Three Keys – Vanderbilt at Stanford

This NIT schedule makes little to no sense most of the time. Games are played on random days, some overlap the NCAA Tournament, others with no basketball on TV. All this is really just a long winded way of saying that the ‘Dores are up again on Tuesday night, this time travelling to Northern California (again) to take on Stanford.

There should be plenty of good academics on show in this one and here are the three keys for a black and gold (or perhaps grey and highlighter yellow) victory.

1. Stop Chasson Randle

What George Marshall was to the Jacks, Chasson Randle is to the Cardinal. Specifically these are the guys who are just red hot coming into their meetings with Vanderbilt. The ‘Dores were able to shut down Marshall on Friday night and to advance to the NIT semifinals they will have to contain Randle in much the same way.

In the defeat of Rhode Island in the last round Randle scored 35 of the 74 total points scored by the Cardinal. This was a career high points total for Randle, as he poured in those points on 9-of-16 from the field. Though this was the most he has ever scored in a single game, points are not new to Randle. He now has 2,310 for his career and is just 26 shy of the all-time Stanford record held by Todd Lichiti. Vanderbilt would be okay with Lichti maintaining that record until a new challenger arrives.

2. Keep Stanford off of the free throw line

Randle may have been the biggest reason Stanford is facing Vanderbilt on Tuesday night, but the second biggest reason was the ability of the Cardinal to get to the foul line. When a team is shooting badly, and Stanford was, then getting to the charity stripe becomes the easiest and quickest way to get points. This is especially true when the game is a chippy, badly officiated mess, again as the Stanford game was against Rhode Island.

Stanford took an astonishing 49 free throws against Rhode Island. The back court duo of Randle and Anthony Brown went 29 times by themselves. Credit the Cardinal for driving at, and taking contact from, the Rams, and expect Stanford to again come with a game plan based on getting the ‘Dores best shooters into foul trouble on Tuesday night. This is something Vanderbilt just cannot have happen, especially with Randle who shoots 88% from the free throw line.

3. Feed Damian Jones

Vandy again need to work through the big sophomore to get the offense going and allow the guards to have clean looks from three point range. This is going to be an interesting matchup as Jones will go against the 6’11” Stefan Nastic. Nastic averages 13.4 points per game, but it is his ability to put the opposite team’s bigs in foul trouble which will most concern Kevin Stallings heading to Palo Alto.

Jones cannot afford to pick up cheap, meaningless fouls early on. He must play the majority of the first half and keep himself clean while outscoring Nastic. If Jones becomes the threat down low that he has been at the tail end of this season then there is no reason that Vanderbilt cannot keep this NIT run going.

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