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MBB Vanderbilt Commodores Preview

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Previewing Thursday's game against Vanderbilt, Baylor's Big 12-SEC challenge opponent

Commodores Head Coach Kevin Stallings
Commodores Head Coach Kevin Stallings
Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

At 6pm CT on Thursday night, your Baylor Bears will take on the Vanderbilt Commodores in Memorial Gym. The Bears already have one road win against an SEC opponent in South Carolina. Getting a second road win in Nashville won't be easy.

To get the hometown lowdown on Vandy, check out our SB Nation buddies Anchor of Gold.

Take a quick look at the Commodores:

Player Class Pos Ht Summary
Wade Baldwin FR G 6-3 8.8 Pts, 5.0 Reb, 6.2 Ast
Matthew Fisher-Davis FR G-F 6-5 6.0 Pts, 2.0 Reb, 1.6 Ast
Josh Henderson SR C 6-11 1.7 Pts, 2.3 Reb, 0.2 Ast
Damian Jones SO C 6-10 17.2 Pts, 7.7 Reb, 1.3 Ast
Carter Josephs JR G 6-0 0.0 Pts, 0.3 Reb, 0.0 Ast
Luke Kornet SO C 7-0 12.3 Pts, 4.3 Reb, 0.3 Ast
Riley LaChance FR G 6-2 11.3 Pts, 2.8 Reb, 2.7 Ast
Shelton Mitchell FR G 6-3 4.2 Pts, 2.7 Reb, 4.3 Ast
Shelby Moats SR F 6-8 1.8 Pts, 1.6 Reb, 0.2 Ast
Jeff Roberson FR F 6-6 3.8 Pts, 4.3 Reb, 1.5 Ast
James Siakam SR F 6-7 6.8 Pts, 5.4 Reb, 0.4 Ast
Nathan Watkins JR G 6-5 0.0 Pts, 0.3 Reb, 0.0 Ast
Provided by Sports-Reference.com/CBB: View Original Table
Generated 12/3/2014.

Vanderbilt wants to score with their bigs. 6-10 SO Damian Jones is the team's leading scorer, doing most of his damage inside. He is shooting above .600 from 2pt range on a team-leading 9.5 attempts per game while also shooting above .700 from the line, where he is averaging 6.7 attempts per game. Fellow sophomore big man Luke Kornet is, deceptively, the best perimeter shooter for Vandy this season. He averages 3.8 3pt attempts to 3.2 2pt attempts, knocking down the deep shot at an absurd rate of .565. That twin towers, inside-outside combo might be tough for Baylor to handle. The Bears don't have anyone quite as big as Jones inside, and it will be tough for the sub-6' point guards to challenge the outside shot of a 7' center.

Freshman point guard Wade Baldwin is sporting a 3.7 assist/turnover ratio, very good for a first year player. In large part due to his skills as a distributor, Vanderbilt is first in the country in assists per made field goals. Baldwin is a threat to score from pretty much anywhere, even though he doesn't shoot often. He's 11-13 from the charity stripe, 6-14 from 2pt, and 7-12 from 3pt. If the Bears can limit his abilities as a passer and force him to shoot more than he is comfortable, that might be a way to disrupt Vandy's game plan.

Now, Baylor's zone should mitigate some of those size discrepancies. You can expect Coach Stallings will have some tricks up his sleeves to try to take advantage of that zone, including this little play he demonstrated on the SEC Network earlier this year (apologies for the autoplay you suffered earlier):

Vanderbilt does not force many turnovers on defense. They cause a turnover on only 16.6% of opponent possessions (310th) and steal the ball only 6.5% of the time (327th), per KenPom. The Baylor guards should have some room to breath and create for teammates. As long as they don't force the ball, there should be relatively few turnovers.

The key to this game might come down to the three point shot. I mentioned the efficiency of Kornet and Baldwin above, and as a team the Commodores are shooting .440 (8th). Additionally, they defend the three point line well - or at least, their opponents have shot poorly from deep, only connecting on .240 of threes. Baylor is only moderately above average from three (.357), but defends the three well, holding opponents to .236 from outside. Neither team plays particularly fast (both average about 61 possessions per game), so this game will likely come down to efficient shot making. Thus far, Baylor has been fantastic at forcing opponents into inefficient shooting (opponents are averaging 38.5% effective fg percentage, 6th nationally).

Despite their size, Vanderbilt is not the greatest rebounding team. If The Bears can take advantage and dominate the glass on both ends, and if they can limit Jones on the inside and put pressure on Baldwin, they have a good chance to upset the Commodores in their home gym, which, by the way, has one of those weird giant floors.

Baylor has a good shot at improving their record to 7-1 on Thursday (KenPom gives Baylor a 63% chance to win) and collect a fairly valuable road win for their resume. If you're in the Nashville area, get out there and support your Bears!