If you’re looking for a positive in Vanderbilt’s 5-3 start to the season, well, Vanderbilt is playing a bit of defense this season. The Commodores currently rank 65th in defensive efficiency according to KenPom, and if this keeps up, Vanderbilt will rank in the top 100 in that statistic for the first time since 2016-17 — which also happens to be the last time Vanderbilt made the NCAA Tournament. Seven of Vanderbilt’s eight opponents have averaged under a point per possession; the lone exception was SMU on Saturday.
The bad news: the offense has fallen off. Oh, sure, last year’s offense wasn’t great, but it ranked 71st in offensive efficiency; pair that with this defense, and Vanderbilt is at least an NIT team. This year’s offense, so far, ranks 105th, in spite of showing some improvement in three of the four factors.
Shooting, though... well, that’s a problem. After last night’s 4-of-26 performance from three-point range, Vanderbilt is shooting 30.4 percent from deep this season. That performance, if it keeps up, would make this Vanderbilt’s worst three-point shooting team since the three-point shot was introduced in the 1986-87 season. (The previous worst: the 2018-19 team, which shot 31.1 percent from deep, and that team somehow had Aaron Nesmith on it.)
That said, there’s some hope of this turning around. Scotty Pippen is basically shooting as well as he always has; Jordan Wright’s three-point percentage has tailed off a bit, but his 43.2 percent performance from last season probably wasn’t sustainable. Trey Thomas, though, is 6-for-32 from three this season — and we have some considerable evidence that he’s a much better shooter than that. Terren Frank (3-for-14) and Tyrin Lawrence (2-for-16) probably aren’t good shooters, but they’re also probably better than this, too — and in Frank’s case, he might find himself on the bench anyway if this keeps up.
Or, perhaps, the lack of an offensive presence down low, with Liam Robbins’ season-long injury (so far), is having a negative effect on the offense by allowing defenses to simply ignore the paint and concentrate on stopping the shooters. Either way, this offense needs to get better.
|Scotty Pippen Jr.||29||6||15||2||7||2||5||0||5||5||16||4||1||2||0||1||6.3||13.22||0.46|
- So, yeah, we’ll start at the bottom: having three players (out of ten who got on the floor) posting negative Game Scores, and a fourth who was just barely in positive territory, is never good. For reference, a negative Game Score effectively means you’re actively hurting the team.
- And, a reminder that with Liam Robbins out, Quentin Millora-Brown is the only player on the roster taller than 6’8” — and if he’s playing 13 minutes, well...
- That said, Jamaine Mann at 6’6” did a reasonably good job of doing Big Man things last night, as he’s done all season. Him being the team’s best player in a particular game probably isn’t a good sign, though.
- Yeah, Jordan Wright and Scotty Pippen Jr. combining to go 11-for-32 from the floor and commit nine fouls between them is probably a bad thing. Last night, some bad performances elsewhere still left them as the second- and third-best players on the team, but they’re going to have to do better than this.
- As mentioned at the top — I have no idea what’s going on with Trey Thomas’s shot, and while Terren Frank has potential as a defender with some length and athleticism, he’s been a dreadful offensive player so far. (The way that I sum up Terren Frank is that I can see both why he was a four-star recruit and why he barely got off the bench at TCU last season.)
- I don’t really know why Myles Stute only played 13 minutes: he wasn’t in foul trouble, wasn’t injured that I know of, and wasn’t playing particularly poorly.
Loyola-Chicago visits Memorial Gym on Friday night at 7:00 PM CT on the SEC Network+. (What the SEC Network main is showing at that time, I have no idea. This is the only basketball game on Friday night involving an SEC team.) The Ramblers are 8-2 and ranked 29th in KenPom, though they haven’t beaten anybody better than Arizona State (ranked 97th.) This will either be an opportunity to flip the narrative on the season, or another loss to a beatable team. Your call, Vanderbilt.