Vanderbilt Basketball Preview: #47
Overall Rank: #47
Conference Rank: #7 Southeastern Conference
2008-09: 19-12, 8-8
2008-09 postseason: none
Coach: Kevin Stallings (189-128 at Vanderbilt, 312-191 overall)
Vanderbilt navigated their way through a relatively easy Southeastern Conference last year and ended up with an 8-8 record. Normally going 8-8 in the SEC would put you in the NCAA Tournament, or at least the NIT, but the Commodores missed out on the postseason entirely. The conference is going to be much, much better this year and eight wins in 2009-2010 should put Vandy right on the bubble.
Key Losses: G George Drake
The now departed George Drake was a decent scorer off the bench, but his outside shot was pretty bad during his senior campaign. With that being the only loss, his replacement is expected to be an immediate upgrade. John Jenkins is one of the top-rated shooting guards in this class and will not likely struggle from long range like Drake. Jenkins can score in more ways than just shooting the long ball and he can put points up in a hurry. He will likely provide an offensive spark off the bench for now until his defense improves, but he can certainly provide a spark. Fellow wing Jordan Smart will suit up this year too after redshirting last season.
Coach Kevin Stallings returns a pretty experienced group on the perimeter. Jermaine Beal is the star of the unit after averaging 12.5 points and 3.2 assists last season. Brad Tinsley plays much like Beal and totaled 11.0 points and 2.8 assists during his freshman campaign. Both are 6-3, can handle the ball and are great outside shooters. In fact, both shot over 40 percent from beyond the arc combined to average 4.1 three-pointers per contest. The biggest issue, at least with Tinsley, was his turnovers, but that should be less of an issue with a year of experience under his belt. Wing Jeffery Taylor is not a shooter, but he is just as effective of a scorer as Beal and Tinsley. While the defense worries about Beal and Tinsley shooting the three, Taylor will drive the lane and score around the basket. Add Lance Goulbourne along with the newcomers and the perimeter group is suddenly very deep and talented.
But Vanderbilt is usually known for their play in the frontcourt and that may not change this year despite all the talent on the perimeter. Andre Walker is back after playing in just three games last year before suffering a season ending injury. He could emerge as a quality scorer around the basket, but he will have to compete with Festus Ezeli, Steve Tchiengang and Darshawn McClellan for playing time at the power forward spot. All four of those players started at least one game last year. Finding a consistent player out of that group would be nice, but having a bunch of players who can eat up fouls and play specific roles is not a bad thing.
Who to Watch:
Most of the scoring inside will come from A.J. Ogilvy. The 6-11 junior led the team with 15.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game in 2008-2009 and is only getting better. With all the power forwards available to eat up fouls, Ogilvy rarely gets into serious foul trouble and the more he is on the floor, the better.
An NCAA Tournament berth should be the goal for this team and they definitely have the talent to make it there and even win a game or two. However, the SEC is going to be tough and some quality team is going to have to lose a few more games than they hope. But with an experienced point guard like Beal and a consistent scoring threat under the basket in Ogilvy, Vanderbilt has all the tools they need to make the big dance.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Jermaine Beal, Senior, Guard, 12.5 points per game
Brad Tinsley, Sophomore, Guard, 11.0 points per game
Jeffery Taylor, Sophomore, Guard, 12.2 points per game
Steve Tchiengang, Sophomore, Forward, 3.6 points per game
A.J. Ogilvy, Junior, Center, 15.4 points per game
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