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Florida at Vanderbilt: Preview, Prediction, Odds, Where to Watch and More

Everything you need to know before the Gators close out the 2023-24 regular season on the road against the Vanderbilt Commodores.

For the final time in the 2023-24 regular season, the Florida Gators are set to take the hardwood.

They'll enter enemy territory to take on the SEC's No. 13 squad, the Vanderbilt Commodores, aiming to finish the season with a win before entering SEC Tournament play. 

Doing so would allow Florida to finish 22-9 on the year, good for the program's best win-loss mark since the 2016-17 season, in which UF made an Elite Eight push.

You can find everything you need to know before tip-off between the two SEC foes below, including an in-depth rundown of Florida's opponent, game prediction and more.

Florida Gators (21-9, 11-6 SEC) vs. Vanderbilt Commodores (8-22, 3-14 SEC)

Where: Memorial Gymnasium, Nashville, Tenn.

When: Saturday, March 9 at 4:30 p.m. ET

Watch: SEC Network | fuboTV (start your free trial)

Radio: Gators Sports Network from LEARFIELD | | SiriusXM 208 or 191

Odds: The Gators are 10.5-point favorites over the Commodores on Saturday, according to SI Sportsbook. The over/under for the contest is set at 151.5 points.

Series history: Florida leads the all-time series against Vanderbilt, 74-73, but trail on the road 21-49. In the most recent meeting on Feb. 24, the Gators cruised past the Commodores inside Exactech Arena in Gainesville, 77-64.

Important stories

The rundown 

Since their last meeting with Florida, the Vanderbilt Commodores have climbed slightly in overall efficiency metrics and added an upset victory over Arkansas to their 2023-24 season résumé.

The surge has been led by the unit's big three, Ezra Manjon, Tyrin Lawrence and Ven-Allen Lubin, who have accounted for 72% of the team's scoring production — mainly out of halfcourt pick-and-roll actions from the top of the key — in the three games since the Commodores' loss in Gainesville.

"Their main three are playing even better than the first time around; Majon, Lawrence and Ven-Allen Lubin, I think, are averaging about 55 points over the last three games," Gators head coach Todd Golden said on Friday. "So that trio is effective that way. I think we still have to do a good job of defending the three-point line. That's a way they ran away from us last year, by getting good threes and knocking them down. 

"But that three-headed monster has been a little more aggressive. So being mindful of that and making sure we take care of that, especially in the middle of the floor, 'cause a lot of their sets are ball screens."

However, despite the slight upward trend, Vandy still sits alongside Missouri as the bottom-feeders of the SEC, ranked No. 13 by record in the conference and No. 14 overall per KenPom metrics at No. 200 in adjusted efficiency margin.

Operating primarily out of a small ball lineup, the Commodores' minimal success has come through their ability to protect the basketball. They currently rank No. 69 in turnover percentage (15.4%) and No. 68 in steal percentage (8.2%), per KenPom, which considerably limits opponents' transition opportunities through live-ball turnovers.

The shorter lineup leaves Vanderbilt susceptible to losing on the glass, though, a reality Florida — one of the top rebounding teams in the country — failed to take advantage of last time around, as the Gators were outrebounded by one, 37-38. 

It didn't sway the outcome of that contest, but the effort was a concerning drop in form for one of the country's premier teams on the boards.

As a result, UF emphasized returning to a position of dominance on the boards before its ensuing outing against Missouri. The Gators outrebounded the Tigers by 11 to execute Golden's challenge.

"Yeah, especially coming off our last game where we didn't exactly rebound the best," sophomore center Micah Handlogten said when asked about the team's increased production in the department following the win over Mizzou. 

"I think there's just something that, almost like an ego thing. We didn't want that to happen again. I mean, he [Tyrese Samuel] says I'm the best offensive rebounder in the country, but he out-offensive rebounded me tonight, so. I mean, it's just something that we were able to do, just a mentality thing. We're not going to go out there and get punked again."

The same message is expected to be articulated to Florida ahead of the rematch with Vanderbilt on Saturday. UF aims to remain grounded following Tuesday's monumental win over No. 16 Alabama.

Winning the battle on the boards by a wide margin would position the Gators to easily sweep the season series with the Commodores, likely covering the 10.5-point spread and maintaining the positive momentum Florida has created heading into the SEC Tournament in Nashville.

Brandon's Prediction (18-6): Florida 82, Vanderbilt 70

On paper, Florida has a considerable advantage over a lackluster Commodores team that continues to spiral heading into SEC Tournament play.

Jerry Stackhouse and Co., losers of seven of their last nine contests, have produced concerning numbers on both ends of the floor, resulting in their aforementioned No. 208 standing in offensive efficiency and No. 205 ranking in defensive efficiency this season. In contrast, Florida ranks No. 15 and No. 80, holding a significant upper hand on both ends.

However, this game has the potential to be a letdown if UF comes out sluggish.

Freshly removed from an emotional 18-point win over No. 16 Alabama on Senior Night in the Stephen C. O'Connell Center, the Gators could fall victim to the post-big home win woes that have consistently affected teams in college basketball this season when they hit the road immediately after. 

Florida took advantage of that trend in its blowout win over Auburn on Feb. 10.

In addition, the unique environment Memorial Gymnasium presents will likely keep the game closer than expected.

While the Commodores remain within striking distance for an extended duration of the contest, Florida ultimately pulls away late to prevail over the lesser Vanderbilt squad, 82-70.

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