As part of its preview of the 2016 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense statistics are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. All other advanced stats are also from kenpom.com (unless noted otherwise), and are through March 14.
Record: 19–13 (11–7 SEC)
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 112.9 (32nd), 96.1 (34th)
Seed: South No. 11 (First Four)
Impact Player: Wade Baldwin IV, sophomore, guard. 14.3 ppg, 5.2 apg.
The Case For: Vanderbilt has two things that greatly help any team looking to make noise in March Madness: a very good guard (sophomore Wade Baldwin IV) and a very good big man (7-foot junior Damian Jones). The two combine to take 48.1% of the Commodores’ shots when on the floor, and together average 28.5 points per game. Vanderbilt can really shoot the ball from behind the arc, with Baldwin, Matthew Fisher-Davis and Jeff Roberson all shooting 41% or better. Both its offense and defense are right outside the top 30 in efficiency, making for a balanced team. Where Vandy’s defense really stands out is in opponents’ shooting—it ranks No. 3 in both effective field goal defense and three-point defense, giving it the ability to shut down a strong three-point shooting team in the tournament.
The Commodores are one of the tallest teams in the tournament (in addition to Jones, junior forward Luke Kornet gives the team two 7-footers) and can use it to their advantage. Two weeks ago Vanderbilt beat Kentucky by 12 in a game where it dominated the Wildcats’ shaky frontcourt, and it’s that kind of performance that shows why Vandy shouldn’t be taken lightly.
The Case Against: The Commodores nearly played themselves out of the bracket with an SEC tournament second-round loss to Tennessee, an example of the inconsistency that has dogged the team all year. In that game, Vanderbilt inexplicably didn’t get the upper hand on the undersized Vols, a reminder of one of its biggest weaknesses: offensive rebounding. Despite their height, the Commodores rank 250th in the country in offensive rebounding and only carry a +1.3 rebounding margin on the season. They also generate very few turnovers, ranking in the bottom 10 teams in the country in defensive turnover percentage (14.3).
Vanderbilt’s only notable nonconference win was an overtime victory over Stony Brook, a No. 13 seed in the tournament. The SEC was one of the weaker major conferences, and while the Commodores do have double-digit home wins over Kentucky and Texas A&M they won only three league games on the road. After its early SEC tournament exit, one has to wonder if things will be different for Vandy this time around.
SI Prediction: Lose Wichita State in First Four.