The Vanderbilt Commodores (10-11, 3-5) are down in Tuscaloosa night (7:30 pm CT on SEC Network) to take on the #4 Alabama Crimson Tide (18-3, 8-0). Both teams are coming off a loss as Vanderbilt dropped a tough road conference game last Saturday night to Texas A&M 72-66, and Alabama looks to rebound from a 93-69 loss to Oklahoma last Saturday. The Crimson Tide had by far their worst game of the season on both ends of the floor. They could never get going offensively as the Sooners did a great job keeping them playing out of their game in the half-court offense and on the defensive end they could not get stopped giving up the 3rd most points all season to an opposing team (93). Vanderbilt on the other hand seemed to let one slip away as they held the lead for a good amount of the game. They gave up a long run to get down 13 points late in the second half but rebounded quickly and tie the game back up with a minute to go. They just could not close the Aggies on the road and lost their second straight conference game. Tonight won’t be any easier as they will play the #4 ranked team who will have some fire under them after being embarrassed just three days ago. Alabama has shown some weaknesses over the past couple of weeks since losing guard Darius Miles for the season, and here are the three things I am looking for to hand Alabama their first two-game losing streak of the year.
Limit the Transition Offense of Alabama
The Crimson Tide offense is at its best when they are playing fast and getting shots off quickly in transition. They are second in the country in offensive possessions with 77.8 per game. Whether it be off of turnovers or missed shots, they get the rebound and look to push the ball up the floor leading the open shots. When playing quickly they not only look to drive into the paint, but they also look for guys to get to spots on the perimeter for open three-point attempts. They are fourth in the country in three points attempts per game with 29.2. In the last matchup, Vanderbilt did not turn the ball over frequently, but their poor shooting performance (30% as a team) lead to rebounds and transition offense for the Crimson Tide. If Vanderbilt looks to have any hope in this game they will need to knock down some more shots in this game to limit that and do a good job o the offensive glass as well.
Limit Brandon Miller Offensively
Brandon Miller is one of the top freshmen in the country and a consensus top 10 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. He is a very well-rounded player who can shoot from anywhere and can also beat you off the dribble to get to the rim and finish. In the last matchup, Vandy had no answer for him as he finished with 30 points on a very efficient 10/16 shooting from the field. Vanderbilt’s defense is not a strength of this team and when facing players with the skillset of Miller they have not faired well over the last few seasons. They don’t have a very good matchup to put on Miller either. Stute can match him with length but Miller can beat him off the dribble with his quickness, and Wright can be physical with him but Miller’s height advantage allows him to shoot over Wright with ease. Stackhouse will have a better sense of how to guard this Crimson Tide team after facing them just two weeks ago. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Vandy mix defense’s regularly mixing in some zone to go along with their man-to-man defense, but around Miller, there are some good shooters on Alabama’s team so it is hard to just focus in on one guy.
Get Jordan Wright Going
It is no secret that this team is missing the presence of Liam Robbins, one of their better all-around players. One guy who seems to be missing him is senior guard Jordan Wright. He has had an up-and-down season on the offensive end of the floor. Over the last four games, he is shooting a measly 27% from the floor and just 23% from three-point range. In big games as an underdog, you most definitely need your best players to be at their best to have any hope of taking down a top-five team on the road and Vanderbilt will need just that from Jordan Wright. Myles Stute finally broke out of his shooting woes last game knocking down 7 three’s coming off the bench. That outburst could be just what Wright needs to get some attention off of him and allow him to get into a rhythm. He has the most experience on the team in games of this magnitude and this could be a great spot for him to right the ship to have a big scoring outburst.
This is not a good matchup for Vanderbilt on either end of the floor. They don’t have the personnel to guard Alabama and don’t have the inside presence to open up the floor against Alabama’s length. Vanderbilt has not been a team to lay down when counted out this year so I do believe they will put up a good fight, but I believe Alabama’s talent will be too much for the Commodores. I have them dropping this game 85-75 in Tuscaloosa for their third straight conference loss.
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