Finally, the nonconference schedule is here.
Here’s a quick rundown of Vanderbilt’s 13-game nonconference schedule, which includes eight home games, three road games, and two neutral-site games.
November 10: Alabama State (4-14 in 2020-21, 354 in KenPom)
I’m not going to go a deep dive into who’s returning and who’s incoming at all of these schools, but let’s just say that a team that ranked 354th in KenPom last season (out of 357 Division I teams) is a safe bet to be bad again in 2021-22. So, Vanderbilt should open the season with an easy win.
November 14: Texas State (18-7, 183 in KenPom)
This is the kind of game you schedule if you maybe want some heft in your computer rankings (no, the NCAA doesn’t use the RPI any more, but it’s not that different from the NET) without really risking a loss. Texas State won the Sun Belt last year, but if Vanderbilt is an NCAA Tournament bubble team (I’m not saying they are, but follow the logic) then this is a game they should win.
November 17: VCU (19-7, 48 in KenPom)
Yeah, I think this one pretty much speaks for itself. A good early test for the Commodores.
November 20: Winthrop (23-2, 101 in KenPom)
Okay but really what the hell are we thinking.
November 24: at Pittsburgh (10-12, 97 in KenPom)
This is a good game to schedule. Pittsburgh is enough of a name to where Vanderbilt beating them would earn some respect, while not actually being good enough for this to be an automatic loss.
November 29: Mississippi Valley State (2-22, 357 in KenPom)
LOL. Remember, there are 357 teams in Division I.
December 4: at SMU (11-6, 56 in KenPom)
SMU was an NIT team last year, and this game is on the road. This might be the real barometer for how the 2021-22 season is going to go: if Vanderbilt wins this one, yeah, we might have to start talking about this as a potential NCAA Tournament team.
December 7: Temple (5-11, 143 in KenPom)
Temple has weirdly fallen off in two years under alum and former NBA player Aaron McKie. Also: WET THEIR HETS.
December 10: Loyola-Chicago (26-5, 10 in KenPom)
One thing I like to say about nonconference schedules is that you can tell a lot about what a coach thinks about his team based on the schedule he puts together. And let me just say that if Jerry Stackhouse doesn’t view his team as a tournament contender, there is exactly no reason to schedule this game. Granted, Loyola probably won’t be a top-10 caliber team again, but you’re not scheduling this game if your goal is to pad the record.
December 18: Austin Peay (14-13, 215 in KenPom)
Austin Peay had a weirdly disappointing 2020-21 season, and then they lost their best player (Terry Taylor) to the NBA Draft, and also lost Jordyn Adams — who averaged 17.4 ppg as a freshman the year before — to the transfer portal. The Peay might not be too good this season.
December 22: at Hawaii (11-10, 187 in KenPom)
This will be the opener in the Diamond Head Classic, and since Hawaii’s the host it counts as a road game. Vanderbilt should beat Hawaii, and then they’d play either BYU (20-7, 20 in KenPom) or South Florida (9-13, 170 in KenPom.) The final game would be against one of Liberty (23-6, 98), Northern Iowa (10-15, 163), Wyoming (14-11, 164), or Stanford (14-13, 57.) That’s a pretty good field and should give Vanderbilt one or two solid opponents.