VU survives scare from Yale, heads to SEC play at 10-3

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.

Vanderbilt wrapped up its nonconference season against Yale at Memorial Gym Saturday afternoon. The Commodores rallied from a 13-point second half deficit to pull out a 79-74 victory in double overtime.

–       With only 24 first half points and 59 points in regulation, Vandy’s offense curiously disappeared against Yale. Yale is one of the better teams the ‘Dores have played this year, but VU entered the game with the 25th most efficient offense in the country, so shooting 38% from the field with eight turnovers isn’t what one would expect from this team at home. Vanderbilt ultimately shot 41% for the game, a full 10% below their season average. The bottom line is that freshmen-laden teams such as Vanderbilt tend to have a few poor performances against inferior competition (once again, though, Yale is fairly good). The Commodores did well to come out with a crucial win that puts them at 10-3 on the season.

–       Vanderbilt’s 2-3 zone seemed to fluster Yale in the second half, as the Bulldogs missed a number of makeable shots. VU’s zone isn’t very active and it isn’t a long-term solution for the team’s defensive woes; LaChance and Mitchell are going to have to play adequate man defense at some point. It is nice to see, however, that Kevin Stallings is more than willing to break out the zone in case of an emergency. A surprising amount of teams struggle to run a zone offense, so the zone can yield results in relatively small doses. The ‘Dores won’t go anywhere, however, until they can play consistently passable man defense.

–       Damian Jones finished with 19 points on only eight shots. There is absolutely no excuse for not feeding Dame the ball in the post with more consistency. Vandy made a clear attempt to get Jones the ball in the post during the second half, yet too often the Commodore backcourt decided not to make the entry pass into the post. When the offense is struggling, Vanderbilt should get Jones the ball every single time down the court, especially since the sophomore big man has shown improved passing and court vision this year.

–       With no top-50 RPI wins and only two top-100 wins, Vanderbilt needs to do some serious work in the SEC. It’s unlikely that anything less than a 12-6 conference record would result in a NCAA tournament bid, especially since the Commodores only get five games against the conference’s likely NCAA teams (Kentucky, Arkansas, LSU, and Georgia). What’s more, only one of those games (vs. UGA on 1/14) is at home. The selection committee puts huge value on road wins against tournament teams, so VU must capitalize on their matchups with the league’s elite. This is a huge challenge, however, as playing on the road in the SEC is quite difficult. Vandy looks like a fairly average SEC team at the moment, but the squad’s youth means VU’s ceiling is quite high.

Vanderbilt opens up SEC play Tuesday at 8 p.m. against Auburn, one of the conference’s weakest teams. The Commodores need a win before heading to Arkansas next Saturday.

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