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Meet Vanderbilt, which is tall but assailable

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NCAA Basketball: Vanderbilt at Southern California Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

If you’d like to feel old, you need only glance at the Vanderbilt sideline and spot Bryce Drew—he authored one of the most famous NCAA tournament upsets in recent memory and now, well, now he is an old man and a coach.

That Ole Miss game was 20 years ago. Twenty years ago! Dang. Dang, 20 years ago was 20 years ago. What was I talking about?

Bryce Drew took over at Valpo when his dad retired in 2012, and after five years there, Bryce leveraged this stint at Vanderbilt. He is recruiting really well given the school and the various other what-have-ya’s, and his most recent class is defining his tenure. Drew picked up a pair of five-star kids in this last cycle: big man Simi Shittu and guard Darius Garland.

Not surprisingly, the influx of talent has made Vanderbilt a lot better. But they’ve lost Garland for the season to a knee injury; he was the team’s leading scorer at 16.2 per game. Still these guys are good, though.

Team Offense

Vandy OFF_EFF (rk) eFG% TO% OR% FTR
Vandy OFF_EFF (rk) eFG% TO% OR% FTR
2018 115.3 (29) 51.8 (133) 17.7 (129) 28.7 (177) 36.2 (95)
2019 109.2 (58) 56.8 (25) 18.6 (146) 33.5 (69) 39.2 (83)

Or better. Maybe better is the ... better ... word.

Drew is a smart guy, and therefore all of his teams have leaned heavily on three-pointers. From his Valpo teams straight on to his current Vanderbilt squad, he’s made a point of getting those teams to shoot a lot of threes. But losing Garland hurts on a number of levels here—he was not only a good shooter, he was good at breaking down opposing defenses and working from there. When you lose the latter, it’s especially tough.

Garland injured his knee a week ago against Kent State, so the Commodores have only been without him for one game. (A blowout win against Savannah State.) The repercussions are still evolving. But I’m sure they’re not going to be as explosive, and they’re down one perimeter threat.

What’s interesting about this matchup is that Vanderbilt is tall—which of the two teams will impose their way on the other?

Starters

Saben Lee (6-2, 183) — Decent passer, but turnover-prone. He’s more than willing to shoot some threes, but he is only 25-87 (.287) in his college career. Lee is great at getting into the paint and drawing fouls—he should work more with that.

Joe Toye (6-7, 210) — Secondary option, but a good jump shooter. He’s not going to do much else.

Matt Ryan (6-8, 209) — A career 40% shooter from three, and he’s taken 245 threes against just 46 twos. Guess what he’ll be doing! I joke about specialists like this but they are at least aware of their own limitations, and you gotta give them credit for that.

Clevon Brown (6-8, 240) — Unlikely to do anything other than commit fouls.

Simi Shittu (6-10, 240) — Hitting well over 60% of his twos this season. Good rebounder at both ends, and he’ll bother some shots. If he sticks around in college, he’s going to be really really good.

Bench

Aaron Nesmith (6-6, 213), Yanni Wetzell (6-10, 240), Maxwell Evans (6-2, 192). None of these guys are likely to be significant contributors.

Team Defense

Vandy DEF_EFF (rk) eFG% TO% OR% FTR
Vandy DEF_EFF (rk) eFG% TO% OR% FTR
2018 107.3 (219) 52.4 (247) 14.7 (338) 27.7 (132 36.5 (245)
2019 99.0 (87) 46.3 (68) 16.4 (293) 26.5 (107) 24.8 (23)

Vanderbilt never forces turnovers, and the question with any team like that, is can they force enough missed shots? They might, but it’s probably luck most of the time. It’s not easy to thrive on missed shots like this. If the rebounding doesn’t hold up, then they’re screwed. Well, extra screwed.

The Pomeroy Predictor likes NC State by five.