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Another game, another late fade

Vanderbilt couldn’t close, again. The refs didn’t help, but this still should have been a win.

NCAA Basketball: Tennessee at Vanderbilt Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

We are not going to leave aside the fact that Vanderbilt got jobbed by the referees in last night’s 88-83 loss to Tennessee, the #1 team in the country.

Of course, in all fairness — even after the “flagrant foul” called against Clevon Brown — Vanderbilt still had a two-point lead and the ball with a little over a minute left. The Commodores still had a 57 percent chance of winning the game, per KenPom’s win probability chart — admittedly less than the 91 percent chance they had of winning the game before the flagrant foul call, but still a pretty good chance. You can argue that the call irreparably swung the game, but it still fits the pattern.

You might argue the same thing about the technical foul call against Saben Lee in the South Carolina game last week (a call we’re not really going to dispute, by the way), which turned a five-point lead into a tie game, and dropped Vanderbilt’s win probability from 93 percent to 66 percent.

In six SEC games so far, Vanderbilt has been outscored by 62 points, 47 points in the final ten minutes of the game. Take away the Mississippi State game — the line game in which the Commodores weren’t in a position to win the game with ten minutes to go — and Vanderbilt has been outscored by 48 points in the last ten minutes while being outscored by 46 points, total. Chalk the Mississippi State game up as a bad game; this still doesn’t look like a team that should be 0-6 in the SEC.

Are the late fades mental? You might expect that from a team that’s still really young. But another explanation could be that this team isn’t very deep, and foul trouble has frequently been a problem. Last night, for instance, Yanni Wetzell fouled out with a few minutes left in the game, and Simi Shittu seems to be perpetually in foul trouble, much like Damian Jones was a couple of years ago.

We’re thankful that Saturday’s loss to Mississippi State doesn’t appear to have turned the season in a negative direction; in fact, watching the team battle back from an early 15-2 deficit against the #1 team in the country was a huge positive. But right now, this team really needs to get a win — more than a team normally needs to, because right now, they don’t believe they’re going to win.