#31 Vanderbilt Women's Basketball Preview


Vanderbilt Commodores

Overall rank: #31
Conference rank: SEC #5
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For the past nine years, the Vanderbilt women’s basketball program has been a model of consistency under Coach Melanie Balcomb. Ever since her arrival from Xavier prior to the 2002-03 season, Balcomb has taken the Commodores to the NCAA tournament every year, including four Sweet 16 appearances in 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2009. Last year Vanderbilt made it to the first round before losing, but that might have been understandable given all of the adversity the Commodores faced on court. Vanderbilt’s lineup changed from night to night, the result of injuries that kept forcing Balcomb to utilize different players every game. Despite that, Vanderbilt hit the 20-win mark once again; no Commodores team under Balcomb has finished with fewer than 20 victories.

2010-11: 20-12, 10-6
2010-11 Postseason: NCAA (lost in first round to Louisville, 81-62)
Coach: Melanie Balcomb (215-84 at Vanderbilt, 378-188 overall)

Who’s Out:
Three seniors have left the Vanderbilt roster. Guard Jence Rhoads leaves behind a legacy as the only player in school history with 1,100 points, 500 assists and 400 rebounds. She is in the top 25 all-time scoring list at 1,132 points. Forward Hannah Tuomi also is in the top 25 at 1,192 points, and her .568 field-goal percentage is sixth all-time in school history. Rhoads’ stats included 11.7 points and 4.9 rebounds per game (and a team-high 140 assists), and Tuomi averaged 11.2 points and 6.0 boards per game. Tuomi, at 191 rebounds, was also the team’s leader in boards. A third graduate, Rebecca Silinski, was more of a reserve off the bench who only averaged 1.2 points per game.

Who’s In:
Balcomb has replaced the three seniors with three freshmen, all guards. Maggie Morrison played at Archbishop Spalding in Millersville, Md., and her team was invited to play in the ESPN RISE girl’s national tournament (it lost in the semifinals). She averaged 10.9 points and 4.9 assists per game in her senior year of high school. Nadine Ndip, who hails from Klein, Texas, is a walk-on candidate, and Kady Schrann (York, Pa.) was voted Pennsylvania AA Player of the Year after averaging 17.2 points per game. Her York Catholic team went 30-0 to start the season before suffering a heartbreaking one-point upset loss in the state quarterfinals.

Who to Watch:
Sophomore center Stephanie Holzer was the leading scorer in six games and finished the season with 11.1 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. That was enough to earn her “Sixth Woman of the Year” status in the Southeastern Conference, an honor bestowed by the SEC coaches. Sophomore guard Christina Foggie missed a third of the season due to injuries but when healthy she was a threat (9.9 points per game, 35 percent 3-point shooting). Sophomore guard Jasmine Lister earned All-SEC freshman honors and led the team with an 11.8 scoring average. Sophomore forward Tiffany Clarke played solid ball in the second half and finished with 7.6 points and 5.4 rebounds.

Final projection:
If Balcomb can avoid the injury bug with her girls, the Commodores might be poised for a big leap into the upper echelon of SEC teams, not to mention another 20-win season and NCAA appearance. Having four sophomores among the team’s leaders makes a coach’s life easier and also helps on recruiting for the immediate future (not that Balcomb won’t be out looking around). This is a younger squad now with only one senior on the roster in Jordan Coleman, but the youth can play.

The schedule could be an issue for the Commodores. Instead of being loaded with talent at the front, Vanderbilt’s schedule is a bit soft. The highlight of non-conference play is a December 22 home date against Florida State. Otherwise, Vanderbilt may not get many tests until SEC play opens in January.

Projected tournament appearance: NCAA

Projected starting lineup:
Christina Foggie, Guard, Sophomore, 9.9 points per game
Jasmine Lister, Guard, Sophomore, All-SEC honors as freshman
Tiffany Clarke, Forward, Sophomore, 7.6 points per game
Stephanie Holzer, Center, Sophomore, “Sixth Woman of the Year” in SEC
Jordan Coleman, Forward, Senior, limited duty last season