VCU hopes to get back on track today after a tough home loss to the Seahawks of Wagner this past week. In their way stands a Jerry Stackhouse-led Vanderbilt team at 2-0, but a program who has really struggled the past four seasons. The Commodores lost their two A-10 matchups this past season and VCU will hope to keep that trend going while righting the ship somewhat today in Nashville against an SEC opponent.
A QUICK LOOK AT VANDERBILT
Starting their third season under former UNC legend, Jerry Stackhouse, the Commodores have yet to really find the success they saw consistently under former head coach, Kevin Stallings. Stackhouse looks to rebuild Vandy from the down Bryce Drew years, but so far has yet to surpass three conference wins in the improved SEC conference.
Like VCU this year, Vandy is hoping a few key missing pieces from last season won’t prove too tough a hurdle toward finding that success. The Commodores graduated key pieces in Maxwell Evans (8.5 ppg) and DJ Harvey (6.3 ppg) and saw the transfer of second-leading scorer, Dylan Disu (15 ppg, 9.2 rpg), to Chris Beard’s new Texas team. These departures have added even more weight to the shoulders of returning leading scorer, Scotty Pippen Jr. (20.8 ppg), who’s name you’ll likely recognize and yes, he’s obviously the son of that other Scotty Pippen.
So far Pippen doesn’t seem to mind the job, leading the team once again at 22.5 points per contest and is shooting a career-best 41.7% from three-point range. He’s been joined by junior Jordan Wright (15 ppg, 50% 3p%) and 6’7 sophomore, Myles Stute (12.5 ppg, 56.3% 3p%) in Vandy’s double-digit scorers club against two outmatched opponents to start the season.
The Commodores blew out a badly outmatched Alabama State team (kenpom No.336) to start the season, 91-72, then made easy work of a solid Texas State team in their most recent 19-point win. They did so with a solid overall game, not particularly scary either offensively or defensively, but did enough to do what they were supposed to do against much lower ranked opponents, something VCU has yet to accomplish this year. A solid contributor to that success has been a havoc-like defense that has forced their opponents over 26.4% of their possessions, matching VCU at that number. They did however give up 60% shooting inside the arc to an Alabama State team that ranked 346th nationally in that stat this past season, living some room for optimism for a VCU offense that has really struggled to start the season.
Frustration warning: Scotty Pippen Jr. was the sixth-best player in the nation this past season at drawing fouls. His current 6 fouls drawn per 40 is below last year’s pace but right on track with his 6.1 that ranked 63rd nationally his freshman season. He draws fouls and VCU hands them out. You’ve been warned.
A QUICK LOOK AT VCU
Q: What do you get when you match one of the best defenses in the country with one of the worst offenses?
A: A mediocre team off to a frustrating 1-1 start.
VCU’s 0.743 points per possession offense ranks 338th in the nation and is statistically basically the worst VCU has ever looked in the history of the program. The Bones-less Rams have shown no flow offensively and have looked downright junior varsity on that side of the ball through two contests while breaking in a ton of new faces at new positions, scoring just 18 points in their last half of basketball in the disappointing home loss to Wagner.
The good news for the Rams there is statistically they are seeing extreme low career numbers from the likes of Vince Williams and Marcus Tsohonis in particular (two key players). But how is that good news? Well the numbers there are so low (about 15-20% below their normal true shooting percentages) they suggest some mean regression will undoubtedly hit, which when matched with the Rams once again nationally ranked defense, should make VCU a dangerous opponent for even the best teams on their schedule. Add to that VCU is figuring out the roles for a slew of freshman and sophomore players and there should be some reason for optimism in even the most pessimistic VCU fan’s heart (law of averages suggests that even if guys have their worst seasons ever, they will still be significantly better than they have looked through these first two).
Mike Rhoades flipped his key point guard minutes from game-1 to game-2 and saw essentially a doubling of Jalen DeLoach’s playing time, showing there is still much tweaking to VCU’s lineups that will no doubt account for some early growing pains for a team adjusting to the departure of Bones Hyland to the NBA and key injuries to starting point guard Ace Baldwin and rising sophomore scorer, Jamir Watkins. Still, VCU’s offense has been beyond atrocious. The Rams rank fifth to last in the country in offensive rebounding, ranked 339th nationally in three-point shooting and are one of the 35 worst turnover offenses in the country so far. Something has got to give.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Scoring Offense: VAN 85, VCU 50.5
Scoring Defense: VCU 56, VAN 66
Effective Field Goal% Offense: VAN 53.4%, VCU 44.1%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: VCU 38.3%, VAN 48.6%
3-Point Field Goal%: VAN. 36.4%, VCU 20%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: VCU 26.3%, VAN 35%
2-Point Field Goal%: VAN 52.4%, VCU 50%
2-Point Field Goal% Defense: VCU 37.7%, VAN 46.2%
Rebounds per game: VAN 35.5, VCU 27.5
Turnover% Offense: VAN 16%, VCU 25.7%
Turnover% Defense: VCU 26.4%, VAN 26.4%
VCU WINS IF
VCU needs to find some offensive consistency and production from anyone on this team that stands shorter than 6’8. KeShawn Curry has been a workhorse, putting every once of energy into each game, but outside of that the Rams have gotten minimal to zero production from their guards and wings. The Rams inability to hit threes has made the team extremely predictable and easily defendable. Vandy’s two opponents have had a decent it of success at connecting from distance this season and last year’s Commodores ranked 258th nationally in effective field goal percentage D, a good bit worse than Wagner did (183rd) and far worse than Saint Peter’s (8th), two teams that returned basically every player from last year’s teams. That seems to suggest, despite conference affiliation of opponent, the Rams COULD find a little less resistance on D than they’ve seen so far this year (I know, sounds hard to believe). Whether they can do anything with that remains to be seen.
Kenpom: 73-66 VCU loss with an 25% chance of a Rams victory.
Game tips at 8PM at Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville, TN
Watch: SEC Network+