2008-09 Vanderbilt Basketball Preview: #74
Overall Rank: #74
Conference Rank: #7 SEC
2007-08: 26-8, 10-6, 3rd East
2007-08 postseason: NCAA
Without a senior on the roster and with the loss of a few key players, Vanderbilt should take a step back from their recent NCAA success. However, Coach Kevin Stallings has assembled plenty of talent that not only could make a postseason run this year, but could be in store for bigger and better things in the near future. Even if the Commodores are relatively unsuccessful during the 2008-2009 season, watching how the young players develop will help determine the future success of the program.
Shan Foster was the heart and soul of Vanderbilt. The wing averaged 20.3 points per game last year and hit an incredible 3.9 three-pointers per game at a 46.9 percent clip. The other great shooter on the team is also gone. Alex Gordon was not the scorer that Foster was, but he averaged 10.8 points per game and added 3.1 assists. The backcourt also loses Keegan Bell who opted to transfer. The news in the frontcourt is not much better. Ross Neltner averaged 8.3 points and 5.6 rebounds during his senior season and Alan Metcalfe added 5.3 points and 2.3 rebounds per contest.
Brad Tinsley will help replace some of the shooting that is departing. The 6-3 combo guard does everything well and is expected to immediately play a vital role for the Commodores. There are plenty of other options on the wings. Walk-on Jordan Smart is a superb shooter. He might not make a huge impact right away, but Smart has the ability to be a solid shooter off the bench in the years to come. Redshirt freshman Charles Hinkle is a good defender who could find a role on the team, but it is incoming freshmen Jeffery Taylor and Lance Goulbourne who can emerge as superstars before their careers at Vanderbilt are through. Taylor is a great athlete who, at 6-7, has plenty of size for a small forward. Once he develops a more consistent outside shot, Taylor will be tough to stop on the offensive side of the ball. Goulbourne can hit the outside shot, but the 6-7 forward will also battle in the paint and hit the glass. The talent in this recruiting class does not slip up front. Steve Tchiengang is a good athlete who can run with any power forward in the SEC. The 6-8 Cameroon native will fit in well with the Vanderbilt motion offense and could even step into a starting role at some point this season. Redshirt freshman center Festus Ezeli will provide quality depth under the basket. For now, much of his production will be on the defensive side of the ball. With a huge wingspan, Ezeli could provide a big time shotblocking threat.
Who to Watch:
A.J. Ogilvy, a 6-11 center, did not fail to live up to expectations during his freshman campaign. He averaged 17.0 points and led the team with 6.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. With Ogilvy under the basket, the Commodores have half of a great inside-outside duo. Without Foster, they will have to find the outside part. But Ogilvy is not the lone frontcourt player returning. Andre Walker and Darshawn McClellan, both sophomores, did not see too much playing time last year, but the possibility to make a larger impact is there for the duo if they can hold off the newcomers.
Jermaine Beal had a great sophomore season, but he will not take over the scoring load. Beal, a 6-3 point guard, is a capable scorer, but not an explosive one. Beal is the guy who will get the rest of the scorers involved. Beal averaged 4.6 assists and just 1.5 turnovers per game last season and if he can keep those numbers going, the scorers in the backcourt will come around eventually. George Drake only averaged 2.1 points per game in 2007-2008, but he will be in the mix along with the newcomers to develop into that much needed perimeter scoring threat. If Vanderbilt can find a scorer, preferably a shooter, to free up space under the basket for Ogilvy, this could be a surprisingly dangerous team in the SEC. But it will take some time to replace Foster and Gordon and it is never easy to navigate a young team through such a tough conference.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Jermaine Beal, Junior, Guard, 7.6 points per game
Brad Tinsley, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
George Drake, Junior, Guard, 2.1 points per game
Andre Walker, Sophomore, Forward, 2.4 points per game
A.J. Ogilvy, Sophomore, Center, 17.0 points per game