We may not be done with football just yet, but Vanderbilt opens its 2017-18 men’s basketball campaign on Friday night. The Commodores first test this season is a home date with Austin Peay, with the Governors being one of two local Ohio Valley Conference teams that the Commodores play to open up the season.
Here are the three keys to this one:
Start looking for a Luke Kornet replacement
Finding a direct replacement for Luke Kornet is going to be an almost impossible task. The departure of Kornet leaves one of the biggest holes in the entire SEC as he ticked so many boxes for the Commodores last season.
Kornet played almost 80-percent of Vandy’s minutes last year and scored almost 20-percent of the team’s points. He was a post player who could do a little bit of everything and he could be counted on to grab a key rebound or make a shot from deep whenever the flow of the game called for a big play. Look to see who gets major minutes in this one as Bryce Drew looks for some sort of combination that will help replace the efficiency of Kornet.
Establish a point guard rotation
Moving Riley LaChance away from the point guard position full time is going to be the biggest boost to this Vanderbilt team. LaChance was far from a bad point guard, but he is now the only player in the entire Vandy backcourt that would be considered an average athlete. Every other player on the Commodores’ roster is above average in that regard, which will make for some very exciting basketball this season.
LaChance was a lights-out three-point shooter last winter, but he should be even better this time around. In LaChance, Matthew Fisher-Davis, and Jeff Roberson, the Commodores have three of the five starting spots locked down. The big question will be the minutes split at point guard, with Larry Austin Jr., Payton Willis, and Saben Lee all expected to be in the mix.
Relax and enjoy the game
It is sometimes easy to get lost in the spectacle of opening night. While fans have been distracted by football for the last three months, these players have been practicing day after day to get better both individually and as a team. They are ready to come out and get this season started.
While Austin Peay is not one of those D3 schools that sounds like a law firm that some D1 schools are content to schedule early in the season – The Citadel vs. Oglethorpe, Furman vs. Bob Jones – Austin Peay is the second worst team on the Vanderbilt schedule according to preseason KenPom rankings. The Governors are ranked 322 out of the 347 D1 schools, with only Alcorn State (328) who Vandy play in late December ranked lower. This should be a good, easily winnable game for the 2017-18 Commodores to get their season underway in a positive fashion.