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.
At 1-3 in league play, Vanderbilt had the unenviable task of heading to Rupp Arena to take their shot at top-ranked, 17-0 Kentucky. The Commodores acquitted themselves well in a 65-57 loss, but dropped to 1-4 in the SEC nonetheless.
– Whether using the eye test or looking at the statistics, it is impossible to deny that Vandy has been weak on the defensive boards this season. Kentucky was the best offensive rebounding team in the country coming into the game, corralling 45% of their own misses. This combination seemed like a recipe for a disaster, but Vanderbilt played possibly their most physical game of the season and allowed only 10 offensive rebounds to the Wildcats. Although Damian Jones had his shot blocked on more than one occasion, he also blocked three shots himself and had a decent showing against the best frontcourt in the country. Vanderbilt has lacked physicality nearly all season, but the team rose to the challenge tonight against arguably the strongest, biggest, and most athletic team in college basketball.
– Kentucky has the top steal percentage in the NCAA, so Vanderbilt’s 16 turnovers are actually somewhat excusable. VU made seven threes, despite the fact that Luke Kornet (41% on the year) was 0-5 from deep and missed several wide-open looks. The trend with all these stats is that Vandy played fairly well even in a loss. There’s clearly a lot to build on from this performance, although it must be said that Kentucky came out flat and didn’t look as focused in this game as they did in two lopsided wins last week.
– A couple of interesting aspects of Kevin Stallings’s rotation tonight were the inclusion of Josh Henderson and the heavy use of Wade Baldwin. Henderson played some great defense on Cauley-Stein and even on Trey Lyles at one point. The redshirt senior finished with a team-high +11 +/- and may have earned more minutes going forward. Baldwin, on the other hand, struggled mightily when playing point guard. The 6’3” freshman adds some shooting and defense that Shelton Mitchell doesn’t bring to the table, but Mitchell is much more advanced right now in his understanding of how to run a team. Baldwin frequently put Damian Jones in awkward positions on the floor with little time on the shot clock, forcing Jones to try to force a move that wasn’t there. Most importantly, Vandy fell behind whenever Baldwin ran the point and would start to claw their way back when Mitchell subbed in at the 1. In my opinion (and I know my co-host Max Herz agrees with me here), Mitchell should be the starter for the rest of the season.
– Jeff Roberson’s minutes have started to dwindle and Matthew Fisher-Davis is playing well. If Stallings feels he wants a bit more offense in his starting five then MFD is the choice, as Roberson provides little to nothing on the offensive end at this point.
– A key home game against tournament-hopeful LSU looms, and VU should be in good shape if LaChance and MFD can shoot like they did tonight (7-11 combined from 3). As for Kentucky, I think they will have a hard time going undefeated if their offense doesn’t improve, because it hasn’t been particularly impressive this season. UK, however, remains the clear favorite to win it all.