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.
Vandy played its second game of the season Monday night and won by many points once again (if you insist, this one was 98-62). The Commodores undoubtedly played well, but what can we take from these huge wins against cupcakes?
– Luckily, this is the last opponent on Vandy’s schedule ranked under 200th nationally in Ken Pomeroy’s team ratings. Gardner-Webb ranks a tad better than Austin Peay under Pomeroy’s system, and I can agree with that assessment based on how this game played out. Obviously, the Runnin’ Bulldogs kept the game from getting completely out of hand for most of the first 23 or so minutes, but it’s hard to keep any game close when VU goes 11-23 from three. Vandy’s reserves extended the team’s lead late in the game, and I thought virtually everyone played well for the Dores in this one.
– The play of Jeff Roberson in his return from a concussion was the big story, as the sophomore put up 18 and 8 while registering a +36 plus-minus in 21 minutes. Roberson played as close to a perfect game as one can expect, and this performance should inspire confidence for all Commodore fans in case Luke Kornet ends up missing any time with his ankle injury. “There was absolutely nothing that I didn’t love about having Jeff Roberson available to play tonight,” Coach Stallings said.
– Damian Jones racked up a career high four assists (he also had four in an OT win over Yale last season, but the fourth came in the extra period). Plus, between a beautiful pass for a Luke Kornet dunk and this incredible windmill jam, Jones provided more than his fair share of highlights. A fun stat: Damian had only seven assists over the course of his entire freshman season, which underscores the improvement he’s made far as his feel for the game goes. Even against Austin Peay, I thought Damian made some nice passes that didn’t result in any assists, and he looks very comfortable spreading the ball around.
– Once again, I thought Camron Justice had a nice game defensively. It remains to be seen how the freshman will respond against faster, more athletic opponents, but he plays with effort and focus. Overall, it was a good team defensive effort in holding Gardner-Webb to just .87 points per possession. Coach Stallings, however, indicated after the game that he would have liked better on defense. “(We) didn’t do as good a job on the three point line defensively as we would’ve liked,” Stallings said. “Didn’t really do as good a job defensively as we would’ve liked, period, probably. But it was a high possession game, and neither team was holding onto it too long so there’s going to be more points scored in a game like that.” The Runnin’ Bulldogs managed .82 PPP at Iowa on Friday, and Iowa was a top-40 defensive team last year (and looks to be this year, as well). The fact that Vandy more or less matched the Hawkeyes’ defensive effort even without Kornet for much of the game is a good sign going forward.
– Vandy forced 19 turnovers, good for a 26.8 defensive turnover percent. While this number won’t be sustainable against strong competition, it’s still loads higher than the 18.1% defensive turnover rate from last season, which ranked 231st nationally.
– For me, the most encouraging development in this game was Vandy’s impressive response after Gardner-Webb cut the lead to 11 early in the second half. A 9-0 run by GW spanning the end of the first half and the beginning of the second threatened to make this a competitive game before VU responded with a 15-0 run of its own that completely broke the Runnin’ Bulldogs’ spirit. “All in all, it was a pretty complete game,” Stallings said. “We finished the game much better than we did on Friday night.” Golden State makes hay in the NBA by consistently responding to opponents’ runs with “microbursts” of its own, often in the form of quick 7-0 or 8-0 runs that demoralize its opponents. This was much more than just a microburst, and it was good to see Vandy respond in quick and emphatic fashion when GW nearly got the lead back under double digits. If VU consistently responds like this to opponents’ runs, they’ll be in great shape in March.
– Stony Brook, meanwhile, comes in as the favorite in the America East Conference and a strong, athletic post tandem in Jameel Warney and Rayshaun McGrew. The Seawolves’ KenPom ranking of 85 alone suggests they’re a solid team. Some of Stallings’s better teams over the years have dropped head-scratchers at home to the likes of Furman (2006), Western Kentucky (2009, and at Bridgestone Arena but I’m counting it anyways), Cleveland State (2011), and Indiana State (2011), so nobody should be looking past Stony Brook. This one could get quite interesting if Luke Kornet remains out due to his ankle injury.
– Vandy’s nonconference opponents have seen mixed results so far this season. Wofford lost a very winnable game at Mizzou, as did Western Michigan at DePaul. Purdue, however, looks great, and Dayton has a chance to pick up a nice win Tuesday afternoon against Alabama at home. In the SEC, UGA and Mississippi State have already been upset at home by Chattanooga and Southern (!) respectively, but the only other loss for any conference foe was taken by Tennessee at Georgia Tech Monday night. No complaints there.
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