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Vanderbilt Basketball Mail Bag #5: Answers to your Questions

You ask, we answer.

Syndication: The Tennessean
George Walker IV / / USA TODAY NETWORK

Question from ComstippleSacksoun:

het-o-meter check-in after beating BYU and scaring Stanford into the protocols?

Answers from AoG:

Andrew VU ‘04: On it.

Question from Jacketsnest101:

Where do you see this team finishing in SEC play? 8-4 is a solid start but CJS has had issues getting this squad to play well together offensively in SEC play, do you think that will change this year? And if so, how much?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I’m adjusting my expectations, but honestly it has more to do with Liam Robbins being seen in not a boot on the bench (suggesting that he will quite likely be back at some point in the relatively near future) than anything that happened on the court. But right now I’d set my expectation at something like 8-10: sweep Georgia, win home games against Texas A&M, South Carolina, and Missourah, and then I can see them stealing a road game at South Carolina or Ole Miss. Then find a couple more wins somewhere, I guess? It’s still kind of hard to see anything beyond eight wins unless Robbins comes back and makes a huge difference.

Stanimal: With a healthy Robbins, this team goes 10-8 in SEC play. That’s my bold prediction!!

Paul: Might as well elevate my expectations for more disappointment. I think this team can eclipse 0.500 in conference play. For whatever reason, this team found some magic in Hawaii and can now shoot the ball with confidence. In particular, having a changeup guard in Trey Thomas that is now making shots (7/15 in his last 3 games) for us will help immensely to spread things out and clear some lanes for SPJ to work his magic.

Andrew VU ‘04: The last time a version of this question was answered (right after we were absolutely dismantled by the Loyola-Chicago Fightin’ Ivy League Grad Student Transfers), I answered: “If Tom’s setting the line at 6.5 SEC wins, I’ll take the under.“ Does the Diamond Classic Tourney Win (though one was by Covid forfeit) change that prediction? I would think so. Now I can see us going 8-10 in SEC play (give or take a game; give or take a Liam Robbins return), which would give us a 16-14 season and a possible NIT bid. That work for you?

Question from CorneliusHimself:

What should I do with this feeling of hope?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Save it for baseball season.

Stanimal: Let it come on in! At least it’s something!

Paul: Keep it rolling. Considering the past 1000 days or so of Vanderbilt Basketball have been a combination of disappointment, despair, and apathy for all of us, hope is a welcomed emotion. They’ve earned the right for fans to start showing up just in time for SEC play, but we’ll see if that actually happens. I’m about to attempt sober January, so “hopefully” Vandy can keep dangling the carrot for the next few weeks.

Andrew VU ‘04: Not sure if I can keep going back to the well of the Emily Dickinson velociraptor, but we shall see. In my opinion, the raptor has feathers again, but is not in its full plumage yet. Think a half-plucked chicken, but one you will have to say “Clever girl...” to as it kills and eats you.

Question from VandyFan1:

Team seems to be playing a lot better in this tournament is it a coincidence that it was when chatmen [sic] came back or do u think we just played better

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: For now, it seems like more of a coincidence than anything, because it’s not like Chatman played particularly well — and I don’t think he really has much to do with Quentin Millora-Brown suddenly becoming an effective player.

Stanimal: I think Chatman just adds valuable minutes and creates a stabilizing presence. I’m not positive it has made all the difference. I just think the team has woken up some and realized they can’t take nights off.

Paul: I love Chatman coming back as the veteran glue guy, but I think multiple factors contribute to a newfound confidence in this team. Improved outside shooting, solid post performances from QMB, and SPJ starting to take over games again are all helping us out right now. Whether or not these trends continue in SEC play are TBD, but it made the games in Hawaii a PTW (pleasure to watch).

Andrew VU ‘04: It is not a coincidence. Chatman has been a veteran, stabilizing force in the backcourt. He’s strong defensively, always seems to be in the right place, and can get a few buckets when you need him to. Vanderbilt has always had success when they have glue guys, and Chatman is precisely that. As his conditioning rounds back into form, expect his minutes to go up. He should start.

Question from BankingOnDores:

NIT or NCAA? If we have everyone, what is a realistic ceiling and floor for SEC play? I need to set my expectations now.

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Probably NIT. As mentioned in my previous answer, I see this as about an 8-10 SEC team, which would get them to 16-14 overall. That’s not enough to make the NCAA Tournament. They’d need to find a couple of wins somewhere else for that to happen, and even then they might need to win a game in the SEC Tournament. The realistic ceiling is probably 10-8 or so, and that barely gets them into the NCAA Tournament.

Stanimal: You know, for hope sake I’m going for it. NCAA team. 10-8 in SEC is floor. 12-6 is ceiling. I’m not sure I believe that actually but what the hell.

Paul: This is where some of those non conference losses really start to bite us. Say we win 2 out of the 3 losses against VCU, Temple, and SMU (all games that Vandy should have won given either abysmal shooting or blown leads), all the sudden this team is 10-2 headed into conference play as opposed to 8-4. Then, the narrative is that Vandy made it through their relatively easy non conference schedule with just a couple of hiccups as opposed to a trend of losing to four mediocre teams.

It’ll take at the very least 18 or so wins in conference with 2-3 of those against an opponent like UK, UT, Alabama, LSU, or Auburn to even sniff the NCAAs. Anything could happen, though, and we’ve certainly seen Vandy teams over perform and scrap together a few wins against ranked foes.

Andrew VU ‘04: NIT. For us to have a realistic shot at an NCAA bid, we’d likely need 20 wins minimum. Given our tough conference slate, that would have meant meant going 13-1 or 12-2 in out of conference play. We could have afforded a loss to Loyola-Chicago, and maybe even VCU, as well, but those Temple and SMU losses mean we would have to go 12-6 in SEC play, and I don’t see Shan Foster or Derrick Byars suiting up any time soon. The NIT even will be an uphill climb, but it’s a mountain we should be able to summit. Set your expectations at 16 wins and an NIT bid. More than that is gravy; less than that is slightly disappointing. Even if Liam Robbins returns tomorrow, I’m not sure we could get 12 conference wins.

*Note: This calculus changes a bit (by one win, of course) if we decide to fit in one more OOC game before conference play starts, as the Stansbury forfeit gives us that ability. We should absolutely be on the phone with the ADs of Lipscomb, Tennessee Tech, UT-Martin, etc. to see if they want to come to Memorial between now and Jan 4th. We’ll have to buy that game, but should absolutely do so.

Question from Parlagi:

Is this basketball season going to be like the 2020 football season? Where the talking heads jabber nonstop about how unique and special this season is, and then the Final Four is just Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, and Kentucky? If it is, I’d like to go ahead and tune out now.

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I doubt it. I mean, right now the top four teams on KenPom are Gonzaga, Baylor, Purdue, and Houston.

Stanimal: I mean no one seems to want to be the best team in the country right now, not even the blue bloods, so I doubt that.

Paul: I don’t think so. This season will be frustrating in January and into some of February due to continued Omicron cancellations, but the tournament should be fully back to normal and with one of the deeper fields of contenders we’ve seen in a while.

Come tournament time the elites are still relatively non-traditional programs, such as Baylor, USC, Purdue, etc and dangerous teams tail well through the top 20. Madness will return just like it always has, with hopefully this wave of the pandemic subsiding well before then.

Andrew VU ‘04: No. We have already won a game this basketball season.

p.s. You forgot Baylor.

Question from VandyImport:

How dumb was I to book three weeks in London starting March 2?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: You should never leave the country during the SEC and NCAA Tournaments, this is poor planning. Unless it’s 2019 in which case no, I do not regret being on a Caribbean cruise during the last gasp of the Bryce Drew era.

Stanimal: Sky sports and pubs will have you covered. There’s plenty of drinkin holes over there.

Paul: Unsure if this is an Omicron question or a “What if Vandy makes their first NCAA tournament in 5 years” question. I’d direct any pandemic questions towards the armchair epidemiologists on Twitter that will address your concerns in the echo chamber replies section of your choosing.

If you’re concerned about missing Vandy playing in the tournament, let me lay it out for you. I’d put Vandy at about at 5-10% chance of making the field of 68. Stop there, and that would be enough of a reason to proceed with the trip. However, let’s say Stack pulls of a miracle run and Vandy squeaks in as a 10 seed. Then, we’re likely losing in the first or second round, at which point you’ve cancelled a once in a lifetime trip to Europe to watch us lose by 15 to Baylor, Gonzaga, or Duke. Think of it this way - you have no control over Vanderbilt Basketball, but nobody will ever be able to take the memories of a London trip from you. This is a no brainer.

Andrew VU ‘04: Is this a basketball question or an Omicron question?

Question from Admirable Snack Bar:

Is there an impending onslaught of anti-vaxxer resentment and conspiracy theories about favoritism and Anthony Faucci in a Vandy uniform?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Coming from Stanford? Not a chance. No, but there is an ongoing onslaught of BYU fans whining about the refs handing a game to Vandy, which is certainly a theory.

Stanimal: Not sure Stanford folks even knew that a game was being played in Hawaii.

Paul: I imagine this question references the fact that Saturday was the 2nd occasion in 2021 where a Vanderbilt sports team advanced in a tournament due to Covid precautions in their opponent. I’d take a deep dive into some NC State fan accounts to see if they made any chirps about Vandy taking home the hardware on Saturday. Dang it, now I’m upset again about losing to Mississippi State in the CWS finals. Thanks Snack Bar.

Andrew VU ‘04: Not sure I understand the question... are you asking if Stansbury’s going to pull a QAnoNCState? Because no, they will not. It’s just not in their DNA to recognize that they have non-Olympic sports. Had this occurred to the women’s water polo team? Maybe. Still no, though, as even though they are a Junior College, Stansbury’s students and alums are not complete idiots. World-destroying tech “disruptors?” Certainly. Idiots? Not really.