Snow day Musings: Vandy postseason hopes

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.

With today’s classes being cancelled, I figured it would be a good time to take a broad look at Vanderbilt’s postseason prospects and future potential. The Commodores’ long losing streak killed any chances of a NCAA at-large berth this season, but what are VU’s postseason chances like and what have we learned about the future of this team?

–       Based on the large number close games Vandy has lost this year, most think this team looks like a NIT-quality group. I agree that VU is good enough to be a low seed in the NIT, but unfortunately all of these close losses don’t do much for the team’s RPI. RPI is a key tool for all postseason tournament selection committees, and the metric puts significant weight on strength of schedule as well as on road wins. Vanderbilt has a good strength of schedule, so that isn’t an issue. The ‘Dores lack of road wins, however, is holding back their RPI (it currently sits at 108). VU will need an RPI somewhere in the 80s to feel decent about a NIT bid.

–       Running rpiforecast.com’s RPI Wizard, one thing is apparent: Vanderbilt desperately needs to pick up one more road win if they want to salvage their RPI. Based on the website’s projections, even a run to the SEC tournament final (with wins over top-100 opponents Tennessee, Arkansas, and Ole Miss) would result in only an underwhelming boost to the team’s RPI. A road win against Ole Miss, however, brings the RPI up to 89 when coupled with a run to the semifinals of the SEC tourney. At 19-15, it’s hard to say if an RPI of 89 would be enough, but these projections certainly underscore how important it is for the Commodores to pick up at least one more road victory. Only three chances remain, so time is running out.

–       Vandy’s strong KenPom and BPI numbers could help their cause. These metrics are not emphasized among selection committees, but members are nevertheless allowed to use whatever means they prefer to conduct their personal evaluations of teams. The ‘Dores are ranked 50th in KenPom and 46th in BPI and, while I think these rankings are too high, the fact remains that the Commodores’ strong advanced stats profile could ultimately help the team get into the NIT.

–       How much would a NIT appearance help the team? It stands to reason that it could help a lot, as Vanderbilt’s young core would get its first taste of postseason basketball and could take advantage of some disappointed teams that might not play well after having been snubbed by the NCAA tournament committee. A deep run in the NIT would be very possible, and young teams that have success in the NIT tend to build on that success the following season in the form of a NCAA bid. In short, making the NIT would be a huge bonus for the development of this team.

–       We’ll be throwing some individual player breakdowns after the season is over, but one big hole Vanderbilt will have to fill next season is at the power forward spot. James Siakam has had an excellent season and brings a lot of leadership and energy to the table every time he steps foot on the court. His elite offensive rebounding ability (26th nationally in ORB %) is something no one else on the team has, and #BambaMentality is even knocking down 76% of his free throws this season. Vandy will add big men Samir Sehic and D’jery Baptiste for next year, but I’d like to see Jeff Roberson play a bit at the 4 with Joseph Toye, another 2015 recruit, at the 3. That combination of athleticism lends itself to a full court, pressure defense that we haven’t seen much this year because Kevin Stallings hasn’t had the personnel to implement said defense. The combination of size, skill, and athleticism that Stallings will have brought in makes for an exciting future.

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