Commodores Basketball: Analyzing The First Ten Games

USA TODAY Sports

One of the nation's least experienced teams (320 out of 347) is taking a crash course in learning how to win.

Listed in the table below are all of Vanderbilt's games played to date. The "VU Rank" column is the KenPom.com rating for the Commodores on the day of the game listed. This allows you to see the fluctuations in the ranking from the preseason to now, and how the results have affected that ranking. "Opp Rank" is the current KenPom rating for the opponent. "VU Margin" is the margin of victory (green) or defeat (red) in the game for the Commodores. The remaining categories are the four factors of Vanderbilt and the opponents in the game, with the winner of each category highlighted in green.

VU Rank VU Record Opponent Opp Rank VU Margin VU-eFG% Opp-eFG% VU-TO% Opp-TO% VU-OReb% Opp-OReb% VU-FTRate Opp-FTRate
69 01-00 Nicholls St. 311 -15 59.6 49.1 14.4 16.8 22.2 13.3 21.1 13.8
76 01-01 Oregon 34 -26 38.3 50.9 26.7 18.5 21.2 27.6 25.5 32.7
102 01-02 Davidson 78 -13 50.0 57.8 18.2 14.3 21.4 31.0 10.7 13.8
110 01-03 Marist 243 -17 24.6 45.9 21.4 22.9 34.8 24.2 04.9 10.2
140 02-03 UTEP 137 +24 60.2 48.7 19.0 31.6 29.2 21.7 28.6 28.2
113 02-04 Villanova 85 -10 46.7 47.8 21.1 20.7 13.8 25.8 19.6 39.1
137 03-04 Xavier 93 +2* 54.1 50.0 20.4 18.0 38.5 40.6 26.5 16.4
128 04-04 Alabama A&M 341 +25 60.8 37.0 16.1 22.4 44.8 30.0 17.6 26.1
127 05-04 Cornell 259 +11 62.2 34.2 21.5 11.9 12.5 24.4 22.2 22.3
126 05-05 MTSU 41 -4 46.4 46.9 28.6 30.4 23.1 44.4 31.0 22.9
128 Butler (9-2) 49 -4 49.9 51.6 21.4 18.7 27.8 38.6 33.2 33.7

Looking at the four factors, there is an obvious correlation between Vanderbilt shooting well and winning. The Marist game stands out as an extreme outlier from a shooting perspective. Every team is susceptible to poor shooting performances on a given night against any opponent. If you looked at this chart historically for Vanderbilt over the past three seasons, you would see that on some nights Vanderbilt lost the eFG% battle, but still won the game. What made the teams of the last three years successful was that they learned to be much more consistent with the other three factors.

Looking at the historical four factor trend on a season wide basis:

Season Record Tempo Off Eff Off eFG% Off TO% Off OReb% Off FTRate Def Eff Def eFG% Def TO% Def OReb% Def FTRate
2003 11-18 71.9 101.0 49.2 22.4 29.8 33.6 95.3 50.1 22.1 33.9 34.1
2004 23-10 66.4 113.9 51.9 18.6 32.5 35.2 91.3 47.6 22.1 31.9 32.4
2005 20-14 66.6 112.3 55.1 21.3 30.6 29.9 91.8 47.6 21.0 32.4 41.4
2006 17-13 63.7 114.9 53.4 19.7 34.1 30.6 98.7 50.5 20.8 36.5 32.4
2007 22-12 67.2 117.3 53.1 17.7 29.7 32.4 94.0 50.6 21.8 33.5 31.5
2008 26-08 69.6 113.6 54.1 19.7 31.4 38.3 96.4 49.7 20.2 33.3 32.0
2009 19-12 66.5 107.0 50.8 22.0 34.2 43.8 95.6 45.8 17.8 30.1 31.7
2010 24-09 69.6 113.7 52.6 19.2 32.2 48.3 93.8 47.0 19.3 34.5 34.5
2011 23-11 67.3 116.5 52.9 19.0 33.1 45.2 97.8 46.0 17.5 32.1 28.0
2012 25-11 65.6 115.7 54.1 20.2 32.6 40.1 92.7 46.9 19.0 32.0 28.6
2013 05-05 63.0 98.6 49.9 21.4 27.8 33.2 95.0 46.9 21.4 30.1 32.1

If you hadn't figured it out yet so far, this team is a much improved defensive unit. It is sixth best over the term in defensive efficiency, third (and tied with last season) in effective field goal percentage allowed, fourth in turnover rate (best since 2007 and much improved over the last few seasons), and first (!) in defensive rebound rate. In fact, of the four factors, the only defensive one that has not improved from last season to this season is defensive free throw rate. Commodore teams the previous two seasons were excellent in this regard, and this year's team currently ranks sixth in recent history. With the return of Dai-Jon Parker, it stands to reason that this team could improve defensively as the season progresses.

Obviously, this team is just not as good on the offensive side of the ball. It is extremely reliant on two players (Kedren Johnson and Kyle Fuller) to generate offense. It is the worst team in the list in offensive efficiency (though Coach Stallings did admit that he regrets overscheduling the non-conference portion with the idea that John Jenkins was going to be around this season). It is tenth in effective field goal percentage, ninth in turnover rate, worst in offensive rebound percentage, and eighth in free throw rate.

Looking towards the future, Vanderbilt has signed a four star, top 100 player and top 10 center in Damian Jones to bolster the front court. Jones is a long, athletic player with a strong defensive presence to go along with a developing offensive game. It wouldn't be a stretch to pencil him in for a solid amount of early playing time.

As for now, the Commodores need other players to begin to assume larger roles in the offense. Dai-Jon Parker will presumably begin to add more value, hopefully sooner rather than later. Kevin Bright has shown flashes of brilliance, and his three point prowess is especially noteworthy (14 of 26 - 53.8%). In fact, Bright leads the team in a statistic called true shooting percentage at 61.8%. Bright needs to take more shots in the offense in order to relieve pressure from Fuller and Johnson, a point which Coach Stallings has surely been conveying to the young freshman.

Another newcomer that needs to start taking more shots is Sheldon Jeter, who has made half of the 12 three pointers he has attempted. Astroth, Bright and Jeter were all regarded as strong shooters. A lingering injury has kept Astroth from getting the minutes he needs to acclimate to the pace of the college game. Hopefully all three can improve upon their individual starts to the season to help improve the team's offensive output.

By far the biggest area of concern is in the front court where inconsistency has been a huge issue. If the team is going to break out from ups and downs of .500 play, it is going to need someone in the paint to step up and be a consistent threat. I wouldn't say it's for lack of effort on anyone's part. Something just needs to click.

Next Up: Butler

The Bulldogs come to Nashville having beaten top-ranked Indiana in overtime and with three-point knave and Commodore-killer Rotnei Clarke (of Arkansas Razorback heritage). Vanderbilt will need to put the defensive clamps on Clarke to have any hope. Transitive property alert: Butler was dispatched at Xavier by 15 (62-47) in a game that really seems to be the outlier on Butler's schedule thus far. Vanderbilt will need a strong defensive game to win this one. Butler is rated 49th by KenPom, 8 below MTSU, who Vanderbilt seemed to control easily for the opening thirty-five-ish minutes prior to tightening up down the stretch. If the Commodores can put together a forty minute game the way they played in the second half against Xavier or the first thirty-plus against MTSU, we could be in for a treat.

Reminder

James Franklin's Commodore Call-In Show at 5:00pm live at the Student Life Center prior to the Butler game. Hear Coach Franklin live and then walk to Memorial for the Dores v Bulldogs game.

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