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NIT Preview: Vanderbilt Travels to Stanford for a NERD FIGHT

Stanford used 49 free throws to beat Rhode Island in their last game. Will the Cardinal be as successful when it comes to getting to the line when they meet Vanderbilt in the NIT quarterfinals?

Not relevant. Not a swipe at Stanford men's basketball. I just liked this photo too much not to share it.
Not relevant. Not a swipe at Stanford men's basketball. I just liked this photo too much not to share it.
Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday, Vanderbilt had the displeasure of a two-day turnaround before hosting an NIT game. Now, Stanford will have to do the same when they face the Commodores on Tuesday night.

Stanford earned a spot in the NIT's final eight when they beat Rhode Island on Sunday, leveling up for a date with the 'Dores tomorrow evening. The Cardinal overcame a performance where they made fewer than 35 percent of their shots from the field thanks in part to a monstrous 49 free throws. Their starting backcourt of Chasson Randle and Anthony Brown made 29 trips to the charity stripe alone. It's possible that URI's lineup was just five guys doing Ric Flair chops all night, but it's much more likely that Vandy fans are going to be frustrated by a combination of a contact-heavy gameplan and a few home-cooked whistles when these two teams meet in Palo Alto.

Seven of the eight Rams that played more than five minutes on Sunday ended up with at least four fouls. While that may be a worst-case scenario, it highlights how dangerous - and effective - the Cardinal's gameplan can be. Randle, in particular, will try to exploit that advantage again on Tuesday. The senior guard has 10 games this season in which he's earned eight or more free throws. He's not afraid to throw himself into the lane, and that means that Riley LaChance and Wade Baldwin IV need to be ready to dive into the paint without creating too much contact.

Randle is the engine that drives this team and the second leading scorer in the Pac-12 thanks to his 19.2 points per game. He's not an efficient shooter, but that ability to get to the line and then capitalize (88% free point shooting) makes him effective. He'll team with Brown and 6'11" Stefan Nastic to give the Cardinal a three-headed monster that matches up well with Vandy's Baldwin/LaChance/Damian Jones triumvirate. Will their scoring be enough to lead Stanford to an NIT final four date in New York City? Let's take a closer look.

The Opponent: Stanford University (23-13, 9-9 Pac-12)

KenPom Rankings: Stanford is 41st. Vanderbilt is 35th.

Key Stat: 43%. That's what Anthony Brown is shooting from long range. The senior guard provides a competent compliment for Randle's dive-and-dash driving game by finding holes in the perimeter and launching open threes. If the Commodores collapse to chase down Randle, they'll have to have a contingency plan for snapping back to Brown thanks to his three-point shooting.

Matchup to WatchStefan Nastic vs. Damian Jones. Nastic is scoring 13.4 points per game, but he's not especially efficient for a big man who mostly roams the paint. The senior is shooting just 47% from the field despite rarely stepping out more than 15 feet from the hoop. For comparison, Jones is making more than 56 percent of his shots despite being similarly tied to the paint.

Nastic's big advantage comes at the free throw line. The 6'11" center gets to the stripe about five times per game and has made nearly 76 percent of those shots. That makes him doubly dangerous. He can provide consistent, efficient scoring while putting Vandy's most effective offensive player in foul trouble if he can draw contact around the rim. Jones has been a beast in his last three games, and Vanderbilt can't afford to tie him to the bench for long. The Commodore center will have to show off a gentle touch against the foul-inducing Cardinal offense.

Starters and Rotation Players:

Pos. Player PPG RPG APG
G - Wade Baldwin IV 9.4 4.2 4.5
G - Riley LaChance 12.4 3.1 2.8
F - Jeff Roberson 4.7 3.1 1.2
F - James Siakam 9 5.9 0.6
C - Damian Jones 14.6 6.5 0.7
Key Reserves
F - Luke Kornet 8.6 3.5 1.1
G/F - Matthew Fisher-Davis 6.9 2.3 1.3
G - Shelton Mitchell 4.3 1.9 3.3
Pos. Player PPG RPG APG
G - Anthony Brown 14.6 6.9 2.6
G - Chasson Randle 19.4 3.3 3.1
G - Marcus Allen 6.2 3.2 1.2
F - Reid Travis 6.2 5.6 0.4
C - Stefan Nastic 13.4 6.5 1.5
Key Reserves
G - Robert Cartwright
2 1 0.7
G - Christian Sanders 0.7 0.5 0.6
F - Rosco Allen
7.7 4.5 1.2