2009-10 SEC Basketball Previews: Vanderbilt

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2009-10 SEC Basketball Previews: Vanderbilt
(Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

Vanderbilt is used to being the underdog.

With academic expectations unmatched in the SEC—and most of the nation—it's not necessarily easy to compete on such a high level of physicality in sports such as football and basketball.

Stallings has found a way to do it.

And 2009-10 is no different. Vanderbilt is forgotten and passed over, despite bringing in a rare five-star recruit (per Rivals) and featuring two of the league's best at their respective positions.

In fact, their starting five might be as talented as any in the league.

Vanderbilt, however, is consistently placed in this year's second-tier programs such as South Carolina and Florida. Most rank the former two nationally without regard to the Commodores. That's a mistake.

This team has the makings of a dark-horse the size of a Trojan one.

Balance, experience, talent, and depth are the four basic essentials for success in this sport, and this year's Vanderbilt team has a solid mix of these.

The 'Dores return two shooters who averaged better than 40 percent from behind the arc and bring in a big-time freshman who can stroke it. They also return seven players who can play in at the four or five.

Balance, check.

The team returns all but one [bench] player on its roster, even walk-ons.

Experience, check.

Vanderbilt brings in a five-star (per Rivals) recruit to join Second-Team All-SEC and former SEC Co-Freshman of the Year A.J. Ogilvy along with one of the league's best overall point-guards and shooting guards.

Talent, check.

Eight players shared starting minutes last season, with a five-star likely to join them. There were 11 players who averaged over 6.5 minutes per game last season. They also return a redshirt forward, Andre Walker, who is a capable scorer.

Depth, check.

This team would have had huge potential without an addition, and it's a heck of an addition.

 

John Jenkins
(No. 47 overall - No. 10 SG - Four stars - 6'4" - 180lbs)

Jenkins is a shooter by trade. He doesn't defend, he doesn't handle the ball, but he can drain the threes. He's got a good mentality and strong work ethic, but isn't as aggressive or assertive on offense as he would need to be, especially if he hopes to expand his game into slashing into the lane.

With that said, Jenkins will give the 'Dores a third lethal long-range weapon and should contribute immediately. He likely won't start, though, due to the team's excessive depth.

 

Despite the talent and offensive capabilities of its individual players, the Commodores ranked second-to-last in the league in scoring offense. Jenkins hopes to provide that extra spark.

 

A.J. Ogilvy  - 6'11", 250lb Senior C
(15.4ppg - 7.1rpg - 54.3% FG - 48blk)

Ogilvy is perhaps not in the right system for him to truly stand out. Stallings has always favored his big-time shooting guards, and Ogilvy is the main anchor under the basket.

Despite this, Ogilvy's efficiency ranked amongst the league's best in nearly every category. His offensive numbers are the best, considering minutes played, of any SEC big-man.

He's also an excellent rebounder and underrated defender, though he's not nearly as aggressive on defense as he should be.

Ogilvy should have yet another great season and his decision to jump to the draft next spring will be a good one.

 

Jermaine Beal  - 6'3", 205lb Senior PG
(12.5ppg - 3.5rpg - 40.3% 3PT - 2.02 A/TO)

Beal certainly isn't a pass-first point in the typical sense; he is also a big-time scorer as well.

That said, don't doubt his ability to dish the ball out. In fact, he led the entire conference with a 2.02 assist-to-turnover ratio and ranks ninth among returning players in total assists.

Beal shoots over 80 percent from the charity stripe and is a capable defender as well. He doesn't have many weaknesses, and should once again start every Commodore game this season.

 

Jeffery Taylor  - 6'7", 210lb Sophomore SF
(12.2ppg - 6.2rpg - 50.2% FG - 29 stl)

Returning All-SEC Freshman Jeffery Taylor is an all-around great player whose numbers were all that more impressive considering his youth.

He's an excellent mid-range scorer with a great touch on the basketball, and has the athleticism to get to the basket. He's also a decent defender.

Taylor will likely join Beal in starting every game this season.

 

Brad Tinsley  - 6'3", 210lb Sophomore SG
(11.0ppg - 2.5rpg - 41.1% 3PT - 1.34 A/TO)

Tinsley was even more impressive than Taylor last season, if that was possible. Vanderbilt was looking at a rebuilding year last season with so many freshmen being relied upon, but Tinsley in particular stepped up to the plate and dominated the backcourt for the 'Dores.

Tinsley shot an unbelievable 41.1 percent from three despite 168 attempts, and could very well be this year's Jodie Meeks with this amount of potential.

His poise is unmatched. As a freshman, he brought down 56 of 68 free throws for 82.4 percent. He ranked second on the team with 86 assists and a 1.34 assist-to-turnover ratio.

His numbers exude experience, and he was just a freshman. He looks to be the heart and soul of this year's Vanderbilt squad.

 

Lance Gouldbourne  - 6'8", 225lb Sophomore SF
(5.1ppg - 3.3rpg - 47.2% FG - 71.0% FT)

Gouldbourne knows how to get to the basket and score and has great size for his position, which creates mismatches for defenders. What he can't do effectively, however, is drive to the basket without turning the ball over.

He was more than capable as a freshman, and should improve this season. He won't start, but he is a solid player off the bench.

 

Festus Ezeli  - 6'11", 255lb Sophomore C
(3.8ppg - 2.6rpg - 54.7% FG - 22 blk)

Ezeli has more potential than he showed last year. His post moves around the basket are solid and he ranks as one of the best in the league at getting to the free-throw stripe because of his assertiveness and competitive nature.

His up-side is sizeable and he could become a competent role-player in a year or two.

 

Steve Tchiengang  - 6'9", 240lb Sophomore PF
(3.6ppg - 3.2rpg - 71.9% FT - 32.9% FG)

Tchiengang is less serviceable than most on the roster. His offense seems to have little upside, and his decision-making is weak. He also has little confidence, and effectively serves as a big body to put on the floor in worst-case scenarios.

 

Darshawn McClellan  - 6'7", 240lb Junior PF
(2.1ppg - 3.0rpg - 1.03 A/TO - 29.1% FG)

McClellan is not completely unusable, and can provide some rebounding while on the floor in limited minutes. He's also a smart and aware player who doesn't turn the ball over, though somewhat inept as a scorer or defender.

 

Charles Hinkle  - 6'6", 195lb Sophomore SF
(2.0ppg - 0.9rpg - 0.92 A/TO - 86.7% FT)

Hinkle is a decent free-throw shooter who can be substituted when games are out of hand and be counted on to make free throws without being a liability to turn the ball over. Not much else.

 

Joe Duffy  - 6'8", 225lb Junior PF
(1.0ppg - 1.2rpg - 40.0% FG - 75.0% FT)

Duffy serves well as a place-holder on the floor, but not much else. He doesn't receive many chances to show his skill, but when he does he simply doesn't have the assertiveness to compete.

Andre Walker wasn't included because he didn't play last year, but he should compete for a starting position. The team is heavily talented and deep, and has every chance at winning the SEC this season.

 

Schedule Breakdown

Cupcakes : Limpscomb (H), DePaul (H), Tennessee St. (H), Mercer (H), Manhattan (H), Southern Mississippi (H), Middle Tennessee St. (H)

Real Games : at St. Mary's (A), Cincinnatti (N), Western Kentucky (N)

Marquee Matchups : Missouri (H), Illinois (N)

Opposite Division : Alabama (A), Auburn (H), Mississippi St. (H), LSU (H), Ole Miss (A), Arkansas (A)

Predicted Result : (22-6, 12-4), NCAA Tournament

Analysis : The Commodores have a brutal non-conference schedule; what I'd call the toughest in the league. Despite this, I think the team loses just two of those and compete for the overall SEC title.

 

What's Returning

Points : 92.58 percent (2nd—SEC Avg: 73.81 percent)

Rebounds : 92.25 percent (2nd—SEC Avg: 75.80 percent) 

 

The Commodores have everything it takes to take the SEC by storm this season. Everything is there, with the only potential weakness is talent under the basket to back up Ogilvy. If that is straightened out, this team could pose a strong threat for a Final Four.

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