Last season Vanderbilt barely made it into the NCAA Tournament before being completely embarrassed by Wichita State in the opening round. Now, after losing their top two players to the NBA and head coach Kevin Stallings taking a job at Pittsburgh, Bryce Drew is left with some key returners and hopeful newcomers with the expectations of making it back to March.
While Luke Kornet isn’t the exact type of player Damian Jones was for the Commodores last season, he’ll be a solid replacement and brings even more to the floor when he’s healthy. At 7’1” Kornet doesn’t need much help in the size department, but Vanderbilt will have good depth down low with Jeff Roberson returning and adding Djery Baptiste and Clevon Brown. Baptiste has a very similar frame to Jones and Brown, as a 4-star prospect, should have the skills to develop into a useful big for the Commodores.
Damian Jones was the obvious pro prospect for Vanderbilt last season, but Wade Baldwin IV also burst on to the scene and progressed as the season went along. Fortunately for Bryce Drew, the Commodores return two guards, Matthew Fisher-Davis and Riley LaChance, who will both contribute even more this season and have the skill set between them to make up for what Baldwin did last season.
Vanderbilt should have one of the better starting fives in the SEC this season, but after that, the talent will seemingly drop off quite a bit. The Commodores only have eleven men on the roster that will be able to take the court this season with Larry Austin, Jr. sitting out after transferring from Xavier. Bryce Drew will be hoping that Luke Kornet or anyone else this season doesn’t have to miss time due to injury or Vanderbilt’s season could slip out of control quickly.
The Commodores have a fairly easy non-conference schedule, minus games against Dayton, Minnesota, and possibly Arizona, so they shouldn’t have a problem making it to conference play with enough wins to potentially put them in the conversation for the NCAA Tournament once again. However, once conference play roles around, Vanderbilt will have to get their ducks in a row and hope some more depth has developed or it could go downhill. Like I mentioned earlier, Vanderbilt’s starters could go up against almost any SEC team this season, but starters have to take a break at some point, and that’s where the better teams in the league will get an edge over the Commodores.
Assuming that Vanderbilt can remain healthy, I still think they’ll finish near the top half of the league based on the skill of Luke Kornet and Matthew Fisher-Davis alone, but they have a thin margin for error this season. Bryce Drew is a good coach and inherits a solid core group of returners. If things go well, Vanderbilt should be on the bubble once again this season but with a less than stellar non-conference schedule this season, I don’t expect to hear the Commodores’ name called on Selection Sunday this year.
#1 Payton Willis, 6’4” 3-star G from Fayetteville HS
#12 Djery Baptiste, 6’10” 3-star C from Prestonwood Christian
#15 Clevon Brown, 6’8” 4-star F from Churchill HS
#2 Joy Toye, 6’7” G/F - Could be another solid weapon from deep after shooting 43% last season
#3 Luke Kornet, 7’1” F - Averaged 8.9 PPG and 7.3 RPG last season despite missing games due to injury
#5 Matthew Fisher-Davis, 6’5” G - Leading returning scorer at 9.7 PPG while shooting 45% from deep last season
#11 Jeff Roberson, 6’6” F - Averaged 9.3 PPG and 5.6 RPG while shooting 44% from deep as a forward last season
#12 Djery Baptiste, 6’10” C - The big center adds even more size and redshirted last season
#13 Riley LaChance, 6’2” G - Served as a solid backup to Baldwin last year with 6.9 PPG and 2.5 APG
#15 Clevon Brown, 6’8” F - 11th ranked player in the state of Texas and adds even more skilled size
2016-2017 Season Predictions
|vs Norfolk State||W|
|vs Tennessee State||W|
|vs High Point||W|
|@ Middle Tennessee State||L|
|vs Iowa State||L|
|@ Texas A&M||L|
|vs Ole Miss||W|
|vs Texas A&M||L|
|vs South Carolina||W|
|vs Mississippi State||W|