Vanderbilt needed a solid performance from its big men to balance off Kevin Stallings' three-point heavy attack. Fortunately for the Commodores, they had two of the SEC's best in Luke Kornet and Damian Jones.
Jones and Kornet proved they could coexist in the starting lineup and were the backbone of one of the nation's stingiest scoring defenses. That pairing forced Kornet to move to power forward, but also gave the Commodore frontcourt two seven-footers with very different scoring skillsets. While Jones wasn't shy about drawing contact and moving through defenders to get to the basket, Kornet played more of a finesse game.
Now, with Jones moving on to the NBA and Josh Henderson's Vanderbilt career finished after 13 memorable seasons, Bryce Drew will have find the most efficient fit for a young core of big men. Today, we'll look at the Commodores' power forwards. That includes Kornet, who is realistically more of a center. That's partially because he played the majority of his minutes at the four this winter, and partially because only profiling Samic Sehic (and his 104 minutes this winter) would have made this a really, really short article.
Luke Kornet (junior)
With Damian Jones leaving for the NBA Draft, this will probably be the last season Luke Kornet plays extended minutes as a power forward. Jones's post scoring pushed Kornet and his shooting out to the four, where he was supposed to scare opposing defenses with his three-point shooting. Instead, the junior's long range shot faltered -- but he showed off a greater sense of comfort in the paint and the defensive instincts that will make him a headache for opposing coaches next winter.
2015-16 was a transition year for the Texas big man. Kornet had displayed all the makings of a stretch power forward in a dynamic sophomore season. As a junior, he used every inch of his 7'1 frame and showed off the post defense that makes him a special asset. The most common criticism that followed him into 2016 was a lack of work near the rim. He responded by more than doubling his rebounds per game and bumped his rebounding rate from 9.8 percent to 14.1.
But that wasn't the headline on Kornet's shiny new interior game. His long frame and sense of timing turned him into a dynamic shot-blocker as a junior. After 55 blocks in his first two seasons combined, he broke out with 84 in just 28 games this winter. That included a Dikembe Mutombo-style triple-double (11 points, 11 rebounds, 10 blocks) against Auburn.
Now, the bad news. Kornet's defensive production came at the expense of his offensive efficiency. After proving himself as a dynamic scorer in 2015, he regressed in 2016. His three-point shooting dropped from a robust 40 percent as a sophomore to just 28.4 percent as a junior. Without his ability to stretch the floor, defenders were able to collapse on Vandy's big men near the rim and make it more difficult to score inside. As a result, Kornet's two-point shooting dropped as well; from 49.5 percent to 40.3.
The good news is that Luke's developing inside game was able to frustrate opponents and nearly double his free throw attempts, though his shooting from the charity stripe dropped last season as well (77.6% to 69.6).
Kornet should have much cleaner two-point looks as a senior after sharing the starting lineup with another true center in Damian Jones. While Jones demanded the ball on the block and was often this team's creator in the paint, Kornet was relegated to second option and clean up duty near the rim. That played a role in his offensive slump, but he'll be the man in the middle for Bryce Drew and Vanderbilt in 2016-17.
Expect fewer jumpers, more dunks, and a stronger post game for the ever-growing fan favorite next season. No matter what Luke Kornet adds on offense, his still-developing defensive chops could be the key to securing another NCAA Tournament invite.
Samir Sehic (true freshman)
The jury's still out on Sehic, although his team-leading rebound rate suggests one of two things:
A) He has the positioning and box-out ability to grab rebounds in traffic despite only being 6'8 or 6'9.
B) He has the strength to overpower the opposing bench players he most often faced, and that ability won't scale up against tougher players.
I'm willing to give Sehic the benefit of the doubt for now. At nearly 250 pounds, he's a load in the post and finds ways to gain ground in the paint. However, he wasn't able to turn that position into points as he made fewer than 27 percent of his two-point attempts as a freshman. He faced a steep learning curve this winter, and there's reason to believe he'll improve as his game develops. The question now is if he's more Shelby Moats or Steve Tchiengang as a power forward?