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WTF Vandy? Miserable Losses, Round 2: (7) Wichita State, 2016 vs. (6) UNLV, 2019

A miserable loss in the NCAA Tournament, up against a miserable loss in a miserable season.

NCAA Football: UNLV at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

(7) March 15, 2016: Wichita State 70, Vanderbilt 50

If you’ve ever wondered why we are the way that we are, the 2015-16 basketball season is a good reason why.

Let’s explain. The Vanderbilt football team has never been ranked in the preseason AP poll. Meanwhile, the Vanderbilt basketball team has been ranked in the preseason AP poll three times in the last 50 years. One of those teams — Jan van Breda Kolff’s first in 1993-94 — missed the NCAA Tournament. Kevin Stallings’ 2011-12 team, ranked 7th in the preseason, screwed around all year before winning the SEC Tournament and drawing a 5-seed in the NCAA Tournament, then lost to Wisconsin in the second round.

And the third was the 2015-16 team. Vanderbilt had gone 21-14 with a bunch of freshmen and sophomores playing key roles the season before, and with basically everyone back — save for James Siakam — the Commodores were ranked 18th in the preseason and got up to 16th even after taking their first loss to Kansas in the finals of the Maui Invitational. Then Vanderbilt blew a 13-point second half lead at Baylor, and it started. That was followed by inexplicably pissing away a 16-point lead late in the first half and losing to Dayton at home, Vanderbilt then lost to Purdue on the road and started SEC play 0-3, putting the Commodores at 8-7 overall.

Vanderbilt would win seven of its next nine, but a loss at Mississippi State on a Quinndary Weatherspoon buzzer-beater — which came after Vanderbilt blew a 17-point lead with 13:44 left — had David Williams’ email inbox and voice mailbox flooded with angry fans, and even got me to write about 3500 words about why Stallings needed to go. At least, Vanderbilt responded by winning its next four — but the Commodores lost at Texas A&M to close the regular season, and then completely and utterly mailed in a loss to Tennessee in the first game of the SEC Tournament. At that point, it looked like Vanderbilt would miss the NCAA Tournament — but the Commodores’ name instead was called on Selection Sunday, and they’d be sent to Dayton and the FIrst Four to play the Wichita State Shockers.

The game itself didn’t go too poorly for Vanderbilt — for about 32 minutes. Wichita State built itself a bit of a cushion early in the second half, but Vanderbilt fought back and cut the score to 47-46 on a Damian Jones three-point play with 9:17 left. But after Riley LaChance made a jumper with 8:38 left, Vanderbilt was done making baskets — they’d miss their final 13 shots from the floor as Wichita State turned a tight game into a 20-point laugher.

Somehow, the way that Vanderbilt just completely fell apart down the stretch just felt like a perfect summation of the basketball team that year. And, of course, like a lot of the WTF? moments here, this would be the last game for Kevin Stallings as head coach: Stallings would leave for Pitt a couple of weeks later (rumor was he was pushed out by the Goldfather.)

(6) UNLV 34, Vanderbilt 10, October 10, 2019

This football game turned the person on this site known as the leader of the Sunshine Pumpers and pump ungunker into a raging mess. My optimism was so broken that I did not re-watch the game and devoted my entire “Lessons in Vanderbilt Football” article about the game to talking about the team quitting, which is an argument that I had doggedly fought against when others brought it up. I even said in a comment on Tom’s The Statistical for the game, “It’s worse as a standalone result than Temple. It is orders of magnitude worse than Temple as a marker of the program. Comparing it to Wake [in 2010] is really not sensible because that Wake game was with an interim (he was, no matter what the technicalities were) coach known to be gone.”

Look, you can talk about losing in the NCAA tournament to a 13-seed, but the 2019 Commodore football team got embarrassed at home to a team that fired their head coach at the end of the season for going 4-8 overall and 2-6 in the Mountain West Conference. The most WTF part may be what happened the next week. Vanderbilt would go from losing 34-10 to a bad UNLV team to beating the 5-1 (2-0) Missouri Tigers 21-14. Surely the change was getting back a bunch of newly-healthy starters, right?

No, Vanderbilt got way better by going to their previously 3rd string walk-on QB Mo Hasan. Of course, Hasan would get hurt near the end of the game and be lost for the season because the universe hates Vanderbilt athletics and its fans. How much more “WTF?” can you get than that? We suck, so the team decides to set aside the two QBs who had battled to be the starter for a player previously out of the picture. UNLV did not hold any one else they played to fewer than 20 points, but the Vanderbilt Commodores could only score 10 (TEN!) at home.

It was not just the offense though. Vanderbilt, with the exact same defensive players, would give up only 14 points to a Missourah offense that had not been held under 31 points and were averaging 38.8 points per game in their first 6 games. Why the f--- did the Commodores give up 34 to UNLV?! The Runnin’ Rebels only scored more than 27 4 times in 2019. They put up 56 on FCS Southern Utah, 34 that day against Vanderbilt, and finished the season with 38- and 33-point performances against San Jose State and Nevada.

The 2019 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels were BAD. They ranked 92nd in Total Offense, 88th in Passing Offense, 58th in Rushing Offense, 97th in Scoring Offense, 105th in Total Defense, 104th in Passing Defense, 92nd in Rushing Defense, and 108th in Scoring Defense. Again, the rest of their schedule was 6 MWC teams, Arkansas State, FCS Southern Utah, and Northwestern. To round out the “the f---?” questions, how the f--- did Vanderbilt manage to make UNLV look better than anyone other FBS team they played when THAT is their schedule?!

Vanderbilt managed to perform about 50 net points worse than they should have. A 24-point loss should have been a win of the same margin. What can be more miserably WTF than that?


Which moment advances?

This poll is closed

  • 34%
    Wichita State, 2016
    (37 votes)
  • 65%
    UNLV, 2019
    (71 votes)
108 votes total Vote Now