Vanderbilt Looking for First Conference win in Lexington versus Kentucky
The start of conference play has not been good to the Vanderbilt Commodores men's basketball team. In fact, it's been about as bad as anything Stephen King could have written for a horror film.
The road doesn't get any easier today as the Commodores are on the road, in Lexington to fave Kentucky at Rupp Arean as Vanderbilt tries to turn their fortunes around, It's a tough task, but should the Commodores find a way to win, beating the Wildcats on their home floor would be just the medicine this team, and it's beleaguered fanbase need,
While Kentucky head coach John Calipari says the Commodores have a chance to upset his Ctas, if they shoo the basketball well, it is still a tall task for Vanderbilt as the Wildcats have the one thing that has given them trouble, even before the loss of Aaron Nesmith, a big, physical inside presence.
Nick Richards is that presence for the Cats. Standing 7'0" the junior has come into his own and is their leading scorer, averaging 14.7 ppg and grabbing a team-leading 8.1 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game.
Richards is backed by the guard trio of Immanuel Quickly (14.0 ppg), Ashton Hagans (13.2) and Tyrese Maxey (13.0) as the only four Wildcats averaging double figures in scoring.
Hagans runs the show as the point guard, averaging 7.3 assists and 2.2 steals per game along with his double-figure scoring. He will be a challenge for whoever draws the assignment for Vanderbilt.
The Wildcats as a team average 75.7 points per game while surrendering 65.2 per outing defensively. But it's their rebounding with not only Richards but also EJ Montgomery (6'10") and Nate Sestina (6'9") who add depth, and size inside for the Big Blue,
Kentucky will also have a decided advantage with depth, with nine players averaging double-figure minutes, as three Cats (Quickley, Hagans, Massey) average over 30 minutes while three others (Richards, Montgomery, Sestina0 average over 20 per contest. Keon Brooks Jr. and Johnny Juzang each log more than 10 minutes a night.
Then there is the 23,000 plus blue-clad fans who jam into the arena every time the Cts take the floor, meaning it will be a loud and hostile crowd awaiting the Commodores.
Calipari might not be wrong in saying Vanderbilt can win if they make shots, the problem is that the Commodores have been so inconsistent with their outside shooting that it is easy to believe he's using coach-speak.
It might be coach-speak but should the Commodores as a group bring their best shooting night, the three-point-shot is a great equalizer and could lead them to an upset.
However, that doesn't seem likely and if it does not happen, the Commodores will find themselves in sole possession of an SEC record no one wants to hold.