brandon Cole. Hill and Cole each average more than 15 points and 6 rebounds per game, and Hill leads the team with 2.8 assists per game. IUPUI is a relatively quick squad that will challenge Vanderbilt's weaknesses. Vanderbilt's perimeter defense and offensive efficiency have faltered against quick, athletic squads.
George Hill mirror's Vanderbilt's Shan Foster in many ways coming into this game. Both are sophomores. Both are wing players. Both are leading their teams in points, and both scored their career highs in points in their last game. Hill separates himself from Foster with his multidimensionality – while Foster has predominantly scored from perimeter shots and pull-up jump shots, Hill has more ability to handle the ball and drive to the basket, putting himself in position for offensive rebounds. Hill had 15 rebounds in his last game – an almost unheard of number for a guard. Foster, on the other hand, is more able to rely on his teammates for rebounding because of Vanderbilt's superior size. Foster showed more defensive prowess against New Orleans than he had in several previous games, and with his 4 inch height advantage, he will hope to shut down the Jaguars' leading scorer.
Brandon Cole is the Jaguars' answer to Julian Terrell. Cole, like Terrell, is a senior. Both play power forward, and both have several career double-doubles. Terrell has a decided size advantage against Cole. Terrell is 6'9" and 250, while Cole is 6'6" and 205. Cole is the Jaguars' leader, and he is the best on his squad at creating opportunities for "cheap" points.
The Foster/Hill and Terrell/Cole relationships are very representative of the differences between Vanderbilt and IUPUI. Vanderbilt is a bigger, stronger, more talented team. IUPUI is scrappy and quick, and despite their size disadvantage, they will fight for rebounds and loose balls. IUPUI is a solid division one basketball team, and Vanderbilt is far from guaranteed a victory in this game. Don't be fooled by the fact that four Jaguar starters hail from Indianapolis – this is a talented team looking for an upset victory over a Vanderbilt squad which has been looking rather vulnerable.
The Keys to the Game
IUPUI doesn't have much margin for error against the Commodores. Vanderbilt will gain its 8th victory of the season if they can succeed in at least two of the following areas:
(1) Perimeter defense – IUPUI features three quick guards, including their leading scorer in Hill. There is speculation that Coach Stallings might alter his defensive strategy in order to improve the Commodores' on the ball defense. Vanderbilt needs to maintain the ball pressure that they showed against New Orleans without allowing as much dribble penetration.
(2) The point guards need to direct the offense more effectively. Coach Stallings has emphasized the need for the point guards to have higher shooting percentages, which doesn't just means they have to shoot better. They also need to shoot less frequently, because their primary job is to set up Derrick Byars, Shan Foster, and Julian Terrell.
(3) Ted Skuchas needs to be productive without having foul trouble. Skuchas is the team's best defensive post presence, and he has the ability to be very productive in scoring and rebounds against this smaller team. Ted's two weaknesses against quick teams are turnovers and fouls. Patience and confidence are the keys to Skuchas' success in this game.
(4) Julian Terrell should out-perform Brandon Cole. Julian will play much of the game against IUPUI's lone starting senior, and if he make the most of his size advantage over Cole, Vanderbilt will likely win the rebounding and post-scoring battles.
(5) Shan Foster and Derrick Byars – if both of Vanderbilt's wing players play their "A" games at the same time, nothing else matters. Both players have the ability to win a game almost single-handedly, as they have each shown with multiple 20+ point performances this year. If Foster and Byars both play well on the same night, that is enough to overwhelm almost any perimeter defense in the NCAA.
Vanderbilt has played disappointingly in the past three games. On the bright side, that will likely prevent them from overlooking IUPUI and looking ahead to Dayton, Georgia Tech, or the SEC schedule. IUPUI will be a test for the Commodores, but if Vanderbilt plays close to its capabilities, then they should be able to pull out ahead. Look for DeMarre Carroll to get plenty of playing time against this undersized squad. Also, expect Coach Stallings to further tinker with the defensive and offensive schemes in the last of the "easy" non-conference games. It only gets tougher from here, so the Commodores should take a deep breath before this game and conjure up enough energy and enthusiasm to seal the victory.
IUPUI guard Brandon Cole, right, shoots and is fouled by Southern Utah's David Palmer (33) during the second half of a quarterfinal game in Mid-Continent Conference tournament Sunday, March 7, 2004, in Kansas City, Mo. Cole scored 14 points in IUPUI's 74-60 win. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)