Rick Barnes isn't the only basketball coach who lost critical players to both transfer and European professional hoops during the spring and summer. During the off season, Vandy coach Kevin Stallings' lost four players with remaining eligibility, three of whom were likely to play key roles. A.J. Astroth and Sheldon Jeter both transferred out of the program, Kevin Bright returned home to Germany to play professionally, and Kedren Johnson left the university for disciplinary reasons.
The 4-2 Commodores come to Austin tonight, and they are still very much a team finding themselves. Stallings' squad has losses against two good teams (Butler and Providence) and struggled to put away a decent Georgia State team. Good in some areas, and poor at others, Vandy figures to be a more or less even match up for the Longhorns.
Vanderbilt is not a team that looks to run, but operates effectively in half-court situations. Guard Eric McClellan is typically the first option on offense; he is the sort of player who attacks off the dribble, creates shots for himself and for teammates, and gets to the rack. The Tulsa transfer also has a decent stroke from three point range, although he hasn't shown it yet this season.
6-9 Rod Odom is a three point shooting specialist who presents special problems to the defense; the thought of him shooting over the top of the 5-11 Javan Felix in a 2-3 zone should have Rick Barnes worried.
6-1 Kyle Fuller is Vanderbilt's other primary ball handler. Like McClellan, he will both attack off the dribble, and will shoot open threes.
Big men Josh Henderson, Damian Jones, and James Siakam all can play; all three are good rebounders, and Jones and Siakam have shown the ability to be difficult to stop finishers at the rim.
Stallings' preferred man-to-man offense features a lot of off-ball screening and movement. Players like McClellan and Fuller will come off screens, catch the ball, and look to either shoot or attack. Should Barnes choose to counter with a zone, the game will be decided in part by what Texas does to prevent McClellan, Fuller, and Odom from getting clean looks from three.
On the defensive end, the Commodores have proven to be good on the glass. Offensive rebounding is the strength of the Texas attack. Who wins the battle on the boards will go a long way in determining who wins the game.
G- Kyle Fuller (6-1)
G- Eric McClellan (6-4)
F- James Siakam (6-7)
F- Rod Odom (6-9)
C- Damian Jones (6-10)
This game is a part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. The event will also pit Florida vs. Kansas and Kentucky against Baylor. And Auburn vs. Iowa State, for those that like to see teams ruthlessly torn apart.
Tip: 8:00 CST