Once the calendar hits mid-February, teams start playing their way onto the bubble and into the tournament or, in Vanderbilt’s case, out of the tournament. The Commodores (15-11, 7-6) were one of Joe Lunardi’s play-in game 11 seeds in his “ESPN Bracketology” before losing to Mississippi State on a buzzer beater Tuesday 75-74.
Now they sit in the ‘First Four Out’ and need a couple wins to get themselves into the tournament. Vanderbilt is 1-5 against ranked teams, with their lone win coming against then-8th ranked Texas A&M, a team that has gone from top-10 to unranked in a couple weeks.
The Georgia Bulldogs (14-10, 7-6) lost an important one at home to Florida 57-53 on Tuesday, a game that may or may not have eliminated them from NCAA Tournament contention, anything is possible with the SEC Tourney looming. Georgia’s last five games are all against unranked teams, so not much of a chance to help themselves before heading to Nashville for the SEC Tournament.
Both teams are tied for sixth in the Southeastern Conference, but only sit 2.5 games out of first. Heading into Saturday’s game, Vanderbilt averages just over eight more points per contest than Georgia (76.8-68.6), and the two teams both play stingy defense (66.9 PPG against for Vanderbilt compared to 67.4 PPG against for the Bulldogs).
Commodores head coach Kevin Stallings, two-time SEC Coach of the Year, says it all just goes back to basics.
Vanderbilt has five players averaging nine or more points per game, with Wade Baldwin IV leading the way with 14.3. Georgia’s offense revolves around big man Yante Maten, averaging 15.8 PPG and 8.0 RPG. The 6’8 sophomore scores an average of 16.8 points in wins, while only scoring a touch over 14 PPG in losses.
Georgia head coach Mark Fox spoke about how tough this Vanderbilt team has been to play against.
After this weekend, Georgia stays on the road as they visit Auburn, followed by a home game against Mississippi. Vandy travels to Gainesville to take on Florida the 23rd, then hosts Kentucky to round out an important month.
Tip-off from the Memorial Gymnasium on Saturday is at noon with coverage on ESPN2.