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Middle Tennessee 66, Vanderbilt 63: This team feels like it’s close, but isn’t there

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Vanderbilt’s now 3-6, but doesn’t “feel” like a bad team. But might end up with a bad record anyway.

NCAA Basketball: Middle Tennessee State at Vanderbilt Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
FOUR FACTORS Vanderbilt MTSU
eFG% 44.44% 45.53%
OR% 30.60% 38.90%
TO% 14.80% 14.80%
FTRate 35.20% 41.10%

The shift in offensive philosophy from Kevin Stallings to Bryce Drew can probably be summed up by Riley LaChance knifing into the lane for an offensive rebound and a putback.

With a team that still mostly consists of Kevin Stallings’ players, Vanderbilt ranks 143rd nationally in offensive rebound rate this season. Going back to 2001-02 (the first year that KenPom has data for), Kevin Stallings never had a team that ranked in the top 100 nationally in that stat, but Drew’s last two Valpo teams did just that.

Drew’s philosophy means that the team doesn’t get run out of the gym when it’s not shooting well (as was, well, frequently the case with Stallings’ teams), but right now the parts just aren’t working. This isn’t a team that’s really set up to play that style. Last year, Drew took advantage of Christmas break to go back to a more Stallings-esque style, and with the team sitting at 3-6 (albeit with five of the losses to top 100 teams, and all but one of them being competitive), maybe we’ll see a bit more of that.

Right now, though, it feels like we’re just waiting on more of Drew’s recruits to get here, because something just isn’t clicking. And that’s where you get losses to MTSU. In truth, the difference in this game was Giddy Potts hitting a stupid contested three with a minute left. There’s some degree of bad luck with this team, but it’s also not playing well.

Individual Stats

Player MIN FG FGA 3FG 3FGA FT FTA ORB DRB REB PTS PF AST TO BLK STL AdjGS GS/Min
Matthew Fisher-Davis 33 5 9 5 8 2 3 0 7 7 17 2 0 1 1 0 18.1 0.55
Jeff Roberson 32 2 6 1 2 8 8 2 2 4 13 2 0 2 0 1 13.3 0.42
Payton Willis 17 3 6 2 5 1 2 1 4 5 9 1 0 0 0 0 9.7 0.57
Clevon Brown 13 3 4 0 1 0 1 3 1 4 6 3 1 0 0 1 9.4 0.72
Riley LaChance 36 3 10 0 6 3 3 2 3 5 9 3 5 1 0 0 9.3 0.26
Djery Baptiste 22 2 7 0 0 0 0 2 4 6 4 2 1 0 3 0 6.1 0.28
Saben Lee 26 2 6 0 2 1 2 0 0 0 5 2 3 1 0 1 3.4 0.13
Ejike Obinna 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 -1.4 -0.68
Joe Toye 19 0 6 0 3 0 0 1 1 2 0 2 1 1 1 0 -4.9 -0.26
  • Vanderbilt’s biggest problem this season is that it’s way too dependent on the three seniors — Matthew Fisher-Davis, Jeff Roberson, and Riley LaChance -- to the point that if one of those three is off his game, Vanderbilt’s probably going to lose. So far, nobody else has really stepped up.
  • That’s not to say that the rest of the team is bad, but that they’re role players right now. Payton Willis and Clevon Brown putting forth good efforts off the bench is great, but neither of them are capable of carrying the team right now. Those guys can keep you close, but won’t take you over the top.
  • Thankfully, Djery Baptiste has been acceptable for the most part. He’s still not great, mind you, but at the very least he’s capable of playing 22 minutes and giving you solid defense and rebounding, which is more than we thought we’d get out of him. 2-for-7 shooting is bad, though, when basically all you’re shooting are layups.
  • Saben Lee, well, continues to be a freshman point guard, for better or worse.
  • Joe Toye... ugh.
  • The bench is shortening, with only nine players seeing minutes last night and one of those (Ejike Obinna) playing just two minutes, while Maxwell Evans and Larry Austin Jr. didn’t play.

What’s Next

Finals! And after that, Vanderbilt will be back in action on December 17 when they travel to Arizona State. Arizona State is currently undefeated, though they probably won’t be when Vanderbilt plays them (they play at Kansas on Sunday.) Tipoff will be at 1 PM CT, and the game will be televised on the Pac-12 Network... which means, well, you probably won’t be able to watch it. Which begs the question, do you actually want to watch this team right now?