Obliteration of Mizzou a step in the right direction for ‘Dores

The Black & Gold Standard is an all-new VandyRadio Blog featuring general commentary and advanced statistical breakdowns following every Vanderbilt Men’s Basketball game. Robbie Weinstein of The Homefield Advantage (along with, on occasion, Max Herz and Dan Helinek) will be bringing you the best analysis of Commodore basketball throughout the season as the team chases a postseason berth for the first time since 2012. Check out the Black & Gold Standard for all kinds of new content as the young ‘Dores fight through the 2014-15 schedule.

Complete domination. One of the best offensive and defensive displays of the season. If you missed the game, that’s the SparkNotes version of Vanderbilt men’s basketball’s 76-53 win over Missouri Saturday. The win brought the Commodores to 15-12 on the season and 5-9 in the SEC, as VU’s prospects of avoiding a Wednesday game in the SEC tournament continue to improve.

–       Missouri is one of the worst SEC teams in recent memory, but Vanderbilt did something they’ve struggled to do all season: take care of the teams they should, in the way they should. The ‘Dores are a much better team than the Tigers and should have blown them out at home, and that’s exactly what they did. Previous games against South Carolina, Auburn, Western Carolina, and Lipscomb were all closer than they should have been at certain points in those respective contests, so this thumping is a step in the right direction for the Commodores. Blowout wins help Vandy’s KenPom and BPI ratings as well, and as we’ve mentioned, a strong advanced metrics profile could give VU a small advantage come postseason tournament selection time.

–       The ‘Dores did three things well that they have struggled with this year: they only committed nine turnovers, only allowed six offensive rebounds, and only got three of their shots blocked. Realistically, the only weakness today for the Commodores upon looking at the box score is that VU only forced seven turnovers. This was an all-around great performance.

–       Two small things that stood out to me today were Shelton Mitchell’s passing and Riley LaChance’s great general decision-making. Mitchell, coming off of four straight missed games due to a concussion, avoided turnovers and made some excellent, creative passes. While Wade Baldwin tends to get his assists by utilizing his speed and athleticism as defenses are forced to send help and leave a man open, Mitchell picks out passes that are far from obvious and does a better job of finding Vanderbilt’s big men near the rim. I maintain that Mitchell is the best long-term option at point guard, but he will need to show he can consistently take care of the ball before Kevin Stallings gives him big minutes once again.

–       As far as LaChance’s decision-making goes, his basketball IQ is off the charts for a freshman. LaChance’s assist rate of 16.2 (per Ken Pomeroy) is solid, but it’s the young guard’s shot selection that impresses me most. LaChance is as good as any college player I’ve seen at knowing when to pump fake on a three and step inside for a mid-range jumper. If the defense gives him a lane to the basket, he can even go all the way to the hole. Slim Shady is already by far the team’s most efficient guard (offensive rating of 115.0; next closest is Baldwin at 109.4), and he is going to be an even bigger problem for the rest of the SEC in the coming years.

–       Few Vandy games this season have been more intriguing to me than the ‘Dores visit to Tennessee on Thursday. KenPom.com projects VU as 53% likely to win, and it isn’t hard to imagine the team coming out with a major edge after their collapse against UT last week. The Commodores last won in Knoxville in January of 2010, and this would be a great time to break that four-game losing streak. I suspect that a road win over UT would put Vanderbilt in fairly decent NIT position; hold serve at home and have a solid showing in the SEC tournament, and a bid could reasonably be expected.

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