Friday, March 18, 2011

It's Not Armageddon Folks

As Bobby, Seamus, and Doug will attest, I am rarely optimistic when it comes to Vanderbilt sports. A lot of that is because I haven't received a whole heck of a lot of reason to be optimistic. I try to temper my unwavering belief in the team and coaches with a little bit of objectivism by watching the games with a critical eye, looking at the box scores, and looking at Ken Pomeroy's great statistical databank. Once the game comes on, try as I might to remain stoic, I succumb to the wild emotions that make being a fan so great. As Mrs. Stanimal says, "Sometimes I feel like we have to watch these games in a padded room." Those of you who actually know me are aware of my reputation for intensity. What can I say, it translates naturally into being a fan.

After several hours and a few either very happy or very sad alcoholic beverages, I am typically able to return to some sense of rationalism about the game. When I woke up this morning, it was easy for me to say I wasn't surprised. This Richmond team was underseeded and was far better than their 12-seed ranking. That's not an excuse for the team, because part of playing with the big boys is winning games you should, but no one should have expected this game to be a blow-out our way.

As Bobby posted for me yesterday, I thought the Ken Pomeroy numbers played our way because Richmond really wasn't all that good at things we were weakest at (offensive rebounding and forcing turnovers). But for the second game in a row, Vandy let two statistics essentially become turnovers. Against Florida, it was shooting a woeful 6-33 from three, of which most of those shots were very poor decisions. Against Richmond, it was allowing them to get 9 blocked shots right at the bucket. Couple that with our standard 9+ offensive rebounds allowed (4 of which were in ONE possession) and you have them taking 10 more shots than we did, which were pretty much all threes. They hit 50% of those shots because of poor perimeter defense which plagued us at the end of the year, and frankly folks, there's your ball game.

You have to give Richmond credit where credit is due. They played near flawless basketball with the exception of their performance on the glass. Forcing turnovers has never been Vandy's forte, and they only had 2 the whole game. By our standards, we did pretty well to only have 7 turnovers. Perhaps most importantly, Richmond had a player with a certain "je ne sais quoi" in Kevin Anderson, who really relished the spotlight and the opportunity to be a part of March Madness lore by dropping 25 points on 4 of 9 shooting from three. Vanderbilt didn't have that kind of player emerge this year. There are three guys on the team who can take that mantle at any given time, but none thus far who have emerged as the consistent "go-to guy".

There is something to keep in mind, however, and it's that the future is still very bright for this program. Without question, it is difficult to accept our third gut-punch in a row, particularly when you consider that this team has a deeper roster in terms of talent than any of its predecessors (I'll have more on that later). Still, you have to take into consideration that the entire team pretty much will be back next year and that we're bringing in a very talented recruiting class to bolster our depth even further. While we were all very optimistic about the team's possibilities before SEC play, it has to be remembered that most, including myself, were not sure what we were going to get at the beginning of the year. What we got was a team that earned a 5-seed without major contribution from a single senior. We had one of the most dominant big men in the SEC emerge. We found out that we had a steady point guard who could direct our offense. While our two real "lightning in a bottle" scorers didn't light it up game in and game out, we saw glimpses of what they could be. This is a good team right now. It's not a great team, but it's also one that isn't done just yet. Depending on some tough decisions that have to be made regarding the draft, it has all the makings of an SEC championship team next year. While I haven't looked at the numbers, I'm thinking something similar to this year's Florida. A few things need to happen for that dream we've been wanting for so long to become a reality, starting with hard-work in the off-season. Never the optimist, I'm still willing to say that I believe fourth times the charm.

29 comments:

Bob Loblaw said...

Well said, Stanimal. I'll add this, though: one more March like this and the administration is going to have to take a serious look at the head coach. Stallings has done good things at Vandy and is building teams made of athletes that can compete with any team in the league, but his post-season success has got to be the barometer by which the basketball team is measured now. Go Dores.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree Bob. Next year is our year or Stallings has to be gone.

Anonymous said...

Very well said. I couldn't agree more with everything you have posted. I still have confidence that this team will continue to mature, and become the great team they have the potential to be.
Even with the disappointments of the season, I'm still proud of the accomplishments this of this team. Quite frankly, it has been fun to watch them grow, especially Festus who deserves much respect for not only his leaps and bounds of improvement of the game, but also for his commitment to recieving and finishing his education.
Now, all I have to say is Go Dores! Looking forward to next season.

Andrew said...

I'm not sure that looking at statistics after the fact is a great way to analyze college basketball.

This isn't MLB, with very stoic adults playing huge hundreds of games, all of which can be measured in every important respect. It's the opposite. It's a sport played irregularly by highly emotional adolescents and one that defies measurement.

Even in the NBA, which has a far larger sample size and far less emotional players, people who spend their lives analyzing games haven't even found any reliable statistics to measure player value accurately. Ask 20 different genius-level number crunchers who is the best player in the game and you'll get 15 different answers. Worse, you'll hear serious arguments that suggest the players thought by some to be tops in the league are, in fact, net negatives for their teams.

Given that basketball points come from other measurable behaviors, you will always be able to find numbers that seem to explain the loss. But the numbers don't explain all that much in many games. Vandy didn't lose yesterday because of insufficient perimeter defense and the inability to protect the ball on layups. They lost because they lacked the emotional fortitude to win -- and that emptiness manifested itself in an inability to defend.

AspenVU said...

lack of "emotional fortitude" cost this team at least 5 games this year.

Greg M said...

Fire Coach Stallings now so we don't have to go through this again next year. Which we will do if he is still there. No way we win the SEC or make a deep run with him at the helm, even with everybody back. He has turned into an anchor. I think i will send him a sword and hope he does the honorable thing and sticks it in his gut. Just lack his emotionless ballplayers stuck it in our gut yesterday. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem like a group with a leader who can convince them all to return next year to take care of unfinished business. They seem like they kind of don’t give a crap. Maybe because they think their coach sucks. At least it looks that way to me. I might try to ask a few of them.

AspenVU said...

I'm a CKS fan, but very interesting point on is he a big enough leader to convince them to come back for unfinished business?

It's all about having the internal drive to really play effective defense and then imposing our will on O.

What's with this nervous excuse and what was with that very last play?

Anonymous said...

Plain and simple, there is no one available at the moment who could do a better job at recruiting that Stallings does for us, so try to look at it that way for now.


Stanimal and/or Bobby, I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on the following:
Odds JT stays?
Odds JJ stays?
Odds Fes stays?

If somehow they all decide to stay, do we have enough room/scholarships available to allow for it?

Anonymous said...

Stallings isn't going anywhere, at least not this next year. UF lost in the first round last year and look at them this year and we have a better recruiting class coming in than they did this year. Also, Poythress is going to sign with us, but if CKS leaves he won't. No reason to sacrifice everything simply b/c this team was too immature. CKS isn't the reason we missed free throws. CKS isn't the reason we didn't execute. Players have to do that. I know our talent is good, but it's not like we've been having Top 5 recruiting classes every year. UT and Bruce Pearl (he's what you get when go for an emotional coach) have had higher ranked recruiting classes than us almost every year and yet we still are finishing ahead of them in the standings, so I'd say CKS is doing just fine for now.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, I hope the administration takes a serious look at the state of the MBB program. I would hate to see the progress of the program take steps backward with a major coaching change (remember the post-Fogler years). However, they cannot turn a blind eye to the first-round loses to double-digit seeds; something in the coaching "elixir" needs to be tweaked before next season.

I think most everyone that follows Vandy sports realizes that MBB is the best chance Vanderbilt has of getting national cred in a revenue sport. Football will never be able to compete toe-to-toe with the other SEC powers, and college baseball does not have the following that the other two sports enjoy.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with the above post with regards to what could happen if we had a major coaching change. Many of the young VU fans on here have been spoiled by some of our recent successes. Fortunately I have been a VU fan for long enough to remember the Van Breda Kolf years (post Fogler) and how bad we were. UK used to beat us by 30+ at Rupp and now we expect to win there every team we go. I remember when just beating UT once and keeping it close with UK was considered a successful season. I guarantee you CKS and his staff are already working on next year right now, and I think we will see a different VU team next year.

Even more anonymous said...

It would be nice to win a couple of games before being dismantled by Kansas. But folks, the Commies gave us a top 25 team that made the NCAA tournament. I say it's great that we've reached the point where we find that disappointing.

Bobby O'Shea said...

I'm sure we'll have posts up about CKS in the next few days. I'll be honest that I am very much on the fence on this one, but Stanimal made a very compelling email case to me on why talk of CKS' ouster is premature.

As for odds on players returning, going pro, I'd put it like this:

JT - 1:1 (Based on the murmurs I've heard, I'd be surprised if he stayed)

JJ - 4:1 (Jenkins had a great season; but as the year went on, he was easier to defend and the weaknesses in his game became apparent. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, if Jenkins improves as much between this season and next season and he did between last season and this season, he is a top 15 NBA pick).

Fez - 10:1 (He's a true big man, and is the definition of "upside" given how new he still is to the game; still, I believe getting a degree is important to him and that he wants to finish school)

The thing to watch out for, and that might actually be in Vanderbilt's favor is the seeming inevitability of labor unrest in the NBA. I am not looking to turn this into a discussion of labor/management relations in general, or the NFL lockout specifically, but from what I hear, the NBA owners are even more determined to change the extent to which players are compensated than their NFL brethren. And, unlike the NFL, it appears like the NBA owners are actually losing money. If it appears like there won't be an NBA season next year, the number of players staying (especially kids who aren't in NCAAU programs like Kentucky) could be surprising.

AspenVU said...

Way premature on CKS unless someone poaches him.

KSDORE said...

I don't think CKS is the problem. Sure he could have done somethings better, but he is constrained by the talent and the makeup of the players he has. Individual our players are great, but when they combine, they turn into a sort of aimless group. For whatever reason, on the big stage or the tough game they cannot perform their best. Remember, the heart of this team is Juniors (JT, BT) and redshirt Juniors (AW, Festus). If they can't handle they big stage or the conference team that won't lay down even though it is down by 10 in the 2nd half now, I don't think they will magically gain the ability to do this over the summer. They are who they are. This is not slight on them as a people or players. Individually, they are great. But, if watched a lot of sports and I have never seen a team as mentally/emotionally fragile as this past team. I don't think they are fragile individuals, but for some reason this group of 15 guys just didn't click.

I know stats guys, like the great Joe Posnanski (the best sports writer in America) tend to be skeptical of intangibles like leadership, but I think this seasons shows how valuable Jermaine Beal's leadership was last year.

Vandy-Montana said...

Beal's leadership was so good we only lost by one last year to Murray St.

AspenVU said...

I'm enjoying watching Pearl get blown out in his last game. VU will be fine.

Anonymous said...

It is all a lack of mental toughness which results in a big CHOKE. It will be interesting to see if this can be addressed or not.

Interesting the only game all year in which we were not in was Arkansas and that can be attributed to the death of the player's mother.

Seth said...

Lets be honest with ourselves… we have said time and time again “this is the best team Vandy’s had” the past 2 years. Where has that gotten us, back to back losses in the 1st round. Will next years team be great if everyone comes back, absolutely, but who will be intimidated by us in the first round? No one.

There is a problem with CKS philosophy and it WILL NOT be addressed by this administration. Vandy does not care about athletics and I don’t see Vice Chancellor Williams sitting down with Stallings and discussing the NCAA tourni. As long as we stay competitive in the SEC and make it to the tourni consistently Stallings is safe.

I like Stallings but now he needs to take a long look in the mirror and re-evaluate a huge flaw in his game… motivation. He cant motivate arguably the best SEC from top to bottom to win “big” games. Its that simple and he needs to pull his head out of his (use whatever word you want) and fix it.

Also, we will make back it to the tourni next year because the only good team will be us and UK but I refuse to watch their first round game. Mark my words, I will NOT watch their first round game.

Anonymous said...

Bring in Bobby Knight as advisor to address weak wuss mental fragility which caused them to cave in big games last 2 years.

Greg M said...

How come the teams we play can have a small guard get off threes and have career nights and we can't get such a great shooter like JJ any open looks. Seems like a coaching flaw to me. Am I missing something?

BTW, to whom it may concern. I was at VU from '84-'88 when we knocked off a few #1's at memorial without CKS. We couldn't come close to doing that now. Heck, we can't even beat Arkansas at home. So all you newbies don't get caught up in our recent suedo success. CKS is not our savior.

Anonymous said...

Lack of mental toughness and poor guard play cost us this game. Especially at the defensive end. Coach must address the lack of quality point guard play for next season. JJ is not ready for the NBA; not even close. JT was guarding the Richmond point guard because we had no answer defensively at the point. No excuses next year with the incoming recruiting class. On to spring football !

Anonymous said...

Greg M I’ll say this…CKS has brought more stability to this program than the VU coaches in the 80’s. 4 NCAA tourni appearances and a 49 – 31 record in SEC regular season play in the last 5 years aint bad. I’ve always been frustrated with CKS ability to get players motivated in big games but he has done A LOT for this program. We are a top 25 program and easily a top 5 program in the SEC. If CKS can quit being so stubborn and realize you HAVE to motivate 18 – 21 year olds, we would be playing this Saturday against Moorhead.

Eddie Fogler was a great coach but he bolted when he got a chance. Stallings has had his chances to leave but and stayed, so lets not say we should go back to the good ole days of the 1980’s????

Also, in the last 5 years, this has without a doubt the biggest letdown of a CKS team. If a 9-7, NCAA tourni appearance season is a letdown… I’ll take that any day. Good coach with a big flaw… motivational tactics.

Anonymous said...

i have to agree with the posts about "premature to talk about CKS going"......Unless all of you have selective amnesia...his recruiting is fantastic. Teams less talented 2004 and 2007 went to sweet 16 under his coaching. He is responsible for 5 out of our 12 appearances. Yes, losing in first round for 3 years is a major disappointment. I think the players are responsible. They did not want to defend, no real leader. In regards to NBS, Jenkins is ready... I think Taylor should stay...he has much to learn.

Anonymous said...

Stallings recruits amazingly well, but does not know what to do with his talent once it arrives. Think about what a different coach could do with the amount of talent on this team.

AspenVU said...

Do not need a new coach - somehow need to turn up the defensive intensity for 40 minutes - this drives absolutely everything else - including more offense.

He's got to figure out how to pull this out. All the shooting in the gym this summer won't matter if this aspect is not fixed.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with AspenVU. This team never has intimidated anyone with how it played defense. I don't know if we need to go circa early 1990s Arkansas 40 minutes of hell, but we need to figure out a way to turn up the defensive intensity. Everything else will flow from that.

AD said...

Subliminal message from the NCAA?
http://www.shopncaasports.com/NCAASports_Kentucky_Wildcats_T-Shirts/Kentucky_Wildcats_Royal_Blue_I_Love_College_Hoops_Team_Spirit_Erupption_Zone_T-shirt

Swap the "e" for a "co" - seems plain enough to me.

Anonymous said...

very rosy picture for us in my opinion. We are the only top 5 seed to lose 3 consecutive opening NCAA games to the much lower seed. FIRST TIME EVER. That speaks volumes about either our coaching or the type of player we recruit.