Vanderbilt's season isn't over yet, but the Commodores still have to fight to make it to the NCAA Tournament's field of 64. They'll meet a dangerous Wichita State team on Tuesday evening in a First Four matchup to determine who plays sixth-seeded Arizona two days later.
The Shockers went 24-8 this winter, but only two of those defeats came against teams that failed to make it to the big dance (Alabama and Illinois State). They're led by a pair of cagey veterans in Ron Baker (14.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg) and Fred VanVleet (12 ppg, 5.7 apg). These opportunistic ball hawks have the composition and composure to ruin Vandy's tournament run before it can even begin.
So how have teams beaten Vanderbilt in 2015-16? By forcing turnovers, creating second chances, and waiting for the Commodores to go cold from the field. Tennessee distilled that blueprint into an art form in the first half of its victory over Vandy last week. UT forced 11 turnovers to shake up a listless Commodore offense. They pulled down 12 offensive rebounds -- 32 percent of their misses. And, most importantly, they baited their opponent into some terrible shots. Vanderbilt made just one of its 13 three-point attempts in the first 20 minutes.
Can Wichita State do the same? Here's how the Shockers rank nationally in the key categories that have been Vandy's fatal flaws this winter.
|Turnovers forced per game||17th|
Those defensive numbers aren't a good sign for Vanderbilt. Expect Kevin Stallings to preach ball protection in the lead in to Tuesday's game. The good news is the Commodores will have the opportunity to shoot their way past the Shockers. Additionally, an undersized Wichita State team should be less effective in pulling down its own misses than many of the teams to beat Vandy this season.
No team in the nation allows fewer points per game than the Shockers. While that's an impressive stat, it's also a function of WSU's relatively slow pace. They also only rank 173rd in terms of scoring per game. What's much more concerning for Vandy is Wichita's ability to generate extra possessions. Turnovers have been especially deadly for the 'Dores this season, and VanVleet and Baker can create a whole lot of them.
Does Wichita State have the defensive chops to keep the Commodore offense in a funk? WSU will have to shut down Damian Jones' post scoring, prevent Vanderbilt from getting to the free throw line, and badger Vandy's three-point shooters into bad decisions. Here's how the Shockers have performed this season.
|Fouls per game||239th|
|Field goal percentage defense||6th|
|Three-point field goal percentage defense||68th|
Vanderbilt will have a significant size advantage in the paint, and the combination of Damian Jones and Luke Kornet should be able to draw fouls at a high rate on Tuesday night. If the Commodores can find a reliable outlet to the low post they'll be able to erase any deficit created by the Shockers' stout defense. However, as Tennessee proved on Thursday, enterprising teams can find a way to deny Jones the ball near the basket.
The quick read on Wichita State suggests Vanderbilt will have to use its size advantage to overcome the Shockers' ability to cause chaos and create turnovers. If the Commodores protect the ball and find a way to get into the paint, they can move on to the round of 64. If they can't, it'll be a long night in Dayton for the 'Dores.