Every year, it seems, preseason prognosticators will go gaga over a team on the basis that said team is adding some highly-touted recruits. Kentucky and Duke perennially turn over just about the entire roster and yet those teams are ranked fifth and fourth, respectively, in Rob Dauster’s preseason top 25 over at NBC Sports.
But even a team like LSU, which is adding the country’s fourth-ranked recruiting class per 247 Sports, checks in at #23 in that ranking in spite of being an NIT team last year. Read this blurb:
LSU is really young. They are also really talented. Waters is so entertaining, and the including trio of Smart, Reid and Williams is very good. Effort will be a key, as will their ability to play together, but they have a chance to be really good.
And tell me that if you replace Tremont Waters with Saben Lee, and Javonte Smart, Naz Reid, and Emmitt Williams with Darius Garland, Simi Shittu, and Aaron Nesmith... is there really a huge difference?
More importantly, is that difference big enough to justify Dauster not even including Vanderbilt in his five teams that just missed? Or Joe Lunardi completely leaving Vanderbilt out of his bracket — and the first eight teams out of it?
It’s true that there are things not to like about Vanderbilt. The Commodores, obviously, went 12-20 last season and were ranked 91st in KenPom. And they’re losing three of their top four contributors off that team in Jeff Roberson, Riley LaChance, and Matthew Fisher-Davis.
And yet that kind of stuff hasn’t stopped similarly-situated teams in the past from getting hyped going into the next season. Alabama last year didn’t quite make the preseason top 25, but found its way in a couple of weeks into the season after beating the murderer’s row of Memphis, Lipscomb, and Alabama A&M — and that was mostly on the basis of a talented freshman.
I don’t necessarily disagree with all of this — I think Vanderbilt’s 2018-19 season may well play out about like Alabama’s 2017-18, sneaking into the tournament as a 9-seed and winning a game -- but I am interested in the why. If you think that little of Bryce Drew’s coaching ability, come out and say it. Otherwise, it’s more than a little odd that Vanderbilt is flying under the radar.