Men's Hoops: Vandy hosts Arkansas

VeeMan previews Vanderbilt's Wednesday night matchup with Arkansas. The Commodores (10-13, 3-9 in the SEC) host the Razorbacks (7-16, 2-10) at 7:00 p.m. at Memorial Gym in Nashville (95.5 WSM-FM, no TV).

Vanderbilt gave No. 7 Florida a big scare on Saturday before losing 77-74 in overtime.  It was the Commodores' first overtime game in over three years (the last one an 81-73 home loss to Kentucky on Jan. 22, 2000).  Kevin Stallings' team was tied with Florida 66-66 at the end of regulation.  Matt Freije carried the Dores with a 24-point performance, while David Przybyszewski and Mario Moore scored 14 points apiece.

The Arkansas Razorbacks come into this game with a record of 7-16 overall, 2-10 in conference play.  Like Vanderbilt, they have lost their last five games.  In non-conference play they managed only one significant victory, 72-60 over Louisiana Tech at home.  Their only conference wins were at home, 73-65 over LSU and 81-70 over Alabama, and most of their defeats have been of the double-digit variety.  To say that Arkansas has struggled this year would be an understatement.

A look at team statistics shows that the Razorbacks are at or near the bottom of the conference in the following categories:  scoring; defense; assist/turnover ratio; free throw percentage; shooting percentage; and three-point shooting percentage.  Their one good area is rebound margin, in which they are second among the twelve teams.

6-4 freshman wing player Jonathan Modica is the leading scorer, with 12.2 ppg.  He makes 36.4% of his three-pointers and 48.3% of all of his shots from the field, and is second in rebounding (4.4 per game).  However 6-2 freshman point guard Eric Ferguson leads the team in minutes played (average of 33) and scores 11.2 ppg.  Ferguson is a good prospect, but isn't a finished SEC player yet because of a poor assist/turnover ratio (3.2/4.0), and he connects on only 59.4% of his free throws.  He can hit the three-pointer, but makes just 30.2% of them.

The other wing player, 6-3 freshman Kendrick Davis, is the team's third-leading scorer (9.9 ppg).  He shoots several times per game from beyond the three-point line, but with only 30.9% accuracy.  He also gives Ferguson some relief at the point.

Dionisio Gomez, a 6-8 senior from Panama City, Panama, is the leading rebounder (about seven per game) and fourth leading scorer (8.3 ppg).  6-8 senior Carl Baker rounds out the starters, but averages only 3.3 points.

Although Arkansas gets good rebounding from its bigger players, and has plenty of depth, none of them are big scorers.  6-9 senior Larry Satchell (2.9 ppg), wide-bodied 6-7 Alonzo Lane (4.8 ppg), 6-9 freshman Rashard Sullivan (2.1 ppg), Gomez, and Baker rotate in the post positions.

The reserve wing men are 6-5 freshman Wenbos Mukubu (2.1 ppg), 6-9 sophomore Michael Jones (5.9 ppg), and 6-7 senior Blake Eddins (1.4 ppg).  Jones sees the most action and makes 35% of his outside shots.

First-year Arkansas Head Coach Stan Heath was very successful at Kent State in his short stay there, and probably will get the Razorbacks going in a year or two.  For now, he has a young team that lacks firepower and doesn't handle the ball very well.

This is a golden opportunity for the Commodores to break their losing streak.  With the home-court advantage, they should defeat the reeling Hogs by 8-15 points.  Of course, if Vanderbilt plays like it did the last time it had a home game with a faltering opponent, it might be a different story. Top Stories