Sidelines with John Clay

Vanderbilt’s Bryce Drew has had tough luck in Music City

It hasn’t been as easy for Bryce Drew since the former Valparaiso coach left his alma mater to replace Kevin Stallings at Vanderbilt.

In five seasons at Valpo, Drew went 124-49 as head coach of the Crusaders. He won 20-or-more games in four of his five years there, including a 30-7 mark his final season of 2015-16.

At Vanderbilt, however, Drew is just 40-41 overall and 16-22 in the SEC. After a 19-16 debut season, in which Vanderbilt went 10-4 down the stretch to reach the NCAA Tournament, Drew’s Dores slipped all the way to 12-20 last year, a school-record for losses. And they’re off to a 9-5 start this year, including an 0-2 mark in the SEC.

Bad luck has played a role. The recruiting site 247Sport rated Vandy have the 13th best signing class of 2018, thanks to a pair of vie-start signees in 6-foot-3 guard Darius Garland from Brentwood Academy outside Nashville and 6-9 power forward Simisola Shittu from Vermont Academy, along with four-star shooting guard Aaron Nesmith out of Charleston, South Carolina. (Plus, Drew just missed on New Albany sensation Romeo Langford, who opted to play for his home-state school Indiana.)

Alas, Garland suffered a torn meniscus on during just the Commodores fifth game of the campaign, two minutes into a 77-75 loss to Kent State on Nov. 23, and underwent season-ending knee surgery. Before the injury, Garland was averaging 16.2 points, 3.8 rebound and 2.6 assists per game. He had scored 33 points in a win over Liberty the game before being injured.

As my colleague Jerry Tipton reports, the injury has been devastating for the ‘Dores, according to former Commodore and ESPN analyst Barry Booker. “They sort of built their offensive plan around him for the season.”

Without Garland, the ‘Dores are basically playing without a point guard. Sophomore Sabien Lee, a sophomore averaging 12.2 points per game, is more of an off-guard. Same for receiver Joe Toye, who is averaging 10.2 points per game. Lee is averaging 3.7 assists, while Toye is averaging 0.8 assists per game.

And with Garland out, Shittu is now the team’s leading scorer, averaging 14.6 points and 8.3 rebounds per contest. He had 10 points and 14 rebounds in Vandy’s 82-63 loss at Georgia on Tuesday night. Before that, he had 21 points and nine rebounds in Vandy’s home 81-71 loss to Ole Miss in the conference opener on Jan. 5.

Kenpom’s efficiency rankings has the ‘Dores at No. 80. Vandy is 71st in adjusted offensive efficiency and 105th in defensive efficiency. Kenpom gives Vanderbilt a 13 percent chance of winning on Saturday night.

Despite the rocky start, still think Drew is a good coach who can do a good job in Nashville. He just needs a little better luck.

SEC basketball standings 2018-19

TeamSECOverall
Tennessee2-013-1
Ole Miss2-012-2
S Carolina2-07-7
LSU1-011-3
Kentucky1-111-3
Alabama1-110-4
Arkansas1-110-4
Florida1-19-5
Georgia1-19-5
Miss State0-112-2
Auburn0-111-3
Missouri0-19-4
Vanderbilt0-29-5
Texas A&M0-26-7
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