Overall Rank: #56
Conference Rank: #8 SEC
2006-07: 22-12, 10-6, 2nd (t) East
2006-07 postseason: NCAA
Vanderbilt fought their way to the Sweet Sixteen last season. Despite the loss of a couple starters, if the Commodores could do it last year, they can do it this year. The only thing standing between Vandy and high preseason expectations is the SEC East which contains Tennessee, Kentucky, Florida and an improving Georgia squad. No matter how tough the conference may be, Coach Kevin Stallings has still built a solid team that will compete with the best in the conference.
The big loss is do-it-all wing Derrick Byars. He averaged 17.0 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.4 steals during his magical senior campaign. Many will write off the underappreciated Commodores citing the absence of Byars as the reason, but there is plenty of talent ready to help replace his production. The sharpshooting Dan Cage will not be easy to take the place of either. It is not everyday any team finds a long range shooter as dangerous and consistent as Cage. Cage averaged 11.2 points per game, with most of those points coming from long range. Center Ted Skuchas never put up big numbers, but he was an important big body off the bench.
Andrew Ogilvy has garnered plenty of attention from NBA scouts coming out the Australian Institute of Sport. Any big man coming out of that program down under will find himself compared to Andrew Bogut, but Ogilvy deserves such comparisons at this point in his career. The 6-10 and 250 pound Ogilvy is a solid rebounder and an extremely effective post scorer. He will spend most of his time in the paint, but Ogilvy can step outside and stretch the defense. The potential is huge and Ogilvy has plenty of international experience, but just how well he adapts to life in the SEC remains to be seen. Darshawn McClellan is a little undersized at 6-7 for the power forward spot, but he has enough ball handling skills to move to the wing. Wherever he plays, he is a strong, tough player who will do the dirty work. Andre Walker plays like a guard. He can handle the ball and has a nice looking outside shot. However, at 6-7 and 214 pounds, he does not look like a guard. Coach Stallings will likely use him at both spots on the wing depending on match-ups. Charles Hinkle will add depth to the wings and could end up being a solid shooter off the bench this year. Keegan Bell is the point guard of the future. Bell is a good playmaker and will make things happen on the offensive end either for himself or for his teammates.
Who to Watch:
There is already a logjam of talent at the point guard position that will make for some interesting player combinations early in the year. Alex Gordon will be the point guard again after averaging 7.8 points and 3.3 assist last year. Gordon is a quick player with a decent shooting touch, but his senior leadership and ability to control tempo will be invaluable to the Commodores. Jermaine Beal deserves a starting spot somewhere, but he is not taking over for Gordon. Beal, who averaged 3.8 points per game last year, will probably get the chance to move over to the shooting guard spot. At 6-3 he has the size to do so, but his shooting was inconsistent at best last season. On the wing is the new superstar of the team, Shan Foster. Byars may have gotten most of the recognition last year, but Foster hung in there blow for blow, averaging 15.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.2 steals. Foster is a great long range shooter and this will be his team to lead back to the NCAAs. Sophomore George Drake could see more minutes this year after showing flashes of potential as a freshman.
If everything goes well, the frontcourt could turn into a strong point. Ross Neltner is a proven player and averaged 9.2 points and a team high 5.7 rebounds last season. The versatile JeJuan Brown showed promise as a freshman and Alan Metcalfe has plenty of potential if he can stay healthy. Eventually the freshmen will be thrown into the frontcourt mix and then there will be a lot of talent available. Still, there are some questions in the paint. Ogilvy is good, but he will not average a double-double in the SEC as a freshman. Metcalfe may not be healthy or productive and suddenly the frontcourt depth is a huge concern. If all goes well, Vandy is a run away from another Sweet Sixteen, but they have a lot of work to do to build up some wins in the SEC first.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Alex Gordon, Senior, Guard, 7.8 points per game
Jermaine Beal, Sophomore, Guard, 3.8 points per game
Shan Foster, Senior, Guard, 15.6 points per game
Ross Neltner, Senior, Forward, 9.2 points per game
Alan Metcalfe, Senior, Forward, 2.6 points per game