Vandy fans….Do you remember the days of Shane Foster, John Jenkins, Festus Ezeli, or even Will Perdue? If so, then you are probably reminiscing something fierce due to this years 9-22 (0-18 SEC) performance by the Men’s Basketball team lead by Bryce Drew. Let’s break down why Vandy just experienced the program’s first winless season at home during SEC play.
There was a substantial amount of hype surrounding this team entering the 2018-2019 season due to recruits such as Darius Garland, and Simisola Shittu choosing to play in Nashville. Garland was/is one of the highest profiled players in the country expected to enter the 2019-2020 NBA draft. When on the floor, Garland averaged 16.2 PPG on 53% shooting which placed him high on Draft Boards everywhere. The hype was real surrounding Garland until he suffered a season-ending injury in November of 2018 against Kent State. Even with the injury of Garland, the Commodores should have still been competitive in the SEC right? Well, not exactly… Bryce Drew recruited this years team entirely too thin. Essentially, all of Drew’s eggs were in one basket (Garland).
Typically, teams NOT named Duke or Kentucky have a team balanced with veteran leadership and promising youth, but for some reason, the Commodores are quite the opposite. Bryce Drew currently has a team full of youth but lacks the veteran leadership. At the beginning of the 2018-2019 season, the roster consisted of 4 Freshman, 5 Sophomores, 3 Juniors, and 1 Senior. It’s obvious that this team is loaded with young players, but at the same time…. Drew’s ‘Dores should have won at least 1 SEC game.
2) Bryce Drew
Bryce Drew Took over the Vanderbilt Commodores in 2016 and is now in his 3rd season. In his first 2 seasons, Drew finished 19-16, 12-20, and this year 9-22. The trend is not looking so good for the young coach. Kevin Stallings left Bryce Drew a balanced team with all the ingredients to win, and sustain success. In his first season, Drew had players such as (JR) Matthew Fisher-Davis, (SR) Luke Kornet, (JR) Jeff Roberson, (JR) Riley LaChance, and (SO) Joe Toye. This roster was loaded with Veteran leadership, but also had talented young prospects who should have developed into solid SEC caliber players. The only piece missing was the 5-Star caliber player to really elevate the prominence of the Vanderbilt basketball program…. Insert Bryce Drew and Darius Garland! The entire reason Drew was hired to replace Stallings was to help Vandy take that leap of becoming not just a consistent NCAA Tournament team, to being a competitor in the later rounds of the Big Dance, but he has failed to do so. Outside of Darius Garland and Simisola Shittu, Drew has recruited very poorly and has not equipped his roster with the necessary tools to win. One single injury should never have the ramifications to the extent that this Vandy team has experienced. Take the Kyrie Irving Injury half a decade ago at Duke… I’m not saying Vanderbilt is anywhere near the recruiting levels of Duke, but when Irving went down Coach K’s team still competed at a high level in the best conference at that time.
3) Sharing the Rock
The Vanderbilt Commodores ranked 14th (dead last) in the SEC in terms of total assists, and 288th in the entire NCAA…. I don’t feel that I need to elaborate on this!
4) Not Being Locked in EVERY Play and EVERY Game
The ‘Dores have shown spurts of being a quality team this year. Take for instance when they almost repeated history by taking down the Tennessee Volunteers who were ranked #1 at the time. They were legit one VERY questionable call away from winning that game. The next game, Vandy got drilled by 31 to a rather underwhelming Oklahoma Sooners team. This inconsistency is rooted by the ‘Dores not valuing every possession. Not being locked into every play caused Vandy to finish 13th in the SEC in total Turnovers, and 282nd in the entire NCAA which is the bottom of the barrel.
Vandy Basketball fans should be as optimistic as Tennessee Football fans, because there is nowhere to go but up from here. Losing Darius Garland to the Draft will open up a scholarship position to hopefully land another high caliber recruit. Austin Crowley (6′-4” 155 lbs.) and Scotty Pippen Jr. (6’1″ 185 lbs.) are upcoming recruits that will immediately help the Commodores back-court which lacked depth and court vision. What the ‘Dores need is someone to play alongside Simisola Shittu, and can carry some of the burden on the glass. Shittu was a projected 1st round draft pick along with Garland, but due to a lackluster season, he is likely to return for his sophomore season. I’d expect him to make huge improvements to his passing, and body control as he elevates into jump-shots. If Shittu develops himself back into an NBA Draft prospect I’d expect Vandy to AT LEAST win a single SEC game this upcoming 2019-2020 season. Although many Vandy fans would like to see the program release coach Bryce Drew, I would expect him to be given one more year. With his job on the line Drew should have the hardest summer training program in the country to try and turn this program around ASAP.
Tickle College of Engineering Graduate from the University of Tennessee.
Avid fan of Basketball, Football, and Soccer.