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Jerry Stackhouse, Vanderbilt Basketball Coach and their first black head coach, takes over a program that's made 15 NCAA Tournament appearances.
Stackhouse's recruiting class may not have been the most impressive, but it still gives him a shot at building an elite team. Plus, he has the support from above and it appears he's making progress with running his program.
Jerry Stackhouse, a former star player in the NCAA, found an unexpected career path as college coaching. After 18 years in the NBA, Stackhouse moved to Nashville, Tennessee in April to take up his new position at Vanderbilt Commodores after spending 18 years playing basketball.
The Commodores are 11-7 in SEC play this season. If they can pick up some wins during the SEC Tournament, they could be in contention for a conference championship.
However, their NET rating is low and they are unlikely to make the NCAA Tournament without winning the SEC tournament. This is due to two reasons.
First and foremost, they have suffered several disappointing losses this season. First they lost to Southern Miss and Grambling before dropping a game at LSU on Wednesday.
Second, their KenPom rating is very low - no SEC team with a lower rank than 77th in the NET before the tournament has ever received an at-large bid.
If the Commodores win out, they could likely finish in a tie for fourth place in the SEC and receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. But first they must overcome some good losses in the SEC as well as some bad ones.
Despite these obstacles, the Commodores boast a stellar academic reputation and an enthusiastic fan base. With an impressive 7:1 student-faculty ratio that makes access to faculty across disciplines easy, they also boast a large number of students taking honors courses and engaging in academic research projects.
The Commodores boast a high percentage of students in the top 10 percent of their class. Their admission process is highly selective, requiring applicants to submit SAT and ACT scores as well as letters of recommendation plus an essay for consideration.
They boast an impressive list of extracurricular activities that help them identify students who will excel academically. Furthermore, their incoming freshmen class size is low at just 235 students - helping them determine which students are likely to succeed in the classroom.
The Commodores boast an impressive recruiting program with several five-star prospects. Plus, they have a great coach in Stackhouse who will work tirelessly to recruit top players to their program.
Vanderbilt University is consistently ranked as one of the nation's top colleges, attracting some of the brightest students from across the US. Indeed, more than 90% of accepted students come from high school classes within the top ten percent.
Vanderbilt University boasts an incredibly selective acceptance rate of 7%; only 7 out of 100 applicants are accepted each admissions cycle, giving the school the reputation as being one of the Ivy League schools.
Vanderbilt University boasts a number of student organizations on campus that provide activities for its students. Greek life also plays an integral role in the university community and plays an integral role in shaping students' social lives.
In addition to sports, students can take advantage of other activities on campus or in Nashville. For instance, many restaurants and entertainment options in the city are discounted for students. Furthermore, there are various music venues within walking distance from the university.
Vanderbilt University boasts a number of sports teams, such as men's and women's soccer, baseball, tennis and softball. Furthermore, the Commodores are members of the NCAA Division I Southeastern Conference and host their own conference tournament each year.
Due to their impressive academic records, the Commodores boast a large and dedicated fan base that attends games regularly. Unfortunately, this year the team has had difficulty drawing in attendance for home matches.
Recent surveys reveal that Vanderbilt fans are generally dissatisfied with the condition of their stadium. Some plan on stopping attending games until improvements are made, while others feel embarrassed and want the school to raise funds for renovations.
If the Commodores want to advance to Omaha, they must win their last two SEC games against Ole Miss and Mississippi State. These teams represent some of the toughest competition in all of the SEC this season and should provide Vanderbilt with a great test for its players.
In April, former Memphis Grizzlies coach Jerry Stackhouse left the G League to take on a head coaching position at Vanderbilt University, continuing a trend of coaches transitioning from NBA coaching into college education. Stackhouse stands out in this group due to his extensive background in grassroots basketball; he sponsored an AAU program and mentored youth players before making the switch, giving him insight into college recruiting at an intimate level.
He understands the difficulty of balancing admissions to a university with stringent academic standards, something which should help him in recruiting players. That's especially important since Vanderbilt ranks low in NCAA NET rankings - another reason for their disappointing showing against SEC competition.
Thus, they appear unlikely to make the NCAA Tournament this season. Their NET and KenPom ratings place them lower than 75th, meaning they are in 'considered' territory. Furthermore, three teams that are currently lower on the NCAA NET have lost to them already this season.
If Stackhouse can get his team on a winning streak, they could potentially put themselves in the mix for an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. But they need to win out in the SEC Tournament first in order to advance.
So far this season, they have lost four games in conference play - including three against highly-ranked opponents. That is an incredibly challenging situation to be in, especially with the SEC being one of the most competitive conferences in America.
Stackhouse remains upbeat despite a disappointing start to the season. At SEC media day on Wednesday, he shared some positive developments for this year with reporters.
He believes the Commodores possess enough talent to win several games. Additionally, he expressed confidence that players will respond well to his changes in coaching style.
He's still trying to determine how best to build this roster for success and has made plenty of adjustments along the way. But Stackhouse believes this group is one of Vanderbilt's most talented ever assembled. Stackhouse is determined to turn around their program and put them back on the path towards a championship.
At the time Jerry Stackhouse assumed the reins as Vanderbilt basketball coach, the team had been experiencing a dismal stretch of poor results. Each season had seen them win less than 13 games and in each case only three or fewer SEC games over that span.
But this year, the Commodores appear to be back in contention. On Wednesday they defeated Tennessee 66-65, ending an 11-game skid against them and ending a long streak of futility.
Stackhouse has the Commodores playing hard and keeping games close in tight games, which marks a marked improvement from their two previous seasons when they were often outplayed by teams with higher national rankings or more talented personnel. This effort has paid off as the team has shown improvement throughout this past season.
Stackhouse's leadership and the players he recruits are a testament to his success, while his style of play has been tailored for success in the SEC.
He's also become more adept at recruiting players who can play multiple positions, which is an increasingly essential skill in the SEC, where many teams feature four guards and three forwards.
The Commodores have been successful in recruiting three four-star signees for the 2019 class, including Colin Smith (6-8 combo forward with an excellent jumper and lateral movement ability) and Malik Dia (6-1 classic stretch big who can shoot from distance and make mid-range shots), both excellent prospects.
These young players have a long way to go, yet they already make an immense difference on the team. Freshman catcher David Rodriguez showcased his talent during Monday night's win against the Billikens, showing what kind of impact these players can make on this program.
If these young Commodores keep improving and can develop into an offensive force, the team could potentially make some noise in the SEC. But it will take patience from Stackhouse and his assistants as they build this team into one that's more competitive.