After missing out on the NCAA Tournament for three straight years, their second longest drought under longtime head coach Kevin Stallings, many expect the Vanderbilt Commodores to not only return to the dance this season, but to make a run deep in March. The Commodores were ranked nationally in both the AP Top 25 and USA Today Coaches Poll in the preseason, and after one week of play they have jumped a few spots to number 17 in each poll.
On the recruiting trail, Vanderbilt brought in a slew of four star recruits this offseason, headed by ESPN Top 100 prospect, Joseph Toye. The Commodores also returned seven of their eight top scorers from last season's team that won 21 games and made a run deep in the NIT, including seven-footer Damian Jones and guard Riley LaChance, who was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team last March.
Their season so far
Vanderbilt has started off the young season at 3-0, as expected, though they were nearly dealt a shocking loss by a mid-major in their most recent contest.
After blowout victories over Austin Peay and Gardner-Webb to open up the year, Stony Brook gave the Commodores a real run for their money on Thursday night. Vanderbilt trailed by as many as ten in the second half before pulling out an overtime win, 79-72, to remain undefeated.
Sophomore guard Wade Baldwin IV has so far led the way for Vanderbilt through their first three games with an average of just under 15 points per game. However the Commodores also feature a pair of seven-footers that provide them with an advantage in the front court that is tough to match.
Forward Luke Kornet and the previously mentioned Jones have combined for 12.7 rebounds and 4.4 blocks per game so far. It should be interesting to see those two square off with the 6'11" Yankuba Sima of St. John's on Monday.
Vanderbilt will begin play in Maui against St. John's, and will then play either Indiana or Wake Forest.