The Black & Gold Standard is a VandyRadio sports blog featuring nuanced commentary and advanced statistical breakdowns following every Vanderbilt Men’s Basketball game and throughout the year. Robbie Weinstein of The Homefield Advantage will be bringing you the best analysis of Commodore basketball as the team looks to build on the success of last season’s NIT appearance. Check out The Black & Gold Standard for all kinds of new content as the Dores fight through the 2015-16 schedule. All stats courtesy of KenPom.com unless otherwise noted.
In one of the most anticipated season openers for any Vanderbilt sport since I started school here in 2013, Vanderbilt blew away Austin Peay 80-41 Friday night in a game that was never even close to being close. Here’s what this win means for the Dores (spoiler alert: not much) as they move on to face Gardner-Webb Monday night.
– Vandy completely overwhelmed Austin Peay early in this one in jumping out to a 21-0 lead. There were a couple of very awkward moments in both coaches’ press conferences after the game, as both coaches seemed to be hoping that APSU isn’t as bad as they looked Friday. “I hope it was our defense and not their shooting,” Coach Kevin Stallings said. “I hope that they’re a better shooting team than that because obviously I want to see them have a lot of success. In some cases I think we were able to get up and really bother them and get them late in the clock.” At one point, a woman who appeared to be the Austin Peay beat writer (not sure about this, though) essentially asked APSU coach Dave Loos if they have enough talent to not take more brutal losses like this one or if there would be more of the same. Austin Peay simply didn’t look like a Division I basketball team to me, and I think this possibility had as much or more to do with the wildly lopsided first half as Vandy’s dominance did. Austin Peay air balled an open three and threw the ball to no one multiple times; the Commodores’ energetic defense definitely played a role in the carnage that took place in the first 20 minutes, but I thought the Governors’ ineptness was at least as big of a factor.
– Having said that, Vandy’s defensive energy early on was great to see. The guards swarmed APSU’s ball handlers, while Damian Jones, Luke Kornet, and Josh Henderson flew over from the weak side on multiple occasions for some emphatic blocks. I thought both Damian and Luke looked more aggressive on the defensive boards, despite the 13 first half offensive rebounds for Austin Peay. The defensive rebounding does need to be cleaned up some, but I felt that a few of those plays can be chalked up to crazy bounces coming from wild misses by the Govs. In short, the defense forced bad shots that were way off, which gave Austin Peay some extra chances that they might not have had otherwise.
– Maybe this was a product of lots of APSU turnovers and bad shots, but Vandy played very fast in this one. The Dores’ 72 possessions were more than in any regulation game last year except for games against TNU and WCU. Some of this is due to the 30 second shot clock, but most was the result of the Commodores playing faster and looking to be more opportunistic in transition. Wade Baldwin looked like a true maestro running the fast break, and he threw some truly impressive passes to shooters on the wing. Baldwin also seems to have a good feel for when to make the pass in transition versus when to take the ball to the basket, and he made two excellent finishes at the rim against good defense that I don’t think he would have made last year. Now, Wade needs to prove he can finish in the paint against legitimate teams. Only having two turnovers was a fairly good sign, as it equates to a 17.6 turnover rate compared to 20.5 last year. Far from perfect, but an improvement nonetheless.
– Damian Jones dealt with major foul trouble in this one, and with the new rules meant to decrease physical play in the post it could take him a while to adjust. Dame did a great job last year at not fouling, (3.5 fouls committed/40 min, down from 5.2 as a freshman) and I suspect this was more of a one-game blip than something that will be a problem all season. Damian missed some shots near the rim that he expects to make, and that will even out over the next couple of games.
– VU’s guards, however, seemed to adjust quite well to the new, more stringent rules on hand checking. Stallings was very pleased with the defensive effort, and felt that while there is improvement to be made with respect to defending with focus and intensity, the team’s defensive foundation is nice and solid. “They had a stretch in the second half where they scored either five out of six possessions or six out of seven and we’ll probably see that segment tomorrow in the film session,” Stallings said. “It was because of lack of discipline, and if we want to be who we say we want to be then we can’t play that way, not even for a five possession stretch. I don’t care if you’ve got a 40 point lead, you need to play each possession the best you can. And for the most part we did but we just had a little stretch there in the second half where we failed to guard a little bit.”
– It’s too early for me to assess Nolan Cressler, Camron Justice, Joe Toye, and Samir Sehic. I definitely think Justice can contribute as a pure shooter, but we’ll have to see how the other aspects of his game look. I thought he competed on defense, however, which is a good sign. Cressler has reportedly been bothered by a bad back, and I don’t think an underwhelming debut for him means anything.
– Vandy’s first half was undoubtedly impressive, but let’s pump the breaks. Numerous other high quality teams had similarly strong performances against similar, or even better, competition. UConn beat Maine 100-56, Purdue beat North Carolina A&T 81-40, and Indiana beat Eastern Illinois 88-49. Baylor beat Stephen F. Austin, a probable NCAA Tournament team, 97-55. We’ll learn a bit more about the Commodores when Stony Brook comes to town next week, and even more in Maui over Thanksgiving. Austin Peay is a bad basketball team, and while the Dores handled their business, this result by itself doesn’t mean anything. I’m looking forward to a somewhat tougher test Monday against Gardner-Webb, and it sounds like Jeff Roberson will be back from his concussion.
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