Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Gary Parrish Thinks We're Going to Do Worse Than Kentucky and Tennessee......and Florida...and South Carolina

A rebuttal, Gary, if I might.



I feel bad for writers who are required to give predictions. It's a total lose-lose. Teams with insane fan bases will send hate mail to your homes and throw crap in your yard just because you say their team is going to finish second and not first in their conference. The only satisfaction you get is to be correct, but that almost never happens. Frankly, I have no idea why we have preseason predictions. I could care less what we're predicted at in the preseason. The only thing I care about is where we finish at the end of the season.



Let me state, first off, that I understand the logic. It's the same logic that most of the members of the media have used: Kentucky will win because they have Calipari, John Wall, Patterson, and a bunch of blue chip freshmen. Tennessee will finish behind them, because they were a tournament team from a punchless SEC last year, and they return all five starters. South Carolina, Florida, and Vandy fall into this three team smorgasbord because


  • South Carolina won a young, inexperienced SEC East and it's kind of hard to discount them simply based on that fact.

  • Florida won two national championships, has a solid coach in Billy Donovan, and keeps pulling in top recruits, but for some reason can't seem to put the pieces of the puzzle back together they way they did two years ago.

  • Vandy had serious growing pains early in the year and has the name Vanderbilt on their jersey. No one knows for sure just how good they are.

Ever the Vanderbilt fan, I'm not going to definitively state where we'll end up due to my fear of jinxing the most anticipated season in my fairly limited Vanderbilt basketball memory. But I will say that I think we'll end up better than 5th. Florida and South Carolina are like the majority of first dates. They looked great upon first sight, but then you actually sit there and look at them and you realize they're incredibly flawed. That's not saying Vanderbilt isn't, we've got a few weaknesses (defense). But I think I'm justified in saying that our weaknesses are less glaring than theirs.


Florida


They have a ridiculous amount of talent. There's no dispute about that. Chandler Parsons loves to kill Vandy from the perimeter. Tyus is a talented guy down-low, and there's a plethora of pretty good players on the bench who could probably have come in and started for other schools in the SEC, including Vanderbilt. Plus they're bringing in a high level point guard recruit, and above all else they've got two national championship banners hanging from the rafters.


But a car with the best parts can't run unless it's got an engine, and Florida's engine is in Greece right now. You can point to all the Derrick Roses and Tyreke Evanses you want to. They are the exception rather than the rule. Most freshmen take lumps except for the phenoms. While Boynton is no slouch of a player and probably will be good, I'm pretty sure he'll take his lumps. Unfortunately that's the one position that you don't want to have those lumps. The Gators will be good and as always will be tough to beat in the O-dome, but the hole Calathes left behind is still glaring, even with Boynton coming in.


South Carolina


They won the SEC East last year. They have an uber quick point guard in Devan Downey who is nearly unstoppable in penetrating, is a pretty good passer, and plays excellent defense. They have a pretty good player in Dominique Archie, who contributed well from the field and on the boards. A lot of their team is coming back, with the exception of Zam Frederick, and they might be the most experienced unit outside of Tennessee.


They also won in an incredibly inexperienced and/or poorly coached SEC East. Darrin Horn's a good coach, Devan Downey's a great player, Dominique Archie is a solid contributor, and they have some other decent players. Zam Frederick, who graduated, averaged 15.5 ppg for them last year, and was one of their better shooters. That's a pretty big loss from a team that doesn't have tons of depth, thanks to Dave Odom's years of mailing it in. Downey is going to give every team in the SEC fits and it's going to make Archie better, but they really don't have a lot of weapons/answers past those two. They also don't have very much post presence outside of Archie, as the healthy A.J. demonstrated in our win over them last year by scoring 28 points (yes there is a difference between healthy A.J. and hurt A.J.) The point is, when the game gets into a grind against a much tougher schedule, they might find themselves running out of gas.


Vanderbilt


I'll start with our negatives. No one outside of Kevin Stallings has any idea how far this team progressed in the offseason. We hear rumblings and rumors and media blurbs but none of us have laid eyes on this team since we declined to accept a postseason tournament we had to pay for last year. Our freshmen made great progress last year but none of them could be relied on to put the team on their shoulders. Our greatest offensive threat, A.J., had trouble staying on the floor due to injury and illness, hasn't demonstrated an ability to absolutely control the post, and was quickly identified as the one player opposing defenses absolutely had to shut down. Our next most experienced player, Beal, had an improved, but still streaky year shooting. Moreover, he wasn't quite as good in the assist department as he had been the previous year. The defense looked stout early on but quickly turned from stout to porous once SEC play hit. They dug themselves into too big a hole early on, and they couldn't climb out enough to get back to a postseason for the first time in quite a while. Once again, the end result is what resonated the loudest.


But sometimes, the end result doesn't tell the full story. This team was vastly improved at the end of the season, winning 7 of their last 10 games, including big victories over South Carolina and Kentucky at home, and an at the time #11 LSU team on the road. They had their usual struggles in the SEC tournament, losing to Alabama in the first round, but we started to see something a tad different about this team towards the end of the year.


And that brings me to why our weaknesses are nowhere near as glaring as those of South Carolina and Florida.


1) We have an experienced and improved point guard in Jermaine Beal, who is and always has been way underrated. Beal was always pretty good at distributing the ball, but his offense last year took a totally new step. The other thing is that Beal has an incredible work ethic and is a real gym rat. I'm real high on Jermaine Beal, I think he's going to set the table for this team nicely.


2) Love him or hate him, A.J. is a polished center and is a key weapon for our offense. The guy has never averaged less than 15 ppg since he stepped on campus. You can bust his chops for not being more beastly in the paint, but the guy has a gift for getting points and he can absolutely destroy you from the free throw line. Further, he is a pretty decent defensive player and shot blocker.


3) This team has an absurd amount of depth and talent. It wasn't like we ran the same players ragged. Everybody got their feet wet last year, and did even more when they played their summer trip in Australia. We may have looked erratic last year, but this team has had a LOT of time to play together. Even more so, we have a real wild card in Festus Ezeli. And by all those reports...the guy is getting to be very, very good.


4) The one thing we lacked last year, surprisingly, was the three ball. We started to see that come around nicely for both Beal and Tinsley, but we weren't the usual clutch shooting group that we have been in the past. So all we do is go out and get the best pure shooting player in the nation. I don't care where you play or who you are, if you're dropping 42 point a game for the year, you might say you have the ability to shoot the ball. Of course I'm talking about John Jenkins. The absolute BEST part about this situation, is that it's not like Jenkins needs to come in and carry the team. We just need him to provide the spark from three so that things loosen up down low for A.J. and Big Fez. Jenkins may well develop into one of the best shooters in the SEC, but he doesn't have to do that just yet, he just has to add to our arsenal.


5) Stability. Aside from Tennessee, and to a certain extent South Carolina, we are the most stable team in the entire conference. We return nearly everyone on our roster with the exception of George Drake (best of luck to you George, by the way). We've had the same coaching staff in place for years and years. Most of the guys are around the same level of experience and have been playing together since they got to Vandy last year or the year before. There is zero doubt or argument that the two teams from Tennessee have the most stability of the rest of the SEC.

I apologize for the inadvertant SEC preview, but this team gets me so fired up that I start rambling on. Here's hoping they prove Gary wrong!

10 comments:

Bob Loblaw said...

I think you're justified in taking exception to Gary's article. He's actually usually got a pretty good handle on the SEC, but, really, I think it'll be a three-way race for 2nd in the East, and first isn't out of the question if Kentucky can't figure Calipari's offense out.

Tennessee made the NCAA last year, but they're a mess in that they don't play with any semblance of control, and when they get down, they panic. Carolina will be good, but they did lose something on the wings when Frederick graduated. I have no confidence in Florida at all. Therefore, Vanderbilt's got an ideal situation for really making some waves in the league this year. Folks say the Dores will slide into the Tournament as an 8 seed this year, but I think they might end up somewhere between 4 and 6.

Anonymous said...

Gary is the first so called expert that I've seen that doesn't have us making the NCAA tournament, yet he has us on the border of the CBI and NIT. I hope Vandy proves him wrong in a big way.

Stanimal said...

I just think that Gary's probably been too busy oggling over talent at the other schools that he wasn't really paying attention to ours.

Stanimal said...

I'm hesitant to discount Florida like that. They have several talented players, and both them and Tennessee were the two teams where we weren't even close to winning the game.

That being said I do think losing Calathes will hurt worse than people think. But they have some guys who can light it up and we didn't show an ability at all last year to stop them from doing so.

As for South Carolina, I live down here, I saw the games last year, Downey is really really good. Outside of that I'm not overly impressed.

Anonymous said...

I already sent Gary some hate mail. Not really hate mail, more mail along the lines that Vandy has a better chance of finishing First in the SEC East than Fifth. I told him I would eat my hat if they finish Fifth, and would do it on youtube.

You guys are all under valuing the team too much, typical Vandy fan syndrome, which I understand, but dont fall for it this year. It's not some scrappy bunch who are coached up led by 7 seniors. It is a very talented team led by 4 star (now 5 star) players. As talented as any in the SEC outside of UK from pure talent pool.

I will be suprised if Vandy has more than 2 losses to start the SEC and 7 losses by the time March rolls around. That good.

Anonymous said...

I already sent Gary some hate mail. Not really hate mail, more mail along the lines that Vandy has a better chance of finishing First in the SEC East than Fifth. I told him I would eat my hat if they finish Fifth, and would do it on youtube.

You guys are all under valuing the team too much, typical Vandy fan syndrome, which I understand, but dont fall for it this year. It's not some scrappy bunch who are coached up led by 7 seniors. It is a very talented team led by 4 star (now 5 star) players. As talented as any in the SEC outside of UK from pure talent pool.

I will be suprised if Vandy has more than 2 losses to start the SEC and 7 losses by the time March rolls around. That good.

Stanimal said...

Cautious optimism my man. Believe me, I'm not undervaluing this group.

J.B., M.D. said...

Great post Stanimal. Looking forward to the season.

Anonymous said...

Is anyone else calmed about Gary Parrish's predictions by the fact he looks like a giant d-bag in his picture?

Slimbo said...

Still trying to figure out why being an American Idol runner-up should lend this man any semblance of basketball expertise.