Despite Early Losses and Bright Future, Vanderbilt not Looking Past the Present

Posted by David Changas on November 20th, 2017

Last week, second-year Vanderbilt head coach Bryce Drew secured what many consider to be the best recruit in the history of the school when consensus five-star prospect Darius Garland signed with the Commodores. His pledge is a game-changer for a program that has seen its share of success over the years but has never been able to reach the next level. Those close to the program expect Garland’s commitment to attract even more talent, as top-10 prospect Simi Shittu is also expected to sign with Vanderbilt next spring. Drew also landed four-star wing Aaron Nesmith in the early signing period, and his program is currently among the final three (along with Indiana and Kansas) for the services of five-star guard Romeo Langford. Needless to say, the perception of the program is undergoing a significant shift very quickly, and that will be evident when the Commodores take the floor next fall.

Despite enduring two losses, this has been a banner week for Bryce Drew and Vanderbilt. (USA TODAY Sports)

While there is plenty of reason for excitement about the transformative future of the program, the current crop of Commodores isn’t looking past this season. On Sunday night, Vanderbilt, which is led by seniors Matthew Fisher-Davis, Riley LaChance and Jeff Roberson, took #10 USC to overtime before eventually falling, 93-89. The Commodores controlled the game for most of the first half before a stunning barrage of five unanswered three-pointers gave the Trojans a one-point edge at the break. Vanderbilt came back to again control the game in the second half — building a 10-point lead with just under 10 minutes left — but could not hold that lead, as USC knocked down a number of key threes (12-of-26 3FG) while committing only six turnovers in the entire game. Despite the disappointing loss in addition to an earlier defeat at crosstown rival Belmont, the veteran Commodores know there is plenty of season left to turn things around. “We are not satisfied, but there are definitely things we can learn from this game, and things we can take from it,” Fisher-Davis said after the game.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Morning Five: 11.14.17 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 14th, 2017

morning5

  1. R.J. Barrett‘s commitment to Duke seems to be a case of the rich getting richer as Mike Krzyzewski continues to rack to highly-rated recruits. It was not that long ago that it seemed like John Calipari was luring almost every top recruit to Kentucky, but over the past few years Krzyzewski has certainly held his own. In Barrett, Duke gets its third straight #1 recruit following Harry Giles and Marvin Bagley III. Barrett, a 6’7″ small forward who recently reclassified from the class of 2019 to the class of 2018, chose Duke over Oregon and Kentucky. Although there are still several top recruits who have not committed it looks like the Blue Devils have a good shot at finishing the year with the #1 recruiting class as they already have commitments two other top-10 recruits (Cam Reddish and Tre Jones).
  2. Darius Garland committing to Vanderbilt might not draw the same level of attention as Barrett’s commitment to Duke, but it is more surprising. As RTC alumnus Chris Johnson notes Garland, a five-star recruit, is taking an unconventional route bypassing the traditional powerhouses. Garland had been considering Indiana, Kentucky, and UCLA, but ultimately decided to stay in his home state. It’s unclear if Garland’s commitment will help Bryce Drew lure in any more recruits, but it cannot hurt.
  3. Like most people we were surprised by BYU junior guard Nick Emery announcement that he was withdrawing from school this year. Like most people we originally assumed it was the result of an investigation into whether he may have received impermissible benefits, but according to Emery the reason for him withdrawing was the stress from a divorce although some find that hard to believe. Whatever the reason, it is a big loss as the Cougars will be hard-pressed to replace the talent of a player who averaged 16.3 points per game as a freshman (his numbers were down slightly across the board as a sophomore).
  4. On Friday, Oklahoma State announced that preseason first-team All-Big 12 guard Jeffrey Carroll would be held out amid eligibility concerns. Carroll, who averaged 17.6 points (on 53.7% shooting) and 6.6 rebounds per game last season, could return as early as next week although we are never sure how long these investigations will take especially with the FBI involved. Getting Carroll back would be a huge lift for the Cowboys particularly with a game against Texas A&M looming on November 20.
  5. We usually are not interested in stories about athletes not qualifying academically since all the stories tend to be similar (player bounced around from school to school, etc), but the story of Stanford freshman Kezie Okpala caught our eye. Okpala, a top-50 recruit in the class of 2017, was ruled ineligible because of a grade he received in an AP Calculus class in his last semester of high school. We aren’t sure what Stanford’s policy is in accepting high school credits or what the rest of Okpala’s academic transcript looks like, but it seems absurd that someone taking AP calculus could fail to qualify academically (albeit by the standards of one of the top universities in the world) while the vast majority of players will never take a math class that challenging in college much less high school. More than anything it speaks to the absurdity of the NCAA or any other governing body determining academic eligibility when schools vary so widely in their academic requirements.
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