Vanderbilt Basketball: How Vanderbilt Can Upset No.1 Kentucky Wildcats

Harrison BucContributor IIFebruary 11, 2012

John Jenkins is the top scorer in the SEC
John Jenkins is the top scorer in the SECKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Nashville is home to Vanderbilt University and one of the toughest college basketball venues in the nation, Memorial Gym.

The Vanderbilt Commodores (17-7, 6-3) have beaten the past four No.1 teams to come through their den, most recently against top-ranked Florida in 2007.

The No.1 Kentucky Wildcats (24-1, 10-0) have only lost one game this entire season, are on a 16-game winning streak and are a perfect 10-0 in the SEC.

Although Vanderbilt is not ranked this week, their current position and record are not accurate representations of how good this team actually is.

VU's John Jenkins and Jeffrey Taylor are the number one and two scorers, respectively, in the Southeastern Conference, and are extremely dangerous from beyond the arc.

However, Kentucky's young guns, led by Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, have been the top freshmen in all of college basketball.

UK has had a tough time recently at Memorial, as VU has beaten Kentucky at home five out of the past six times, and in the one loss, only fell by two points.

Key Matchups

Festus Ezeli vs. Anthony Davis

The battle down low on both ends of the floor is going to play a major factor in the outcome of this game. Although Ezeli is two inches taller and 35 pounds larger, both have extreme blocking potential and rebounding ability.

Freshman Anthony Davis has been a powerful force for Kentucky's success.
Freshman Anthony Davis has been a powerful force for Kentucky's success.Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Dores need to quickly get the ball down on the block and allow Ezeli to power through and get Davis into foul trouble.  If Davis can rack up some early fouls, Vanderbilt will have a major advantage at home.

The offensive battle will be crucial between these two, as Davis averages 14 points-per-game to Ezeli's 10 points-per-game.

Ezeli has been playing well as of late and is coming off a 21 point performance against LSU on Thursday.

Vanderbilt's Guards vs. Kentucky's Perimeter Defense 

John Jenkins is the most dangerous three-point shooter in the nation with 89, the most in the NCAA. If Doron Lamb and Marquis Teague apply pressure on Jenkins and contest on threes, Vandy will have trouble offensively. 

However, if the ball movement flows and Brad Tinsley doesn't turn the ball over too much, Jenkins and Taylor should get some open space to knock down threes. Ezeli's paint success will open up the deep shots even more.

Also, Jeffrey Taylor's ability to penetrate will open up the drive-and-kick for Jenkins' three-point shot.

Kentucky vs. Memorial Gym

Vanderbilt's home court is raised off the floor of the gym, creating almost a stage in the middle where the game is played. Also, with the team benches on the endzones and loud students going crazy, it's going to be very tough for John Calipari to communicate to his young squad.

Kentucky's only loss of the season was in a similar atmosphere at Indiana University's Assembly Hall. How can UK handle the primetime pressure in a hostile environment?

A major supporting role for Vanderbilt is Lance Goulbourne, who is playing with confidence and is powerfully rebounding the ball. Also, he provides strong defense, which will be a major factor against this quick Kentucky team.

Look for the house to be rockin' in this 9 p.m. EST tip-off on ESPN.