After the unending dog days of summer, college basketball is finally here. You can smell the hardwood, you can feel the excitement, and you can probably already hear Dickie V’s tired old shtick. This offseason was an odd one. NFL ratings dropped off a cliff, the Cubs won the world series, and the length of college football games got insufferably long. We can mercifully put all that behind us as college basketball season, the most important season to any true Warrior, is about to begin.
Marquette will open the ’16-’17 campaign with a huge neutral site tilt against the Commodores of Vanderbilt as part of the Veteran’s Day Classic. Navy Alumni Hall in Annapolis, MD will be the site of the matchup which is intended to honor our men and women in uniform. It will be a homecoming of sorts for Coach Wojo who grew up only 8 miles away in Severna Park. Though no coaches or players were present for the last meeting between the two teams, Marquette fans will not soon forget the 74-57 shellacking they received from the Commodores at the Bradley Center. Marquette was ranked #14 in the nation at the time. If KenPom is to be believed, Marquette will actually enter into this matchup as slight favorites. Paint Touches will give you everything you need to know about the Commodores of Vanderbilt.
PG: Riley LaChance: 6-2 192 JR PG: 24.8 mpg, 6.9 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.5 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.0 bpg, 1.3 tpg, .354 FG%, .361 3P%
SG: Nolan Cressler: 6-4 210 lb RSSR SG: 12.3 mpg, 4.8 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 0.8 apg, 0.1 spg, 0.1 bpg, 0.7 tpg, .456 FG%, .274 3P%
SF: Matthew Fisher-Davis: 6-5 185 lb JR SG: 27.4 mpg, 9.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 1.1 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.3 bpg, 0.8 tpg, .432 FG%, .446 3P%
PF: Jeff Roberson: 6-6 224 lb JR SF: 26.8 mpg, 9.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.2 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.2 bpg, 1.1 tpg, .489 FG%, .435 3P%
C: Luke Kornet: 7-1 250 lb SR C: 27.4 mpg, 8.9 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.5 apg, 0.5 spg, 3.0 bpg, 1.1 tpg, .403 FG%, .280 3P%
Camron Justice: 6-3 180 lb SO SG
Joe Toye: 6-7 208 lb SO SF
Djery Baptiste: 6-10 240 lb RSFR C
Clevon Brown: 6-8 219 lb FR PF
Payton Willis: 6-4 182 lb FR SG
Phillip McGloin: 6-1 183 JR PG
Larry Austin Jr: 6-2 175 lb RSSO PG (Redshirtting)
- The Commodores made the NCAA tournament last season, though barely, losing the play in game to the Shockers of Wichita State. From that team, they lost two NBA first round players in PG Wade Baldwin and PF Damian Jones. Baldwin and Jones were also Vanderbilt’s only two double digit scorers. Bench players Josh Henderson, Samir Sehic, and Carter Josephs are also no longer with the team. To replace them, Vanderbilt has Clevon Brown and Payton Willis. Both were three star freshmen by most services. Brown is a blue collar post player while Willis is a high scoring guard from Razorback country. Both may see time but neither is expected to make an immediate impact. The Commodores also welcome Djery Baptiste, a former three star center who redshirted last season. Baptiste comes from Haiti via Dallas, TX and brings a very large from to the frontcourt. He is expected to be the primary backup for Luke Kornet.
- Vanderbilt has its first new coach of the millennium. Long time skipper Kevin Stallings was lured away from Nashville to take over the top spot at Pittsburgh. Vandy went out and signed one of the biggest rising stars in the coaching world. Bryce Drew spent years at his alma mater of Valparaiso. He turned the Crusaders from an unknown midmajor to a consistent challenger for the Horizon crown. Many high majors had considered Drew for their openings but it was Vanderbilt that sealed the deal. Drew is expected to bring a much more uptempo style to Nashville than his predecessor did.
- Local Marquette fans might remember Riley LaChance. The Brookfield native committed to play for the Commodores and was a freshmen year sensation. He was top 10 in true shooting percentage, top 5 for offensive rating, and top 5 for 3PMs in the SEC as a freshman. Commordore fans rightly expected him to take it to another level his sophomore year, but they were sorely disappointed. LaChance went on a season long slump and found himself coming off the bench. His TS%, eFG%, and FTR all plummeted with his minutes. He still had a good three point shot but was a miserable 25.5% from two point range in conference play. He is the most likely candidate to take over for the departed Baldwin. The Commordore’s success might hinge on whether freshman year or sophomore year LaChance shows up to play.
- Similar to Marquette, Vanderbilt will play a lot of 4 out, 1 in offense. The 1 in will be 7 footer Luke Kornet. The native Texan uses his size to be a defensive force. He ranked first in the SEC with 3.0 blocks per game. He also posted the top defensive rating, block%, and defensive plus/minus in the conference. On offense, his game is not what you would expect at all. Despite his massive size, he prefers to take jumpshots and has very limited post moves. He took 93 three point attempts last season despite only making 28% of them. Still, that ability to hit the outside shot is valuable, as it will draw bigs like Luke Fischer away from the basket, creating space for others.
- Vanderbilt features one of the most lights out shooters in the country. Matthew Fisher-Davis is what you would call a “one tool slugger” in baseball. He has one offensive weapon and he uses it very well. MFD took an eye popping 177 three point shots, making 79 of them. That’s a percentage of 44.6% for those of you keeping score at home. His ability to heat up and go off on an opponent is what makes him one of the most dangerous players on the court. However, that’s really his only weapon. He only converted on 39% of his 59 2P FG attempts last season and had a non-existent FTR. Being on a team with two NBA first rounders a season ago meant that MFD was rarely the focus of the defense. Since he will have to take a bigger role, it would not be surprising to see his efficiency and accuracy take big hits as he becomes the focus of the defense. Marquette should have a man in his pocket the entire night.
- If a player were to emerge as the Commodore’s go to scorer, wing Jeff Roberson would be the most likely candidate. He is a complete player with multiple tools in his belt on both offense and defense. He can drive to the hoop and throw down a thunderous dunk, or step back and pop a three (he made 43.5% of them last season). His eFG of 57% was one of the highest on the team. The challenge for Roberson will be maintaining that efficiency while increasing his role. Roberson was 3rd to last in usage on the team, ahead of only back of the rotation players Samir Sehic and Carter Josephs. Conventional wisdom suggests that efficiency drops as usage rises. Roberson will be expected to take on a much bigger role as his fellow starters are incomplete players.
Both Marquette and Vanderbilt will have a lot of shooters on the floor. That means that just about anything can happen if one team gets hot or cold. The biggest difference between the two is that Marquette has more players that are more than just shooters. LaChance and Fisher-Davis both struggle inside the arc. Kornet has range for a big man but isn’t the most accurate and has limited post moves. Roberson looks like a complete player, but it is unclear how he we will handle having to dramatically increase his usage. The fifth starter for Vanderbilt is a complete unknown at this point as all the options are either three star freshmen or bench players who have shown flashes, but would require immense improvement to be viable. Add in the fact that Marquette’s bench goes 11 deep and Vanderbilt is playing its first game with a new coach? Marquette has a good chance to run the Commodores out of the gym. The only shot the Commodores have is going unconscious from three and Marquette having an off shooting night.