Show Me My Opponent, 2020-21: Vanderbilt (#1)

Vanderbilt defense

A real mind-melter

Whew boy. Unfortunately, “fun and bad basketball” is still very bad basketball. This defense is pretty much exactly as awful as it was last season, when Vandy surrendered 1.096 PPP in conference play, only outdone by a Georgia team on autopilot. Through their three conference games, Vandy’s given up 1.193 PPP to three fairly pedestrian offenses: Florida, Kentucky, and Mississippi State. It’s not as if they’ve drawn LSU or Alabama. They’re just…really, really bad. At pretty much everything.

“Rim protection” is more of a suggestion than a requirement, I guess

We’ll start with rim protection, which is genuinely quite sad. Vanderbilt’s best rim protector on the roster is Dylan Disu, a player who’s posting a 4% block rate. That isn’t necessarily awful; John Fulkerson, for instance, has a 4.2% block rate. However, Fulkerson’s is the third-highest on his own team. No other Vanderbilt player is close to Disu, with Quentin Millora-Brown’s 2.8% rate coming in second. (He has four blocks on the season.) While Block Percentage isn’t everything, it’s a useful metric that can help us understand why teams aren’t shooting well at the rim, where the highest percentage of shots are blocked. If you don’t have a true rim protector, things aren’t going to go well.

And, yes, Vanderbilt has no true rim protector. They’re allowing a 63.7% hit rate at the rim, which ranks 283rd. It comes from all over, too. Drives to the basket are rarely stopped:

Their post-up defense ranks in the 1st-percentile nationally, per Synergy:

Nothing about what this Vanderbilt defense offers in the paint is scaring anyone. They allow a relatively low amount of threes – 34.1% of all attempts, or 77th-fewest – because teams don’t need to shoot threes to beat them. It’s not as if Vanderbilt is playing an overly aggressive perimeter defense that forces shots inside (barely above the national average in shots forced off the dribble) or super-tight closeout defense (54/46 Guarded/Unguarded catch-and-shoot defense); teams just don’t care. When you can’t stop driving lanes and don’t have a Fix-It player, you’re gonna have a bad time:

It’s really, really ugly. So that’s one thing that’s bad. How about a few more? Vanderbilt also has had serious fouling issues in all three SEC games, giving up 25, 32, and 28 free throw attempts to the opponent. If you don’t have an elite offense or an otherwise really good defense, it’s hard to make that difference up, and it almost certainly lost them a game against Kentucky where they were the superior shooting team and dominated the boards.

Most everything else is bad, too!

“But what else,” you cry? Buddy, there’s more. In as much as a mid-range defense exists, Vanderbilt’s is quite bad, allowing opponents to shoot 41% on two-pointers outside of the paint, per CBB Analytics. Considering these shots make up about 20% of Vanderbilt opponents’ shot profile, you really do wonder why they’re this bad at covering them:

Hilariously, about the only thing they seem to do well is allow very few corner threes, which have represented barely 6% of opponent attempts. As discussed earlier, though, Vandy hasn’t done a terribly good job of actually closing out on these threes:

My heart hurts a little harping this much on a side of the ball where the players clearly care and want to play their best with an energetic coach behind them. Did Bryce Drew really do this poor of a job of recruiting? Is Stackhouse’s system somehow behind the times, or will it look better with better athletes? If things don’t improve, they’re staring down the second straight season (and third in four years) where the ‘Dores have the worst defense in the SEC.

NEXT PAGE: Please play the game

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