Men's Hoops: Pre-Season Report Card

The 2005-06 version of the Commodores was one of the most anticipated teams to take the floor at Memorial. Unfortunately, it will be remembered as a team that underachieved. The 2006-07 season comes with similar expectations, despite losing 3 of the top six scorers. So let's grade 05-06 and look ahead to 06-07. (VandyMania welcomes writer Patrick Whitlock)

Shooting

2005-06: The Dores strength last year was clearly the ability to shoot the basketball. Vandy finished fourth in free throw and field goal percentage in the SEC, while finishing second in 3-point percentage.

2005-06 Grade: A-

2006-07 Outlook: Vanderbilt returns its top four 3-point shooters (Cage, Foster, Byars, and Gordon). The addition of Ross Neltner should help, and the ability of George Drake and Jermaine Beal. Neltner has been tagged in the mold of Dan Langhi and Matt Freije, but don't expect that kind of impact outside of his shooting ability. The word on Drake is that he attacks the rim and is a capable 3pt shooter; while Beal will attempt to be a setup man and cannot be counted on to provide the accuracy of last year's top 4.

Rebounding

2005-06: As much of the strength that shooting appeared to be, rebounding was the biggest weakness. The Dores finished last in Total rebounds in the SEC, but the more telling stat is rebound margin, where Vandy was -1.2 and finished ninth. VU also finished 11th in offensive rebounds.

2005-06 Grade: C-

2006-07 Outlook: On paper the outlook is really bleak. Vanderbilt lost its 2 top rebounders, Julian Terrell and Demarre Carroll. To improve it will be a team effort, desperately needing a big man to step up and clean up the glass. One area for optimism is having a bigger backcourt, provided Beal plays a lot of minutes and that Drake can continue to hit the boards like he did in high school where he averaged 8.5 a game.

Defense

2005-06: It was an up and down year defensively. On paper it didn't look great, the Dores gave up 67 ppg to finish sixth, but finished ninth in field goal percentage (.443) and eighth in 3-point percentage (.353). Most notably were nights against Georgia Tech, LSU, and Notre Dame, where VU opponents never seemed to miss. The defense was average at best.

2005-06 Grade: C

2006-07 Outlook: If VU can defend the post well this could be a very good defensive team. The ability to guard the perimeter is there, with many long athletes like Foster, Drake, Byars, and Beal. If the Commodorees can keep opponents big guys out of the paint and off the line, there will be significant improvement.

Intangibles

2005-06: The only real positive was assists, where Vanderbilt averaged nearly 16 a game and finished fourth in the league. Vandy was 11th in blocked shots and steals. VU finished sixth in turnover margin and third in assist to turnover ratio. Overall, you can easily live with 13 turnovers a game, but the Dores just didn't force enough for it to make a real difference.

2005-06 Grade: C

2006-07 Outlook: The athleticism is still there, so room for improvement is very possible. Don't look for Vandy to block many shots, but ball handling should be one of this teams strengths so look for the turnover margin to increase in VU's favor. Hopefully these long rangy athletes can get there hands on some more balls and force more turnovers.

Coaching

2005-06: When things go South the easy target is always coaching. Personally there appeared to be chemistry issues that help bring down a team full of expectations to underachievers. Not being at practices makes this hard to analyze, but it was a disappointing year, probably not as much for fans as it was for the staff. With that being said I will grade it an incomplete, because we will find out this year what adjustments are made and team chemistry according to Coach Stallings will not be a problem. 

2005-2006 Grade: INCOMPLETE

2006-07 Outlook: Last time it was a make or break year for Coach Stalling he responded in a big way, taking VU all the way to the Sweet 16. The big move that year was to the Princeton Offense. The big move this year might be getting away from it. The best VU team of my lifetime (1992-93) took the handcuffs off a great player (McCaffrey) and allowed him to improvise in Eddie Fogler's motion offense. There are rumblings the Princeton offense might be a thing of the past and that could be great news for Foster and Byars. With this being said, I do not think it should be a make or break year for the staff. If this team can sneak into the tournament it will be a great coaching job, but on paper this team looks NIT bound. The good news is that not one game will be played that way, and Stallings and his staff have shown glimpses in the past they can get the job done.


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