Memorial Minutes: Rip off the Band-Aid

Behind head coach Jerry Stackhouse, Vanderbilt is on pace to have its worst season this century.
Coach Stackhouse stares at the opposition, as photographed on Jan. 17, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Vince Lin)
Coach Stackhouse stares at the opposition, as photographed on Jan. 17, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Vince Lin)
Vince Lin

The last time Vanderbilt went winless in SEC play came during the 2018-19 season in former head coach Bryce Drew’s third and final season on West End. The Commodores won nine games that season with all of their wins coming in nonconference play. 

The 2023-24 Vanderbilt Commodores (5-15, 0-7) have at least 12 more cracks at winning an SEC game as 11 more regular season games await, as well as a guaranteed first round matchup in the SEC Tournament. If the Commodores play similarly to their performance on Wednesday night against No. 16 Auburn, they could easily go winless in the SEC for the second time in five seasons.

According to KenPom, the Commodores have a 9.6% chance of losing the rest of their regular season games. That would put Vanderbilt at 5-26 entering the first round of the SEC Tournament. The Black and Gold are underdogs in all of their remaining games from here on out. 

The last time Vanderbilt won less than six games was in the 1945-46 season when the Commodores went 3-10. If Vanderbilt beats Missouri and loses its remaining games, the Commodores will have their least amount of wins since the 1946-47 season.

The Commodores also have five more shots at avenging a winless road record on the season with matchups against South Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, Arkansas and Kentucky on deck. Vanderbilt is predicted to lose by at least 10 points in all of these matchups, according to KenPom. If the Commodores lose these games, they would fall to 0-10 on the road.

Vanderbilt’s best shot at a conference win will come on Saturday when the Missouri Tigers come to Nashville to play Vanderbilt in a battle of the two bottom-feeders in the SEC. The Tigers are 0-8 in conference play thus far. The Commodores have a 39.5% chance of beating Missouri on Saturday and improving their home record to 6-7, according to ESPN

The Tigers enter the matchup as a predicted two-point favorite over Vanderbilt, according to KenPom. As the Commodores seek what could be Jerry Stackhouse’s last win as Vanderbilt’s head coach, let’s look at what’s gotten the Black and Gold into this deep of a hole. Unless Vanderbilt makes a complete turnaround and goes on a late-season push towards an SEC Championship, Vanderbilt’s postseason aspirations have evaporated for all intents and purposes.

Stacking bricks

Like the 1993 hit movie “Groundhog Day” where Phil Connor is stuck in a loop of a Feb. 2 day for several weeks, Vanderbilt Men’s Basketball has been stuck in a loop of bad 3-point shooting nights.

Vanderbilt’s shooting — specifically from the 3-point line — has been dreadful this season. Most teams in college basketball have at least one bad night from beyond the arc over the course of a season. The Commodores, though, seem to have a bad night, every night from the 3-point line. Vanderbilt has shot 28.3% from 3 this season, which ranks 339th in all of D1 basketball. 

In the Commodores’ last game, they went 4-for-17 from downtown against Auburn, amounting to a putrid 23.5% from 3. While Vanderbilt is playing tougher defenses than it did in the nonconference portion of its schedule, shooting an average of 25.3% percent from the 3-point line in SEC play won’t result in many victories. The Commodores have lacked shooters in their backcourt as Manjon has gone 0-for-6 from 3 in SEC play and Tyrin Lawrence has gone 7-for-29 from 3 in the same span. Lawrence has taken the most 3-point shots out of any player on Vanderbilt in 2024, even though he has made less than 25% of his attempts. 

Stackhouse could have fixed this problem if he kept Vanderbilt’s sharpshooters from last season. 

Last season, Vanderbilt made 34.2% of its 3-point attempts and saw Myles Stute, Trey Thomas and Jordan Wright make the most 3-pointers for Vanderbilt. These three players entered the transfer portal by the offseason. 

Stute, despite making only 36.1% of his 3-pointers last season, remains a weapon from deep. In the 2021-22 season, he shot 43.2% from behind the arc and he has shot 41% from the 3-point line this season for South Carolina. 

Like Stute, Wright has excelled on an SEC team. Wright leads LSU with 15.7 points per game and remains a force from the 3-point line. He is shooting 36.3% from the 3 this season, which is better than Vanderbilt’s most efficient 3-point shooter, Tasos Kamateros.

Vanderbilt — the second-worst 3-point shooting team in the SEC — would surely love to have a shooter like Wright or Stute donning the Black and Gold. Like Wright, who was unable to find Stackhouse after LSU’s game with Vanderbilt to shake hands, Stute has rumored tension with Stackhouse.

If Vanderbilt had a different coach at the helm, maybe Stute and Wright would still be Commodores. Stute left the team before Vanderbilt’s first round NIT matchup against Yale for undisclosed reasons and entered the transfer portal. While most athletes enter the transfer portal at the end of their team’s seasons, Stute was eager to find a new home.

Rebounding woes

Stackhouse’s roster is less talented in the frontcourt than in the 2022-23 season. Last season, the Commodores rallied off a 22-win season behind excellent play from their frontcourt of Liam Robbins (15.0 points per game) and Quentin Millora-Brown (17.3 minutes per game). Vanderbilt lost Robbins to the NBA Draft while Millora-Brown entered the transfer portal after reportedly having his scholarship taken away by Stackhouse and being asked to leave, according to a source close to the program.

“We lost quite a bit,” Stackhouse said. “You lose Liam Robbins. You lose Quentin Millora-Brown. Those are guys that have grown and been a part of what we did.”

Vanderbilt fans have their hands up as they cheer on Ven Allen-Lubin shooting a free throw against Tennessee on Jan. 27, 2024. (Hustler Multimedia/Josh Rehders) (Josh Rehders)

Vanderbilt also lost Malik Dia to the transfer portal, who averages 17.5 points per game and 5.8 rebounds per game for the Belmont Bruins.

The Commodores have been forced to play Ven-Allen Lubin, Tasos Kamateros and Carter Lang in the frontcourt. Before the season, Lee Dort was expected to earn an increased role. Dort was suspended six games into the season, though, after being arrested for aggravated assault. Vanderbilt lacks size in the paint, with no player above 6’9”.

“We miss some pieces that bring us a level of toughness,” Stackhouse said after the Tennessee game. “We got to go and compete with the guys that we have and we have to try to bring the younger guys like JQ Roberts and those guys up to speed. There were some good things in coverage but they gave up free offensive rebounds.”

Vanderbilt has been outrebounded 233-286 in SEC play thus far. While the Commodores are at a clear disadvantage with not enough talented big men on the roster, this quandary could have been avoided if Stackhouse pushed to keep Millora-Brown and Dia.

Build for the future

Vanderbilt’s season has been disappointing in several regards from losing the season opener to Presbyterian to being outscored by its SEC opponents 436-528. There have been five particular halves of basketball, though, that have slightly convinced the Commodore faithful that Vanderbilt can compete with the nation’s best teams. 

Vanderbilt was one Manjon 3-pointer away from beating a ranked Memphis team in late December and lost to Alabama by three points despite shooting 26.9% from beyond the arc. After losing its next four games in non-competitive fashion, Vanderbilt was ready to pull off a remarkable upset against the No. 6 Volunteers last Saturday.

The Commodores had a strong first half and went to their locker room at halftime with a five-point cushion. The second half was much different though as Tennessee outscored Vanderbilt 45-27 in that span. While the Commodores have shown they deserve to be in the SEC at certain points, they are more than a few pieces away from the conference’s best teams. 

With Manjon having no more years of eligibility, Stackhouse or whoever is Vanderbilt’s head coach next season will need to focus on bringing back Jason Rivera-Torres and diving deep in the transfer portal. 

Stackhouse may not have had an SEC-caliber roster this year, but the season he’s produced should still be inexcusable. If Vanderbilt abides by the motto “Dare to Grow,” it should grow sans Stackhouse.

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About the Contributors
Andrew Wilf
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].
Vince Lin
Vince Lin, Staff Photographer and Graphics Staffer
Vince Lin (‘27) is from Zanesville, Ohio, and is majoring in computer science. Vince is a staff photographer and plans on covering sports and concerts. Outside of school, you can find him at the gym, rowing, lifting weights, playing games with friends or sleeping. You can reach him at [email protected].
Josh Rehders
Josh Rehders, Photography Director
Josh Rehders ('24) is from Houston and is studying computer science in the School of Engineering. When he is not shooting for The Hustler, Vanderbilt Athletics or freelancing, he enjoys finding new music and good food. He can be reached at [email protected].
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Comments (11)

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D
DCL
1 month ago

Banacek (see below) you hit the nail on the head with your comment !!!

R
richard
2 months ago

can’t imagine there was tension between Wright/Stackhouse. CJS was tearing up when talking postgame last season about Wright

P
PhilK
2 months ago

I wouldn’t be raving too much about Stute. He was launching miss after miss in his last few games before bailing on the team. Maybe he didn’t like being benched. Sometimes it’s not the coaching- it’s the mindset and focus of the players.
They lost too many early non- conf games and lost players in the off season, as usual- but they are competing hard in a tough conference…

D
DCL
2 months ago

That figures

D
DCL
2 months ago

Per previous post, email correction

D
DCL
2 months ago

“Wright…unable to find Stackhouse…”
“Maybe Stute and Wright…”
“Stute was rumored to have tension…”
“Millora-Brown reportedly…”
“…quandary could have been avoided if…”
“…coach will need to focus on bringing back…”
“…season he’s produced… inexcusable…”
…YOUR EDITORIAL SKILLS ???…

STACKHOUSE WAS SEC COACH OF
THE YEAR LAST SEASON
NBA G-LGE. COACH OF THE YEAR
MANY PLAYERS HAVE RAVED ON
HIS COACHING ABILITY

B
Banacek
2 months ago

When are these programs going to learn? Former NBA stars do not possess the requisite skill sets to lead major conference programs? Ewing, Mullin, Stack, Juwan. It never works.

U
UltimateVUFan
2 months ago

What’s your source for Stackhouse asking QMB to leave? Haven’t seen that reported anywhere else and it’s not what I’ve heard from someone close to the program.

A
Anonymous
2 months ago
Reply to  UltimateVUFan

I haven’t heard that news either. I’ve heard that Dia was asked to leave, but it would make much less sense for Stack to cut QMB. Maybe the author got his names mixed up? The paragraphs on the two players are directly next to eachother.

V
Vandymom3
2 months ago
Reply to  UltimateVUFan

Yes. That’s just incorrect. Be interested to know the source if that wasn’t just an error?

S
2 months ago

Don’t worry about going winless. You still have Ky twice. Might get 2 wins. Cal is a train-wreck into a burning dumpster fire.