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Middle Tennessee 71, Vanderbilt 48: Welcome to Year Zero

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We’re starting to realize the problems Kevin Stallings left behind are much deeper than we thought.

NCAA Basketball: Norfolk State at Vanderbilt Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

So, before we get starting dissecting last night, a brief history lesson.

In 1985, Nolan Richardson took over at Arkansas, where the Razorbacks had gone 22-13 and made the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Eddie Sutton’s final year. Richardson went 12-16 in his first season; by his third year, the Razorbacks were back in the NCAA Tournament, and by his fifth year they were in the Final Four.

Jud Heathcote’s last team at Michigan State (1994-95) went 22-6. His successor, Tom Izzo, went 16-16 in his first year; by his third year, they were a Sweet 16 team, and he won a national title in his fifth year.

(Oh, hell, just look at Vanderbilt’s 2014 football team to see what “Year Zero” looks like, if you haven’t blocked it from your memory.)

Year Zero is a very real thing. Bryce Drew recruited none of the players on the current roster. It’s not really his fault that the team lacks a lockdown perimeter defender (or really any lockdown defender), or that Kevin Stallings recruited on the premise that Wade Baldwin IV was going to be in college for four years, or that he recruited about ten jillion shooters. That last part will keep Vanderbilt in some games -- and then there are going to be nights like last night, where the team is shooting 32 percent and loses badly.

There were early signs that this might be a rebuilding year, like the 24-point loss to Marquette in the season opener and the loss to Bucknell... but after losing by 23 to Middle, is there really any question?

Individual Stats

Player MIN FG FGA 3FG 3FGA FT FTA ORB DRB REB PF PTS AST TO BLK STL AdjGS GS/Min
Clevon Brown 17 3 4 0 0 0 0 1 3 4 1 6 1 0 1 0 16.7 0.98
Matthew Fisher-Davis 36 4 13 3 7 2 2 0 3 3 1 13 1 4 0 1 8.8 0.24
Jeff Roberson 32 4 12 1 5 2 5 1 7 8 1 11 0 3 0 1 8.1 0.25
Luke Kornet 28 3 13 0 2 2 2 2 3 5 1 8 1 1 1 0 5.7 0.20
Joe Toye 8 1 2 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 3 1 1 0 0 4.8 0.60
Payton Willis 16 0 1 0 1 2 2 0 2 2 1 2 2 1 0 0 4.5 0.28
Nolan Cressler 26 1 4 0 1 1 2 0 2 2 3 3 1 0 0 1 3.1 0.12
Djery Baptiste 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.00
Riley LaChance 34 1 4 0 2 0 0 0 4 4 2 2 2 3 0 0 -3.8 -0.11
  • Clevon Brown played 17 minutes and posted the highest Game Score on the team. Brown had a nice night, but I don’t think this is particularly a good thing.
  • Matthew Fisher-Davis, Jeff Roberson, and Luke Kornet: 11-of-38 from the floor combined and 8 turnovers. Ouch.
  • Joe Toye... that’s fine, though I’m still surprised he’s playing so few minutes this season.
  • I didn’t watch the game, so I’m kind of wondering why Payton Willis only played 16 minutes, particularly when Riley LaChance was... not good. Anybody know what’s going on there?
  • Nolan Cressler... meh.

Vanderbilt drops to 5-5 on the season with the loss, and now the Commodores are off for nine days for finals before facing Chattanooga on December 17. Chattanooga’s 7-2 this year and beat Tennessee by 13 earlier this season, so... yeah, we’re probably not counting on a win there.

This is starting to look like it’s going to be a long season, and I feel like I’m going to have to preach patience a lot. But, Drew didn’t go 124-49 at Valpo by accident, and what we’re seeing right now is simply that Kevin Stallings did not leave a good team behind when he left.