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Texas vs. Vanderbilt preview: Q&A with Anchor Of Gold

Anchor Of Gold's Christian D'Andrea provided some insight on what we can expect from Vandy on Saturday.

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

With the Texas Longhorns hosting the Vanderbilt Commodores Saturday morning as part of the Big 12-SEC Challenge, Burnt Orange Nation caught up with Anchor Of Gold's Christian D'Andrea for some insight on match ups, scouting, and what to expect.

The Longhorns and Commodores will tip off in Austin at 11 a.m. CT on ESPN2.

BON: Vanderbilt started the season with high hopes and a No. 18 ranking. After a 6-1 start, the Commodores have went 6-7 in their last 13, and sit at 12-8 on the season. The losses haven't been bad losses, with five of eight coming to ranked opponents, so is Vandy looking like a team that's just yet to get over the hump, or one that may fail to live up to the expectations it entered the season with?

AOG: Unfortunately, this team is trending towards the latter -- although a recent 4-1 stretch has brought some optimism. There have been a few caveats to that losing streak -- Vanderbilt had to make due without 2016 breakout player of the year candidate Luke Kornet when he missed a month thanks to a knee injury, and Ken Pomeroy rates Vandy's "luck" metric at 344th in Division I -- but mostly the same fatal flaws that ruined this team when they were rebuilding have continued to haunt them now that they are loaded with talent. Teams who beat Vanderbilt typically defend well, pull down more than 40% of their offensive rebounding opportunities, and force enough turnovers to make me pull out my hair. They'll have to address those problems before we can think of them as the top-15 program their talent suggests they could be.

BON: A match up that could have a significant say in the outcome of Saturday's game will be the point guard battle between Isaiah Taylor and Wade Baldwin IV. While Taylor is one of the quickest and craftiest guards in all of college basketball, Baldwin's defense is stellar and his 6'10 wingspan could cause havoc for Taylor's hope to spread the ball around. How do you see this match up playing out, and will it be what determines the outcome of the game?

AOG: Baldwin is a bullish defender who uses that wingspan to make up for the fact he lacks elite quickness (though he's still pretty fast). However, shifty guards have traditionally put a hurting on Vanderbilt, and I expect Taylor will earn his fair share of drives into the paint. The bigger question for Vandy is whether or not their twin towers -- seven footers Kornet and Damian Jones -- will be on the floor and able to provide help defense without landing in foul trouble. Taylor's biggest contribution may not be his scoring -- it could be his ability to draw fouls in the paint.

On the opposite end of the floor, Baldwin needs to establish his mid-range game. He's a great three-point shooter, but he struggles to finish at the rim despite a solid dribble-drive that affords him solid looks near the rim. He'll have to level up his finishes to be effective in all phases of the game on Saturday.

BON: Damian Jones is unquestionably one of the better big men in the country, and he'll be facing a Texas team without one of it's own better big men in the country in Cameron Ridley. Saturday, he'll primarily be pitted against Prince Ibeh, who seems to be coming into his own a bit with 24 points, 17 boards, and 12 blocked shots over the last two games. Along with Ibeh, Jones will see Shaquille Cleare, who is far from a defensive menace. What kind of performance do you expect to see out of Jones in a game where he seemingly can have his way down low?

AOG: Jones has been hyper-aggressive in the paint recently and, oddly enough, that's come with a reduction in fouls over his past two games. If he can continue to avoid the ticky-tack (and occasionally phantom) fouls that have plagued him, he can take a game over both as a post scorer and a defensive deterrent. He has some of the most vicious dunks in the NCAA, but he's also valuable as a nose tackle up front -- sucking up defenders and creating lanes and open shots for his teammates.

BON: Texas is a team that can get hot in a hurry from deep, with capable shooters seemingly everywhere with Javan Felix, Eric Davis Jr., Tevin Mack, Connor Lammert, and Kerwin Roach Jr. But Vanderbilt is arguably more lethal from deep, with four key players hitting at least 40 percent of their looks to this point - Baldwin (.464), Jeff Roberson (.459), Riley LaChance (.400), and Matthew Fisher-Davis (.489). It's no secret that teams can live and die from the perimeter. Who do you see benefiting most from their looks from deep, and will that be a difference maker in deciding the game?

AOG: I'd argue Vandy is the most lethal three-point shooting team in the country thanks to their eternal green light to chuck it and their abundance of above-average shooters. Matthew Fisher-Davis almost exclusively shoots threes, and if he gets an open look it will be bad news for the Longhorns. Wade Baldwin doesn't seem like he shoots 46% from three, yet here we are. The only guy who concerns me right now is Riley LaChance, who is in a 1-16 shooting slump over his last three games (nine turnovers). If Vandy is feeling it, as they were in a blowout win over Tennessee, they're nearly impossible to stop. If they can't buy a bucket? Better hope that Damian Jones doesn't end up in foul trouble.

BON: Finally, how do you see this game playing out? Will Texas be able to continue its surging play and get a fifth win in six games, or will Vandy come into Austin and steal a road victory to spark a win streak before hosting No. 5 Texas A&M next Thursday?

AOG: With this team, I honestly have no idea. They've typically shrunk against quality opponents, but they finally earned a quality win on Tuesday by beating an ice cold Florida team. They have all the pieces to win, but they still haven't really put together the cohesive 40-minute performance of which a team with two potential lottery picks should be capable. Realistically? I'm going to say the 'Dores stake out to an early first half lead, have it trimmed down to 3-4 points at the half, and then suffer through a pair of four-minute field goal-less droughts that ultimately sink them to a 67-63 loss in Austin.