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Vanderbilt ranked 64th in season-opening KenPom ratings

That’s a 39-spot drop from the end of last season.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Four-Wichita State vs Vanderbilt Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Basketball fans, rejoice! Ken Pomeroy has released his preseason ratings.

Vanderbilt finished the 2016 season ranked 25th in KenPom, so what explains a 39-spot drop to open this season? While I don’t know the specifics (in that I am not Ken Pomeroy), I know some of the factors Pomeroy has said in the past that influence his preseason ratings. So here are some possibilities:

  • A coaching change. Pomeroy has said in the past that coaching changes have a negative impact on a team’s preseason rating. While you may think that Bryce Drew is a better coach than Kevin Stallings, the mere fact that Kevin Stallings is no longer the coach is exerting a downward pull on Vanderbilt’s rating. (Don’t argue with me because I’m not the one who thinks changing coaches from Stallings to Drew makes Vanderbilt worse.)
  • The loss of high-usage players. So basically, in spite of what Vanderbilt fans may think, Wade Baldwin IV and Damian Jones both used a large number of possessions and were above average in terms of efficiency. While Jeff Roberson and Matthew Fisher-Davis were incredibly efficient, both used a relatively small number of possessions, and it’s not assumed that either one will be able to maintain their efficiency (or even match Baldwin’s or Jones’s) while using more possessions.
  • Samir Sehic transferred. :( (Okay, this probably has zero effect, but it needs to be said.)
  • Regression to the mean. Since Ken Pomeroy started keeping track of this in 2002, Vanderbilt has only had three seasons in which they’ve finished in the top 25 of his rankings. While the Commodores finished 36th in 2014-15 and 25th in 2015-16, in the two seasons before that they finished 109th and 97th. So, perhaps, Pomeroy’s ratings are seeing Vanderbilt suffer an inevitable regression back toward the mean.

Of course, these are all just theories. The big one, though, is that Pomeroy’s metrics aren’t assuming that Roberson and Fisher-Davis (and Joe Toye) will be fine in bigger roles, and we probably shouldn’t either. There are reasons to be optimistic about the 2016-17 season, but perhaps Ken Pomeroy is telling us that maybe we shouldn’t just assume this will be a NCAA Tournament team.

Either six or seven of Vanderbilt’s non-conference opponents (depending on whether the Commodores draw Arizona or Santa Clara in Las Vegas) are ranked in the preseason top 100, with Belmont (112) and Middle Tennessee (122) ranking just outside the top 100. That’s on top of ten SEC teams (including Vanderbilt) ranked in the top 100.