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.
One of the biggest storylines of the season for Vandy men’s basketball has been the team’s inability to win on the road. With zero quality away wins this season heading into a Saturday night game at Alabama, the Commodores were hoping to improve on their 1-6 road record and show that Wednesday’s heartbreaker against Tennessee was more an aberration than a regression to the mean. The ‘Dores did just that, as they picked off the Crimson Tide 76-68 in Tuscaloosa.
– Watching this game, the number one thought in my head was that this was the most average game ever. It was a relatively high scoring, close game with relatively few true highlights plays. Both teams executed well and made few mistakes, so there were almost no “what in the world was that” plays. In retrospect, this was probably good for the Commodores, since VU might lead the SEC in those “what in the world was that” plays. Six team turnovers on the road against an Alabama defense that has been above average this year in forcing turnovers represents a great effort.
– As has been the case throughout SEC play, the ‘Dores got burned from three. Alabama hit 11 triples, but I didn’t think the three point defense itself was particularly horrible. A lot of below average three point shooting teams (UGA, Texas A&M, LSU, and others) have gone nuts against VU from behind the arc, and while this can partially be attributed to below average defensive awareness on the part of Vandy’s backcourt, there is no question that a disproportionate amount of players have hit shots against VU that they would normally miss. There’s been some bad luck involved.
– This was pretty solidly Vanderbilt’s best win of the year. Purdue might be a better team than Alabama, but winning on the road in conference play is difficult and the Crimson Tide entered the game ranked around 50th in the nation by most metrics. This would be a résumé building win for any team, regardless of their postseason aspirations, and this is a win that could absolutely help VU sneak into the NIT if the Commodores can finish the season with 19 wins. One more road win (against Florida, Tennessee, or Ole Miss) could help solidify an NIT bid, but if that doesn’t happen a neutral court SEC tournament win over one of top three of four SEC teams would work just as well.
– As far as individual players go, I thought this was the first game in a while where just about everyone played reasonably well. That type of game-to-game consistency has been lacking this season, and getting more of it would lead to improved play over the last portion of the schedule. This might be the first game since the win over Purdue where it’s fair to say that Vandy truly took a step forward. The ‘Dores won a game they weren’t supposed to win, and that is arguably the first time the team has done that this season.
– I want to give a shout out to Riley Norris of Alabama for his excellent “frat boy flop” late in the game on a Damian Jones and-1 that elicited a huge roar from the Vanderbilt bench as the ‘Dores took a two-possession lead with 1:45 remaining. ESPN actually ranked Norris as a top-100 2014 recruit, which means both teams have a Riley who was ranked in the top 100 for 2014. This had to have been the first ever matchup between teams with two such players.