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Vanderbilt Basketball Mail Bag #1: Answers to your Questions (Preseason Special)

You ask; we answer.

SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament - Florida v Vanderbilt Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Question from BerrymanQPRS:

What is considered a ‘successful season’ this year? A couple months ago I would have taken being in the top half of the SEC and making a run at the NIT. But I feel as of recently there’s been a lot more hype around this team than I originally thought (at least within the fanbase). Should I raise my expectations?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I would say making the NCAA Tournament is a successful season. I’m probably setting the bar high there, but when the head coach is in his third year and has the preseason SEC Player of the Year at his disposal, you can’t say that making the NIT is a success. Though I would definitely accept making the NIT.

Stanimal: We need to take the jump now. The jump is probably not as high as some might think, but this team needs to be right there on the bubble when March rolls around. I would be demanding the NCAA tournament if Disu had stuck around, but given that we are likely going to have to find a reliable four during the season, or a rotation that successfully off-sets that loss, I think that being on the bubble is fine. We have some very solid recruits that are coming in and the roster won’t be completely decimated after this year, so I definitely feel the trajectory is upwards.

Doreontheplains: I know we have the SEC Preseason POY in Scotty Pippen. Transfer center Liam Robbins is highly touted. Jordan Wright has been a guy who can break out for a game or two but was steady down the stretch, too. Trey Thomas is so fun because who does not love an undersized sniper for pure entertainment? He has apparently been recruited over. Thomas will start early in the season due to injury though.

This team looks like it should be an NIT participant. I have one reservation that I will not speak into existence though.

Paul: I would absolutely love to break 0.500 for the first time in four seasons. The schedule isn’t bad, especially pre SEC, and I’m pretty sure we have enough talent to do that. If we don’t, I think Stack’s seat gets pretty hot entering the 2022 season.

Andrew VU ‘04: I agree with your original assessment. Top half of the conference and an NIT bid would make it a success for me. Anything more is gravy. I know historically that is not a successful Vanderbilt shooty-hoops season, but we’ve not been ourselves since Kevin Stallings and his glorious Shine-O-Ball-O of a head did not follow through on his threat to kill various Wade Baldwins (there are at least four of them that we know of) and left to ruin Pittsburgh’s program.

If you want to raise your expectations, consider doing so for our chances at having the SEC POTY.


Question(s) from Force10JC & Mark Lonergan:

Can you tell me that, for the first time in 5 seasons, we will have a winning overall record?

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Over/under for wins in 21/22? SEC wins for same? Odds that Vanderbilt will actually make the NCAAs?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Vanderbilt should be able to get at least 10 wins out of its non-conference schedule, a prediction I am even more confident in after seeing that Pitt lost by 15 points to The Citadel in its season opener. That means that even a mediocre performance in SEC play would get the team over .500 overall. I would set the over/under at 18 wins, personally.

Stanimal: Yes, we will have a winning overall record this season. I am banking it. Over/under is 18 with about a 20% shot of doing enough in SEC play (don’t think the non-conference is going to help much) to get us into the tournament.

Doreontheplains: The non-conference schedule is not ridiculously tough, but it is mostly made of fringe tournament teams. Just creeping over .500 sounds about right. If I am setting odds, I am using the hook. Let's go 16.5 overall, 7.5 SEC, and the odds of making the NCAAT are 14%.

Paul: My O/U is 16.5 in total wins, and probably just below 0.500 for SEC play. The SEC is going to be relatively deep this year, but so long as we have a successful campaign before league play starts I like our odds to finish around there. Tournament odds probably 15% depending on this team’s ability to shoot the three.

Andrew VU ‘04: I can tell you we will have a good shot at a winning record. Will it be much over .500? Not on your life! Still, we should expect to be at or over .500 for the year. If not, we start making calls to the Korn Fairy, sharpen our torchforks, and/or turn things over to my highly experimental Kevin Stallings Shine-O-Ball-O Brand clones (*now with Baseball whistling force!). I’ll put the over/under at 16. I’ll set the SEC over/under at 7. Odds of making the NCAA tourney? 11.7%.

Here’s the shittiest part: had Dylan Disu not entered the transfer portal, those numbers jump to 21, 11, and 69%, respectively.


Question from VandyImport:

How long will we be recovering from the effects of the Drewfenestration? It feels like the last two years, you could point to shit luck with injuries, assorted pandemic chaos, turnover in Kirkland, blah blah blah. Is this the first legitimate year of the Vanderbilt Stackhouse Experience unencumbered by extenuating circumstance, and if so, how much should we read into it for a glimpse of our future in what is an annoyingly improved conference in recent years (with two more not exactly slouch teams added to the permanent Big [sic] 12 [sic] Challenge [sic] annually?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I mean, I think we’re past the effects of the Drewfenestration already what with there only being one player on this year’s roster who was recruited here by Drew, and that’s Scotty Pippen Jr., who technically signed his Letter of Intent after Stack was named the coach. But yeah, this season should give you a pretty good idea of where things are going with Stack.

Stanimal: We’re getting close. Had we retained Disu I would be confident to say it’ll happen this year. I know some will constantly say we’re giving Stack a pass, but goodness, not only did we lose our top two recruits from Drew’s last year to injury/the draft, but most of that team also transferred the next year. No one in their right mind should have expected Aaron Nesmith to pass on such a high draft position, and then Saben Lee really did nothing but give to the program and he certainly deserved to take his shot. When you don’t have players buying in on the foundation, that’s a problem. It caused the entire bottom to fall out, and we had to rebuild. That being said, this team should compete for the middle if not a little higher as I just don’t see any truly formidable teams from 5-8 (Alabama, Kentucky, Auburn are in a league of their own IMHO).

For the future, this recruiting class that is coming in is foundational. It has a great point guard in Noah Shelby. It two very solid bigs in Lee Dort and Colin Smith. Malik Dia is a nice long-term prospect. Stack has shown he can find some diamonds on the wings (Jordan Wright). They’ll have growing pains, but they will be a far cry from the end of the Drew era.

Doreontheplains: Remember the thing I would not speak into existence? Well, you just did by assuming the injury plague was gone. The scary thing is how long Drew might have gotten to stay if Garland stayed healthy, which likely keeps Shittu engaged.

As it is, a couple of short term injuries have already popped up. If we can avoid the long term issues, especially to Pippen and Robbins, this should definitely be a year to start really critically breaking down where the team is and how Stackhouse is influencing the way they play.

Paul: I agree that this will be the first year that we get an accurate look, void of any major excuses, of what Jerry Stackhouse will be capable of as a long term option to lead our MBB program. While I’ve been encouraged by his ability to coach up low talent teams to a somewhat competitive level, the early recruiting woes paired with some key losses to the transfer portal have haunted me. However, Stack has addressed my concerns directly, both my restocking the pantry with some transfers into the program and with a top 20 recruiting class for 2022. I’m pro Stack for now, so long as his team plays hard this year and he keeps his suit game strong.

Andrew VU ‘04: Man, I honestly don’t know. I like what Stack has been doing on the ‘crootin trail, but I don’t have that much faith in him as an Xs and Os guy. Also, I just received notice I was blocked by Stack on Twitter upon writing that. It’s true, though! I know there are many ways to judge a coach, but my personal preference is always for one who can outsmart the other guys in set plays. When Vandy had an inbounds play off a timeout during the Stallings era, you knew we were going to score. Possibly via wizardry resulting in an alley-oop to Matt Freije. During the Drew era, you knew he was going to clap. During the Stack era, we know he is going to stare angrily into our souls and block us on Twitter. What am I saying? I honestly do not know. I want to believe in the Stack era, but I am not sold as of yet.


Question from VandyLuke:

How would we rate the talent of this years roster (with the information we have now) compared to the last two seasons?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Better. Not so much at the top of the roster, where Scotty Pippen Jr. is still the team’s best player and replacing Dylan Disu with Liam Robbins is a wash at best, but the rest of the rotation should be better. It’s somewhat telling that it sounds like Trey Thomas, a guy who played 18 minutes a game last season, has probably been recruited over.

Stanimal: Liam Robbins is an upgrade overall. Most of the young guys are now nearing their developmental peaks, which offsets some of the transfer bust losses. I think Chatman is a very solid player. The talent is better. Let’s just hope that Pippen can maybe build just a little more (he’s already taken a big developmental jump).

Doreontheplains: The talent is probably a tick better than the last 2 seasons. The big difference is Pippen being a potential game-breaker. Players that can consistently or semi-consistently take games over are worth their weight in gold. Scotty has a real chance to be that kind of player. Robbins also potentially gives us a real opportunity for inside scoring that has been missing for too long.

Paul: Had Disu stayed, we’d be a tournament contender. Even with that loss, I still like what this team will be able to accomplish. Nobody gives Jordan Wright enough credit for his three point shooting ability (43%!) and people also forget that we have our first good big man since Luke Kornet. Experience plus a formidable inside threat makes this team a solid step above what we’ve seen in previous seasons.

Andrew VU ‘04: 3.5 stars. It’s honestly about the same talent-wise as the past two years—maybe 12 a star better. However, Pippen is in his post-larval form. He has become the Red Dragon, and that alone means the roster is stronger that it has been in years. If only Pippen could stay for another year, our overall talent would be something to get excited about, as next year’s ‘crootin class is something.

For fans around my age, let’s say this is a team as talented as the Matt Freije-Mario Moore bunch, but that was a well-coached team of overachievers.


Question from Admirable Snack Bar:

We’ve had some turnover through the transfer portal, so I’ve started seeing tweets about injuries to names I don’t recognize. Can you give a quick summary of who you expect to start game 1 and who else will [probably] start when healthy?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: When everyone’s healthy, your starters are Scotty Pippen, Rodney Chatman, Jordan Wright, Terren Frank, and Liam Robbins. With Chatman and Robbins out for the opener, I would probably say Tyrin Lawrence and Quentin Millora-Brown are starting in their place.

Stanimal: Healthy: Pippen, Rodney Chatman, Jordan Wright, EVENTUALLY I think Terren Frank (if it’s Stute that will mean we’ve been pleasantly surprised), and Liam Robbins. For game 1: Pippen, Thomas, Wright, Myles Stute, Quentin Millora-Brown.

Doreontheplains: After seeing some other projections, I'll say Pippen, Thomas, Wright, Stute, and QMB. Stute is the one I think is highly likely to be replaced but not sure who starts instead. The lineup for conference will probably be Pippen, Chatman, Wright, [???], and Robbins. Somebody will stand out during non-conference play and claim a starting spot.

Paul: Pip, Liam Robbins (once healthy), Stute, Wright, and Thomas. I will be sad if QMB starts.

Andrew VU ‘04: Oh man, I recognize like 5 names on this roster right now. (Actually checks roster) Hmm... I may have overstated my familiarity with this year’s roster. I know Pippen, Stute, Thomas, and Millora-Brown (“I am Millora-Brown; you are Jolem”). I’ve heard of some of the others, especially Minnesota big man grad transfer Liam “Wonderwall” Robbins, but have not seen them play for us. As such, I’ll reserve my judgment for a few games in.

I’d listen to whatever Tom and the others have to say about this. That, or watch The Outer Limits season two episode 16 “The Deprogrammers” to understand my Millora-Brown nickname.


Question from VandyFan1:

Do you see vanderbilt being the suprise [sic] team in the sec and pulling off some upsets over teams such as LSU, Mississippi st, ole miss or auburn?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Yeah, that sounds about right.

Stanimal: The exact crew I would name, but would probably substitute Florida for Auburn. I just don’t think Mike White’s Florida is Billy Donovan’s Florida.

Doreontheplains: Yes. That's what happens when you have the Preseason POY on a team expected to finish near the bottom of the league. The Dores will claim some scalps but drop some games they should not lose.

Paul: Three point shooting has the abilty to keep us in any game, but also for us to lose any game. So long as Wright, Stute, and Pip remain north of 40% from three, I like us to get a fun upset or two against a team we catch on an off night.

Andrew VU ‘04: Not against the Auburn University War Tigers, no, but against the others? Sure. LSU isn’t really anything special (Will Wade’s birthing hips—hat tip to DoreonthePlains—notwithstanding), nor is Clanga or Ole Piss. I would not be shocked if we knocked off any of those three, or even two out of four in total.


Question from ComstippleSacksoun:

How many steps did Jeff Green take? What does the rulebook say about this?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: At least three. The rulebook says that’s traveling.

Stanimal: To break it down: he lost control of the ball; regained, took a step to right legally, then he picked up his left foot, put it down, as he was bringing his right foot back across and then put both feet down as he swung towards his shot. Three steps. Travel. Also, Paul clearly has no idea how pivotal that moment was for Vandy basketball.

Doreontheplains: Too many. He traveled.

Paul: Jeff Green traveled is my least favorite Vandy complaint. The bigger issue at hand is that 1) We hold the sweet sixteen as some relic of basketball prowess that we need to achieve and 2) Vanderbilt has not made it to a sweet 16 since 2007. Nobody would care about the Jeff Green travel if Vandy had any tournament success in the years after.

Andrew VU ‘04: How dare you, Paul?!?! JEFF GREEN TRAVELED!!! We make the Elite 8, if not further, if the refs call that game correctly.


Question from Your Uncle Mike:

How long after this basketball season is complete will the player report cards be finished?

I’ll see myself out.

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: (internal screaming)

Stanimal: Are the previous ones done yet?

Doreontheplains: Mid-July.

Paul: New writer. I’ll be punctual.

Andrew VU ‘04: First of all, I’m still shocked that Tom ever finished them. I thought it was a running joke akin to “And This Just In: Generalissimo Fransisco Franco is Still Dead” and/or Josh Henderson having another year of eligibility left. As such, I took the mantle and promised never to finish the baseball report cards. I got through a handful, got bored, and forgot about it altogether. I do this all for you.