#9 Vanderbilt Men's Basketball Preview

Vanderbilt Commodores

Overall Rank: #9
Conference Rank: #2 SEC
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2010-11: 23-11, 9-7
2010-11 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Kevin Stallings (326-148 at Vanderbilt, 359-211 overall)

Vanderbilt ran an eight man rotation last season and all eight of those players are back. Thus, there are very high expectations for a program that has had a bad habit of losing early in the NCAA Tournament. With so much experience, Coach Kevin Stallings and company may be able to end their history of underachieving when it matters most and make a serious run at the Final Four. John Jenkins and Brad Tinsley will once again form one of the best guard duos in the nation. Jenkins is the big time scorer on the team and is coming off a sophomore season in which he averaged 19.5 points per game. Jenkins is a great shooter and knocked down 3.1 three-pointers per game at a 40.8 percent clip. Tinsley moved to the point guard position last year and proceeded to lead the conference in assists. He averaged 4.6 assists per game and only committed 1.9 turnovers. And even while worrying about handling the ball, Tinsley did not forget how to score and his ability to attack the basket and shoot the long ball really opens up the offense.

Who’s Out:
Andre Walker was a good versatile player while he was around last season. In 15 games, he averaged 3.0 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.6 assists. The Commodores survived most of last season without him, so they will have little trouble moving on this season. Darshawn McClellan was a good player at times, but failed to make much of an impact. Joe Duffy and Chris Meriwether, little used seniors are the only other losses.

Who’s In:
With nobody of great importance leaving, Vanderbilt will be just fine with their eight returning players. However, there are some newcomers who have the talent to work themselves into the regular rotation. Most notable is Dai-Jon Parker. The 6-3 guard is explosive around the basket and has a ton of range on his outside shot. If he can remain relatively consistent, Vanderbilt will have to find time for him in their backcourt. Kedren Johnson is a pass first point guard who should get his feet wet this year before being asked to take on a bigger role in the years to come. Incoming freshman Shelby Moats is a big man who can shoot and James Siakam will add even more options in the frontcourt. However, Josh Henderson, a redshirt freshman, is expected to see the most minutes in the frontcourt this year. Henderson is 6-11, but added some much needed weight during his year off. Now he is ready to score and help out on the glass.

Who to Watch:
And Vanderbilt will need Henderson early while Festus Ezeli is serving a six game suspension. Ezeli started all 34 games a year ago and developed into a superb interior scorer and a great defender. After averaging 13.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.6 blocks as a junior, big things were expected from the 6-11 center this season. The suspension may slow him down a little bit, but when Ezeli comes back he will step right back into his familiar role. While Ezeli is out, Steve Tchiengang will start. Having an experienced player like Tchiengang ready to take over is a luxury few teams have. Tchiengang is a quality outside shooter who can stretch out the defense, but he will also hit the glass pretty hard. Lance Goulbourne is really a big wing, but the 6-8 forward plays the four spot on this team. And he does it very well. Goulbourne is a beast on the glass and a decent outside shooter. Goulbourne will not score a ton of points, but his rebounding will be very important while Ezeli is out. Rod Odom is yet another big man who can connect from outside. He was often overlooked last season, but did average 15.7 minutes per game as a freshman.

Final Projection:
The frontcourt has plenty of depth and the backcourt should as well with the newcomers joining Jenkins, Tinsley, Jeffery Taylor and Kyle Fuller. Taylor is the other starter on the perimeter and the Commodores most dynamic offensive athlete. Taylor keeps getting better and better and the wing should again improve on his impressive 14.7 point, 5.5 rebound, 2.4 assist and 1.0 steal averages of a season ago. Fuller was part of the eight man regular rotation as a freshman and will have to battle it out with Johnson for minutes backing up Tinsley at the point. There are plenty of options for Coach Kevin Stallings. He can run a short bench with experienced players if he needs to or go deeper as the freshmen progress. Either way, this is a talented team who can make a serious run at an SEC title and a Final Four.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Brad Tinsley, Senior, Guard, 10.6 points per game
John Jenkins, Junior, Guard, 19.5 points per game
Jeffery Taylor, Senior, Guard, 14.7 points per game
Lance Goulbourne, Senior, Forward, 6.9 points per game
Steve Tchiengang, Senior, Forward, 4.8 points per game

Madness 2012 NBA Draft Rankings:
#21 John Jenkins
#26 Jeffery Taylor
#32 Festus Ezeli

Madness 2011 Men's Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#36 Dai-Jon Parker
#100 Kendren Johnson

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