In anticipation of tonight’s season opener, we did a question and answer exchange with Anchor Of Gold, our SB Nation sister site that focuses on Vanderbilt. You can check out their site for our answers to their questions as well, but for now our questions are in bold and the answers from AoG writer Tom Stephenson are in.... not.... bold.....
After 17 seasons that led to seven NCAA tournament appearances, Kevin Stallings opted to leave Vanderbilt for Pitt in the offseason. From the outside, I could see how Vanderbilt fans might not be all that heartbroken about him leaving. Is that the case?
Yeah, you pretty much nailed it on the head. Stallings had kind of worn out his welcome in Nashville by the end of his tenure. Actually, a significant portion of the fan base turned on him after he took a team with three NBA players on it for three years (2010-12) and never made it out of the first weekend of the tournament, but by the end of last season, even his most consistent defenders (myself included) were ready for a change. Our AD will probably go to the grave denying it, but the general consensus was that if Stallings hadn't taken the Pitt job, he would have been forced out. At this time we would like to thank the good folks at Pitt for saving us a lot of money on the buyout.
What's the general thinking on VU hiring Bryce Drew to steer the ship? Given the success that he had at Valparaiso as well as the successes of his father and brother at the Division 1 level, it seems that it's possible that Vanderbilt has upgraded the coaching position.
The general consensus is positive, though at least some of that is related to the fact that a lot of the names that were publicly tossed around in connection to the job -- Jeff Capel, King Rice, Tommy Amaker, Pat Kelsey (who's Pat Kelsey? Exactly) -- were underwhelming. Drew's very different stylistically than Stallings, but my immediate remark upon his hiring was that the worst-case scenario is that he'll be Stallings 2.0. So yeah, I think Vanderbilt probably upgraded the coaching position, though it's probably going to be a couple of years before we really know the answer to that question.
Wade Baldwin and Damian Jones both departed Vanderbilt after last season with eligibility remaining and both were selected in the first round of the NBA Draft. Which guy is the bigger loss for the Commodores and who is going to be expected to pick up the slack from them?
It's definitely Baldwin. Jones was a solid, if frustrating, player, but Vanderbilt will probably just replace him with Luke Kornet and that's not going to end up being a huge loss. There was an argument to be made that Vanderbilt is probably better off with just Kornet because he and Jones just didn't seem to work well together on the offensive end. On the other hand, without Baldwin, Vanderbilt doesn't really have a point guard -- Riley LaChance (who, btw, is a Wisconsin native) will probably get the first crack but he's really more of a shooting guard and Payton Willis is (a) a freshman and (b) really a combo guard.
I have to admit that I thought it was more than a little funny that Marquette is heading to the United States Naval Academy to play the Commodores. Do you guys ever get tired of boating/sailing metaphors in regards to Vandy's teams, and as a follow up, should I have asked this before making the "steering the ship" reference earlier?
We put the word "Anchor" in the name of our freaking blog, and the color of the exterior of our football stadium is "battleship grey," so we bring a lot of that on ourselves. So no.
Luke Kornet is seven foot tall, and you can't teach that. But he's also not a straight up traditional big man, given the fact that he's attempted more three pointers than two pointers in his college career. He cracked 40% as a sophomore, but didn't hit 30% on triples in his other two seasons. Which one is the real Luke Kornet and has Bryce Drew given any indications as to whether he'll continue to deploy Kornet as an outside threat?
Kornet's career arc has been a little weird and a lot of that owes to the fact that, up until his senior year of high school, he was literally a guard. And then he grew from 6'3" to 7'1" and that was that. He's managed to retain some of his guard skills, but as he's developed he's turned into much more of a traditional big man, albeit with a stretch element. But with Damian Jones now gone, I would expect Kornet to anchor (there, I used it again) the post and leave the outside shooting to the guards (who are, after all, a lot better at it than Kornet is.)
If you spend enough time in Wisconsin, you know how to appreciate a good beer. Can you give Marquette fans a recommendation for either a good place to get a beer if they find themselves in Nashville or a local craft beer for us to look for on our next trip to the store?
So I haven't actually lived in Nashville in seven years (and also, I've never been to Wisconsin), but I'll throw in a plug for Jackalope Brewery, which was started by one of my law school classmates. Lawyers and drinking? I know, get outta here.
Prediction time! Pick a winner for Friday night, and take a swing at an X-factor that decides the game.
Vanderbilt will still have a few kinks to work out, but I think Luke Kornet wins the battle of the Lukes and Vanderbilt hits enough jump shots to prevail in a close one, 67-65.