December 21, 2010

Previewing Vanderbilt at MTSU

What: Vanderbilt Commodores (8-2) at Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders (4-7)

Where: Charles M. Murphy Athletic Center, Murfreesboro, Tenn. (11,802)

When: 6 p.m. CST, Saturday

TV: None, though fans may watch the game at

Radio: Nashville: 97.1 FM

Rankings: Both teams are unranked

The line: None

Sagarin prediction: Vanderbilt by 17

Pomeroy prediction: Vanderbilt 85, Southeastern Louisiana, 56 (VU has a 99 percent chance to win)

Series record: Vanderbilt leads 27-4, with VU defeating MTSU in the last meeting 73-53 on January 4th, 2010. Vanderbilt is 12-4 in games played at MTSU.

PlayerHt.Wt.Cl.PPGRPG Pos.PlayerHt.Wt.Cl.PPGRPG
Brad Tinsley6-3210Jr.9.44.9 PG Michael Dixon6-1180So.10.92.1
John Jenkins6-4215So.18.62.8 SG Marcus Denmon6-3185Jr.16.43.6
Jeffery Taylor6-7225Jr.12.13.9 SF Kim English6-6200Jr.10.42.7
Lance Goulbourne6-8230Jr.7.96.5 PF Laurence Bowers6-8210Jr.11.16.1
Festus Ezeli6-11255Jr.13.37.8 C Ricardo Ratliffe6-8240Jr.12.48.3


Yes, Vanderbilt fans, it's still basketball season. With fan focus on the football coaching search, and the Commodores having not played since the overtime loss to Missouri on Dec. 8, hoops hasn't been on the mind of most fans of late, especially with a low-profile opponent on the slate for Saturday evening.

Commodore fans may have been looking for a reason to temporarily forget about basketball, anyway, after having their hearts broken last time, out. The 'Dores coughed up a game they should have won in Columbia last time out when Brad Tinsley and Jeffery Taylor couldn't' connect on a simple pass in the final moments, resulting in a Missouri steal and three-point play that sealed the game for the Tigers.

This game shouldn't be as challenging for VU. Southeastern Louisiana, while coming in with a 5-3 record, ranks 282nd in the latest Pomeroy Ratings, and 244th in Jeff Sagarin's computer model. Despite a 5-3 record, the Lions haven't beaten anyone of significance: three of their wins are against non-Division I teams, and on Wednesday, they lost 59-38 at Alabama.

SELA was picked by many to challenge for the Southland Conference Eastern Division title this year. The Lions went 19-12 a year ago, and return eight starters who played double-digit minutes. They're led by Trent Hutchin, the 6-foot-1 senior guard, who's scoring 16.6 points per game, hitting 50 percent of his field goal attempts, 47.9 percent from 3, and 87 percent from the foul line.

Supporting players include point guard Brandon Fortenberry and 6-foot-7 forward David Ndoumba, who each average 10.4 points per contest. Ndoumba leads the squad with 7.4 rebounds per game.

SELA's not very tall across the board, as Ndoumba is the biggest player who plays significant minutes.

That gives a sizeable advantage to Vanderbilt inside, as center Festus Ezeli continues to emerge as one of the nation's most-improved players. Ezeli tallied 16 points, nine rebounds and six blocks in the loss to Missouri.

Other challenges for the Tigers include guarding Taylor (18 points and 10 rebounds last time out) and John Jenkins (23 points), who appears to be hitting his shooting stride.

Final analysis and prediction

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