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BONUS Basketball Mailbag

People, don’t send basketball questions to Andrew’s baseball mailbag.

NCAA Basketball: Vanderbilt at South Carolina Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, Andrew VU ‘04 put out his latest call for questions, in a post titled thusly: Vanderbilt Baseball Mail Bag #4: Call For Submissions.

The key word, of course, is baseball. The mail bag was not intended for this:

1. Why do we have the worst talent of any SEC Men’s Basketball team? Why have our 4-and-5 stars turned out to be so lousy?

It is a good question. It is not something that has anything to do with baseball, however, so this is not a question for Andrew VU ‘04’s mail bag. No, this is a question for a BONUS basketball mail bag, which I will now attempt to answer.

The answer is, the talent evaluators were absolutely correct in their evaluation of one of the five-star recruits, Darius Garland. Darius Garland does not currently play for this team, though, so let’s leave him out of this.

The other five-star, Simi Shittu, at present has a 92.1 ORating (100 is average, higher numbers are better) and a ghastly 83.3 ORating in SEC play. Of the 94 players in the conference who have played at least 40 percent of their team’s minutes, Simi ranks... 91st in that statistic. The obvious problem is that Simi basically doesn’t have a jump shot to speak of and can’t score from outside of five feet from the basket. The evaluators fell in love with his upside — after all, 6’10” and 240 pounds with the ability to move like Simi does is not exactly a common trait — but he was definitely a work in progress. And it didn’t help that he spent last summer and fall working on rehabbing his knee instead of, I don’t know, developing a jumper.

As for the rest of the players, well, there are only three who ranked as 4-stars (according to Rivals.) Aaron Nesmith has done about what you would expect from a player ranked where he was as a freshman: showing plenty of flashes and carrying the team at times, but inconsistent. Saben Lee’s jump shot still needs work, but otherwise he’s a pretty decent player. Clevon Brown has never developed an offensive game, but then he was a Kevin Stallings recruit anyway, so that can’t be pinned on Drew.

2. Why is it OK with you that our coach has lost 16 straight in the SEC? Why aren’t you calling for Bryce Drew’s head?

Okay, yeah, now we can tell that this question was not intended to be answered by Andrew. This question was clearly intended for me, the internet’s Bryce Drew Apologist-In-Chief.

So, here is the answer: no, it is not okay that the team has lost 16 straight in the SEC. No, I am not calling for Bryce Drew’s head, because it is his third year at Vanderbilt and generally it is poor form to fire a coach after three years when (a) you signed him to a six-year contract and (b) he lost his best player to injury in the fifth game of the season. Yes, that is all the explanation you need. If you need a longer explanation, there have been multiple posts on this blog laying this out in more detail. It really does come down to the fact that his recruiting has been promising, particularly the 2018 class (yes, yes, I know one of the players is not really working out well) and, to a lesser extent, the 2019 class. But I understand that this record must be punished, so if that is all that you care about, then go ahead. You are free to call Malcolm Turner and tell him that you are willing to write a check to pay Bryce Drew’s buyout. Let me know how that goes, okay?

3. The only worse coach in the SEC is Vanderbilt’s woman’s coach Stephanie White. Why does she still have a job? Is she protected due to her (well-publicized) LGBT status?

Stephanie White still has a job for the same reason that Bryce Drew still has a job: because it is her third year, and again, it’s poor form to give the coach that little time.

But to expand on this a bit more, where Bryce Drew took over a program that on paper was doing reasonably well — it made the NCAA Tournament in Kevin Stallings’ final season (if narrowly) and there was enough left in the tank to make it in Drew’s first year — White took over a program that was flatlining. The program missed the NCAA Tournament and went 5-11 in the SEC in each of Melanie Balcomb’s final two years. Now, the results on the court have been bad in White’s three seasons — try a 28-61 overall record, and a 9-39 SEC record — but personnel has been an issue here.

As for the last part of that question, I’m not touching that with a ten-foot pole.

Glad to answer the questions. I am sure the internet will react well to this.