As this season gets underway, most everyone has very little idea of what to expect from the 2012-13 Vanderbilt Commodores, outside of varying opinions of just how much of a dropoff we would see having to replace a large majority of our minutes and production from last season. Most have guessed that Rod Odom and Kedren Johnson would start, but just how the minutes and roles would be distributed (as well as how positions would be manned) were open questions.
Now that we’ve actually played 2 exhibitions as well as a regular season game against Nichols St. (I was able to witness the first exhibition and the regular season contest), a clearer picture of how this team will shape up is forming, though there remains a lot of things to be settled. with Josh Henderson just getting into playing shape, AJ Ashroth working through an ankle sprain, and Dai-Jon Parker on indefinite suspension (just to mention a few variables) it is easy to imagine significant changes to playing time from what we have seen in the first three games.
First off, it seems that Kedren Johnson has taken it upon himself to be the go-to player, and he clearly possesses the confidence to do so. He also has an abundance of talent, and we will learn whether it is enough against teams with larger front lines (and better athletes) than what we have faced thus far. Kyle Fuller has also put in a lot of time in the offseason and looks to be ready for a much expanded role, and should see plenty of floor time even when (if?) Parker returns. Behind those two players it does look like one or more of several players (Odom, Henderson, Bright, Moats) will step up on any given night, but the top two possession users will generally be Johnson and Fuller.
Second, we will definitely have trouble with size (I realize this is not a deep insight) – We don’t appear to have any player with significant girth, and also lack a premiere shot-blocker. There will likely be a lot more rebounding by committee, and while it wouldn’t surprise me if it were as successful on the defensive glass as last year, I don’t think we will be forcing as many missed shots from inside as we did last season.
Third, we will have a significantly better passing and ball-handling team. While the offensive talent takes a pretty good sized dropoff at every position (except point guard), we have upgraded the ballhandling at every position, and in some cases, quite dramatically. Fuller and Johnson are miles ahead of Jenkins and Tinsley, and pretty much everybody on the team will be an improvement over what either Lance or Festus were able to do in either category. Tthe greatest improvement should be in the post, where Henderson appears to be very skilled for his size, and Siakam has clearly been helped by playing guard last season. Moats and Jeter are also reportedly skilled at handling the basketball. In other words, this team won’t trip over itself looking to find the open man (or bringing the ball up the court against pressure)
Is this a tournament caliber team? Most likely not, but there is some nice talent that should develop (as well as struggle at times) as the year unfolds. We will not overwhelm teams with offensive firepower like we did last season nor will we be as dominant as we were at time on defense, but we will likely have the first positive A/TO ratio is a little while, which will mitigate our reduced ability to both make and prevent baskets. It would not be at all surprising to see us finish around .500 in the league and get to around 17 or so wins. We will also upset somebody on a night where we are shooting well, and will also end up with at least one loss that seems inexplicable on paper.