Vanderbilt Basketball has faced its fair share of criticism during an 8-7 start that dropped them from a top 15 ranking to the depressing side of the NCAA Tournament bubble. After a 69-65 loss to No. 22 South Carolina led to a new wave of doubt, including ESPN's Eamonn Brennan suggesting the Commodores may be the "most disappointing team in the country," point guard Wade Baldwin decided it was time to respond.
I got the best coaching staff in the league I'm a believer! I signed up for their excellent teaching !— Wade Baldwin IV (@The_Fourth_Wade) January 10, 2016
I go hard for this ! Endless hours in my sanctuary! Don't question my commitment and dedication! I live to ball. Straight like that !— Wade Baldwin IV (@The_Fourth_Wade) January 10, 2016
My teammates too ! They official and embrace the grind and put in the time ! They all I got ! Show them love as well cause it's a war!— Wade Baldwin IV (@The_Fourth_Wade) January 10, 2016
Proud Commodore!! I always keep it— Wade Baldwin IV (@The_Fourth_Wade) January 10, 2016
Baldwin is the team's leader on the court thanks to his gritty play from the backcourt. His emotional Tweets on Saturday are proof his intensity doesn't get turned off once the final horn sounds. He currently leads the Commodores with 14.6 points, 4.1 assists, and 1.7 steals per game - but his 2.9 turnovers per contest is one of the worst marks in the SEC.
As good as he's been, Vanderbilt needs him and his teammates to bring their game to another level if they are going to meet the expectations heaped on them after a promising 2014-15 season. Baldwin and center Damian Jones are both regarded as future NBA first round draft picks. Behind them, the Commodores have a four-time SEC Freshman of the Week (Riley LaChance), the SEC's second-leading three-point shooter (Matthew Fisher-Davis), and a 7'1 shot-blocking, three-point making machine who is developing into a potential NBA player in his own right (Luke Kornet). Despite that deep collection of talent, the 'Dores are just 8-7 and in the midst of an 0-3 start to conference play.
They'll have to hope that Baldwin's words inspire a team that has seen second-half leads disintegrate in all seven of their defeats.