The independent news organization of Duke University

2017 NCAA tournament preview: Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt Commodores: 19-15, 10-8 in the SEC

Head Coach: Bryce Drew (1st season)

Players to watch: Matthew Fisher-Davis (13.6 PPG, 37.2 3PT%); Luke Kornet (13.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.0 BPG); Jeff Roberson (11.0 PPG, 7.1 RPG)

Season recap: Vanderbilt enters the tournament as the first team ever to receive an at-large bid with 15 losses. The tournament birth came after up-and-down season that saw the Commodores lose six of their first 12 games and go on a four-game losing streak early in conference play. But Bryce Drew—who replaced long-time former head coach and current Pittsburgh coach Kevin Stallings—and company quickly turned their season around by winning 10 of their final 14 games, including a victory against Iowa State and two wins against Florida in March.

Vanderbilt—which had one of the nation’s toughest schedules—features a balanced rotation, with four players scoring between 10 and 14 points per game. In his first season, Drew has opted to spread the court and use the long ball to stay with elite competition. Led by guards Matthew Fisher-Davis and Riley LaChance, the Commodores are especially dangerous from beyond the arc, averaging nearly 10 3-pointers per game.

Despite Vanderbilt’s dynamic offense, the Commodores’ improved defense was responsible for its late-season run. After frequently giving up more than 80 points in several games during the first half of the season, Vanderbilt began to play its man-to-man defense more effectively, doing just enough on defense to set up some timely long-range shooting and sneak into the Big Dance. 

How they make a run: The Commodores get hot from beyond the arc and rely on their defense to pull out close wins late.

How they falter: Vanderbilt’s early-season struggles resurface, as the Commodores fall into an early slump and cannot get the stops needed to slow down Northwestern.