Vanderbilt Commodores (16-3 SU, 11-6 ATS) vs. Kentucky Wildcats (19-1 SU, 9-9 ATS), 4:00 p.m. EST, Saturday, January 30, 2009, Rupp Arena, Lexington, Ky. TV: ESPN
by Ryno of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Vanderbilt +8.5/Kentucky -8.5
Kentucky’s reign as the No. 1 team in the country didn’t last too long. After receiving the nod on Monday, the Wildcats lost on Tuesday at South Carolina. They would like to bounce back with a nice win to show they are still one of the best in college basketball but it won’t be easy against Vanderbilt Commodores, an under-the-radar team that is one of the hottest teams in the country.
Vanderbilt has won 10 games in a row, including a 5-0 start in the SEC. The Commodores’ last loss was to Western Kentucky, 76-69, on December 11. Earlier in the season, they had wins over St. Mary’s, Arizona and Missouri, and losses to Cincinnati and Illinois. The Commodores have a balanced attack with Jeffery Taylor, A.J. Ogilvy, Jermaine Beal and John Jenkins all averaging double figures in scoring. Taylor (14.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg) is an athletic small forward with the ability to score around the rim or with long jumpers, but the majority of his points are scored inside. Ogilvy (13.8 ppg. 6.1 rpg) is a center with a high basketball IQ. He can dominate down low or step out and hit mid-range jumpers or use his passing ability to get other players easy shots. Beal is the team’s point guard (13.7 ppg, 3.2 apg) but he can catch fire from 3-point range or take it to the basket. Jenkins (10.8 ppg) is a freshman who may be the best pure shooter in college basketball already. He is shooting 48.9 percent on 3-pointers and 84.8 percent from the free throw line.
Kentucky is a very big team with DeMarcus Cousins (he’s questionable for this game), Patrick Patterson and Daniel Orton down low, but the Commodores can combat that with some length and size of their own. Ogilvy is a 7-footer and they can bring in powerful 6-foot-11 Festus Ezeli as well as Steve Tchiengang and the long arms of 6-foot-7 Taylor, 6-foot-7 Andre Walker and 6-foot-8 Lance Goulbourne.
Kentucky was undefeated at 19-0 before losing at South Carolina on Tuesday, 68-62. Cousins had a terrific game with 27 points and 12 rebounds against a smaller South Carolina team. Freshman Sensation John Wall had 19 points, but no other Kentucky players had more than five points. The Wildcats were actually out-rebounded by the Gamecocks, mostly due to hustle. The Wildcats shot 39 percent from the field and 3-for-12 on 3-pointers. They don’t really have any 3-point specialists, something that could hurt them at times. They played good defense in holding South Carolina to 34 percent shooting, but Devan Downey’s 30 point single-handedly got the win for the Gamecocks.
Vandy is coming off an 85-76 win at Tennessee on Wednesday. Beal scored 25 points, Ogilvy scored 12, and Jenkins, Taylor and Brad Tinsley each had 10. The Commodores shot 51 percent from the field and 8-for-14 on 3-pointers.
In conference play, Vanderbilt has a huge edge over Kentucky in 3-point shooting and overall shooting. The Commodores are shooting 52 percent from the field in SEC play and 43 percent from 3-point range, while Kentucky is shooting 47 percent from the field and only 30 percent on 3-point attempts. But Kentucky’s defense is holding SEC opponents to 31 percent on 3-pointers and 38 percent overall, while Vandy is allowing SEC opponents to shoot 46 percent from the field and 39 percent from 3-point range. The Commodores’ weak 3-point defense probably won’t hurt them much in this game because Kentucky isn’t a great outside shooting team but their overall defense will hurt them if they can’t prevent Wall, Cousins, Patterson and Eric Bledsoe from getting easy baskets. On the other side, Kentucky can’t allow Jenkins and Beal to get hot from the perimeter or the ‘Cats will be in trouble.
Vanderbilt is 7-1 ATS in its last eight games, 5-1 ATS in its last six games following an ATS win, and 6-2 ATS in its last eight road games. Kentucky is 5-0 ATS in its last five games following an ATS loss. The home team is 4-0 ATS in the last four games between these teams and Vanderbilt is 2-6 ATS in its last eight games at Kentucky. The under is 5-0 in the last five meetings between these teams at Kentucky.
Ryno’s Pick: This game will be an interesting clash between the strong defense of Kentucky and the strong offense of Vanderbilt. Kentucky is tough to beat at Rupp Arena but Vandy has no fear after coming off a road win at Tennessee. Kentucky would like to bounce back, but Vandy is the team with the confidence and the momentum. Ogilvy and Ezeli should be able to contain the Kentucky big men. If Jenkins, Tinsley and Beal are hitting their outside shots, the Wildcats are in trouble. Vanderbilt will keep it close and have a chance to pull off the road upset. Take Vanderbilt plus the points to cover the spread.