The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

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.

Men’s Basketball Mailbag: Standouts, the hot seat and road play

The No. 182 Commodores sit at 5-10 and have taken a major step backward.
Ophelia Lu
Ezra Manjon dribbling against a USC Upstate defense, as photographed on Nov. 10, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Ophelia Lu)

Jerry Stackhouse’s Vanderbilt Commodores lost to LSU on Tuesday, moving their record to 5-10 on the season. Despite showing flashes of good play, Vanderbilt’s inconsistency from the 3-point line has been its Achilles heel. With tough matchups against Ole Miss and Auburn ahead, Vanderbilt will need to focus on playing mistake-free basketball. The Hustler answered all your questions about the current status of this Vanderbilt team. 

Q: Which player have you been impressed with thus far?

David Hernandez, Lead Sports Analyst: Although the Alabama game rightfully gave more fuel to the Jason-Rivera Torres hype train, it’s hard to overlook the brilliant play of Ezra Manjon. With the holes left by the numerous departures of last season and Tyrin Lawrence struggling with injury early on, Manjon has taken a major step as Vanderbilt’s go-to guy. Posting career highs in points, steals and free throw percentage, any time Manjon is on the court this team is immensely more competitive. Continuing his efforts as a slashing playmaker who demands the attention of entire defenses, Manjon is undoubtedly the star of the Commodores. Especially on a unit littered with youth, Manjon has shown an innate ability to command and lead on the hardwood. Sitting on a 5-10 record is not the ideal position to be in and not what we expected out of this program, but, it’s safe to say that Vanderbilt’s record would be worse if it wasn’t for Manjon’s excellent play.

Grace Hall, Assistant Sports Specialist: I agree with David that Manjon is essential to this Vanderbilt squad, and the team looks entirely different when he is not on the floor. The expectations were high for the Majon-Lawrence duo to return to the court this year, and Manjon has proved that this team needs him. Outside of Manjon, however, Rivera-Torres has made a name for himself as a reliable presence on this squad. Rivera-Torres has recorded double-digit points in five games, with two such games coming in the past three appearances. Rivera-Torres adds a spark when out on the court that this Vanderbilt team needs to win games. He creates offensive opportunities and has a great touch on the ball from midrange and the 3-pointer. Still, Rivera-Torres also does solid work on the defensive end of the ball, where he has recorded 14 steals and five blocks on the season. Thus far, Rivera-Torres is playing in a way that is turning a lot of heads inside and outside Vanderbilt athletics and is poised to have an outstanding freshman season.

Q: Is Jerry Stackhouse on the hot seat?

Hall: Yes and no, which initially sounds like a cop-out, but I say this for a few reasons. When you look at some of the losses this Stackhouse’s team has suffered so far from Presbyterian, Western Carolina, San Francisco and Boston College, paired with Vanderbilt’slarge-margin victories in nonconference play, the obvious answer seems that Stackhouse should be on the hot seat.

When you look into the context of these losses, where injuries plagued the team, the season loss of Colin Smith and Lee Dort’s suspension. These circumstances beg the question: Would this Vanderbilt team and season look different if Stackhouse weren’t at the helm? When in good health, this team plays well, making a case against Stackhouse being on the hot seat. Vanderbilt lost by one possession to potent offenses in Alabama and Memphis, respectively. This team, when healthy, could be dangerous later in the season. However, no matter how miraculous, a late-season run will not get Vanderbilt into the tournament in today’s world of advanced analytics last year, this year or in future years. That being said, I don’t think Stackhouse is squarely in the hot seat in the eyes of administrators. Just one year after leading a team to the SEC Tournament semifinal game and winning Co-SEC coach of the year, I don’t see Stackhouse anywhere but on West End next season.

Sam Curtis, Deputy Sports Editor: From the fanbase’s perspective, Stackhouse has a bonfire fueled by the paper of his 2022 contract extension under his chair. Though sources outside the school can’t surmise how much the coach currently makes (due to Vanderbilt being a private institution), reports have claimed that Stackhouse made $3.1 million in 2020, so you take a wild guess at how much fuel is in those pages. Despite this, from the university’s perspective, Stackhouse has his seat warmer turned on to its lowest setting. As I mentioned in our 2024 Vanderbilt Athletics Predictions, Stackhouse is interlinked with Vandy United and showed too much potential last year for him to be fired. Yes, it’s frustrating for fans to see how an exemplary coach like Shea Ralph has turned around the women’s team in less time than Stackhouse has been on West End, but no matter the outcome of the season, Stackhouse has at least one more year left in the administrative tank. However, the school must ask itself when this season concludes: What is the bar for Stackhouse next year? Must he make the NCAA Tournament? Another NIT appearance? Answer this question before Commodore nation settles for another year of underwhelming results.

Q: What needs to change for this team to improve?

David Hernandez, Lead Sports Analyst: In general, the health of the squad has not been flawless. However, there hasn’t been consistent quality play from the bigs. The shoes left behind by 2022-23 SEC Defensive Player of the Year Liam Robbins and consistently solid Quentin Millora-Brown have not been filled exceptionally well. With Lee Dort also suspended from the team and Colin Smith out for the season, the three most utilized big men have been Ven-Allen Lubin, Carter Lang and Tasos Kamateros. Through 15 games, Vanderbilt ranks 213th in rebound margin, being outrebounded in seven of their contests so far. In matchups against bigger teams like Texas Tech, Vanderbilt has struggled to keep up inside the painted area. Last season, Liam Robbins posed such a threat in the post that it opened the door for players like Jordan Wright and Tyrin Lawrence on the exterior. This year, there isn’t any prime force present down low to help establish physicality and another avenue for scoring in light of the entire team’s shooting struggles. Even though Lubin has played well, he’s still just returning from a groin injury. On the other hand, Kamateros has become more established as a stretch forward and Lang, a freshman, lacks experience against quality bigs. All in all, guard play is the focal point for Vanderbilt basketball yet there needs to be better play from the bigs to reinforce the guards going forward. Or perhaps, this is simply a tactical error by the coaches who should get the bigs more involved alongside the crafty guards like Manjon and Lawrence. 

Q: Will the LSU game be a microcosm of how Vanderbilt will play on the road in the SEC this season?

Andrew Wilf, Sports Editor: If the Commodores turn the ball over like they did against LSU on Tuesday night, they are in for a very arduous SEC schedule. Although Vanderbilt had better statistics than LSU from the 3-point line and the field, the Tigers took advantage of the Commodores’ 15 turnovers. LSU scored 18 points off of Vanderbilt’s 15 turnovers, while Vanderbilt scored seven points off of LSU’s turnovers. Vanderbilt’s ball security has not been a major issue this season as it averages 11.1 turnovers per game (8th in SEC). The most alarming statistic for the Commodores is their 29.2% season average from the 3-point line. In Vanderbilt’s two SEC games to this point, it has shot a combined 26.4% from deep (14-for-53). The Commodores sit at 13th place in the SEC from the 3-point line, and will need to improve that statistic if they hope to compete against Ole Miss on Saturday. Ole Miss boasts a 40.15% from the 3-point line, good for first in the SEC and sixth in all of Division I Basketball.

Curtis: Ignore everything on the stat sheet but the score and the turnover category. It reads like Vanderbilt dominated the Tigers. Seven blocked shots for the Commodores to LSU’s two. A higher 3-point percentage on more 3-pointers. Higher overall shot percentage. A rebound margin of 38-36 in favor of Vanderbilt. Equal number of assists. 25-10 positive margin in bench points. But, then come the turnovers: 15 to LSU’s 8. Of these, Vanderbilt had four unforced turnovers; LSU had just one. This was the difference in the game, and this is super concerning for Stackhouse’s group. The problem should be a statistic like points in the paint, as Vanderbilt has a well-documented lack of size — not a controllable factor such as taking care of the ball. Sure, LSU outscored the Commodores 44-36 in the paint, but this isn’t unreasonable, all things considered. Vanderbilt has to take the turnover battle and the shooting battle if they want to win SEC games. This isn’t going to be easy for a team shooting 29% from beyond the arc and 40% overall from the field on the season, but it’s not like they can win on superior size or skill alone. I don’t think the LSU matchup is a microcosm of Vanderbilt’s SEC slate in terms of how the team lost, but I do fear that the score will be a microcosm outcome-wise. I pray that I am wrong. Please.

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About the Contributors
Andrew Wilf, Sports Editor
Andrew Wilf (’24) is Sports Editor for The Vanderbilt Hustler. He is from Livingston, N.J., and is majoring in history and minoring in business. He joined the sports staff his freshman year, previously serving as a Staff Writer, Assistant Sports Editor and Deputy Sports Editor. Beyond writing for The Hustler, he is also the host of Anchor Analysis, Commodore Clash and Live From West End. In his free time, Andrew enjoys watching the NFL and playing golf. He can be reached at [email protected].
Sam Curtis, Deputy Sports Editor
Sam Curtis (’24) is from Wallingford, Conn., majoring in human and organizational development and French and minoring in data science in Peabody College. He was previously Assistant Sports Editor and Sports Copy Editor. When not writing for The Hustler, he cheers on the Philadelphia Eagles, the 76ers and Leeds United. Outside of sports, he enjoys traveling and learning about history and philosophy. He can be reached at [email protected].    
Grace Hall, Assistant Sports Specialist
Grace Hall (‘26) is from Belfast, Maine, and is majoring in public policy studies in the College of Arts and Science. Grace is also the vice-president of the Vanderbilt Club Field Hockey Team. When not writing for The Hustler you can find her watching the Boston Red Sox or Celtics, reading or at a concert. You can reach her at [email protected].
David Hernandez, Lead Sports Analyst
David Hernandez (‘26) is a student in the College of Arts and Sciences double majoring in political science and law, history and society with a minor in communication studies. Outside of writing for The Hustler, you can find him playing basketball, catching up on his favorite shows and mourning the tragedy that is New York sports. He can be reached at [email protected].
Ophelia Lu, Deputy Photography Director
Ophelia Lu (’26) is from Los Angeles and is double majoring in biomedical and electrical engineering in the School of Engineering. She previously served as a staff photographer. When not covering events and sports games for The Hustler, you can find her listening to a lot of music, studying at Starbucks or lying on Alumni lawn. She can be reached at [email protected].
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Comments (3)

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Allan C
3 months ago

If Vanderbilt cared about winning and sustaining success, Stackhouse would have been fired in November.

I graduated from VU in 1993, and remember the consistent strength of Vanderbilt Basketball . A down year was the NIT. Nearly all of the team were excellent FT shooters, and we had snipers from beyond the arc. Players knew how to run a motion offense and worked their butts off. Today, there’s none of that. Stack has single handedly destroyed the men’s basketball program. Candace and co. are just fine with that.

Ol’ C-Mart
2 months ago
Reply to  Allan C

Stack has “single handedly destroyed the men’s basketball program”???
I think you forgot about his predecessor, Bryce Drew, who dug the program into a ridiculous hole for whomever succeeded him.
Also, I hear you re: pining for the old days, but ’93 is a bit of an outlier akin to 2012. Comparing the best years the program has to offer to current struggles and romanticizing its relative overall level of success is somewhat disingenuous. I’m not fully defending Stack’s results this year, but it’s also a bit inaccurate to claim that an NIT berth constitutes a “down year” for VU hoops prior to Stack’s arrival. Even Stallings couldn’t claim that much success, and he was a fine coach for many years.

Allan C
2 months ago
Reply to  Ol’ C-Mart

Stack’s results this year are indefensible. Drew may have dug a deep hole, but Stack has made it deeper. And he lost the streak. He’s an awful coach who can’t recruit, who makes excuses for everything. At least Drew clapped.