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BYU vs Vanderbilt Preview: Cougars 5.5-Point Favorites in Diamond Head Classic Semifinals

2021 Diamond Head Classic - BYU v South Florida Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images

After double-digit wins in their first round matchups, BYU and Vanderbilt will face off Thursday night in the semifinals of the Diamond Head Classic.

BYU comes into the game as a 5.5-point favorite in a matchup that will feature two of the best guards in the country in Alex Barcello and Scotty Pippen Jr. These are the two highest ranked KenPom teams in the 8-team field, with BYU ranked 22 and Vanderbilt 77. KenPom gives BYU a 73% win probability and and predicts a 70-64 score in favor of BYU.

Friday is a off day for the tournament, and these teams will play either Liberty or Stanford Christmas Day.

Vanderbilt Preview

The Commodores are led by Preseason SEC Player of the Year Scotty Pippen Jr, the son of his famous namesake. The 6-foot-3 guard has slowed down a bit compared to last season, but he is averaging 17.6 points on the season and shoots 14 shots per game. Te’Jon Lucas will probably get the first chance to guard him, but BYU will also throw Spencer Johnson, Gideon George, and Seneca Knight at Pippen to try to slow him down.

6-foot-6 forward Jordan Wright is the only other Vandy player that averages more than 8 points per game. He averages 12.5 points on the season and leads Vandy with 6.3 boards per game.

7-foot Minnesota transfer Liam Robbins has been out the whole season so far as he nurses a foot injury, and Vanderbilt doesn’t have a lot of size behind him. 6-foot-10 Quentin Millora-Brown starts at the 5 is and really the only true big man that plays. He averages 5.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in just over 20 minutes of play. He’s coming off a 9 point, 9 rebound game last night versus Hawaii.

Vanderbilt is 7-4 on the year and is 0-3 versus top 100 teams, losing to all of them by double digits. They play at a slow tempo and don’t shoot the ball particular well — 299 nationally in three-point percentage — but they defend and rebound the ball well.

If BYU can continue its strong rebounding and not lose the battle on the boards, I think BYU has a bit more punch on offense to come out on top. BYU doesn’t have much of a rim protector without Gavin Baxter, so limiting Pippen’s and others dribble penetration will also be key.

Vanderbilt by the Numbers

KenPom Ranking: 77

NET Ranking: 93

Record: 7-4

Best Wins: at Pitt, Texas State

Losses: VCU, SMU, Temple, Loyola-Chicago