No position on the Vanderbilt roster was boom or bust quite like shooting guard. Whether it was Matthew Fisher-Davis' feast-or-famine three-point shooting, Nolan Cressler's roller coaster of SEC play, or Riley LaChance's horrible, terrible, very bad, no-good year, holding down the guard spot next to Wade Baldwin was a lot of things -- but never boring.
Fisher-Davis was the team's most reliable scorer at the two-spot, but his game hinged on his three-point stroke. He showed off a stronger all-around offensive game this season, but his performances were made or broken by his long-range shooting. That's the kind of player Kevin Stallings could turn into an all-conference performer. Now, Fisher-Davis's development will be in the hands of a new coach for 2016-17.
Here's what that new head coach will be working with when he arrives in Nashville.
Matthew Fisher-Davis (sophomore)
Fisher-Davis can shoot your team into a game. He can also shoot you right out. He had 11 games this season where he made at least three three-pointers while connecting on at least 50% of his shots from long range. He also had his three-point percentage drop from 48.8 percent to 35.7 when playing teams that spent at least one week in the 2015-16 top 25 rankings.
Fisher-Davis's one-man heat check was a tremendous weapon for this team. The sophomore's range extended four feet behind the arc, making it difficult for opponents to truly cover him when his shots were falling. However, he wasn't much when it came to drives to the basket, and for the second straight season he shot better from long-range (44.6%) than he did with two-pointers (39%).
The sophomore was a capable defender, but could hedge his mistakes on the superior perimeter play of Wade Baldwin IV and Jeff Roberson. He's solid laterally and has a long enough wingspan at 6'5 to keep many opposing 2 guards in front of him. However, he's still relatively thin and needs every inch of that reach when opponents find room to post him up in the paint.
He still has strides to make, but Fisher-Davis has the talent to be the next in a line of Vanderbilt shooters that includes Shan Foster and John Jenkins. If he can add a dribble-drive element to his game he'll be a truly dangerous offensive weapon. The Commodores, with Baldwin handling many of those duties this winter, haven't relied on him to expand his game much past his one (very dangerous) dimension. If Fisher-Davis can find a way to get into the paint and create chaos, he could pick up the bulk of this team's scoring next season.
Nolan Cressler (fourth-year junior)
In Cressler's previous season of NCAA action, he led his team in scoring with 16.8 points per game. Granted, that was for a team that went 2-26, but after an ineligible season of sharpening himself against Vandy's guards, the Ivy League transfer was expected to have a significant impact in Nashville.
Unfortunately for Cressler, the transition to the SEC proved to be more difficult than expected. He shot worse from three-point range and turned the ball over more than he had in either of his two seasons at Cornell. After earning double-digit minutes in 14 of the team's first 15 games, he hit the same mark in just six of the team's final 18 contests.
But is it fair to call his first season with Vanderbilt a disappointment? Cressler's impact decreased as the season wore on, but he added a valuable extra dimension to the team while showing off some tangible improvements from his sophomore season at Cornell.
While Cressler wasn't the traditional three-point shooter that Kevin Stallings utilizes well, he showed off a strong driving game and provided a useful counter-punch to Fisher-Davis' shooting. He made nearly 64 percent of his two-point shots and gave this team a fearless attacker from the wing. Cressler also stepped up his defensive chops from his time in Ithaca.
Additionally, he posted a career bests in defensive win shares (0.6) and defensive rating (100.3). While that's not especially impressive on its own, it shows he's able to adapt and produce in a new defensive system -- something that should be useful if he decides to return to Vandy in 2016-17.
Cressler wasn't the impact transfer some fans hoped he would be, but he was still a valuable piece of the Vanderbilt rotation. He can increase his value by continuing his defensive improvements and bringing a more consistent inside-out offensive game next winter.
Camron Justice (true freshman)
All things considered, Justice had a solid first year on the job. He pushed Cressler for minutes all season and showed off a crisp shooting form that should only get better as his familiarity with high-level NCAA competition grows. As expected, his turnover rate rose and shooting fell once SEC play began and he faced tougher opponents, but solid performances against Tennessee (12 points, 4-7 three-point shooting), Georgia (two threes in less than a minute of court time), and Texas A&M (eight points) should set the stage for an improvement in year two.
He'll have to flesh out his game to be a regular contributor next season. Justice's low rebounding, assist, and steal rate back up the theory he was just a shooter out there this winter.