Recon: Vanderbilt

Recon: Vanderbilt

There’s not a bigger waste of time than creating a science fair project for school. For the most part, every kid puts it off until the last day and regurgitates the same trite experiments year after year. Some kids plugged electrodes into raw potatoes to produce enough electricity to light a tiny bulb, while others poured vinegar into a shitty clay volcano filled with baking soda to produce a chemical money shot. There were also the mouth breathers that would simply rub a balloon on their head to produce electricity; we would come to find out that these were “latchkey kids.”

The adults looked at their watches, pretended to be impressed by what was essentially tangible evidence of a failed education system and some Asian kid would get a ribbon for creating a robot that could perform a gastrostomy (this kid will someday invent a sex robot – the PekaSuka 2000 – make sure your kids are good friends with him, trust me).

Regardless, no one learned anything and it was all forgotten about the next day.

That’s sort of where the Flyers are right now (and to an extent, the same situation tomorrow’s opponent, Vanderbilt, finds itself). We are seven games in and no one can honestly what this team is capable of. We all have our “hypothesis,” but little data to back it up.

Tomorrow night’s game in Nashville will be a telling indicator of just how good the Daytona Fliers are, what their potential may be going forward. UD doesn’t want to be the cretin rubbing a balloon on his head.  

Overview

Vanderbilt is currently 6-2 on the year, with losses coming against Kansas in the Maui Invitational final and a two-point defeat to Baylor this past Sunday night in Waco. With no substantial wins and a couple of close losses to excellent teams (a.k.a. Notre Dame football wins) on their resume, it’s nearly impossible to measure just how good of a team the Commodores are at this point. Kevin Stallings is entering his seventeenth season as the head coach at Vandy, sporting a .605 winning percentage during his reign.  

The ‘Dores return four starters from a 21-14 squad that got bounced out of the NIT quarterfinals by Stanford a year ago. Vanderbilt was picked second in the SEC’s preseason poll, sandwiched between Kentucky and Texas A&M (future UD opponent Arkansas was slotted as the eleventh best team in the conference).  

One thing is for certain, these boys are big. Vandy’s roster has three players that are seven feet or taller, just an absolute freak show. Having that type of size on the roster leads to two assumptions: the Commodores are a slow, plodding team offensively and absolutely dominate opponents on the boards. Yes and no. Vanderbilt does play at a rather measured pace, averaging around seventy possessions per game. However, even with mongoloids peppering their roster, the Commodores are a subpar rebounding squad – clocking a rebounding rate of 48% (rebounding rate is an estimate of the percentage of missed shots a team snags per game).  

For the season, Vanderbilt is shooting 49.3% from the floor and 40.3% from three, outrebounding opponents by a +5.1 margin. Stallings’ squad averages a stellar 1.17 points per possession and come into their matchup with Dayton turning the ball over just ten times a contest. The Commodores are an efficient team that will not beat themselves.

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Here’s a sentence I read about Vandy sophomore point-guard Wade Baldwin on the interwebs:

“When Baldwin first showed up on campus, he was a little like a wild stallion, and the Vanderbilt staff a little like cowboys trying to break him…but not too much.”

There’s so much going on in that sentence – some racial overtones, some clearly gay connotations. Just a great passage all around. Baldwin is the team’s top bucket-getter (sorry) and is hitting 54% of his three-point attempts. The Commodore offense funnels through him. Riley LaChance joins Baldwin in the starting backcourt. A second team All-SEC preseason selection, LaChance will bomb from the outside with impunity.

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Matthew Fisher-Davis (never let you children have a hyphenated name, by the way. It almost assures that he/she will work in human resources), starts at the three. Fisher-Davis is a bit of a “glue” guy. He’ll hit some threes, grab some boards, fuck your girlfriend. In other words, a renaissance man.  

Up front are the giants, seven-one Luke Kornet and seven-foot Damian Jones. Kornet is a big boy, one of the better shot-blockers in the country and has the capability to step outside and knock down threes, although he is off to a slow start this season – hitting just 3-of-22 from downtown this year. Jones is a prototypical center; he hangs around the basket, gets put-backs and blocks shots. Kornet and Davis will be tough matchups for UD, Kendall Pollard and Big Steve, two foul-prone gentlemen, must stay out of foul-trouble for Dayton to have a chance in Nashville (there have been some indications that Kornet is hobbled and will not play against Dayton, let’s hope). 

Jeff Roberson is Vandy’s top player off the pine. He’s the Commodore verison of Kendall Pollard, allowing Stallings to go small when he wants to ratchet up VU’s perimeter attack. Camron Justice would be a good name for a rapper/black superhero. He’s also a white kid from Kentucky with deep range. Nolan Cressler, a transfer from Cornell (finally a kid that didn’t trade in a chance at a first-rate undergrad degree for more playing time!) who, like damn near everyone of Vanderbilt’s roster, can really shoot the ball.

giants_BballNate’s Numbers

If you look at Dayton’s defense right now, they’re 13th in the country in two-point field-goal percentage at 39.4% and are allowing teams to get some of the fewest points inside the arc nationally. Opponents are getting about 44% of their points from inside the three-point line against the Flyers, ranking them a stellar 319th in the country.  Is this due to who they’ve played, the addition of Big Steve on defense or something else?  I think we’re about to find out in this game. 

Vandy shoots 55% from the field on two-point attempts, is third in the country in effective height and nineteenth in average height. This could be a tough night for Big Steve, but if the Flyers are able to hold their own and just be average inside it could say a lot about their interior defense going forward. 

One other additional note is despite the huge size Vanderbilt has, they’re very pedestrian at rebounding. Their OR% while on offense ranks them 144th, while their OR% allowed ranks them 120th.  Both essentially smack dab in the middle of the 350ish teams in D1 college hoops.

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Prediction

I’d love to predict an upset in this game, but none of the indicators I rely on (talent, venue, size, IQ, preppy clothing) seem to be working in UD’s favor. Dayton can certainly take down the Commodores, we aren’t talking about the ’91 UNLV Rebels here, but I foresee foul trouble and little to no contributions from the freshmen. That’s not good. Vandy takes out the Flyers, 77-69.

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Tom Blackburn is a proud U. o’ D. alum. He loses faith in humanity one day at a time, but not in you, you seem like you are all kinds of alright. Charter member of the T-Man fanclub.

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