On the heels of a 9-23 season (and an 0-18 SEC performance), Vanderbilt enters Jerry Stackhouse’s first season in need of a makeover. The Commodores return just two starters and four reserves, and have five newcomers on the roster (not including Notre Dame transfer D.J. Harvey, who likely won’t play in 2019-20.)
This all sounds like a situation where you’d want a light nonconference schedule, and that’s exactly what we got with Thursday’s release of the nonconference schedule.
How light is the schedule? For starters, Vanderbilt will play 13 nonconference games, and 11 of those will be at Memorial Gym, with one at a neutral site. Just one game will be a true road game, at Richmond on November 14. Vanderbilt also won’t play a single game against a team from a Power 5 conference or the Big East, and just two of the nonconference opponents made the NCAA Tournament in 2019 — and one of those lost its head coach and also suffered heavy losses to graduation.
In other words, it’s exactly the schedule you would want to play if your goal is to pad the record with wins and build confidence for the SEC schedule. Of course, Vanderbilt wants to win SEC games, too, but for a team with relatively little hope of making the tournament, just trying to get some mojo back is much more important than strength of schedule. As a side note, for the first time in a few years, Vanderbilt will play an actual exhibition game against Clark Atlanta on November 1, instead of just doing the secret scrimmages that were a favorite of Bryce Drew.
The schedule (final 2018-19 KenPom ranking in parentheses):
- November 6: SE Missouri State (308)
- November 11: Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (287)
- November 14: at Richmond (203)
- November 20: Austin Peay (128)
- November 22: South Carolina State (337)
- November 25: SE Louisiana (232)
- November 30: Tulsa (119)
- December 3: Buffalo (22)
- December 14: Liberty (58)
- December 18: vs. Loyola-Chicago in Phoenix (131)
- December 22: UNC Wilmington (272)
- December 30: Davidson (85)
- January 4: SMU (107)