Scouting Report: Longwood

Since Kevin Stallings is scheduling three games within a five-day span, it only makes sense that the middle game in this compressed time window is the matchup which will allow Vanderbilt to gain a breather... or something close to it.


If you're going to play two games just 48 hours apart during the week before Christmas, the second installment of that stack should be a downmarket game. Accordingly, the Longwood Lancers – hailing from Farmville, Virginia – are on the dance card for Monday night at Memorial Gym. If the ninth through twelfth players on Vanderbilt's bench are going to get at least 10 minutes of playing time, this would be the occasion in which Stallings needs to pull the trigger. Given the crisis engulfing the reeling Commodores at this point in the season, it would seem that an all-hands-on-deck approach is exactly what this team needs.

LONGWOOD AT-A-GLANCE

The Lancers – along with Cal State Bakersfield, Nebraska-Omaha, and Seattle University – is a homeless team this season. Longwood is one of four Division I-A Independents in the sport, a lonely place to be within the 348-member community of major college basketball. Coach Mike Gillian is in his ninth year with the program, a reflection of Longwood's lack of resources and expectations. That comment – about a lack of expectations – is not meant as a slap toward the program; it's more a response to Longwood's lowly place in college basketball's power structure. This is a program that ACC and SEC teams schedule whenever they need a break from more taxing tilts and tussles. This is a program which went 12-19 last year, with only eight of those 12 victories coming against Division I schools. Gillian is not expected to stand on his head and work wonders with this program. Merely competing at the Division I level is enough of a success; that's a goal which should be lauded and not downplayed. An athletic program with Vanderbilt's countercultural values should be able to appreciate as much.

Starting Lineup

Center – Antwan Carter –
Senior, 6-6, 225 2011-12: 16.5 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 1.8 assists per game

How must it feel to be the main go-to guy on your team as a 6-6 center? That's the role occupied by Carter, a distinctly unconventional pivot player who really can't be viewed as a "big man"… because he's not one. In Longwood's Dec. 3 loss at Virginia, Carter was the only player on the Lancers who scored more than seven points. Moreover, since Longwood created only seven assists in that contest, Carter evidently had to score points on his own, by dint of his resourcefulness and court sense. For any 6-6 player to be officially listed as a starting center, a few other realities must co-exist on the same basketball roster, and they're in evidence with Longwood. First, other players of similar height must lack the muscle or power to withstand low-post punishment. Second, Carter must be seen by his coach and teammates as the person through whom the offense must run. It would seem pointless to call Carter a "center" otherwise. This is the heartbeat of the Lancers in 2011-2012. Shutting him down will gum up Longwood, leaving this underequipped team with even fewer options at the offensive end.

Forward – Jan van der Kooij – Senior, 6-7, 222; 2011-12: 6.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg

From the Netherlands, van der Kooij isn't a particularly powerful player, which is precisely what will enable Vanderbilt to post him up and wear him down at the defensive end of the floor. You would expect a European player to be more proficient as a shooter and scorer, so van der Kooij's lack of raw statistical production gives you a window into Longwood's limitations, particularly in its starting five.

Guard– Jeremiah Bowman – Senior, 6-2, 188; 2011-12: 14.2 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 5.6 apg

The second-best player on the Lancers is Gillian's most conventional and straightforward starter. If Carter is an atypical low-post performer, Bowman is a natural shooting guard who gets his share of looks at the basket. He plays well with Carter and makes good use of the fact that his teammate can pass the ball so well out of the low blocks. If Vanderbilt shuts down Carter, Bowman becomes Gillian's second option, so the key for the Dores is to make sure that their focus on Carter does not allow Bowman to get free for easy baskets.

Guard – Martiz Washington – Senior, 6-0, 175; 2011-12: 10.6 ppg, 2.2 rpg

Through his first nine games of the season, Washington averaged just under six 3-point field goal attempts per game. This is the player Vanderbilt needs to be mindful of on the perimeter. While the Carter-Bowman two-man game is built on attacking the basket, Washington is a complementary part for Gillian. When Bowman drives the lane, the Commodores must be aware of the drive-and-kick to Washington. As a result, sound defensive rotations will be central to VU's success against Longwood.

Guard – Tristan Carey – Sophomore, 6-4, 185; 2011-12: 11.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.1 apg

Carey is the one player on the Longwood roster who, relative to his position, possesses a certain degree of length. The Lancers, with their 6-6 center, their finesse forward, and their other two guards (neither one taller than 6-2), can't throw imposing defenders at other teams. If there's one man who might rate as an exception to this dynamic, it's Carey, who can use a 6-4 frame to bother ballhandlers and make it difficult for an opponent to shoot. Vanderbilt's offense needs to be able to run Carey off screens so that the sophomore will be tired at the offensive end.

Bench

In the Dec. 3 loss at Virginia, Gillian gave extended minutes to three primary reserves: David Robinson, a 6-4, 190-pound sophomore guard; Mark Parker, a 6-7, 198-pound sophomore wing, and Jeff Havenstein, a 6-8, 235-pound sophomore forward who is on the floor to provide a beefy, brawny defensive presence. These three men aren't gifted scorers; they are brought into games to do all the dirty work on defense, thereby taking pressure off the backs of Carter and Bowman at the defensive end.

Keys to the Game

1) Contain Carter, ideally straight up.
Antwan Carter will present Vanderbilt with a unique and worthy defensive challenge. Carter is an effective low-post player who, like Charles Barkley, is clever in the way he uses his body. He finds ways to score, rebound and create without size or overwhelming power. Gillian and Longwood's coaching staff would want Carter to work with Bowman in a two-man game; the Lancers' two best players need to work in concert with each other in order for Longwood to be successful. Therefore, if Vanderbilt can guard Carter straight up, thereby enabling off-ball defenders to stick with Bowman, the Commodores can severely restrict the ways in which Longwood can create good shots.

2) Play over the top and exploit mismatches. It's clear that Longwood is not physically imposing. More specifically, the Lancers lack the length and size of other teams Vandy will face this season. Therefore, this game will give VU a great chance to junk the 3-point game and focus on pounding the ball into the low post. Dump-downs and lob-entry feeds should emerge in this contest. Guards need to learn how to throw these kinds of passes, cultivating an aggressive mentality which will serve Kevin Stallings well in January, February and March. Speaking of March… if Vanderbilt doesn't get its act together soon, March will last only two weeks, not three or four.

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