Preview & Prediction: By Raphielle Johnson
The Big East/SEC Invitational tips off on Tuesday night with a pair of games in Nashville, the first of which features USF (3-4) taking on Vanderbilt (6-3). The Bulls certainly don’t head into this game in the best condition, suffering a 70-55 beating at the hands of Niagara on Sunday afternoon. You could use the reasoning that Stan Heath was working in newcomers Augustus Gilchrist and Mike Mercer after they sat out the first six games due to transfer rules, but that doesn’t explain getting beat on the boards 42-33 or four starters combining for fourteen of their seventeen turnovers. Senior guard Jesus Verdejo has been the most consistent perimeter shooter for the Bulls, while Dominique Jones is up to his old tricks as one of the better scorers in the Big East.
But it’s the little things, along with missing a big man the caliber of Kentrell Gransberry that has gotten them off to a sluggish start. Gilchrist will help with their lack of size, but the big men they do have lack experience. USF is just about breaking even on the glass, and the foul shooting has been atrocious in the early going. 56.9% from the charity stripe is not going to get the job done, especially when you’re averaging 20.6 attempts per game. This team isn’t good enough right now to be leaving too many points on the floor, and that’s exactly what got them in trouble in losses to the likes of Virginia (77-75), UAB (78-77 OT) and UCF (71-63).
The Commodores aren’t necessarily a bruising team themselves, but in sophomore A.J. Ogilvy they’ve got one of the best pivots in the SEC. Ogilvy leads Vandy in scoring and rebounding (15.3, 6.6) so far, and freshman Jeffrey Taylor has helped out both on the glass and in the scoring column (13.8, 6.3). Junior guard Jermaine Beal is the third Commodore to have started every game this season, and while he’s only fifth on the team in scoring his leadership and ability to get the ball to the right people in the right spots (assist/turnover ratio of 1.9) has been a constant.
Neither team has been the type to blow their opponents out, although both do have a couple of wins of that variety this season. Vanderbilt is slightly better at scoring right now, but adding a weapon the caliber of Mercer could turn the tide in this one. However, with there not being much to separate the two teams you have to look at the little things. More specifically the foul line where Vanderbilt has made 74.3% of their attempts (they’ve also attempted seventy-four more foul shots than USF). It’ll be close, but look for Kevin Stallings’ team to pull out the victory.
Winner: Vanderbilt Margin: 1-4 pts.
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About Raphielle Johnson
College sports has always been a source of excitement for Raphielle Johnson, be it through watching, writing, or taking a shot in the dark and walking onto a college football team just to live the life (Arizona Football, 2001). Raphielle is the assistant editor, providing his own work in addition to helping out with the site operations. When not writing for CHN, you can usually find him in front of a television set watching one of many pay-per-view sports packages that he owns. He can be followed at twitter.com/raphiellej.
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