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Vanderbilt Basketball Mail Bag #8: Answers to your Questions

You ask, we answer.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 18 Tennessee at Vanderbilt Photo by Matthew Maxey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Questions from FormerSpiritofGold & 92Drummer:

How bad is it? Like, set aside the wins and losses. When we have players actively saying they can’t get energy for home games, fans as mad as I’ve ever seen them, the student section full of buttchugger orange, and an admin that couldn’t be more tone deaf, is this the lowest morale has ever been around this program? And, how does it change?


Are any of you watching the packed house at College Station vs UK? There was a white tee shirt on each chair in the building when they entered, and there is not an empty seat in the house. KY is absolutely rattled.

Games at Memorial at this point are just that - a bunch of sadness in the present while trying to be happy by thinking about the past.

Answers from AoG:

Tom: It’s hard to say that. I mean, yeah, the admin sucks, the students never should have been shut out of Memorial. Then again, it’s only been three years since the team went 0-18 in the SEC, got booed out of Memorial Gym on Senior Night (and deservedly so.) At least we have hope.

DoreOnThePlains: Unlike football, Vanderbilt does not have the smallest home venue in SEC basketball. In fact, Memorial is the 7th largest. Auburn is actually the smallest at just over 9,000 and is on its way to becoming its own version of Cameron Indoor with tight confines and pure insanity in the stands. So the tiny crowds are just brutal optically, especially for the 3 SEC home games without the students.

I think it is hard to say the morale is at the lowest point for the program when they are 2-3 in the SEC. Frustration with administration may be at an all time high because Vandy United made us all think things were going to drastically change then the university absolutely torpedoed about 75% of the goodwill a $300M facilities project bought. With that said, assuming they can avoid more brain dead decisions this season, seeing actual physical progress on those facilities can rebuild some faith.

The more important thing for basketball specifically will be wins. If they can flirt with .500 in the SEC, that would be a big boost. Oh, and then do not have a huge season ticket price hike in the middle of a pandemic.

Andrew VU ‘04: Before I answer, this might be instructive:

As for the “no students in the stands, but we’ll allow a bunch of large orange unmasked Farvas from Knoxville in the student section” thing... Completely closing the stadium to all fans was my argument in the last mail bag when that question was asked, so yeah... I agree. Think the band, cheerleaders, student workers, student athletes, coaches, etc. are more or less at risk with the student body in the stands or with VFLs packing them?

As I replied to VandyImport in the comments of Tom’s article earlier this week:

VandyImport: The correct answer was to open the gym for those games for students ONLY.

Me: I didn’t think of that, but absolutely. Have them mask up and encourage them to pack the gym. That’s not only a better decision from the perspective of school spirit/competitive atmosphere, but also w/r/t public health policy.

Wouldn’t it actually be safer to allow ONLY students, faculty, and staff in Memorial? Would that have sparked more outrage or less? Either way, though I am in favor of more Covid restrictions than our current “just lick doorknobs” society at large, I do think Kirkland boofed this one.

Question from Vandyfan1:

How big is this next couple of games for us in terms of NIT hopes and mss and maybe NCAA hopes?

Answers from AoG:

Tom: So I’m not going to pretend like making the NCAA Tournament this year is going to happen, and even the NIT is a bit iffy. But, yeah, road trips to Florida and South Carolina, if they’re wins, are the kind of thing that can flip the season. Then again, I said that after they beat BYU and won at Arkansas. Holy crap, that Arkansas game was this month? Seems like it was longer ago than that.

But looking longer-term, you get those two, you’re 4-3 with what basically amounts to a freebie against a terrible Georgia team at Memorial in the first game that students will be allowed back at. Swallow a loss at Rupp, then you get a free shot against LSU at home, followed by Missourah. Go 4-2 in that stretch and we’re in business going into mid-February. I’m not saying it will happen, but you can see where this team can start thinking about the NCAA Tournament.

DoreOnThePlains: They are massive in that losing them strongly suggests we will not win the other games necessary to play beyond the SEC Tournament. We owe SC a loss and need to kick the pups again. A win tomorrow to set up a potential 5-3 first month of SEC play would be a good place to be for the NIT and be a clear indicator of improvement.

Andrew VU ‘04: In terms of former Vanderbilt Shootyhoops players, this is as big as Dawid Pryzybyzbyzybyzyvski. The next 3 games to close out the month are at The Jorts, at The Game Penises, and home against Ugga. We’re currently 10-7 (2-3 SEC). We NEED to win 2 out of three to keep NIT hopes alive. NCAA hopes are back to where they were when we lost to Temple. Just... gone, baby, gone. Lose 2 out of 3, and you can kiss those NIT hopes goodbye, as well.

Question from CryingInMemorial:

I have a question you can add. At what age did you learn to not foul down 2 points with 50 seconds left in the game?

Answers from AoG:

Tom: I don’t remember. Maybe Matthew Fisher-Davis knows the answer to this?

DoreOnThePlains: Scotty is a player that is going to try to do too much a lot. He does it with the ball in his hand and on defense. I have not seen a replay, and the play occurred at the far end from my seats in 2L. It looked like he got overly aggressive when the ball handler mishandled for a second, but it was never going to be a steal. Ever. Pip tried to go all the way around him to the ball then just grabbed when he was clearly beaten.

To answer the question you asked instead of the one implied, 8.

Andrew VU ‘04: You’re 10 in the 4th grade, right? I think that’s when I started playing travel ball. So... then.

*Note: I stopped playing in the 8th grade when the tall kids got coordinated. Prior to that, the short kids ruled the hardwood. Then, the tall ones stopped getting hit in the face when you passed them the ball, and that was the end of my NBA dreams.

Question from Jared Rifkin:

Do you think SP will go in the draft this year? I don’t think he’ll be drafted if he does

Answers from AoG:

Tom: The thing is, Scotty’s draft stock is probably lower now than it was last season. When you’re a fringe player — which he is — you can’t return for your junior year and not improve in any meaningful way.

That said, if he goes to the draft, it’s not because he thinks he’ll get drafted. It’s because he just doesn’t want to play college ball any more.

DoreOnThePlains: Unless he goes on an absolute heater to end the season, including some sort of SECT and NIT/NCAAT run, I agree with Tom that his stock will be lower after this season than it was for the last draft.

Andrew VU ‘04: The pre-season 2 round mock drafts and overall draft boards I saw did not have him listed, and that’s back when he had pre-season SEC POTY hype. Though it’s certainly possible, I don’t think he will be drafted. His main strength is the ability to get veteran foul calls. I’m not sure NBA team scouts look at that as much as other traits. If I had to bet, SPJ will have to decide between playing in Europe (or Australia, China, or any other foreign league), the G League, or returning for his senior year. I really hope he chooses the latter, as we’ve got some tall croots set to join the team next year.

Question from ionlyrootforbadteams:

Not really a question for the mailbag but I wanted to bring to everyone’s attention that Matt Ryan (the shooter who was bad at shooting during THAT year) is averaging 24 points over his last six games in the G league. How did Bryce Drew manage to get all his players to underperform??

Answers from AoG:

Tom: Today I learned that Matt Ryan is in the G-League, which means that even after Darius Garland got hurt, Bryce Drew had two NBA players (Saben Lee and Aaron Nesmith) and two G-League players (Matt Ryan and Simi Shittu) and went 0-18 in the SEC.

DoreOnThePlains: He spent more time on his clapping technique than figuring out what pieces he had to make into a competent team. Ryan is, as best I can tell, a spot up shooter. You have to help the spot up shooter get a shot. Kyle Korver rarely created his own shot. Matt Ryan is rarely going to create his own shot. With Nesmith and Ryan on the wings, it really is incredible that Drew could not find SOME way to get them enough open looks to rain 3s.

Andrew VU ‘04: I reject that this is not a question for the mail bag and will include it in the mail bag. Bryce Drew sold this school a monorail and left town.

Question from VU1970:

Nemmind the bs. Forget the covidistration. How are we doing in basketball? Does playing a ranked SEC team tough at “home” mean we can beat one down the road? How far are we from being a team nobody wants to play in the SEC tournament?

Answers from AoG:

Tom: We are approximately a healthy Liam Robbins away from being a team that nobody wants to play in Tampa, and yes, the SEC Tournament is in Tampa this year for reasons that make sense to no one.

DoreOnThePlains: The team is pretty inconsistent, even within a game. They will have long droughts then flurries of offense. Tom is probably right that having a real starting caliber center in Liam Robbins would stabilize things. Chatman coming back would also be a huge boost in the ball handling department.

Andrew VU ‘04: I don’t know, man. We’re basically a yo-yo at this point. Get my hopes up. Crash them down. Repeat.

Speaking of yo-yos, this is a good prank from the guy who plays Colin Robinson on What We Do in the Shadows:

Question from chasrad:

What was it about Stephanie White that drove so many players away from the program?

She could recruit them, but not keep them. Why not more coverage of the women’s program?

Answers from AoG:

Tom: I’ll just leave this here.

Now, tweets from players’ parents aren’t the be-all, end-all, but when starters are leaving the program in droves, well, that’s a sign that there is something deeply wrong. In the transfer portal era, transfers are going to happen to some degree, but the degree that it happened under White was not normal even in that context. I get it when scrubs leave the program to find more playing time somewhere else, but losing three starters who have eligibility left is a problem.

And I’d actually like to devote more ink to the women’s team since the Shea Ralph era looks very promising. But I only have so much time in the week...

DoreOnThePlains: We all know White was horrible as a coach. As Tom brought up, it appears she might have been miserable to deal with as a person, too. In that light, it is not hard to understand why the best players were bailing on a program that kept drawing in theoretically good recruiting classes but never doing anything with it with the best players from each class consistently moving on after only a year or two.

Spring is a bad time for me to cover anything. I am an assistant soccer coach at a high school, and this is our season. The Preds also take over a significant portion of my life during the winter and spring. My presence on the site has been all but nonexistent, including never posting the Staff Pick’em’s Bowl/Playoff picks. So, yeah, those are my excuses.

Andrew VU ‘04: I’ll answer that last part first. Everyone here at Anchor of Gold has jobs and lives. This site is just our hobby. We welcome anyone who’s obsessed with any Vanderbilt sport to write for us. For me, that’s baseball. For Tom, that’s basketball. We pretty much all do football out of obligation, but haven’t gotten any real joy from it in years. Patrick has added Women’s Soccer to our repertoire. Parlagi occasionally gets up game threads about women’s tennis. Parlagi and Lsmsrbls occasionall takes over the comments and turn them into Women’s Bowling live threads. Heck, we even had a guy who covered cross country for a bit. Long story short, if you, or anyone you know, wants to cover the Women’s Basketball Program, contact me or Tom (@anchorofgold on Twitter, in the comments, or in the emails posted in our bios), and we’ll set you up. I echo all the sentiments of the other writers of having optimism about the Queen Ralph era.

Question from jessecuster44:

If we lit Kirkland on fire, would it burn? And would that even make a difference in changing VU Admin’s behavior towards Basketball?

Answers from AoG:

Tom: As your lawyer, I would advise you against arson.

DoreOnThePlains: As an engineer, it would definitely burn. The question is how hot we have to get it to... oh, I have been told to shut up and remind you that arson is VERY illegal. And a question like this will make you a prime suspect in the event of an actual fire.

Also, no, they would just start squeezing athletic money to pay for the replacement to Kirkland.

Andrew VU ‘04: I don’t know how to answer this other than to say, in no certain terms, that setting the administration building on fire would be wrong and illegal. Do not do that.

Question from ConquerAndPrevail:

What should the students chant upon their return? How can it give the team a buzz while giving the admin their due comeuppance?

Answers from AoG:

Tom: Skuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuch.

DoreOnThePlains: ”Hippity Huz, Hippity Huz; What in the hell is the matter with us.” How the hell was I first to this?

Andrew VU ‘04: “Walsh, you suck!” (I’m nothing if not a traditionalist.)