Team Preview: Vanderbilt
Last Season: 19-16
Key Losses: Nolan Cressler, Luke Kornet
Key Additions: Saben Lee, Ejike Obanna, Maxwell Evans
Head coach Bryce Drew must’ve had some leftover magic from his buzzer beater in the NCAA Tournament with Valpo in his first season at Vanderbilt as the ‘Dores somehow made their way into the Big Dance. The loss of All-SEC center and captain Luke Kornet hurt but Drew returns a solid core that could build on last season’s success.
With Kornet’s departure, senior forward Jeff Roberson will take over the reigns in the frontcourt. As a junior, Roberson averaged 10.8 points and 7.0 rebounds and will get more touches with an increased role. Clevon Brown, a 6-foot-8 sophomore, is another player who showed progress last season and will have to get used to playing significant minutes as he only averaged 7.6 minutes per contest last season. Sophomore Djery Baptiste and freshman Ejike Obinna, a three-star recruit, are the true centers on the squad but are still a work in progress as they haven’t had much experience at the college level.
A lack of frontcourt depth is made up for in the backcourt as the ‘Dores boast one of the best guard groups in the country. Running the show are seniors Riley LaChance and Matthew Fisher-Davis. Both upperclassmen know how to score the ball at a high rate and run a smooth offense which is crucial for any prolific offensive team. Joe Toye, a 6-foot-7 junior, is reliable on the wing and started 13 games last year at the small forward position. The most intriguing piece of the backcourt is 6-foot-2 freshman guard Saben Lee. A four-star recruit, Lee is an athletic specimen and could take the point guard job which would let LaChance and Fisher-Davis play on the wings where they are best. Another key returner is sophomore Payton Willis who started 12 games last year and could see more minutes this winter.
If Bryce Drew can make it to the NCAA Tournament with a team like he had last year, I don’t see how he can’t make it back with this group. There’s no doubt this backcourt is one of the best in the SEC; the real question will be how the frontcourt responds with the loss of such a reliable player like Luke Kornet.
Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Saben Lee
SG: Riley LaChance
SF: Matthew Fisher-Davis
PF: Jeff Roberson
C: Clevon Brown
Photo: Getty Images