Since Vanderbilt ended its basketball season a month ago, the Commodores have now seen five players depart the program — six, if you count Scotty Pippen Jr., who entered his name in the NBA Draft (though technically leaving the door open for a possible return.)
Individually, the departures aside from Pippen don’t hurt. Vanderbilt frankly expected to lose seniors Max Evans and Clevon Brown, though not necessarily to the transfer portal — it might have been nice to have them back next season, but that wasn’t exactly something they planned on. Losing a pair of fourth-year juniors in D.J. Harvey and Ejike Obinna shouldn’t have been unexpected, either, given that Vanderbilt has typically seen graduating players with an extra year of eligibility exercise it somewhere else. Issac McBride was a bit unexpected, I’ll grant, but Vanderbilt returns pretty much the same player in Trey Thomas.
Of course, McBride’s departure does create a weird situation in Vanderbilt’s backcourt.
With McBride gone, Vanderbilt only has three true guards on next year’s roster: Thomas, Tyrin Lawrence, and incoming freshman Peyton Daniels. I’m not sure any of the three qualify as a true point guard. You would think that Thomas, at 5’11”, would be, but as a freshman he was mostly a shooter with an underwater assist-to-turnover ratio. Lawrence might be the closest of the three, as he did have a 9-to-5 assist-to-turnover ratio prior to tearing his ACL — but then his biggest chunk of minutes came against a terrible Mississippi Valley State team. And of course, Peyton Daniels is a true freshman. This is suddenly kind of a problem area.
What’s suddenly not a problem area, though, is the frontcourt. It is amazing how much of a difference a single commitment can make and yet the addition of 7-footer Liam Robbins solidified a lot of things. Robbins’ addition will allow Dylan Disu to play exclusively at his natural spot at the four, while relegating Quentin Millora-Brown to a backup role where he can excel and also allowing more time for Akeem Odusipe to develop. Vanderbilt had a problem in the frontcourt last year but it wasn’t because of a lack of bodies; rather, it was because the big men individually were all guys who were more suited for part-time roles (well, that and Clevon Brown’s inability to stay healthy.) Replacing Obinna with Robbins is a big win on that front.
Vanderbilt’s roster looks a bit thin on the wing as well, with Jordan Wright returning after starting 15 games and averaging 24.4 minutes a game as a sophomore, but D.J. Harvey’s departure means that Vanderbilt will now have to rely more on rising sophomore Myles Stute and incoming freshman Gabe Dorsey there. Walk-on Braelee Albert is also an option here.
Given the makeup of the roster, I’m expecting Vanderbilt to go big a lot with Disu and Robbins being probably the team’s two best players (assuming Pippen doesn’t return), with some flexibility to play Wright on the floor with either Stute or Dorsey and a single guard — although they’ll probably try Stute as a small-ball four when Disu or Robbins is off the floor. The backcourt is a big question mark given that I don’t know exactly what to expect from Lawrence or Daniels, but I’d expect one of those two to start alongside Thomas, Wright, Disu, and Robbins.
And now, we get to the last part: Vanderbilt still has four scholarships available, five if Pippen remains in the NBA Draft. One of those could go to Braelee Albert, obviously, but the Commodores probably aren’t done adding players for next season — or at least they shouldn’t be.