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February 28, 2007QUICK FACTS
Vanderbilt (18-9, 9-5 SEC) at South Carolina (14-13, 4-10 SEC), Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2007. Tip-off: 6:30 P.M. CT.
RPI: Vanderbilt: 30 (SOS 15); South Carolina: 83 (SOS 23)
Rankings: Vanderbilt is listed No. 19 in the AP poll and No. 23 in the ESPN-USA Today poll. South Carolina is not ranked in either poll.
Sagarin ratings: Vanderbilt: 50; South Carolina: 91
Line: South Carolina is a 1 point favorite
Series info: This is the 40th meeting between the two schools. South Carolina holds a 19-13 lead in the series since joining the SEC in 1992. The Gamecocks lead the all-time series 21-18; South Carolina leads 10-7 in Columbia and 2-1 at neutral sites; Vanderbilt leads 10-9 in Nashville.
Coaches: Kevin Stallings is in his eighth year at Vanderbilt (141-105) and his 14th year overall (263-168); Dave Odom is in his sixth year at South Carolina (114-83) and his 21st year overall (392-257).
Radio: In Nashville, the game is carried on the ISP Radio Network (WGFX 104.5 FM).
Television: The game will not be televised.
3 - Alex Gordon, G, 5-11, 164, Jr., Pensacola, Fla. (8.0 ppg, 3.6 apg)
32 - Shan Foster, G/F, 6-6, 200, Jr., Kenner, La. (14.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg)
4 - Derrick Byars, G/F, 6-7, 230, Sr.-Tr., Memphis, Tenn. (16.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.0 apg)
20 - Dan Cage, G, 6-5, 215, Sr., Indianapolis, Ind. (11.6 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.0 apg)
41 - Ross Neltner, F, 6-9, 247, Jr.-Tr., Fort Thomas, Ky. (10.0 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 2.3 apg)
1 - Tre Kelley, G, 6-0, 190, Sr., Washington, D.C. (18.7 ppg, 5.0 apg)
4 - Bryce Sheldon, G, 6-4, 196, Sr., Torrance, Calif. (8.8 ppg, 1.7 rpg)
5 - Brandis Raley-Ross, G, 6-2, 195, Fr., Charlotte, N.C. (5.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg)
21 - Dominique Archie, F, 6-7, 208, Fr., Augusta, Ga. (8.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg)
33 - Brandon Wallace, 6-9, 203, Sr., Jackson, S.C. (10.1 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 2.8 bpg)
SCOUTING SOUTH CAROLINA
South Carolina and Vanderbilt may have started the season in similar positions, but their paths since the start of league play have been polar opposites. After a seris of lackluster pre-conference performances, vanderbilt turned their season around and have essentially locked up a bid to the NCAA Tournament. South Carolina, by contrast, has bottomed out in the SEC East, and is now playing for yet another NIT bid. Even that is not guaranteed.
Coach Dave Odom got a two year contract extension at the end of last season, and now that appears to have been a mistake that Carolina's leadership may remedy. Notwithstanding the phenomenal talents of Tre Kelley, Carolina is a faceless team that rarely comes together to make big plays when the game is on the line.
The Commodores won the season's previous game in Nashville, taking a 10 point decision. After a slow start, Byars basically took over the game, scoring a career-high 32 points on 11-of-15 shooting. As a team, Vandy was 11-of-24 from 3-point land.
Vanderbilt's game plan was obvious from the start: take Kelley out of the offense. With an array of double team traps, Kelley -- who was the league's top scorer in SEC games -- was 7-of-15 from the field, but also had three turnovers. Sheldon, Day, Baniulis and Raley-Ross were a combined 8-of-41 from the field for the game.
Until recently, the Commodores had been an above average road team, with wins at Kentucky and at LSU. But in retrospect, the win in Baton Rouge was fool's gold, and VU's lopsided losses at Mississippi State and Tennessee bring some doubt into Vanderbilt's road readiness. The fact that South Carolina is a one point favorite tonight is clear indication that most believe they are not.
The only glaring statistical differences between these two clubs, other than their records, is in offensive efficiency and assist-to-turnover ratio -- and both favor Vandy. VU out-shoots SC 46 percent to 42.5 percent from the field, out-scores them 76 ppg to 67 ppg, and has a much better assist/turnover ratio.
It waits to be seen how motivated South Carolina will be tonight. The school had their senior night on Saturday, and fans have no taste for yet another trip to the Not Invited Tournament. While Odom may be the first SEC coach to get canned at season's end, there doesn't appear to be a groundswell of moral support from his players. SC is 2-6 over the last eight games, including a 63-49 shellacking at Florida last Wednesday.
SC did beat Ole Miss on Saturday, however, in a game the Rebels probably had to win to make the NCAA Tournament. Three of Carolina's four conference wins have come in Columbia, including an 81-64 blowout of Tennessee on February 16.
By contrast, Vanderbilt has everything to play for tonight. After their win over Kentucky on Saturday, VU is now in sole possession of second place in the SEC East. A win over Carolina would give them a lock on the No. 2 seed in the SEC Tournament next weekend, meaning VU would get a first day bye.
Despite the fantastic things this Vanderbilt team has accomplished thus far, there still feels like there's some unfinished business left on their menu. VU certainly got the UK monkey off of its back, with consecutive sweeps of the series. Also, an emotional win over Florida more than proved that this team was worthy of the accolades they were receiving.
But then there is South Carolina. Though the talent between these two teams always appears similar, Odom always seems to find ways to get under Stallings' skin. The SEC series record between the two schools proves it.
But the bell appears to have tolled for Odom in Columbia. Fan and media discontent has begun to boil over into anger, as Carolina has steadily slipped into the bottom third of the league with little hope of turning things around quickly.
For the Commodores, this is a game that could really put this team over the top as they head into the home court finale for Byars, Cage and Skuchas this Saturday. What Byars in particular has done since his 32-point performance in the first contest he has continued since. He is now being mentioned as a conference Player of the Year candidate, and a late first round pick in the NBA draft.
Where is Carolina's head tonight? Will they be motived to go out in style, or will they pack it in and go home with their tail between their leg? That is the X-factor tonight.
The key matchup will again be Vandy's defensive strategy against Kelley. He got his points in the first game, but the rest of his team was relegated to persona non grata as a result. I expect to see Stallings try the same tactics tonight, and with similar results.
Vanderbilt 79, South Carolina 69
VandySports.com Staff Writer
One must only assume that once a team is fairly well entrenched in the top twenty five, features the odds on favorite for SEC POY and has just completed the first back to back sweeps of the most storied program in SEC history since the span between Jan 22nd 1972 and March 2nd 1974.
Well even in Columbia a young bad USC-Columbia squad shouldn't scare said team.
Tre Kelley is a fantastic ball player and his coach Dave Odom is a fantastic tactician and motivator. Now that's just about where I run out of great things to say about The Gamecocks in 2007. Oh and if they manage to put any butts in the seats after the way this dismal season is progressing that is an intimidating actor that always had bothered the Commodores before last season's break through victory in Columbia.
So can a team that just survived the best shot UK could muster (when the Cats so sorely needed to improve road RPI for their NCAA hopes) go to Columbia and underachieve? In a word yes. Will Coach Odom have some elaborate plan for Dee Bee in an attempt to derail his road to SEC POY? Could be, but just maybe Coach Stallings is ready for that train of thought and has a nice little "sucka punch" planned just in case.
Vanderbilt 71, South Carolina 66
All along I have felt Vanderbilt would win this game, but now I am getting cold feet. Carolina is always a tough draw for Vandy regardless of the record, and with the Gamecocks having few games left and little to play for but pride, you figure they'll be up for tonight.
Also problematic is that the Commodores seem to play better when their backs are against the wall, and not-so-well otherwise. Saturday's victory over UK gave this team a bit of a cushion, and all the 'Dores are playing for now is NCAA Tournament seeding.
Within the matchups, Carolina will play physically, and Kelley will be hard to stop as always. The 'Dores need to get a quick start, which has been difficult on the road late, and keep the crowd out of the game. Unfortunately, they haven't been great at doing either of late.
Matchup-wise, Vandy should win this one, and maybe I am crazy for picking against them. But too many things seem to add up against it, and so tonight I'm going with the Gamecocks.
South Carolina 70, Vanderbilt 64
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