South Carolina basketball beat writer David Cloninger looks at every other team in the SEC as the season approaches.
Oct. 26: Alabama
Oct. 27: Arkansas
Oct. 28: Auburn
Oct. 29: Florida
Oct. 30: Georgia
Oct. 31: Kentucky
Nov. 1: LSU
Nov. 2: Mississippi State
Nov. 3: Missouri
Nov. 4: Ole Miss
Nov. 5: Tennessee
Nov. 6: Texas A&M
2012-13 record (SEC finish): 16-17, 8-10 (10th)
Coach (record at school, years; overall record, years): Kevin Stallings (277-176, 15th season; 400-239, 21st season)
Top returners: Rod Odom (10.4 pp, 4.5 rpg); G Kyle Fuller (8.7 ppg, 2.3 rpg); G Dai-Jon Parker (7.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg)
Biggest losses: Kedren Johnson (13.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg); Kevin Bright (6.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg); Sheldon Jeter (5.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg)
Everyone knew that Vanderbilt wouldn’t be a good team last year, and the Commodores weren’t. It was all building for the future, which seemed to be off to a solid start.
A 25-win season and SEC tournament championship led to a 16-17 year after all of the great players left, but Vandy won six of its final eight games in one of Kevin Stallings’ best coaching jobs. His young team grew up and played its best when it had to, reaching the third round of the SEC tournament, and the Commodores had a very strong nucleus to depend on this season.
Sheldon Jeter decided to transfer, but he was only a 5.5-point scorer, so Vandy felt it could handle the loss. Then came a day in late July that turned a promising season into a second straight rebuilding year.
Leading scorer Kedren Johnson was dismissed from school for disciplinary reasons, and Kevin Bright, who averaged 6.9 points per game, signed a professional contract in his native Germany. Suddenly, Vandy’s core of good young players was gone.
Stallings has certainly earned the right to have a bad year or two, but Vandy really thought it would only be one. Now it certainly seems to be two straight, but perhaps Stallings will pull another strong finish out of his hat.
2012-13 record (SEC finish): 21-12, 9-7 (7th) *NCAA second round
Coach (record at school, years; overall record, years): Melanie Balcomb (259-106, 12th year; 422-210, 21st year)
Top returners: G Christina Foggie (13.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg); G Jasmine Lister (12.2 ppg, 3.0 rpg); G Kady Schrann (6.4 ppg, 2.2 rpg)
Biggest losses: Tiffany Clarke (16.6 ppg, 8.5 rpg); Elan Brown (6.1 ppg, 5.5 rpg); Gabby Smith (1.6 ppg, 1.1 rpg)
It’s the sign of a strong program that an “off year” could still end in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Melanie Balcomb went through it.
Vanderbilt has been a tournament staple during Balcomb’s 11-year reign, never missing the dance and winning at least one game there in all but one season. It was another strong season for the Commodores last year, but they were feeling like they lost a few opportunities.
Vandy lost 12 games and finished seventh in the SEC. While it may be unrealistic to think it was going to find a way to beat the stalwarts like Tennessee, Kentucky and newcomer Texas A&M, Vandy thought it could finish in the top four of the league. Seventh?
That didn’t leave a lot of good feelings.
Looking back on it, Vandy really lost when it lost. There were only two SEC losses within five points or less. The others were pretty one-sided. The hope this year is that the returning talent will make a lot of those games where the Commodores were just out-classed into much closer contests, and many more wins.
Guards Christina Foggie and Jasmine Lister lead the charge on a team that doesn’t have a lot of height. The non-conference schedule is conducive for success, but the first four SEC games are Georgia, South Carolina, Auburn and Tennessee. Ooof.
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