Originally Published: February 24, 2012

Is Vanderbilt Poised To Upset Kentucky?

By Eamonn Brennan & Myron Medcalf

Editor's note: Myron Medcalf and Eamonn Brennan chatted Thursday, and looked ahead to the Vanderbilt-Kentucky matchup Saturday and other games this weekend.

Myron Medcalf: Another day, another dollar, another Watercooler convo. You like how I said "convo" instead of "conversation," don't you, Eamonn?

What's up?

Eamonn Brennan: That's how we keep it hip and relevant for the kids. Turn up the Skrillex on your Zunes, you rascals! Here comes the freshness!

MM: Word. I'm excited for the weekend on the hardwood. I actually think Vandy-Kentucky will be a great game. It was a great matchup when they met Feb. 11. Vandy held its own and even secured a late lead. And the Wildcats haven't looked invincible over their past three games. Do you smell an upset?

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Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesAnthony Davis towered over Vandy in their first matchup. How would the Wildcats adjust if Davis got into foul trouble?

EB: I do not. Sure, Vandy hung around with Kentucky in Nashville. Sure, the Commodores made a late push. And yeah, Kentucky was tested. But it passed with flying colors. That last four minutes, UK flipped some sort of crazy-defense switch. It was like the Wildcats all looked at each other and said, "This team isn't scoring again." And Vanderbilt didn't. Other than an unlikely barrage of 3s, I don't know how Kevin Stallings' team solves the UK riddle. It's very difficult to imagine.

MM: True. The Wildcats have that switch. It's like they just wait to use it when necessary. Vulnerable is probably the wrong word. They've just looked bored during their past three games. It's like they're waiting for a big challenge. Vandy, like Ole Miss and MSU, put up a fight for a stretch. And then, boom! The Wildcats took off. Good or bad, in terms of national title hopes, that Kentucky is cruising like this? Would it be better served by a tough game right now to get ready for March?

EB: I'm sure the Wildcats' coach would prefer that each of the rest of their games be like Mississippi State -- a team that came out guns blazing with an upset in mind, forcing Kentucky to react and overcome in the second half. At this point in the season, UK doesn't need confidence boosts or dominant, wow-we're-awesome, 40-point victories. There's a lot more value to hard-fought games, because in the tournament, you have to win six increasingly difficult ones. Better to get this young team used to that now.

In fact, if I'm John Calipari, I'm hoping Anthony Davis gets in foul trouble Saturday. Not because I want to lose, of course. But because I want my team to learn how to play without him, in case such a scenario arises in the tournament. It very well could.

MM: I agree. That's the scenario that terrifies Kentucky fans. Sweet 16 game versus Wichita State, and AD picks up two fouls in the first 10 minutes of the game. Speaking of the Shockers, they're playing Drake this weekend, and the last time these two teams met, we had a triple-overtime game. That's one of my sleeper picks for game of the weekend along with Colorado State-SDSU and Purdue-Michigan. What game are you most excited about excluding Vandy-UK and Mizzou-KU?

EB: Love the Purdue-Michigan pick. Huge game for the Boilers.

To read the rest of Eamonn and Myron's conversation at the Watercooler, click here.

No. 3 Missouri at No. 5 Kansas

By Jay Bilas

When and where: Saturday (CBS, 4 p.m. ET), Allen Fieldhouse (Lawrence, Kan.)

The setup: Kansas and Missouri are coming off less than stellar performances. The Jayhawks won an ugly game against Texas A&M, while the Tigers are coming off perhaps their worst conference game of the season, a home loss to Kansas State. But in a happy place or not, this game is not for those who are ready to play. This game is for those who are prepared for a fight. Saturday at The Phog will be the Big 12's top two scoring teams, with Missouri leading the league in scoring (73.7) and second in field goal percentage (48.1), while Kansas is second in scoring (73.5) and leads in field goal percentage (48.4).

Kansas leads the Big 12 in scoring defense (60.8) and field goal percentage defense (38.1), and also tops every Big 12 team in scoring margin (+12.1), perhaps the most important indicator of a team's strength and efficiency (and, predictably, a metric that is completely ignored by the RPI). Missouri is second in the league in scoring margin (+7.0), but is a shaky fifth in the Big 12 in scoring defense (66.7), and dead last in the Big 12 in field goal percentage defense (46.9).

Kansas leads the league in rebound margin (+5.7 to Missouri's -1.0), blocks, assists and steals. The Jayhawks might not be deep, but they are rock solid. The Tigers might not be deep, but they are dynamic and fearless. This is one of the great games of the season, and has the chance to be a memorable spectacle. The game needs more matchups like this one.

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AP Photo/Sue OgrockiKansas' Thomas Robinson had 25 points and 13 rebounds in the first meeting against Missouri.

Neither team can rely upon significant bench production. Kansas, in my judgment (and as reflected in The Bilas Index), is the better team because the Jayhawks have size and the ability to get the ball inside where they have higher percentage shots and more opportunities to get fouled. If you recall from the first meeting, Kansas seemed to have the game in its win column with three minutes to go and an eight-point lead, but the Jayhawks made a couple of mistakes, and the fearless Marcus Denmon made the Jayhawks pay for every one of them and willed Missouri to the home win.

After the game, I was walking down the hallway to the locker rooms and passed Kansas star Tyshawn Taylor using the wall to hold himself up. Anyone who believes these players don't care is simply incorrect. They care deeply, and Taylor showed how much he had invested in that game. He was mentally and physically spent, and devastated about the loss.

That game was incredible in its solid play. Both teams shot better than 50 percent from the floor, a rarity in today's bump and grind games. Missouri hit 10 three-point field goals and doubled up the Jayhawks in free throw attempts. One thing is certain, the Jayhawks cannot get a bagel from Jeff Withey and expect to win, even at home. In Columbia, Withey played 23 minutes and did not score, grabbing four rebounds.

After that first game, it was clear to me that both Kansas and Missouri are capable of reaching a Final Four, and fully capable of winning this thing with a good draw and some good fortune. Kansas is probably better suited for it, because of its inside strength and ability to get the ball inside and get to the free throw line. Missouri will cause problems because of its style differences and match-up problems it poses, but the Tigers are vulnerable to a lot of teams on bad shooting nights.

To read the rest of Jay Bilas' Tigers-Jayhawks breakdown, click here.


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