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.
Coach Kevin Stallings said that from the moment he scheduled the Stony Brook Seawolves this offseason he knew his Vandy team would be in for a battle. A battle it was on Thursday night, as the Commodores trailed Stony Brook for the vast majority of regulation before rallying for a 79-72 overtime win. It wasn’t a great performance from the Commodores, but context is needed when analyzing this result.
– Stony Brook is a good team. Everyone knew it coming in, and without a doubt everyone knows it after that game last night. The Seawolves will be a nice potential upset pick as a 13 or 14 seed (who knows, maybe even a 12) in the NCAA Tournament if they can win the America East Tournament. Stony Brook finished 72nd nationally in defensive efficiency (adjusted for strength of schedule) in 2014-15, and its strong defense showed as Vandy’s wings had trouble getting open off of cuts and screens. Overall, the offensive performance was acceptable considering how poorly Vandy happened to shoot from long range; 1.04 points per possession isn’t too bad.
– A large part of the reason the Commodores were able to put together that 1.04 PPP despite awful outside shooting was their excellent ball protection. VU only turned the ball over six times, good for a 7.9% turnover rate compared to 20.0% last year, which ranked 237th nationally. I expected Vandy to cut down on its turnovers this year, and they’ve done so in impressive fashion in the first three games, with an aggregate turnover rate of 11.5%, good for 13th in the country. Indiana and Kansas have both done a great job forcing turnovers this season, but both were below average last year in defensive turnover rate, so it seems reasonable to expect the Dores to continue to protect the ball well in Maui.
– Coming off of two good defensive performances to start the year, Vandy’s defense was less than stellar against Stony Brook. The Seawolves got more transition opportunities than they should have (only six fast break points, but a few other chances that they failed to capitalize on), and the Commodore floor balance was inconsistent. KU and IU both like to play very fast, so VU needs to stay disciplined if (more like when) they match up with one or both of those teams.
– Furthermore, Stony Brook shot 53% on two pointers in this game, a number that’s too high against a foe like the Seawolves. Stony Brook’s Jameel Warney is undoubtedly a good player who could start for most SEC teams, but guard Carson Puriefoy and wing Ahmad Walker combined for 9-13 from two, as well. It didn’t help that Luke Kornet wasn’t fully recovered from his ankle injury, as Kevin Stallings referred to Luke as the team’s best defender after the game (this is definitely hard to argue with based on the first three games). Luke still had three blocks, but I think it’s safe to say that he could have put together an even better defensive performance with a healthy ankle.
– I should have mentioned this earlier, but Wade Baldwin came into the game with a back injury, and then proceeded to put the team on said back anyways. Wade’s been the team’s best player so far this year, and he completely took over the game in the second half for the Commodores. When Vandy’s offense stalled, Baldwin made plays on the defensive end and created opportunities in transition. He came through in the clutch, too: Stallings felt Baldwin’s three created off of Luke Kornet’s offensive rebound on a Damian Jones missed free throw was the single most crucial play of the game as VU cut Stony Brook’s lead from six to three with three minutes remaining.
– VU obviously will need to play much better to beat either Indiana or Kansas in Maui, but the good news is they’re unlikely to sleepwalk through either of those potential games like they did at times against Stony Brook. The opener against St. John’s should be a relative cakewalk, although the Red Storm has been tough defensively to start its season. I wouldn’t anticipate Monday’s game being particularly close, and it would be great for Vanderbilt to be able to limit its starters’ minutes in what represents the first leg of a back-to-back-to-back.
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