#31 Vanderbilt Men's Basketball 2015-2016 Preview

Vanderbilt Commodores

2015-2016 Overall Rank: #31
Conference Rank: #4 SEC

Vanderbilt Team Page#31 Vanderbilt Men's Basketball 2015-2016 PreviewBuy Vanderbilt Basketball Tickets

With six players back who started at least 11 games last season, Vanderbilt is one of a handful of teams that feel like they can challenge Kentucky atop the SEC standings. The return of seven-foot center Damian Jones, who many considered to be a first round draft pick had he entered the 2015 NBA Draft, certainly helps boost the expectations. Jones led the Commodores with 14.4 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game. He is a beast on both ends of the floor and the Commodores offense is extremely efficient when they work through Jones in the paint. He is not the guy shooting the ball, but Jones does deserve credit for Vanderbilt ranking tops in the conference in three-point field-goal percentage. When the opposition collapses in on him, it leaves plenty of room for the shooters to do their thing.

2014-15 Record: 21-14, 9-9
2014-15 Postseason: NIT
Coach: Kevin Stallings
Coach Record: 313-206 at Vanderbilt, 436-269 overall

Who’s Out:
James Siakam and Shelton Mitchell are the only two players gone from the regular rotation. Siakam started 20 games during his senior season and averaged 9.2 points and 5.9 rebounds. His toughness on the glass will certainly be missed since this is a team that does need to find somebody who can complement Jones in that department. Mitchell is headed back to the ACC after spending his freshman campaign with the Commodores. He averaged 20.0 minutes per game and, while he did not score much, he was a solid distributor.

Who’s In:
Unlike Coach Kevin Stallings’ freshmen class of a year ago, this group will not be asked to do much right away. Djery Baptiste and Samir Sehic will eventually add depth to the frontcourt and wing Joe Toye is a player who can add athleticism and a rebounding presence on the wing. Cameron Justice could be the best of the bunch right away, but he is another shooter. You can never have too many shooters, but there just may not be room for Justice this year. That is in part due to the addition of Cornell transfer Nolan Cressler. As a sophomore with the Big Red, the 6-4 averaged 16.8 points per game and much of that production came from his outside shooting. Cressler will find a role with this team, most likely as a shooter off of the bench.

Who to Watch:
The backcourt already has plenty of shooters though. Wade Baldwin IV knocked down 43 long balls and a 43.9 percent clip. But Baldwin is also the point guard and dished out 4.4 assists per game while turning the ball over fewer than two times per game. The team as a whole does have some turnover issues, but Baldwin is a smart and effective point guard. And he was just a freshman last year too. Riley LaChance, another sophomore, hit 66 three-pointers and will step back into the starting spot beside Baldwin. LaChance can obviously shoot the ball, but he can finish inside the arc too. Matthew Fisher-Davis was the most prolific shooter on the team last season, connecting on 71 of his 177 three-point attempts. Shooting the three-ball is basically all the sophomore wing does, so Coach Stallings may be better off using him off of the bench. That could put small forward Jeff Roberson into the starting lineup. He does bring more size and toughness to the wing and that will certainly be a good thing against most SEC opponents.

Final Projection:
The impressive Vanderbilt shooting does not end in the backcourt though. Luke Kornet hit 40.0 percent of his 125 three-point attempts last season. That is good, but nothing special until you realize that he is a 7-1 forward. Kornet can stretch the defense amazingly well. He is not a great rebounder since he spends so much time on the perimeter, but he can block a shot here and there. Sixth year senior Josh Henderson, another seven-footer, will provide depth in the frontcourt. The problem the rest of the SEC will have with Vanderbilt is trying to figure out how to stop all their scorers. If you double Jones in the paint, the shooters will make you pay. If you concentrate on defending the perimeter, Jones can beat just about anybody one-on-one. With all of the shooters, Vanderbilt can beat absolutely anybody on any given night. Consistency will be key when it comes to tournament time though.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Wade Baldwin IV, Sophomore, Guard, 9.4 points per game
Riley LaChance, Sophomore, Guard, 12.3 points per game
Jeff Roberson, Sophomore, Forward, 4.7 points per game
Luke Kornet, Junior, Forward, 8.7 points per game
Damian Jones, Junior, Center, 14.4 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 70.6 (87th in nation, 5th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 64.3 (115, 8)
Field-Goal Percentage: 47.2 (31, 1)
Field-Goal Defense: 40.6 (73, 7)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.3 (74, 1)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 39.2 (19, 1)
Free-Throw Percentage: 70.8 (109, 6)
Rebound Margin: 1.9 (113, 8)
Assists Per Game: 15.5 (22, 3)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.9 (214, 10)

Madness 2016 NBA Draft Rankings:
#31 Damian Jones

Madness 2015 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#141 Joseph Toye
#157 Camron Justice


See All Top 144 Basketball Previews