#66 Vanderbilt Men's Basketball 2017-2018 Preview


Vanderbilt Commodores


2017-2018 Overall Rank: #66
Conference Rank: #9 SEC

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Vanderbilt’s 2016-17 season ended in heartbreak with a two-point loss in the first round of the NCAA Tournament headlined by an ill-advised intentional foul by Matthew Fisher-Davis. The Commodores and Fisher-Davis will be out for redemption this season, looking to return to the NCAA Tournament for a third consecutive season. Coach Bryce Drew will have plenty of returning contributors from last season along with some useful new pieces. Drew exceeded expectations in his first season as Vanderbilt head coach, and he will look to do the same this season. After starting the year 8-10, the Commodores won nine of their last 14 regular season games and tacked on two SEC Tournament wins to sneak into the Big Dance. Vanderbilt will look to ride that momentum into this season to compete in an improved SEC.
2016-17 Record: 19-16, 10-8
2016-17 Postseason:
NCAA Tournament
Bryce Drew
Coach Record:
19-16 at Vanderbilt, 143-65 overall
Who’s Out:
Vanderbilt will only be without two players from last season’s roster. Luke Kornet and Nolan Cressler were both starters a year ago and both are now graduated from the program. Kornet was named to the All-SEC First Team as a senior and was a two-time member of the All-SEC Defensive Team. Kornet graduated as Vanderbilt’s all-time leader in blocks, and also set the NCAA record for most threes made by a seven-footer. Kornet was the Commodore’s second leading scorer last season with 13.2 points per game. Nolan Cressler spent two seasons at Vanderbilt after transferring in from Cornell. Cressler started 22 games last season and averaged 7.8 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. Cressler was a lethal 43.2% three-point shooter, and his ability to knock down shots will be missed.
Who’s In:
Only losing two scholarship players is a plus for Coach Bryce Drew, but he still added several new pieces to his roster this season. Xavier transfer Larry Austin, Jr. will be eligible to play after redshirting last season. Austin was underused at Xavier, averaging just 9.8 minutes per game as a sophomore. Austin will have two years of eligibility left and will provide Vanderbilt with guard depth and experience. Drew also brought in three true freshmen this offseason. Saben Lee is the top recruit joining the Commodores as a four-star 6-1 point guard from Arizona. Lee averaged 22 points as a senior and was ranked a top-100 player on Scout.com. Maxwell Evans and Ejike Obinna also join Vanderbilt as three-star prospects. Evans is a 6-2 guard who scored 32.7 points per game as a senior. Obinna is a 6-9 center from Nigeria who played high school ball in Virginia.
Who to Watch:
The Commodores will have plenty of returning contributors from last season, including leading scorer Matthew Fisher-Davis. Fisher-Davis is a sharpshooter who attempted 6.6 threes per game and hit 37.2% of them. Fisher-Davis had seven games where he scored 20+ points and will be relied on as Vanderbilt’s go-to scorer this season. Riley LaChance and Jeff Roberson are also back after averaging 10+ points per game last season. LaChance started at point guard in all 35 games and averaged 10.5 points, 3.9 assists and 3.3 rebounds while shooting a lights-out 48.6% from three. Roberson also started all 35 games and averaged 10.8 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. Role players like Joe Toye, Payton Willis, Djery Baptiste and Clevon Brown all return and will be expected to take on bigger roles this season. Toye will likely become the starting small forward after only starting 13 games last season. The 6-10 Baptiste could move into Kornet’s spot at starting center. Baptiste only scored 1.8 points per game last season and will need to improve in an expanded role. Willis was just a freshman last season but impressed, earning 12 starts and averaging 5.2 points, 1.9 assists and 1.8 rebounds per game.
Final Projection:
Vanderbilt will be in position to compete for another NCAA Tournament appearance this season. The SEC will be much improved, but the Commodores return much of their production from last year. Coach Bryce Drew was also able to add some depth to his roster, with three freshmen and a transfer joining the team. Having experienced scorers like Matthew Fisher-Davis, Riley LaChance and Jeff Roberson will help Vanderbilt compete in every game. Also, getting several role players back will help with the Commodores’ continuity this season. Vanderbilt will likely spend much of this season on the NCAA Tournament bubble, and if they can get enough quality wins they could go dancing for a third straight season.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Riley LaChance, Senior, Guard, 10.5 points per game

Matthew Fisher-Davis, Senior, Guard, 13.9 points per game
Joe Toye, Junior, Forward, 6.4 points per game
Jeff Roberson, Junior, Forward, 10.8 points per game
Djery Baptiste, Sophomore, Center, 1.8 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 71.1 (227th in nation, 11th in conference)

Scoring Defense: 68.1 (71, 5)
Field-Goal Percentage: 43.0 (248, 9)
Field-Goal Defense: 42.5 (102, 8)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 9.9 (14, 1)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 37.6 (63, 1)
Free-Throw Percentage: 77.7 (10, 1)
Rebound Margin: 0.0 (199, 9)
Assists Per Game: 12.9 (216, 7)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.3 (102, 5)
Madness 2017 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#103 Saben Lee
#149 Ejike Obinna