Bryce Drew hasn’t completely had the chance to put his imprint on the Vanderbilt basketball program, and that’s showing up in the early results for his first team.
Here are the points per possession that Vanderbilt has allowed in four games this season: 1.21 (Marquette), 0.91 (Belmont), 0.77 (Norfolk State), 1.16 (Bucknell.) Marquette and Bucknell both shot the lights out; Belmont and Norfolk State, well, didn’t. Last night wasn’t anywhere near as bad as the Marquette game, but that was in large part because the offense didn’t collapse against Bucknell the way that the defense did.
But if you’re not going to play some kind of a pressure defense that forces a lot of turnovers, you’re not going to be able to get away with allowing a 58.5% effective field goal percentage. Drew’s Valpo teams ranked 168, 75, 44, 30, and 8 nationally in effective field goal percentage defense, and so far this year’s team ranks 139th in that category. If there’s a takeaway from the first few games this year, it’s that Drew doesn’t have the right personnel to play the way he wants to. There are going to be some nights when things click and other nights when it doesn’t. (Strangely, in contrast to the defense, the offense has been damn consistent since the Marquette game: 1.10, 1.11, 1.11 points per possession.) But right now, Bryce Drew has a team that was entirely recruited by Kevin Stallings, and in a lot of ways that’s showing up in the early results.
- Saying that the bench did nothing last night would be an understatement: three of the five bench players posted negative Game Scores (which, again, is a rough indication you’re hurting more than you’re helping), and one of the other two went 1-for-5 on layups and dunks.
- While some of us remain surprised by Coach Drew’s decision to start Nolan Cressler ahead of Joe Toye, Toye’s performance so far this season has been... uninspiring, and last night said decision was much less of a head-scratcher.
- The other side effect of the bench not doing much: I’m not in love with the idea of Fisher-Davis and Roberson playing 36 minutes each. (Think that might have had something to do with Fisher-Davis missing a free throw in the last minute of the game?)
- DotP pointed out in the comments that Luke just appears to be in poor physical condition right now (perhaps related to offseason foot surgery), and that’s manifesting itself even when he’s playing just 24 minutes. Of course, Luke did have a good game... offensively. Defensively, he didn’t block a shot, and Bucknell shot 19-of-34 inside the arc. That’s not entirely on Luke (particularly since, you know, he only played 24 minutes)... but it doesn’t seem good.
- I said earlier this year that you can make the NCAA Tournament with Luke Kornet, Matthew Fisher-Davis, and Jeff Roberson as your three best players, and I stand by that. I’m just... not sure you can make the tournament with Nolan Cressler as your fifth-best player and with this bench. Joe Toye hasn’t come along like we thought he would, Camron Justice has been a nonfactor so far (unless you want to count doing his best Zach Cunningham impersonation on a Bucknell player), and the freshmen are gonna freshmen. The players around Fisher-Davis, Kornet, and Roberson (and LaChance) are going to have to do a lot better than this.
Vanderbilt goes to Las Vegas for the final rounds of the Las Vegas Invitational (which, well, this game and the Norfolk State game were part of as well), where they’ll face Butler at 7:00 PM CT on Thursday, followed by either Arizona or Santa Clara on Friday.
Tennessean: Vanderbilt falls to Bucknell