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Vanderbilt Basketball Mail Bag #12: Answers to your Questions

You ask, we answer.

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COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 22 Alabama at Vanderbilt Photo by Matthew Maxey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Question from VandyFan1:

looking back at the start of the year if there are no injuries where do you think this team goes, as far as postseason is concerned?

Answers from AoG:

Tom: Given what we have seen of both Robbins and Chatman, I don’t think it’s going too far out on a limb to think this is an NCAA team if healthy for an entire season.

Paul: I think we’re probably 4-5 games better and sitting just outside of the bubble looking in. Everyone immediately thinks of Liam Robbins on this front, but while Chatman doesn’t offer the head and shoulders upgrade that Robbins does over QMB (with all due respect), he does provide some depth that this team desperately needs. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Vandy team that has this dramatic of a dropoff in talent once you remove the starting five.

Andrew VU ‘04: If Robbins was able to play like he did against the Gumps all year AND if Chatman was able to be the glue guy/defensive stopper/veteran presence which calms down the offense and allows us to actually run the plays as drawn/backup PG who can give SPG a rest... we’re a NCAA Tourney Team. Probably a 5-8 seed, I would think. Hovering around the top 25 all year. That’s what makes this season so tough.

PatrickSawyer: Definitely seems like a tournament team based on how they have played when either/both Chatman and Robbins are healthy.


Question(s) from ionlyrootforbadteams:

Given Robbins’ good play, his increasing minutes, and the limited effectiveness of playing Frank at the 5, will we see any more lineups without a true center? To me, it seems the best idea would be for one of QMB and Robbins to be in the game at all times and play ~10 minutes on the floor together

&

In that case, while we’re at it, I would love to hear your thoughts on the seemingly open tryout last night for the 2 guard position. Seemed like Lawrence, Dezonie, Thomas, and Weikert all got a chance last night. Personally, I would roll with a SPJ, Wright, Stute, and the two bigs starting lineup, but I also think that may leave the bench a bit thin, especially with Mann out.

Answers from AoG:

Tom: The thing about the Robbins/QMB lineup is that it’s actually extremely effective, because it turns out that Robbins is capable of playing as a stretch-4. It ends up looking a lot like the lineups that the 2015-16 team could roll out with Luke Kornet and Damian Jones on the floor together. The offensive hit is rather minimal, while the defensive benefit of having both of those guys on the floor together cancels it out.

That said, yeah, you’d definitely prefer to have at least one of them on the court at all times. I don’t necessarily mind throwing out Dezonie, Weikert, and all those guys for a handful of minutes (I am begging the people who want Stack to use an “8-man rotation” to understand that “being in the rotation” does not mean playing 3-5 minutes over the course of an entire game. That’s a bench player, not a rotational guy.)

It’s a weird spot, because I think Stack would dearly like to keep guys like Lawrence and Dezonie and even Gabe Dorsey in the program beyond this season, because they do have some potential to be good players for us down the road. And just burying them on the bench because they don’t merit playing time right now runs counter to that.

Paul: Without calling out any players specifically, I think that Stack needs to realize how much better off this team is by playing our starters tired vs. subbing in our reserves for extended periods at a time. It feels as if he’s following some Wikipedia page on how to coach that says he must rest his best players from the 12 minute to the 7 minute mark of the second half. Especially in do or die games like Tuesday night, I think he needs to try to do whatever it takes to win instead of letting people “try out” with the season on the line.

Andrew VU ‘04: I understand wanting to stack both of them together against the Gumps, as it gives us a size advantage down low. Still, I’m not happy about the lack of attention paid to a center rotation last night. When both were out, and SPJ was out at the same time, it was a shit show. Stack could have pretty easily had them both on the court for 13 to 12 of the game, and then made sure one of them was out there while the other rested for the remaining 23 to 12 of the game (depending on the minutes plan). He didn’t. It sucked.

As for the second question, with Chatman out, our bench sucks. Full stop. There’s just no real solution to it, as all are flawed players. I could see having Tre Thomas at 2 and SPJ at 1, with both bigs in and Stute at 3. That would cause defenses to crash down low and open things up for a three-stravaganza from 1, 2, and 3. When the two bigs are not in (but please, have one of them in at this time), I could see relying a bit more on Lawrence, as he can approximate a combo guard. Wright cannot be out there without an established ball handler running things (think Chatman, SPJ, or—if there’s foul trouble, injuries, or exhaustion—Lawrence). When Wright has the ball in his hands too much, you just know the turnover is coming. It’s lunacy not to expect it. I’m not sure exactly what Dezonie does. I would only use Weikert in the first lineup mentioned when trying to give Tre Thomas a rest.

PatrickSawyer: As I have said, I am less concerned about Thomas, Dezonie, or Weikert seeing the floor. The problem is not having 1 of Pip or Lawrence and 1 of QMB or Robbins. Terren Frank and Gabe Dorsey are Shelby Moats levels of bad. Stute, Wright, and the other 7 non-Frank/Dorsey players should be able to split the 200 total minutes needed. That’s 20 minutes per player for those 10 guys. Pippen, QMB, Robbins, Lawrence, Wright, and Stute can handle 25 minutes each, so find out how to mix and match the other 4 to get an average of 12.5 minutes each.


Question from Jared Rifkin:

Where are we on the heat-o-meter [sic] after last night’s loss?

Answers from AoG:

Andrew VU ‘04: I got this one.


Question from jessecuster44:

Ho-Hum another game, another good effort in February, but ultimately leading to a ceiling of meh. Next year... looks to be the same as this year. Because past years have looked like this year.

What is it going to take for this program to elevate above mediocrity?

Answers from AoG:

Tom: It’s going to take some continuity, which is difficult to find in The Transfer Portal Era.

I hinted at it above, but keeping players like Dezonie, Dorsey, and Lawrence in the program is really going to be the key to elevating above mediocrity. Not that these guys are special, like All-SEC types, but what we’re seeing this season is that having a guy like Scotty but surrounding him with guys who aren’t ready or guys who are in way bigger roles than what their skill set would dictate is a recipe to go 7-11 in the SEC.

Paul: I may be in the minority here, but I think this team is much more competitive than last year’s team. The issue has shifted from “how are we going to be competitive in SEC games” to “how are we going to finish out close contests.” While we may only be a handful of games better than the 2020-2021 campaign, I think that Vandy basketball is competitive against formidable opponents for the first time in three years.

As for next year, it is a matter of 1) Whether or not SPJ and Liam Robbins come back (Okay, throw in QMB for depth) 2) How much improvement will players like Stute and Trey Thomas make in the offseason and 3) Will we get anything else from the transfer portal. We have those two recruits from Texas, yes, but I don’t think they’ll make a splash bigger than a couple of games.

Andrew VU ‘04: I’ll answer this in two ways.

1) For next year: It’s going to take Liam, QMB, and SPJ coming back; 1 or two of the freshmen proving capable of being a rotation player, if not a starter, right away; and hitting up the transfer portal to find another Chatman type glue guy.

2) For the future, it’s going to take a) Crootin’, b) Hitting big on the croots we get to campus, c) Establishing a team identity where you’re searching for specific types of players, and not just a mixed bag trying to cram into a cohesive team, d) at least one of those croots is going to have to be a PG who can run an offense, beat the press, and calm things down, and e) having either an NIT run this year or a strong NCAA/NIT run next year, so as to be able to sell (relative) success and being a team on the rise to the croots.

PatrickSawyer: This team has already won as many conference games (6) as Stack’s first two seasons combined AND as many as Drew’s last two seasons (all in 2016-17), so I think it is really hard to say we are not seeing clear and obvious improvement. Based on senior night, the only two players for sure gone are Chatman and Weikert. Pippen is probably gone, too, but I am not sure his draft stock is higher now than it was last season. We could see someone transfer.

When it comes to the future, I like the next recruiting class. I do agree with Andrew that we probably need to find a ball handler in the portal. Especially if SPJ does leave, we have no one I feel confident bringing the ball up consistently outside of Lawrence who is serviceable but could improve. Beyond that, recruiting like this next class is the key. It appears the needs were identified and met with quality players. That’s what you have to do when you can’t just bring in star after star that can hide other weaknesses.


Question from OldGold&Black:

If Disu decided to transfer back, would he have to sit out a year? Could we just forget that this TX year happened?

Answers from AoG:

Tom: The answer to the first question is “probably, unless he can find one of those old NCAA waivers to get an immediate year of eligibility.” That said, I’m still kind of bitter about him leaving and would probably just be kind of annoyed that he wanted to come back, but that’s also partly me going Lubbock resident and thinking that no sane person should trust a word that Chris Beard says about what your role on his team will be.

Paul: I have sources at Vandy undergrad that were friends with Disu and say that he regrets his decision to leave after last year. I think the TX coach would have to get fired in order for him to play for another team next year, but thank you for reminding me how helpful it would have been to have Disu on the team.

Andrew VU ‘04: That would be nice, but I put the chances of that happening somewhere between “Pipe Dream” and “Hot Tub Time Machine.” I’ll let Tom deal with the particulars of the current transfer rules, because, as stated multiple times, I will not read the rule book. Ever. Not my style.

PatrickSawyer: The only chance he could get avoid sitting out would be if he was grad transferring. I do not think he did so when leaving. The locker room dynamics would be interesting to understand, but I doubt Stack would want to entertain that potential mess.


Question from 92Drummer:

1) Can you recap the medical redshirt, Covid, and all other rules as they would apply to the giraffe and Chatman getting another year with us IF they wanted one?

2) Which player has a better chance of success in the NBA:

SPJ, a short guard who knows how to dribble but not when and where said dribbles should take place

or…

Robbins, a 7’ center who reminds me of Todd Millholland [sic] when he shoots treys and Will Perdue when he makes angry dunks?

Answers from AoG:

Tom: So uh, notice that Robbins wasn’t recognized on Senior Night. If he were not intending to return to VU next season, they probably would have addressed it in some way. (Yes, Josh Henderson returned to VU after going through Senior Night the first time, but I think at that point he either wasn’t sure he was coming back or it wasn’t clear he would have gotten another year of eligibility. Whereas Robbins definitely can return next year if he wants because of the COVID year.) Chatman, on the other hand, is 100% out of eligibility after this season: for one thing, this is the free year for him, and for another, he’s already lost the chance at a medical hardship because he’s appeared in a game (multiple games, in fact) after the season’s halfway point.

As for the second question, it’s always fair to assume the 7-footer is the better prospect.

Paul: Robbins has another year and will hopefully opt for continuing to develop at Vandy instead of going overseas or to the G league. I’d say the former is much more likely if he were to leave. Chatman is unfortunately gone as far as I know, so just thank him for the LSU game whenever you get a chance.

Physically speaking, it’s definitely Robbins. He has the frame to bang around in the post with any NBA big and has a budding outside shot that will allow him to stretch like the modern NBA 5 needs to in today’s league.

I don’t want to completely rule out SPJ though. His craftiness certainly serves him well, and while there are obvious limitations in his athleticism and size, I’d be very curious to see how he functions in a system where the entire offense isn’t reliant on his ability to create or distract. It’s still a long shot, but I don’t think it’s impossible

Andrew VU ‘04: As for question 1, Robbins has eligibility left, but Chatman does not. Josh Henderson, as always, has another year remaining.

For the 2nd question, I’ll go Robbins, as well. He’s an athletic, shot blocking, possibly three point shooting 7 footer. There are only a handful of them on the planet, so he will likely find his way onto an NBA roster. SPJ’s main skill is the ability to fool people into fouling him. He could be a bench PG or SG on a team, but he’ll have to improve his handle, passing, and decision making to crack an NBA roster. He’ll also have to turn himself into an elite level three point shooter, as he is merely a good one now. It’s certainly possible, but I’d be more willing to bet on SPJ having a long career in Europe.

PatrickSawyer: Everyone else covered the eligibility stuff flawlessly. The better prospect is Robbins. Athletic 7 footers who block shots and can shoot at all are NBA GMs’ wet dreams. Pippen has shown some flaws without having a truly elite (for a college player) skill outside of getting fouled. His FT% is not good enough for even that to be called an elite skill.


Question from VandyFan95:

Am I the only one who thinks Terren Frank plays too many minutes? He’s obviously one of the least talented players we have, yet he sometimes plays significant minutes. Is there something I’m missing? He’s an unreliable defender, looks out of shape, can’t rebound for his size, shoots 13% from 3, 32% from the field and 61% from the line. I’m always scratching my head when he comes into the game.

Answers from AoG:

Tom: The thing is, he doesn’t play that many minutes, so I can’t really say I think he plays “too many” minutes unless you’re really arguing that he shouldn’t even be on the team. (Side note: one thing that consistently annoys me is why college coaches put guys on scholarship and then never bring them off the bench. Why?)

With that said, yeah, I get very strong Matthew Moyer vibes from Terren Frank. He certainly looks like he should be good at basketball, but the actual product he’s putting on the court is just... very underwhelming. Maybe he figures things out next year, but it just isn’t working this year.

Paul: I didn’t start writing on this website so that I could bash 20 year olds, so I’m never going to personally fault Terren Frank for his skill level relative to other players on the floor. I think that with the new QMB/Liam Robbins starting lineup, he’s getting increased minutes solely to give them rest. If anything, I wish Stack would coach him to maybe not take a contested three or dribble more than two times so that we don’t just completely waste possessions on offense.

Andrew VU ‘04: You are not the only one. I never root for people to transfer out (okay, that’s not true, as I totally did so for Shelby Moats), but Frank cannot play at this level. He only comes in because our depth is shite.

PatrickSawyer: Sometimes you just get lucky. With Mann injured and Stack playing Robbins and QMB together some, someone has to play in the post. Frank is that guy, unfortunately.


Question from Jared Rifkin:

Looking on to next season, how good could we be with incoming freshmen and upperclassman returning such as Robbins/QMB?

Also, does Pippen return to Vandy if he can get an endorsement deal?

Can we still make the tournament (not NIT which is almost a guarantee if we finish 500) despite losing to Alabama by 2 which let’s be real we outplayed Alabama for 38 minutes? 12:30-10:30 in the second half is where we lost.

oh last thing Auburn and Alabama are both overrated and wont make it past the sweet 16. (Alabama round of 32)

Answers from AoG:

Tom: I think we could be a borderline NCAA Tournament team next year if Robbins and QMB return (and I suspect that both will, again considering that neither was recognized at Senior Night which VU would normally do if they were both graduating and leaving the program.) I don’t think Pippen will return, since he indicated (I forget where I read it) that he intends to turn pro after the season, and anyway I suspect Stack knew this was very likely when he signed four players in the fall.

We’re probably auto bid or bust for the tournament at this point. If we win the remaining three games, we’re 9-9 in the SEC, 17-13 overall. Do we get there if we win two games in the SECT? Ehhhh... maybe. At least one of those would be Quad 1, plus another Quad 1 win at Mississippi State on Saturday. Do I think that’s enough... eh, not really.

Paul: With everyone healthy and returning, I’d say 2022-2023 ceiling is 11-7 in the SEC and 20ish wins and make the tournament. Pippen already landed his blockbuster endorsement deal last offseason, so that’s a non factor.

The NCAA tournament won’t happen unless we win out in the regular season and then get two wins against any combination of UT/UK/Auburn/LSU/Ark/Alabama in the SEC tourney. If the tournament committee factored moral victories into their selection criteria, Vanderbilt would be a #4 seed right now.

Andrew VU ‘04: First, the NIT is not guaranteed to us right now. I’d say we’ll have to either win 2 of 3 at Clanga, home vs. The Jorts, and at Ole Piss to feel even remotely safe about our chances of an NIT bid. Go 1-2 in those games and we have to win 1 (if not 2) games in the SEC Tourney to grab an NIT bid. Get swept, and... well... we’re not getting an NIT bid unless we lose in the SEC Championship game.

As for the next year talk, see my answer to question #4 above.

PatrickSawyer: Next year depends on whether we find a capable PG, whether in the portal, by having Lawrence develop, and/or Noah Shelby coming in ready to be important early. I have no idea what Pippen’s draft stock will be or if he would rather move to the G-League than play another year in college.

No idea what the NCAAT options look like unless we get an autobid by winning the SEC Tournament, so let’s just do that.

War. Damn. Eagle.