We really don’t need to get into what happened in the final minute of Thursday’s game. Instead, I present some numbers to you (which, after all, is the whole point of this article.) Over 18 SEC games, Vanderbilt had an effective field goal percentage of 53.7%; on Thursday, Vanderbilt had an effective field goal percentage of 46.4%. Over 18 Big Ten games, Northwestern had an effective field goal percentage of 47.1%; on Thursday, Northwestern had an effective field goal percentage of 54.7%.
This wasn’t a game in which we were getting outhustled, or the other team was getting every 50-50 ball; the rebounding and turnovers don’t suggest that. Instead, this was a game in which the other team spent much of the game shooting out of its mind (Northwestern shot 56 percent from the field, and 5-of-7 from three, in the first half) and Vanderbilt for much of the game couldn’t get anything to fall ... and we lost by two. And, well, it took a boneheaded play (really two boneheaded plays, if you count the horrendous offensive possession that followed the made free throws) to get to that point.
All of that’s why I think we probably would have won that game 9 times out of 10. If Vanderbilt’s shooting like it normally does, and Northwestern shoots like it normally does, Vanderbilt wins that game. Of course, yesterday was the 1 time out of 10 ... and in the NCAA Tournament, that’s all it takes.
- So, yeah. Vanderbilt would not have been in a position to win in the final minute of the game if not for Matthew Fisher-Davis. So, that settles the debate about whether he lost the game for us.
- I’m really going to miss Luke Kornet. Next year’s team might end up being pretty good — hell, it might end up in the NCAA Tournament for all we know — but Vanderbilt is going to have a difficult time replacing Luke Kornet. And obviously on a personal level he seems like a great guy, too.
- Riley LaChance was fine yesterday. On the other hand, Jeff Roberson and Nolan Cressler were basically non-factors. It’s actually kind of depressing that Cressler went out with a game like that.
- It probably went unnoticed in the moment, because he hasn’t been playing big minutes, but Payton Willis ended the season by putting in some pretty solid work in the SEC Tournament (Arkansas game excepted) and in this game. Seems he finally did break through that freshman wall.
- Given his play over the last month or so, it really feels like Joe Toye is going to have a breakout year next season. Of course -- we thought that at the end of last season, too.
- Only three minutes each for Djery Baptiste and Clevon Brown, which really isn’t a shock since most coaches will shorten their bench in the NCAA Tournament. Brown is probably closer to being a contributor than Baptiste is.
The offseason. You know what the most depressing part of yesterday’s loss was? It means Vanderbilt won’t play a basketball game again until November. That’s eight long months from now.
We’ll be wrapping up this season over the next few weeks at Anchor of Gold, but let’s just say that there are plenty of positives going forward with the program. Did you know that Bryce Drew is the first Vanderbilt coach to make the NCAA Tournament in his first year? Granted, Kevin Stallings probably should have gotten in his first year, and Jan van Breda Kolff, uh, had a roster that was more than capable of getting in the tournament, but Drew’s the first one to actually do it.
That said, Luke Kornet will be obviously tough to replace, but even Nolan Cressler isn’t going to be easy to replace. I have a sneaking suspicion that, much like losing James Siakam off the 2014-15 team (which really did causes a ton of problems for the 2015-16 team), Cressler’s contributions will get overlooked when the various prognosticators put together their preseason rankings.