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Vanderbilt Basketball Mail Bag #2

You asked, we answered.

NCAA Basketball: SEC Basketball Tipoff Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

Question from westboundnup:

It seems like quite some time since VU hit the 10 win milestone during non conference play.

Will that happen this season?

Question from Dores2020:

Given how Vandy has performed thus far (in particular, how Aaron Nesmith and Saben Lee have played) and how other teams have had iffy starts, is there a reasonable shot that the team might finish with 20 or so wins and go to the tournament?

Tom Stephenson: These two questions (and a third one from Andrew) are basically in the same vein. So, I’ll answer them together.

No, I don’t think it’s realistic that Vanderbilt can finish with 20 regular-season wins. To put that in perspective, getting to 20 wins in the regular season would mean winning all five of the remaining nonconference games and going 9-9 in the SEC. The first part is actually somewhat realistic: while the Commodores are only favored (per KenPom) in two of the five remaining nonconference games, they’re given at least a 45 percent chance of winning in each of them. So it’s doable, particularly if you think KenPom’s algorithm is still underestimating Vanderbilt. (What’s more, four of them are at Memorial Gym and the fifth is in Phoenix against Loyola-Chicago. No, I don’t know, either.)

SEC play is where things get tougher. Yes, a few teams have had iffy starts, but the iffiest of those — Texas A&M — is only on the schedule once. (It’s at Memorial.) But here’s the thing. KenPom gives Vanderbilt a greater than 30 percent chance of winning in just seven games in SEC play — so even if you go with that low of a bar, and win all of those, Vanderbilt is still 7-11 in the SEC. I’ve always thought that if we’re into realistic goal-setting for this season, finishing above .500 overall is the realistic goal. Making the NIT would be a pretty significant accomplishment.

Question from Andrew VU ‘04:

This team actually looks to have an identity (well, a defensive identity at least) imparted by an actual coach (it’s been a while), but also seems a bit talent-deprived (outside of Nesmith, obviously). Is that an accurate assessment?

Tom Stephenson: The only part of this I’d quibble with is the identity — I’d say they have more of an offensive identity than a defensive identity. The one thing I will say about Stackhouse is that he absolutely doesn’t mind allowing Lee and Nesmith to carry the offense, which is more than could be said for a lot of coaches.

Question from VandyImport:

A bald coach has paid immediate dividends again and given us, if not instant success, a reason to have hope for the future and a belief in better days to come.

Sound familiar?


1) Are we headed for another Brigadoon?

2) if so, how long before the clock strikes midnight and we all turn back into pumpkins?

Tom Stephenson: Yes, and this all depends on how much longer 69-year-old Roy Williams decides to continue coaching. Because we aren’t keeping Stackhouse if North Carolina calls for him.

Question from BlueDore:

With Issac McBride committed what does the recruiting picture look like now?

Tom Stephenson: So: the addition of McBride now means that all thirteen scholarships are accounted for in the 2020-21 season. (Vanderbilt had one open thanks to Kenyon Martin Jr. “going pro” earlier this year, and Clevon Brown is the only senior on the team.) With that said, there’s always the possibility of somebody leaving and another scholarship opening up. So there may be some action in the spring.

One thing I will say is that I don’t think transfers are going to continue to be a regular part of Stackhouse’s recruiting approach.

Question from ghostofzeppos:

Would the Memphis Grizzlies do better sharing Bridgestone with the Preds? We could call them the Tennessee Grizzlies to keep that wildly inferior just-as-good-as-Nashville city to the west from getting too upset.

Tom Stephenson: As a native Memphian, I am considering banning you for even asking this. But, if you think calling them the “Tennessee Grizzlies” would keep Memphis from getting too upset, I would suggest you poll Memphians on whether they like the Tennessee Titans. Or the Tennessee Volunteers, for that matter. Either way, the sooner you admit that Memphis is basically Mississippi, the better.

Question from ComestippleSacksoun:

What are the chances Nesmith stays for his junior season? How about Lee?

Tom Stephenson: Slim to the first question, maybe for the second.

As far as Nesmith goes: he’s showing up on draft boards, but in that weird early second-round purgatory where guys sometimes decide to declare but sometimes don’t. But in the present world, if you have to ask whether a player will stay for another season in college or declare for the draft, you’re usually better off just assuming he’s gone until you hear otherwise. After all, draft boards showing Simi Shittu going undrafted didn’t stop him.

I haven’t heard anything about Saben Lee and the NBA Draft, but again, that doesn’t appear to stop anybody in 2019.

Question from JmlongVU98:

How are our guys doing in the NBA? I honestly don’t really follow it much until the playoffs, but I’m curious how things are going. I’ve heard Garland is getting bossed around, but what about Luke? Does Damian get any run? Do we have anyone else in the league? Is Wade Baldwin still alive? You know, just the basics.

Question from PeabodyButNotHOD:

Along the lines of the above, some summary of our recent grads playing pro basketball (NBA, G-League and overseas) would be appreciated. Also, where in the world is John Jenkins? Impossible to find anything about a guy who ended last season holding his own while logging a few minutes per game for an NBA team — granted, it was the Knicks — and then seemingly vanishing into thin air. Any word on what Festus’s rehab process is looking like? Realistic chances he will ever play again in an NBA game?

Tom Stephenson: Let’s start with the three Vanderbilt players who have appeared in an NBA game this season. Darius Garland is starting for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are bad, but he’s starting. Damian Jones is finally getting a legitimate opportunity, albeit for one of the worst teams in the league (the Hawks are 6-17 as of this writing.) And Luke Kornet is playing ten minutes per game for the Bulls, which, hey, he’s in the league.

Outside the NBA, Simi Shittu is currently playing for the Windy City Bulls of the G-League, and shooting 67.5 percent from the floor, albeit in just 12 minutes per game. Wade Baldwin signed a two-year deal with Olympiacos of the Euroleague, where he’s currently averaging 5.6 ppg. So if you had Wade Baldwin being a Euroleague role player in his fourth year as a pro, congrats! Riley LaChance is the starting point guard for Okapi Aalstar of the Euromillions League, where he gets the most Riley LaChance thing ever on his profile page:

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.”

So yeah... moving on. John Jenkins doesn’t appear to be playing anywhere and may have retired, but after $5.9 million in career salary (per Basketball Reference) I can’t say I really blame him. And Festus, well, put it this way, Wikipedia refers to him as a former professional basketball player.

Question from Anonymous:

Why does woman’s coach Stephanie White still have a job? Is there a worse women’s basketball coach in the SEC?

How good could Myles Stute be? Are there any five stars on the horizon for Coach Jerry and the ‘Dores?

Give us an early grade on AD Malcolm Turner. Is he going to make VU a winner outside the Country Club sports?

Tom Stephenson: I admit to being stumped back in March as to why Stephanie White was retained; but, the team is currently 6-3 and doesn’t have any embarrassing losses (UConn by 13, Rutgers by 6, Seton Hall by 4), so perhaps Malcolm Turner knew what he was doing there.

Myles Stute is a 6’6” guy who’s pretty athletic and skilled. I’d say Jeff Roberson is a realistic comp for him. I don’t know about any five-stars on the horizon, and really that’s still the biggest question mark with Stackhouse.

I’d give Malcolm Turner an incomplete until we see the facilities plan — which may or may not be waiting on the new Chancellor. I do think the decision to keep Derek Mason wasn’t his decision.