Men's Hoops: Vanderbilt-Florida Game Preview

Can the Commodores (10-12, 3-8 SEC) pull off an upset Saturday when they host No. 7 Florida (21-4, 9-2) at Memorial Gymnasium? VeeMan analyzes the game and makes a prediction. Tipoff is set of 7:00 p.m. CST (95.5 WSM-FM, no live television).

Vanderbilt's 83-70 loss to the Georgia Bulldogs last Saturday was the fourth consecutive double-digit loss in conference play.  However, the team did compete better than in the previous three games.

The leading point producers were Corey Smith (14), Julian Terrell (13), and Mario Moore (10), as scoring was distributed generally among eight players.  With an SEC record of 3-8, the Commodores would have to win all five remaining regular-season games to have a chance of making the NCAA tournament.

On the other hand, the Florida Gators are 21-4 overall and 10-2 in SEC play, and are already assured of being in the big dance.  The two conference losses, both of which occurred recently, were at Kentucky (70-55) and Tennessee (66-59).  The Gators, currently ranked No. 7 in both major polls, have three SEC road victories, at Mississippi State, South Carolina, and LSU.  They defeated Vanderbilt in Gainesville 87-75 on Jan. 22.

Florida has struggled somewhat lately, as senior 6-4 guard Brett Nelson continues in his season-long slump, and is averaging just 6.7 ppg.  Highly regarded 6-8 freshman Christian Drejer (3.6 ppg) has been back for ten games but hasn't yet become much of a factor.  The point production of the two freshmen, 6-1 Anthony Roberson and 6-6 Matt Walsh, has been slowly declining, although they are both averaging about 13 ppg.  Neither of the two principal big men, 6-10 senior Matt Bonner (14.6 ppg) and 6-9 sophomore David Lee (10.3 ppg), has been having a banner year.  The point guard, 6-3 senior Justin Hamilton, is steady and the top defender, contributing 8.2 ppg.

6-9 junior Bonell Colas (4.8 ppg) has been more of a factor as the year has gone on, and 6-9 sophomore Adrian Moss (2.7 ppg) can come off the bench and inject some energy when the attack slows down.  Neither of the other two scholarship freshmen, 6-6 Mario Boggan and 6-3 Rashid Al-Kaleem, has seen much action in conference games.

The Gators continue to be a dangerous three-point shooting team, as they always have been under Coach Billy Donovan.  Bonner makes 47.5% of his three-pointers, Walsh 44.5%, Roberson 39.9%, and Hamilton 40.4%.  Nelson is still below par in that category (30.4%).

On the inside, Lee and Bonner are the main scoring threats, but Walsh, Colas, and Moss are all capable of operating under the basket.

Lee and Bonner are the leading rebounders, with 7 and 6 per game, respectively.  Walsh adds 4.6 per game.  Without four-year starter Udonis Haslem, Florida is less dynamic on the boards than in recent  years.

Hamilton averages 4 assists per game, but is not a spectacular playmaker.  Walsh averages 3.3 assists, and is the best passer on the team.  Hamilton leads in steals (1.6 per game) and Lee in blocked shots (1.6 per game).  Ordinarily Florida is not prone to turning the ball over much.

Recently, Roberson has supplanted Nelson in the starting lineup.  Bonner, Lee, Hamilton, and Walsh are the other four starters.

Florida's attack has been less versatile this year.  The 87 points they scored on Vanderbilt, in the previous meeting between the two teams, is easily the most they have scored in any conference game, and they produced less than 60 points in their two conference losses.

It would seem that Vanderbilt, with the home court advantage, has a reasonable chance of pulling the upset in the second meeting.  On form this should be a close game, with Florida prevailing by three to ten points.  There is a definite danger that the Gators, with so many players that are proven dangerous scorers (Bonner, Roberson, Walsh, Lee, Nelson, and possibly Drejer), may break loose and have a big scoring night.  If that happens, Vanderbilt will sustain another double-digit conference loss. Top Stories