The 2015-16 college basketball season is just around the corner. In honor of the Flyers winning 53 games the last two seasons (and because I couldn’t come up with 2,015 reasons), I’m counting down 53 reasons (in no particular order) to look forward to the season.
Follow the blog between now and the season opener against Southeast Missouri State on Nov. 13. I will have four to five updates per week.
I’ll post links on Twitter (@DavidPJablonski) and on my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/DavidPatrickJablonski.
No. 43: The Vanderbilt game
If you’re singing a sad country song about the Flyers playing only one true road game on the non-conference schedule, you’re in luck because that one game takes place in Nashville.
Dayton plays at Vanderbilt on Dec. 9. Other than that game and three games at the Orlando (I mean, Advocare) Invitational, Dayton gets to stay at home, where it has won 21 straight games, until A-10 play starts in January.
Vanderbilt finished 21-14 last season and 9-9 in the SEC. It returns its top three scorers — Damian Jones (14.4), Riley LaChance (12.3) and Wade Baldwin IV (9.4) — and six of its top seven scorers.
Vandy was young last season. Jones was a sophomore. LaChance and Baldwin were freshmen. Five freshmen played 19 or more minutes per game.
That’s why most expect the Commodores to be much improved in coach Kevin Stallings’ 17th season at the helm. They also add Cornell transfer Nolan Cressler, who considered the Flyers. He sat out last season after averaging 16.8 points as a sophomore.
Sam Vecenie of CBSSports.com writes, “Behind (Kentucky), Vandy is another team that could make the NCAA Tournament. Damian Jones is a potential first-round pick in 2016 if he can become more assertive inside. Luke Kornet is another solid big man next to him who can really space the floor. On the outside, guards Riley LaChance and Wade Baldwin both had terrific freshman seasons. The Commodores need both of those guys to take the leap into the upper echelon of SEC guards to reach their highest potential. Kevin Stallings knows exactly how to get the most out of talented offensive players, so I’d expect them to be a top-20 team on that side of the ball again. If the defense can catch up, they’ll reach the Tournament and have a shot to finish second in the league.”
This is the start of a two-game series. Vanderbilt will play at UD in 2016-17.
Dayton has played Vanderbilt four times and lost four times. The Flyers lost 84-64 in Nashville in 1991, 75-53 at UD Arena in 1992, 90-74 in Nashville in 2004 and 63-60 at UD Arena in 2005.
While Vanderbilt’s RPI the last three seasons hasn’t been impressive (109, 114 and 111 last season), it had a nice run from 2010 to 2012 (26, 27, 18). From 2004 to 2012, it made the NCAA tournament six times, getting to the Sweet 16 in 2004 and 2007. It won a total of five NCAA tournament games in those six trips, which puts the Flyers’ five tournament wins in the last two seasons in perspective.
While Stallings earned press earlier in his career for Vanderbilt’s success, last season he found himself on the wrong side of the headlines.
This is from a USA Today story in March:
Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings apologized for vulgar comments he made in an intense exchange with guard Wade Baldwin following the Commodores’ 73-65 victory over Tennessee.
Stallings was informed that Baldwin was clapping in Tennessee players’ faces after the final buzzer sounded. Upon learning of the poor sportsmanship, Stallings confronted Baldwin during postgame handshakes and demanded that he apologize. As Baldwin appeared to ignore the Vanderbilt coach, Stallings fired off several verbal jabs and was caught on camera saying, “I’ll (expletive) kill you.”
Stallings apologized for his comments in a release by the university.
“One of our players acted inappropriately and violated what we believe is good sportsmanship following the game,” Stallings said in the statement. “In my haste to resolve the situation, I made a very inappropriate comment. While obviously it was not meant literally, it was still inappropriate. I apologized to the player immediately following the game. Displaying good sportsmanship is of the highest priority in our program, win or lose. I am very remorseful of my actions tonight.”