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Vanderbilt Basketball Mail Bag #2: Better Late Than Never

I might as well answer your questions, right?

Postal Carriers

All right, fine, I will answer the basketball mail bag questions from... last week. Hey, just in time for the start of SEC play!

ComestippleSacksoun asks:

what is your comprehensive, nuanced, 10-page assessment of Stackhouse after one season + four games, covering his strengths and flaws in painstaking detail

alternatively I will also accept a brief paragraph

I’ll start this with the caveat that we don’t know how the Stackhouse era will play out and probably won’t for a couple of years, because most of my questions about Stackhouse center around his ability to recruit at a high enough level to compete in the SEC and... so far, I don’t think that question has been satisfactorily answered.

But if he can meet that, I think everything else is fine. I think Stackhouse appears to know what he’s doing on the coaching side, something you can pretty easily see when the team comes out of halftime and his halftime adjustments often seem to lead to an immediate run out of the break. Last year’s team didn’t quit when it very easily could have, suggesting that he’s good at getting guys to play hard for him — I mean, really, who saw winning the last two games of the regular season coming? That said, there just doesn’t seem to be a ton of talent on this team and that needs to be fixed more than anything else.

jessecuster44 asks:

What’s the best way for the MBB team to shake off its habitually slow start to games?

That’s a really good question, and I think it just comes down to Stackhouse needing to figure out his rotations and especially the starting lineup.

So far this season, Scotty Pippen Jr. and Dylan Disu have started all six games and are averaging, respectively, 31.8 and 29.7 minutes per game, and I don’t think too many people would argue that those are the team’s two best players. After that, though, things are really murky and I don’t think Stackhouse has figured out who else needs to be starting for this team. For instance, Quentin Millora-Brown and Tyrin Lawrence have each started five games while averaging 4 ppg... which, frankly, is not good enough. Maxwell Evans hasn’t been much better (4.3 ppg) while starting four games, but I think he’s better than that.

I almost think Stackhouse should just ditch the idea of playing with a “true” center and just use Disu as the de facto five, but then I still can’t figure out who starts at the other three spots.

Andrew VU ‘04 asks:

Would you rather (you can only choose one):1) Vanderbilt surprisingly makes the tourney, or…2) Kentucky to continue to play .167 ball all season?

If I can only choose one, Vanderbilt making the tournament.

VUSpaceman asks:

We generally haven’t looked great in the year and a bit under HCJS, but it’s obviously too early to judge his performance. On the team level, then what do you see as the longterm path to substantial improvement?

Im not looking for a laundry list of flaws with this year’s team, more for themes of what is being fixed after the Bryce Drew debacle and how long you think it will take.

Yeah, I think the real key is to go about eight deep with SEC-quality players. That, in spite of Bryce Drew’s recruiting successes, was kind of a problem under him and is really a problem now that there isn’t a future NBA lottery pick to run things around. And right now, the biggest issue is that there’s really one reliable scorer on the roster, and at any given time you have at a minimum two players on the floor delivering a performance that’s replacement-level at best, and that’s a problem.

PeabodyButNotHOD asks:

Trying as best as possible to put aside COVID-related absences and their wide-ranging implications, any early season surprises regarding the depth chart so far? A few that stand out to me are Trey Thomas and (obviously) Braelee Albert playing major minutes over Issac McBride, as well as Jordan Wright not playing more than 10 minutes in all but one game.Here’s to hoping that Clevon is as close to full health as possible and being eased back to game action in time for SEC play (4 mins vs. Radford) — the QMB/Obinna combo is not inspiring much confidence.

Accepting the COVID-absence caveat, I don’t think anything is too surprising so far just because I think Stackhouse is just experimenting with rotations at this point; aside from Pippen and Disu, everybody’s playing, but nobody is playing major minutes with the third-highest minutes average on the team belonging to DJ Harvey at 21.5 minutes per game, and that is mostly being dragged down by him playing 12 minutes against Radford (his first game back from COVID.) I will say that I was surprised to see Quentin Millora-Brown starting the opener over Clevon Brown, who I viewed as a lock to start for this team. And Trey Thomas’s playing time is surprising not because I don’t think he merits that much playing time, but because I am surprised that Trey Thomas merits this much playing time. Meanwhile, I’m surprised that Tyrin Lawrence, who I thought was the best player in the recruiting class, just isn’t meriting that much playing time.