1947-48 was the year of a couple of firsts for the Vanderbilt Commodores basketball team. It was the first time that Vanderbilt ever had a scholarship basketball player: Billy Joe Adcock, who averaged 17.1 ppg that year. And it was the first time that Vanderbilt had a full-time basketball coach: Bob Polk, who would ultimately go 197-106 in Nashville; prior to that, Vanderbilt usually had an assistant coach for the football team double as the basketball coach.
1947-48 was also the last time that Vanderbilt failed to win at least ten games in a season. The Commodores finished that season 8-14; they also went 4-11 in the SEC and finished in last place.
It would probably be wrong to call the 2017-18 team the worst team that Vanderbilt has fielded in the last 70 years; according to Sports Reference’s SRS rating, there have been 33 teams over that time period that were worse than this year’s team. That list includes a lot of teams from the pre-integration era, but it also includes four Kevin Stallings teams. But this year’s team might be the one to break that string, and that’s not good.
Team Rankings projects Vanderbilt to finish with an 11-20 overall record, but their simulations give the Commodores a 22 percent chance of finishing the regular season with fewer than 10 wins (and just a 1.1 percent chance of finishing with a winning record, by the way.) KenPom also projects an 11-20 record, and has the Commodores favored in just two of their remaining 14 games: home games against Georgia and Mississippi State in February.
(Meanwhile, if you’re concerned about the other streak, Vanderbilt’s shooting just 32.7 percent from beyond the arc — worse than any Kevin Stallings team except the 2013-14 team.)
I’m at a loss to figure out what’s wrong with this team, because the biggest problem has been the failure to grow by some of the team’s upperclassmen (I’m not going to name names here; you probably know who they are) or in some cases, even failing to meet an established level of performance. I’ll soldier on as your loyal friendly basketball blogger, but it’s getting to be painful to watch this team lose games because an 89 percent free throw shooter decides to miss three in a row, or to watch a career 40 percent three-point shooter suddenly become a 33 percent shooter (and throw in an 0-for-8 every now and then.)
But, well, I’m going to Rome on the Friday of the SEC Tournament. And now it’s getting reasonable to assume the season will be over before that.