NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Ending Vanderbilt's NCAA Tournament drought is the top goal for coach Jerry Stackhouse and his Commodores — even if that means leaving his best players on the court to pile up wins. The bigger the margin the better.
“If you’re up with a 20-point lead, you can’t put your guys in at the end of the bench, you have to try to maintain that 20-point lead,” Stackhouse said. “That’s the reality of how it’s weighed with the different rankings and things like that.”
The Commodores went 22-15 last season for their best record since 2014-15. They went 11-7 in the Southeastern Conference, good enough for a fourth-place tie, a run that included a rare win at Kentucky before beating the Wildcats a second time to reach the league tournament semifinals.
Yet Vanderbilt went to the NIT for a second straight season before losing at home in the quarterfinals to UAB. Vanderbilt hasn't reached the NCAA Tournament since 2016-17.
“We’re going to try to adjust accordingly, try to go in and win the games, win ’em with the best that we can, then hopefully have as much success in the SEC,” Stackhouse said.
Tyrin Lawrence is back after taking a look at his NBA draft stock and the transfer portal. He averaged 12.5 points a game last season starting 34 of 36 games. Point guard Ezra Manjon also is back for a fifth season. He was named to the SEC All-Tournament team and started 25 of 37 games in his first year at Vanderbilt as he averaged 10.5 points. Manjon's assist to turnover ratio led the SEC with 80 assists to only 16 turnovers.
Stackhouse added three transfers led by Ven-Allen Lubin, who was on the 2023 U.S. men's U19 national team. The 6-foot-8 forward started seven of 28 games for Notre Dame as a freshman last season averaging 6.2 points and 4.4 rebounds. He also led the Fighting Irish shooting 58%.
Evan Taylor and Tasos Kamateros are graduate transfers. Taylor is a 6-6 guard/forward who averaged 14.2 points and 6.5 rebounds last season at Lehigh. A 6-8 and 240-pound forward, Kamateros shot 40.1% outside the arc for South Dakota.
Stackhouse is in no hurry to rush forward Lee Dort back from a foot injury that limited the 6-10 freshmen to 17 games, though he still tied for third on the Commodores with 12 blocks. If Dort is fully healthy for the SEC opener in January, that'll be just fine with his coach.
The Commodores open Nov. 7 hosting Presbyterian. The nonconference slate also includes N.C. State in the Vegas Showdown in November followed by either BYU or Arizona State. They host Boston College on Nov. 29 and visit Memphis on Dec. 23.
Vandy starts SEC play hosting No. 24 Alabama on Jan. 6, ninth-ranked Tennessee on Jan. 27, No. 16 Kentucky on Feb. 6. The SEC road features a trip to Tennessee on Feb. 17, No. 14 Arkansas on Feb. 27 and then Rupp Arena and Kentucky on March 6.
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