Basketball Scouting Report: Tennessee State

The Vanderbilt basketball team took care of one of its nearby neighbors a few days ago, dispensing with Lipscomb. Now, the Commodores play another school not too far away from their campus. VU doesn't want to be too gracious a host tonight, however.


The Vanderbilt Commodores are looking across the nation and seeing SEC teams… and many other teams from power conferences… absorb all kinds of bad losses. LSU lost to Old Dominion. Georgia has already lost to Georgia Tech. Auburn got obliterated by Colorado. Outside the SEC, we’ve seen Marquette lose to Nebraska-Omaha. Wake Forest lost to Iona. Syracuse was knocked off by California. Vanderbilt might think Tennessee State is a manageable opponent tonight, but with waves of ambush-level results sweeping across the country, nothing is a sure thing. The Commodores need to bring a strong effort to the court tonight.

TENNESSEE STATE AT-A-GLANCE

The team Vanderbilt faces is a team that’s almost entirely reconstituted from scratch. There is only one returning player on this team. First-year coach Dana Ford, a former assistant at Wichita State and several other programs, is only 30 years old, and he’s building the Tigers from the ground up. He’s signed 12 players in the past offseason at a program which has gone 23-40 over the previous two seasons. There’s no real foundation on which Ford has been able to build. This is his project, and it’s just starting. When you look at statistics for this team, don’t assume that they mean a whole lot, given the turnover from last season’s roster. The best approach for Vanderbilt is simply to attack the Tigers – and this game, and these 40 minutes – with intensity and dedication.

Starting Lineup

Forward – Zachary Lee –
Freshman, 6-8, 215 2013-14: N/A

Only one player, Jay Harris – whom you’ll meet shortly – has a prior track record at the Division I-A level. Other players are either freshmen or transfers from schools at lower tiers of scholastic competition. This team is a blank slate, which makes Tennessee State very hard for Kevin Stallings to scout. This is why effort and intangibles factor highly into tonight’s game. At 6-8 and 215, Lee does not carry around a lot of added weight or bulk. Vanderbilt should expect a high-energy performance from Lee and must be ready to match that energy.

Forward – Demontez Loman – Junior, 6-6, 188; 2013-14: N/A

The other main point to recognize about Tennessee State is that while it has played three games this season, it has played only one against a Division I-A team, Southern Illinois, last week. That’s the one game in which to read a lot into how the Tigers might play tonight, but you don’t want to read too much into it. Loman scored only eight points in 28 minutes, but he did hit all four of his shots. That kind of efficiency is something the Commodores need to monitor.

Guard – Jay Harris – Senior, 5-10, 170; 2013-14: 7.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg

Harris is the veteran member of this program, entering his fourth season entirely within the fold at TSU. He shot under 28 percent from three-point range last season, but he was 4 of 6 from three-point range against Southern Illinois last Tuesday, Nov. 18, en route to 23 points. Vanderbilt must treat Harris with a noticeable degree of respect, since it seems he’s much more ready to be a proactive member of this offense. Since he’s the one returning player, he is likely to embrace more of a leadership role, and leadership is something which can manifest itself as much in on-court actions as it does in words or more off-court deeds.

Guard – Charles Tucker – Freshman, 6-1, 182; 2013-14: N/A

Tucker could be the best player on the Tigers’ roster. A freshman, Tucker scored 16 points against Southern Illinois, showing a fearlessness Ford has to love. Tucker built that 16-point outing on the back of a balanced outing: 6 of 10 field goals, 2 of 4 on threes, and 2 of 2 at the foul line. Taking away Tucker should probably be the core of the Dores’ game plan on defense.

Guard – Xavier Richards – Junior, 6-2, 198; 2013-14: N/A

Richards went 3 for 11 from the field against Southern Illinois, so he does look for his shots. He needs to prove to himself and his team that he can make them more consistently. Vanderbilt will want to make sure that he doesn’t get to see the ball go through the basket early on, which means denying him free throws and layups, forcing him to shoot from a great distance. Keeping Richards beyond 15 feet from the basket (at least 10 to 12 feet) will be recommended.

Bench

The Tigers have a very untested bench, and one doesn’t know how limited it may or may not be tonight. Guard Darreon Reddick scored four points in 20 minutes against Southern Illinois. Guard Marcus Roper scored six points in 18 minutes. Other than these two players, only one other man, guard Rodney Simeon, saw any time for the Tigers against SIU, and he scored nothing in seven minutes on court. This bench is currently a mystery.

Keys to the Game

1) Take away Tucker.
Harris might be the veteran, but Tucker is the player Vanderbilt can’t allow to go off. If Tucker is contained, Harris will not be able to win the game by himself. Tucker could create more of a negative chain reaction for VU if he gets hot.

2) No easy baskets. It’s a simple key, but one which should be mentioned – why mention a complicated key when a plainer one will do? Tennessee State has not proved to anyone that it can compete at a high level – not with this level of roster turnover. Vanderbilt should be fine as long as it doesn’t make things easier for the Tigers. Cheap baskets are what VU must guard against more than anything else.

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