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Missouri Hoops Preview: Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt is as talented as they come, but has had some trouble with injuries and head-scratching losses.

NCAA Basketball: Louisiana State at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t look now but [crosses fingers] here comes Missouri!

It’s hard to say that with any sort of confidence given the Tigers’ track record during the 2021-2022 season, but Saturday’s win over Texas A&M felt like something of an inflection point. For several weeks, Missouri has been playing improved basketball with several remarkably close calls and no ability to close things out.

Beating the Aggies on their home court, especially holding off a late charge and re-taking the lead, made it seem as if Cuonzo Martin’s team had unlocked another dimension of their overall potential. As Sam said in Study Hall: “They’re still not good. But they’re no longer bad. And that is enough to get you some places in this league.”

It may be too late for “some places” to equal “a postseason tournament bid,” but there’s still plenty of time to generate excitement toward next season. With almost the entire roster slated to return and at least one high-end prospect incoming, Missouri could have something brewing in the final month of the 2022 season.

The first step in that process will be climbing out of the basement of the SEC and solidifying themselves in the middle of the pack. The recent advanced numbers say that’s where Missouri probably belongs, even if the season-long context puts them down a peg or two. But Mizzou has a chance to prove itself as more than the sum of what they’ve shown thus far. They’ve got some winnable games against other middling SEC squads, along with at least one or two more opportunities for “signature” wins.

Tuesday’s contest against Vanderbilt falls decidedly into the former category. The Commodores are finally seeing some payoff on the Jerry Stackhouse hire, though their reward still doesn’t look likely to be a return to the NCAA Tournament. Instead, the Commodores have a team with some high-level talent that’s just as capable of pulling off some real barn-burners (see their road win in Fayetteville) as dropping some glorious turds (see their 48-37 home loss to VCU).

If Missouri is going to continue pulling itself from the gutter where it fell in November and December, Vanderbilt would prove an ideal stepping stone.

The Scout

The Starters

Position Missouri (9-13) Vanderbilt (12-10)
Position Missouri (9-13) Vanderbilt (12-10)
PG Jarron Coleman (Jr., 6'5", 210) Scotty Pippen (Jr., 6'3", 185)
CG Javon Pickett (Sr., 6'5", 215) Rodney Chatman (Sr., 6'1", 215)
WING DaJuan Gordon (Jr., 6'3", 190) Jordan Wright (Jr., 6'6", 215)
PF Kobe Brown (Jr., 6'8", 250) Myles Stute (So., 6'7", 210)
POST Trevon Brazile (Fr., 6'9", 215) Quentin Millora-Brown (Sr., 6'10", 235)

Note: These starting lineups are projected.

Players to Watch

NCAA Basketball: Vanderbilt at Kentucky Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

Jerry Stackhouse is still looking for a breakout season at Vanderbilt, but his talent acquisition has put the ‘Dores in good position moving forward. Juniors Scotty Pippen, Jr and Jordan Wright lead the way, with Pippen acting as an elite pass-first point guard who can get to the rim (and the foul line) with ease and Wright as a strong, athletic wing with some professional 3-and-D potential. His jump shot isn’t as strong as it showed last year, but it’s respectable enough. Quentin Millora-Brown holds down the fort as the ‘Dores only player above 6’8”. He’s got the Commodores’ highest offensive rating thanks to his strong offensive rebounding and two-point shooting, but his poor free throw shooting holds him back from an all-conference trajectory (considering how often he gets to the line.) Myles Stute does have quite the versatility of Wright, but he’s a much better shooter and is dependable with the ball. Rodney Chatman has stepped into Tyrin Lawrence’s shows after the latter’s season-ending knee injury and is holding his own as a scoring-first combo guard.

Role Players

NCAA Basketball: Vanderbilt at Florida Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

As I said above, Stackhouse’s team is full of talented underclassmen, many of whom are seasoning nicely in bench roles. Jamaine Mann is an undersized big, but he gives the Commodores some athletic defensive and rebounding presence. Terren Frank also provides some spot front court minutes, but he doesn’t provide quite as much to balance out his presence as a foul risk.

Trey Thomas gets a lot of minutes as a secondary guard with defense-first responsibilities. He’s an eager shooter, but hasn’t found the bottom of the cup enough to get more than 46 percent of the minutes. Freshman Shane Dezonie is a promising prospect with a lot of high-ceiling-low-floor potential this season — he’s boasting a turnover rate north of 37 percent but also shoots over 57 percent from three. He gives the Commodores some extra size in the back court, but it’s hard to justify more minutes for him until he becomes more of a rounded presence.

When Missouri has the ball...

Missouri Offense vs. Vanderbilt Defense

Team Adj. Eff. Poss. Length eFG% TO% OR% FTA/FGA 3P% 2P% FT% Blk% Stl%
Team Adj. Eff. Poss. Length eFG% TO% OR% FTA/FGA 3P% 2P% FT% Blk% Stl%
Missouri 104.9 (127) 18 (241) 47.3 (283) 21.5 (330) 32.3 (58) 29.8 (187) 28.3 (344) 49.6 (173) 72.6 (143) 9.1 (182) 10.7 (298)
Vanderbilt 95.9 (53) 16.9 (64) 48 (91) 22.3 (30) 28.9 (215) 33.4 (260) 30.1 (38) 49.9 (191) 71.8 (203) 9.5 (136) 10.9 (73)
NCAA Basketball: NCAA Basketball-Missouri at Texas A&M Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

What to Watch | Stick with what’s working

If you’ve kept up with our previews, you’ll notice that we’re tightening our focus on two aspects of Missouri’s play: turnovers and offensive rebounds. They exist at the poles of the Tigers’ offense, with rebounding being the core strength and ball-handling being the chief weakness. The win in College Station was a case study of how doing the former well can make almost any game winnable.

Vanderbilt’s defense thrives on creating turnovers, which will make life difficult for this team of non-ballhandlers, but they struggle to contain opponents on the offensive glass and are decidedly weaker at defending the paint than the perimeter. If Kobe Brown and Trevon Brazile can hit the glass with some serious initiative, they’ll be in good position to steal another road win.

When Vanderbilt has the ball...

Vanderbilt Offense vs. Missouri Defense

Team Adj. Eff. Poss. Length eFG% TO% OR% FTA/FGA 3P% 2P% FT% Blk% Stl%
Team Adj. Eff. Poss. Length eFG% TO% OR% FTA/FGA 3P% 2P% FT% Blk% Stl%
Vanderbilt 105.6 (116) 18.1 (257) 49.1 (211) 19.1 (202) 28.5 (172) 37.7 (23) 32.8 (212) 49.1 (198) 68.3 (267) 11.9 (336) 9.4 (168)
Missouri 101.5 (149) 17.5 (189) 50.7 (215) 18.2 (200) 31.3 (293) 33 (251) 35.4 (272) 49.2 (161) 68.8 (62) 11.8 (67) 9.6 (154)
NCAA Basketball: Vanderbilt at Kentucky Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

What to Watch | Play controlled and watch your hands

Vanderbilt’s offense hasn’t been nearly as bad as Missouri’s all season long, but the Tigers are catching up, which should tell you something about the Commodores. They don’t rank above 168th in any KenPom area with one notable exception — free throw to field goal attempts, where they rank 23rd. Translation — when all else fails, Vandy will hunt for fouls. Missouri may find it tempting to assert themselves physically as the Commodores aren’t a good shooting team and are among the country’s worst at getting stuffed at the rim. But they’ll find a way to get whistles. It’ll be imperative that Missouri avoids racking up a sizable negative margin at the free throw line.

KenPom predicts...

Vanderbilt 70, Missouri 63 | Missouri’s profile, as pointed out by our staff writers, has been steadily on the rise in SEC play, even if the overall record doesn’t show it. Despite the miserable non-conference slate, Missouri is just a half-game back of 7th overall and is just a few lucky bounces away from a winning record. Vanderbilt has been far more competitive overall, but doesn’t profile as an exceptionally better team. Winning on the road is very hard in conference play, but Missouri has shown enough as of late to make a win in Nashville seem somewhat possible.