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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Diamond Head Classic Preview: Commodores close nonconference play with trip to Hawaii

The Vanderbilt men’s basketball team heads to Hawaii for their final action of 2021 in the Diamond Head Classic.
Vanderbilt Athletics
Scotty Pippen Jr. dribbles around a screen in Vanderbilt’s win over Austin Peay on Dec. 18, 2021. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

As many students head home for their winter break, the Vanderbilt Commodores men’s basketball team will take a trip to Hawaii for the annual Diamond Head Classic. The eight-team tournament will take place from Dec. 22-25, with every team playing three games regardless of wins and losses, consisting of both a winner’s bracket and consolation ladder. 

This year, the tournament’s clear favorite is Brigham Young (8-2). KenPom ranks BYU at No. 24 in the country, and they have by far the most impressive résumé out of the field. They will play a struggling South Florida (4-5) squad that has lost three of the last four games. The winner of this game will take on the winner of Vanderbilt (6-4) and Hawaii (4-3), a game that is largely contingent on Vanderbilt’s ability to generate offensive production. Regardless, the Commodores or Rainbow Warriors will certainly have their hands full should BYU win their opening matchup. 

The other side of the bracket features Stanford (6-4) and Wyoming (9-1) up first. This matchup is quite an intriguing one, where Wyoming hopes to prove that their record is more than just the result of playing a weak schedule. The Cowboys’ sole loss this season was a blowout to No. 8 Arizona, so look for them to try to prove they can hold up against stronger competition. Whoever comes out on top will take on the winner of Liberty (7-4) and Northern Iowa (4-5). Both of these teams started cold, each losing three of their first four games. Since then, both squads have flipped the switch, so there should be plenty of momentum heading into this matchup. Look for this game to be a close one. Overall, this side of the bracket is up in the air, featuring four relatively even teams. 

Should Vanderbilt make it past Hawaii and BYU (unless USF can pull off a miracle), watch out for an ultra-competitive final round matchup and a possible Vanderbilt championship.

Vanderbilt’s Outlook

Heading into their opening round matchup with Hawaii, the Commodores will hope to continue building momentum. Vanderbilt snapped its three-game losing streak with a 26-point blowout over Austin Peay, which could be the first step in regaining some momentum from their hot start to the season. 

The analytics in this matchup clearly favor Vanderbilt. In terms of KenPom rankings, the Commodores rank heavily ahead of Hawaii in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Per usual, the biggest question mark in this game will be the Vanderbilt offense, and if it can find production outside of Scotty Pippen Jr. and Jordan Wright. 

Given that Hawaii is a weaker defensive team, this matchup provides the opportunity to get more players involved to hopefully find answers offensively. One player to look out for is Rodney Chatman. The Dayton graduate transfer saw his first minutes of the season coming off of an injury in Saturday’s Austin Peay game. While he didn’t fill up the stat sheet, he looked impressive and brought effort on both sides of the ball. If the Commodores can get Chatman involved on offense, he could provide more efficiency for the team.

Another player to keep an eye on in this game is senior forward Quentin Millora-Brown. Against Austin Peay, he tallied career highs in both points (13) and rebounds (14) while shooting 6 of 7 from the field. Although Pippen Jr. and Wright will almost certainly account for a high percentage of the team’s offense, if Millora-Brown can repeat this performance (or if other role players step up), the Vanderbilt offense would certainly benefit.

While the Commodores have an easier opening matchup in the first round, the tournament provides the team the chance to play games against higher quality opponents down the road. 

Vanderbilt struggled through their three-game stretch of stronger nonconference opponents (SMU, Temple and Loyola-Chicago), so how their play holds up in this tournament will be another indicator of what this team could look like as it reaches SEC play. 

Look for this tournament to be a precursor to that as the team tips off against Hawaii at 11 p.m. CST on Wednesday.

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About the Contributor
Jack Bukovnik
Jack Bukovnik, Staff Writer
Jack Bukovnik (2024) is a student in the College of Arts and Science studying Economics and Political Science. When not writing for the Hustler, you'll find Jack watching baseball, cheering for his hometown Cleveland Browns, or finding a good movie. You can reach Jack at [email protected]
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