#48 Vanderbilt Men's Basketball 2016-2017 Preview

Vanderbilt Commodores
2016-2017 Overall Rank: #48
Conference Rank: #4 SEC
Vanderbilt ushers in a new era with the hiring of Coach Bryce Drew. He has been very successful at Valparaiso, winning the Horizon League four times in five years and reaching the postseason in all five seasons. Winning may not come that easy with the Commodores, but there is plenty of talent here ready to build upon last season’s NCAA appearance. Matthew Fisher-Davis is the team’s top returning scorer at 9.7 points per game. There will be more opportunities for him to shoot the ball this year and that is what he does so well. Fisher-Davis connected on 44.6 percent of his 177 three-point attempts and the Commodores will need him to shoot more and emerge as a consistent double digit scorer.
2015-16 Record: 19-14, 11-7
2015-16 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Bryce Drew
Coach Record: 0-0 at Vanderbilt, 124-49 overall
Who’s Out:
Vanderbilt lost both Wade Baldwin IV and Damian Jones early to the NBA and both were selected in the first round. Baldwin IV led the team with 14.1 points and 5.2 rebounds and finding another leader on the floor who can be anywhere near as productive as Baldwin is job one for Coach Drew. Jones was the only other double digit scorer last year, averaging 13.9 points to go along with his 6.9 rebounds and 1.6 blocks. For a team that barely made it into the NCAA Tournament with two first round draft picks, it will be very difficult for Vanderbilt to repeat that success without them. Also gone are little used Josh Henderson, Samir Sehic, Nathan Watkins and Carter Josephs.
Who’s In:
Coach Drew did not inherit a recruiting class that will likely make a big impact right away. However, there is a need for depth and all three freshmen will be in the mix for quality minutes off of the bench. Payton Willis will likely be the backup point guard from day one. He can play off of the ball too, but for now he is needed at the point. Clevon Brown, an athletic 6-8 forward, and redshirt freshman Djery Baptiste, will be forced into action too. If one of those two can provide 15 minutes of quality play off of the bench, Vanderbilt’s frontcourt will be in pretty good shape despite the loss of Jones and Henderson.
Who to Watch:
The frontcourt will work through Luke Kornet, a 7-1 senior. Kornet was once a very big stretch four who was much more comfortable on the perimeter on the offensive end of the floor. But that has changed and Kornet now has some solid post moves and can score inside and out. However, it is on the other end of the floor where Kornet really makes his mark. On top of his 8.9 points per game, Kornet averaged 7.3 rebounds and 3.0 blocks. Without Jones by his side, Kornet will be asked to do even more this season. Jeff Roberson will have to play a bigger role in the frontcourt too. The 6-6 forward is a very versatile player, who could even run the point at times, but he is needed at the four spot more, at least on the defensive end of the floor. Roberson’s versatility makes him very difficult for the opposition to deal with, yet he needs to make sure he continues to be tough on the glass.
Final Projection:
On the perimeter, outside of Fisher-Davis there are a lot of questions, but even more potential. Riley LaChance figures to move over to the point guard spot following a disappointing sophomore season. As a freshman two years ago he averaged 12.3 points per game, but that number slipped to 6.9 last year. Cameron Justice should be a great backup to Fisher-Davis at the shooting guard spot. He struggled through injuries last year and averaged 9.6 minutes per game, but he can shoot. Joe Toye and Nolan Cressler will have to play much bigger roles on the wing too. Toye is the likely candidate to step up and the 6-7 sophomore is a superb athlete who can attack the basket and drastically improve on his 3.6 points per game. If the backcourt does find a couple contributors and LaChance can handle the point and get back to his freshman form, this is a team that can get back to the NCAA Tournament.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Riley LaChance, Junior, Guard, 6.9 points per game
Matthew Fisher-Davis, Junior, Guard, 9.7 points per game
Joe Toye, Sophomore, Guard, 3.6 points per game
Jeff Roberson, Junior, Forward, 9.3 points per game
Luke Kornet, Senior, Forward, 8.9 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 75.9 (107th in nation, 6th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 67.4 (65, 2)
Field-Goal Percentage: 45.6 (88, 4)
Field-Goal Defense: 38.6 (5, 1)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 8.3 (65, 2)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 38.2 (34, 2)
Free-Throw Percentage: 69.5 (186, 6)
Rebound Margin: 1.1 (148, 7)
Assists Per Game: 14.8 (82, 4)
Turnovers Per Game: 11.7 (81, 5)
Madness 2017 NBA Draft Rankings:
#56 Luke Kornet
Madness 2016 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#138 Clevon Brown
#144 Payton Willis