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Vanderbilt Basketball Mail Bag #7: Answers to your Questions

You ask, we answer.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Vanderbilt
“You kids mess around too much.”
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Question from DoreFanInDallas:

Can Vanderbilt basketball ever get back to the level where Kevin Stallings had it? I guess we didn’t realize how good we had it in those days.

Answers from AoG:

Tom: I don’t see why not, but whoever does it will have to accept the modern game of college basketball (i.e. the Transfer Portal era) and not exclusively rely on having players in the program for 3-4 years. While I would prefer to do that, that approach doesn’t really work when players aren’t willing to wait around a year or two before they play.

Paul: If we ever get back to that level, I’d say it would be the 2023-2024 season at the earliest. To get any student, alumni, or broader Nashville enthusiasm will take some sustained success and buzz out of the program. Vanderbilt has possessed neither ever since Darius Garland busted his knee, and many of our most loyal fans have justifiably taken their dollars and support elsewhere.

Kevin was able to field some talented and successful teams in his day but he never had to deal with 1) the dynamics of today’s transfer liberties and 2) increased entertainment competition in Nashville. Ten years ago, it was feasible for Kevin to groom mediocre recruits into great college teams over the course of four years while Nashville’s sports and entertainment consumers didn’t have as many options out there to spend their leisure dollars.

DoreOnThePlains: The answer is absolutely yes if this is a general question and not specific to Stackhouse. I need to see the end of this season to even start to answer this question for him with any confidence. The other option besides the portal is to keep churning out classes like the one he just signed, but that possibility seems unlikely because most schools cannot manage to sign Top 15 classes over and over.

I do think some success would alleviate some of the portal and transfer issues that have plagued us. Would Disu leave for Texas if we were an NIT or NCAAT team last year and were bringing in reinforcements? Maybe he would because I think Texas was his childhood team, but, in general, success would alleviate losing the good players unless they are headed to the draft. None of our other transfers went anywhere particularly exciting though, so they probably would not even be on a more successful Vanderbilt team originally OR might prefer to stay as reserve options on a competitor than starting at Kent State or Oral Roberts.

Andrew VU ‘04: I’m assuming you mean “peak Stallings” (i.e. mid to end of career Stallings), as we’re better than the 2000-2001 squad already, and are pretty close to the 2001-2002 team that got an NIT bid. I mean, I think so, but I also second what Tom said regarding a Stallings-type successful run—in which you recruit to a system, and only change that once you’re able to get even higher rated recruits—absolutely demands continuity of the roster. You need to get kids who fit your system and develop their skills, team cohesion, and turn them into masters of the system. Can anyone do that in the AAU/Transfer Portal Era? I mean, even with the past two shitty losses, are you telling me we don’t compete for a Tourney Bid simply if Dylan Disu doesn’t get bribed to go to Texas? Dear God, the longer I think about this, the more my answer veers into no territory.


Question from Your Uncle Mike & JesseCuster44:

Looking at the student section debacle, as a coach do you go along with whatever crap the admin throws out there? It looks like our Athletic Department/Marketing Geniuses don’t include the coaching staff of that particular sport in the hairbrained decisions they come up with.

That being said, did the admin just give Stack an out?

“Hey, I’m trying to build something here and look what they did. They gave the student section, that is part of the magic that makes this place, to the opposing team’s fans. I, for one, do not agree with that and hereby resign to go to a University that prioritizes their traditions.”

Am available for any speechwriting work that is needed.

&

What’s the next thing that admin will do to make playing at home less of an advantage for MBB? Should VU just play all of its games on the road?

Answers from AoG:

Tom: I think if Stack wanted to leave after that, he’d be fully justified in doing so, because it’s a symptom of the problem — the administration hasn’t really supported athletics in the past and the student section debacle is a sign that whatever they’re saying publicly, they’re still not as committed to the basketball program as they need to be. I mean, can you imagine this happening literally anywhere else in the SEC? Plus, with the students not on campus, uh, what exactly were you accomplishing by doing this?

Paul: I almost wanted Stack to resign on the spot after this whole debacle. I’m just really tired of being caught in the space where Vanderbilt enjoys the profitability that sports and the SEC Network bring to them without wanting to put forth any tangible effort to improve things systematically. To this day, they’ve been able to commit egregiously hypocritical crimes like they did this past week without any real consequence. Maybe losing their coach midseason would wake them up?

I think that Vanderbilt will next require that one new student play at least 10 minutes in every basketball game from here on out. They will claim that the basketball program in its current state promotes toxic idolatry of the athletes. Since the athletes are placed on such a pedestal, we should give some of our 5’8 students the chance to share the spotlight and make everyone feel included. Oh, and they can wear a Kentucky or Tennessee shirt while they play if they want to.

DoreOnThePlains: As Tom pointed out, with the delay of students returning to campus, very few of them would have been at the UK game anyway. The students should not have been banned from attending. The normal basketball band was there. The dance team and/or cheerleaders were there. At least one football player was in the crowd thanks to his Twitter feed. It was a pointless debacle. It is completely idiotic to believe these students will actually be hunkered safely in their dorms anyway. Do not put egg on your face for something with no real purpose. Again, not saying trying to limit viral spread is not a good purpose, but the plan put in place has little to no chance of success.

Vanderbilt becomes the first team to have a visitors section for basketball by selling tickets directly to other schools. The other schools take advantage to do just like in football and start sending their band to the games.

Andrew VU ‘04: The answer would have been to have no fans in the stands during peak Omicron, so as to protect the student athletes, as they are part of the student body, as well. That’s where it’s telling to me... they value the “paying customers” i.e. the fans buying tickets and the students paying tuition over the well-being of their student-athletes. If there’s ever a better argument that student-athletes are employees than the current NIL, transfer portal, full stadiums, but not letting the students in the student section era, I cannot think of one. I work in education, and can assure you this wave has hit us the hardest. My classes are about half full and a frightening amount of educators are currently out sick. I wanted to be in favor of them trying their best to keep their community safe, but having the stadium full (with Big Blue and Chuggers fans, no less), just sucks. It just sucks.


Question from Dore31:

Is Scotty Pippen Jr highly overrated by both the Vandy fan base and the media? His best skill is getting to the free throw and is above average at best in every other area of his game. Debate / discuss.

Answers from AoG:

Tom: I actually think the fan base doesn’t overrate him much any more, because most of us have come around to the idea of what he actually is: a numbers guy on a bad team who I won’t say hurts the team, but he’d probably be the third-best player on a good team. The media, on the other hand, picked him as the preseason SEC Player of the Year, which is, uh, obviously not going to happen.

Paul: I think what we’re seeing from SPJ is a combination of being the best player on a bad team and getting the full attention of any opponent we play. Nobody will look that good when double and triple teamed each possession. Some of his turnovers really frustrate me and his point totals seem to be the result of some Harden-esque tactics to get to the line, but it’s still impressive what he’s been able to do under such a microscope.

DoreOnThePlains: My two gripes with Scotty’s game are that he leaves his feet without knowing exactly where the ball is going and if they are open too often and has just a little too much faith in his ability to beat defenders one-on-one. The circus passes were common last year, but they seemed more purposeful. It is only 3 games into conference play, but his turnovers are up from 4.0 last yearto 5.7 per conference game. The 1v1 stuff is due to the offensive struggles of some other guys who had been consistent shooters but have had terrible seasons so far. Also, the lack of Disu who would probably be the second best player, and certainly top three healthy players, on this team makes him feel like he needs to do more without another consistent offensive threat. With that said, he might be underrated by the fans based on what I see on Twitter. The media just cannot get over his lineage.

Andrew VU ‘04: Nope. Appropriately rated. He’s a very good college basketball player. He may have a future in Europe. For him to be an NBA rotation player, he’s going to have to get a lot better at three point shooting and defense. He also needs to work on ball-handling and avoiding turnovers. He’s not Jordan Wright bad on those skills, but he can certainly improve. That said, he should be praised for getting nearly everything out of his talent, as he has old man skill moves already. If I were Scotty, I’d be trying to train with and emulate Seth Curry. Getting his game to mirror Seth’s (not Steph, Seth) would be his best path to make and stay in the NBA.


Question from Aspen VU:

Do you see any way out of this tunnel of mediocrity in the next year or two. Granted we have improved, but hardly pushing the top half of the conference.

Answers from AoG:

Tom: Yeah, but I think it involves getting the 2022 recruiting class on campus and maybe backstopping that with a good transfer or two, and maybe hoping Scotty returns for his senior year (which I doubt happens, but we might be able to rework things without him.) You’re never that far away from being a decent team in college basketball because it only takes a couple of good players surrounded by decent players to get there... but where are those coming from?

Paul: It would require some really crafty NIL and transfer portal work over the next couple of years. We have some solid commits coming in next year, but it’ll take more than that to push towards that next tier. Bruce Pearl made Auburn a top 10 program from absolutely nothing in about 3 seasons, so anything is possible. Why didn’t we hire Bruce Pearl?

DoreOnThePlains: Calling anything from Bryce Drew’s second year on “mediocrity” is much too nice. I think we can reach mediocrity in the next couple of season. I am still not completely out on this team as an NIT team. There is a lot of basketball left to play. A win at Georgia is not literally a must win, but the quality of opponent means the Dores should win if they are going to play beyond the SEC Tournament.

Andrew VU ‘04: Crootin’.


Question from VandyFan1:

should we be worried about this losing streak and when do you see it ending?

Answers from AoG:

Tom: It had better end on Saturday when we go to Georgia, who’s ranked 208th in KenPom and on a five-game losing streak themselves — with the first two of those coming to ETSU and Gardner-Webb at home. The Bulldogs are ranked 208th in KenPom, or 16 spots below Pitt, whom Vanderbilt handled pretty easily at their place.

And if it doesn’t, well... oh, there are only three more games until Georgia comes to Memorial.

Paul: UGA on Saturday is a game that Vanderbilt should absolutely win, but it’s also a game that Vanderbilt could absolutely lose. Saturday will act as significant barometer to what kind of resolve this team has. Pick up a win on Saturday, and we can call the USC loss sleeping at the wheel and the UK loss simply being outgunned before Knox Tech comes to town next week.

DoreOnThePlains: Needs to be Saturday for the fans’ sanity. Should be Saturday. If not, I would start flipping coins on games because beating Arkansas on the road then losing to SC AND UGA is inexplicable.

Andrew VU ‘04: What Tom said. Saturday against Ugga. Lose that and lose all hope of an NIT run.


Question from Shoogymgshoogs:

Will the men or women’s shooty hoops team end with a better SEC record?

Answers from AoG:

Tom: Oh, this is a good one. I think it’s the men, whose talent level relative to the rest of the SEC is better, but I won’t be surprised if it’s the women, because Shea Ralph.

Speaking of which, I’m not sure a new coach has ever gone “one of us” harder than Shea Ralph did this week:

Paul: I’ll take the women because Shea Ralph is the youthful beacon of hope for all of Vanderbilt athletics right now.

DoreOnThePlains: Men. But only because Shea Ralph was left with some serious flaws in that roster. I think they have bright spots, but they are either young or plagued by the glaring holes in the roster. That is what I have gathered from watching like 2.5 games and seeing some Twitter stuff, so it may not be completely accurate. The roster, not the coach, definitely seems to be the limiting factor on the women’s side.

Andrew VU ‘04: This year, I’ll take the men. I like the women’s chances long term, though. Speaking of getting back to early 2000s era Vanderbilt Basketball play, I’ll bet on Shea Ralph.


Question from Old Gold&Black:

At what point do you accept this current squad as the 2021-2022 team and maximize its performance while telling Liam you’re done for year, petition for redshirt and come nack next year? (IOW: is it worth using Liam for half of Feb and a week of March)

Also: how many games can you play in bball before losing the year?

Answers from AoG:

Tom: Basketball doesn’t have anything like the four-game redshirt for football; you either don’t play at all or you have to meet the criteria for a medical hardship. Those criteria, by the way, are “played in less than a third of the team’s games and none after the halfway point of the regular season,” which just happens to be Tuesday night’s game against Kentucky, so if he plays at all the rest of the year (ditto Chatman), he’d be ineligible for it.

Of course, Robbins has an extra year anyway thanks to the NCAA’s granting everyone an additional year after 2020-21, so it wouldn’t actually advantage Vanderbilt at all to sit him the rest of the season. In other words, it’s worth using him if he can go because the alternative is that he gets an extra year of eligibility that he would have had anyway.

(Rodney Chatman is a bit of a different case; as of right now, if he doesn’t play the rest of the season, he could apply for a medical hardship since he’s out of eligibility after this season otherwise — but then it wouldn’t be automatic because he’d be applying for a sixth non-COVID year of eligibility. Josh Henderson got it, but he also lost two seasons to injury, which certainly was a factor.)

Paul: My fellow writers beat me to the punch here, but it’s my understanding that Liam Robbins will have a bonus year of eligibility due to the Covid year last season. The larger question in my mind is whether or not he wants to test the pro waters this offseason. Then, it will be up to his draft evaluation and immediate professional outlook to determine whether or not he comes back to Vandy for a final year or sets sail elsewhere. If he is looking to go pro, why would he come back and risk further injury on a struggling team where he’s already inferior to Millora Brown?

DoreOnThePlains: This will be entirely up to the player. Tom already hit the rules points of this, and there is no benefit for Vanderbilt shutting him down. With that said, I assume Stackhouse is a smarter coach than Bryce Drew, so I doubt the offensive scheming is just twisting in the wind waiting on Robbins to get healthy.

Andrew VU ‘04: We should also bring in Noel Robbins.


Question from Gawquon:

Arbitrary hypothetical for funsies: You must trade one player on this year’s team for one player on any pre-Bryce Drew team. Both teams get to replay their seasons. (Note: You can’t trade Josh Henderson for Josh Henderson) Can you maximize success for both teams or do you just sacrifice this year and send Pippen into a tourney year?

Answers from AoG:

Tom: I trade Jordan Wright for the 2007-08 version of Shan Foster, because holy crap this team could use a Shan Foster, and also sticking Jordan Wright on the 2007-08 team means that we don’t get a 4-seed and don’t get to flush anything in the toilet against Siena.

Paul: This is one of my favorite questions we’ve ever gotten and I’ve been wrestling with possible combinations in my head for the past 15 minutes. I keep turning back to the reality that all five starters on most former successful Vandy teams would all be better than anyone (aside from SPJ) on the today’s roster, so I don’t think theres a way to mutually benefit two teams. Say you go the sacrificial route and replaced say, Brad Tinsley, on the 2012 team with SPJ, I’m not sure if swapping out the chemistry that Tinsley brought would even help that SEC Champion squad from ten years ago to advance past the round of 32.

I’ll say replace the current administration with the one that was in place back in 2007-2008. That way, even though Vandy has a bad team on the court right now, they don’t have higher powers preventing previously controllable factors, such as fan and student attendance, from further demoralizing this group of hardworking student athletes. Also, Kevin Stallings would have laughed in Dierdemeyer’s face if he tried to keep students away from the UK game.

DoreOnThePlains: Wow. So, my memory of Vanderbilt basketball really only tracks back to about to 2010. I went to a few games in 08 and 09. With that said, I agree with Andrew. I take Luke Kornet from 15-16 (last season under Stallings so who cares if it tanks them a bit) and send them Frank. I think Luke alone would turn this team into a sure bet for the NIT and make the NCAA probable.

Andrew VU ‘04: Terren Frank for Luke Kornet. A 3 point shooting, rim-running, shot blocking center to run with Scotty? Yes please.


Question from 92Drummer:

I put this in a previous post, but I’d like to make these official questions. So…

I’m seriously depressed this morning. Football season is over, and it did end the way I wanted it to. With the loss to KY, BB season is over. I’m not a fan of the game of baseball (though I definitely support the Vandy Boys!).

So it’s like sports are just done for me until the start of Football 2.0,, and even that will probably be over by mid-September.

So here is the QFMB - what can I do as a fan to change any of this? I mean, Several years ago the UGA fan base finally rejected their mediocre football coaches and it just paid off greatness. How can we get that done for us?

Another QFMB: I’m thinking of taking a continuing education class. Should I enroll at UK, UGA, or Alabama so I can join their tailgate parties as an Alum?

Answers from AoG:

Tom: Well, let’s just start by saying that there is no non-baseball, non-bowling Vanderbilt sport that is comparable to Georgia football, and anyway we already tried the “chase off a mediocre coach in search of greatness” and it got us Bryce Drew and the mass quantity of horrifying images that was the 2018-19 Vanderbilt basketball team.

That said, I’m starting to lose patience with The Stackhouse Era, which is in its third year and doesn’t really look much better than it did the first year. Success should be just around the corner (or here already), and it’s not.

Paul: I feel similarly about baseball and Vandy baseball. I love Tim Corbin, I love the Vandyboys and how they can independently be so elite amidst the historical incompetence of the Vanderbilt Athletic department. However, I selfishly want the national stage and buzz that a successful basketball or football team could bring to Vanderbilt. This desire, juxtaposed against the failures of the past five years, continues to look more and more unrealistic for the immediate future and leaves me with these 8 month gaps in sports boredom.

I’m a huge homer so luckily have the Titans over the next couple of weeks. I’d recommend latching onto pro sports.

DoreOnThePlains: Get into hockey and/or MLS if you cannot force yourself to enjoy baseball. But, really, the average fan has very little sway in the machine that is an SEC athletics department. The problem is UGA’s idea of mediocrity is not really mediocrity. Richt won 74% of his games, and 69% of his conference games there over 15 seasons. His worst 5 years were 6-7 (3-5) in 2010, 8-5 (4-4) in 2009, 8-5 (5-3) in 2013, 8-4 (5-3) in 2001, and 9-4 (4-4) in 2006. That’s not “mediocrity.” Vanderbilt does not have the luxury to go hire the most sought after options in ANY sport. Vanderbilt would have to massively overpay and even then it is never a sure-fire proposition.

Your last question disgusts me.

Andrew VU ‘04: Learn to love baseball.