Thursday, March 20, 2008

Vandy-Siena: Keys to the Game

If you scroll down this page, you’ll see the youtube videos of first round upsets in recent years. Siena wants to become the next big thing on youtube Friday night when they face Vanderbilt. The Commodores enter tournament play losers of three of their last five games, so they will have to step it up to avoid the upset in Tampa. Here are a few keys to victory.


Handle the press: Siena is a running and pressing team, and they want to force turnovers. The Commodores have been shaky at times against full court pressure, although they have improved over the course of the season. Take a look at the box-scores against pressing teams earlier in the year, and you’ll find the Commodores turned the ball over 20 times against UMass and 22 times in the loss at Tennessee. Both Auburn and Arkansas tried pressing Vanderbilt in the SEC Tournament, and the Dores handled it fairly well. Siena is hoping Vanderbilt handles pressure defense more like they did in January than they have recently.

Establish A.J. Ogilvy: I’ll use a football analogy to explain this. If a football team has a passing oriented offense, then it is helpful to establish the run. Just ask Brett Favre how much Ryan Grant meant to him this past season or Peyton Manning how much Joseph Addai means to him. Similarly, getting Ogilvy involved early can give shooters Shan Foster, Alex Gordon, and Jermaine Beal (Beal has hit enough open threes for me to put him in that sequence) space to shoot. This should be obvious to Vanderbilt since nobody on Siena’s roster is taller than 6-9, and nobody who receives quality playing time is above 6-7. So asserting your 6-10 future pro is a clear objective.

Defend the perimeter: Siena is going to hoist up a lot of three pointers. Vanderbilt can be vulnerable at times to guards who penetrate and kick the ball out to a wing. If they want to win the mental battle with Siena and keep the Saints from sensing an upset, defending the three is a must.


Make Neltner, Gordon, and Beal beat you: This is easier said than done. When Ogilvy and Foster have struggled though, it’s been because of feisty, aggressive defense. They will probably cover Foster with a combination of guards Kenny Hasbrouck and Edwin Ubiles, who if they are smart will watch game film of Arkansas stopper Sonny Weems, who held Foster in check last Friday.

Rebound: This is one of the few games in which Vanderbilt has a distinct size advantage down low and should out-rebound their opponent. So while their goal is to bully Siena in the post, the Saints hope they can snare at least enough rebounds to prevent Vanderbilt from getting too many second chance points.

Hope the threes are falling: This goes hand-in-hand with the last point. If Vanderbilt is able to take advantage of its size inside, Siena will have to be lights out from the perimeter. And if they make a few early and build confidence, watch out for the Saints.

Bottom Line

Of all the teams Vanderbilt has played this year, Siena seems to most resemble UMass. They were a mentally tough, running team who took a 14-point lead on Vanderbilt in the first half in Memorial Gymnasium before Vanderbilt exploded for 61 points in the second half for a 97-88 win. Foster scored 32 points in that game, while Ogilvy contributed 25 points and 10 rebounds. Vanderbilt needed a third scorer to beat UMass, which ended up being Beal with 19 points. So if Friday night’s game is the track meet Siena wants it to be, he, Gordon, or Neltner will have to step up their offense.

The difference maker could be Ogilvy. These two teams are similar, except for the fact that one has a future NBA-er at the center spot. This is why contrary to what several members of the national media picked, I have the Commodores moving on to play on Sunday in my bracket.


Anonymous said...

It's great to find your blog. I am an '83 grad, and tried to check out the NCAA coverage in the online Hustler, and it doesn't seem to know that Vandy is in the tournament. You are doing a great job. My family drove down Monday from Nashville, on the countdown until tomorrow. Went to the Phillies/Tampa Bay spring training game and met other Vandy fans from Tampa who are excited about the game. Weather is great - home to show all the naitonal media that we are NOT overrated. Our criticism of playing better at home - it is hard to play better on the road if you are undefeated at home! And who doesn't play better at home? GO DORES!

Unknown said...

Awesome. Finally, some good coverage of the Siena matchup that doesn't focus on our Memorial Gym record. (Now the only thing we're still missing is the big screen viewing party in the SLC like last year.) Keep up the good work everyone!

Will Gibbons said...

I also meant to mention a few guys to watch for on their team, since they are not on television much. Edwin Ubiles (#23) scores 17.3 points per game for them, Kenny Hasbrouck (#41) scores 15.6 ppg, and Alex Franklin (#42) 15.2. Those are all basically wing players, so it's pretty apparent that they want to score from the wings, either by driving or making threes.

David Shochat said...

While I agree that the styles of Siena and UMass seem to be similar, I think UMass was a much more talented team. Siena beat Stanford early in the year without Brook Lopez but got destroyed by Memphis. The way the tourney is shaping up so far if Vandy doesn't win by 15 or more i would be very disappointed. As long as we establish Ogilvy early and often, Ogilvy realizes that he is our best option on offense and doesn't get in foul trouble, and beat Siena's zone with our shooting should they zone us, I think this will be an easy win. If we fail to rebound, let Siena get points off turnovers, think Shan will do it all, and let Siena shoot open threes then we will be the upset just like everyone is picking. As the tourney continues to play out, let's hope we aren't the first major upset...

Jarred Amato said...

anonymous, thanks so much for the compliments. I just arrived in Tampa after a 12-hour drive through the night. And you're right, the weather is perfect. I'll be at all four games at the St. Pete Times Forum today, giving you guys all the latest news and notes. And like you, I think Vandy will prove Seth Davis and the rest of the national media members wrong tonight...Can't wait for a great day of college basketball.