For the first time in three years, Kentucky is on Vanderbilt’s men’s basketball schedule twice.
The Southeastern Conference adopted an 18-game schedule and did away with divisional alignment two years ago. That did away with most of the traditional home-and-home series that had been common, such as the one between Vanderbilt and Kentucky.
The Wildcats did not visit Memorial Gymnasium last season. In 2013-14, the Commodores did not make it to Rupp Arena.
Each of the Commodores’ final four games will be return matches from earlier in the season – Feb. 23 at Florida, Feb. 27 vs. Kentucky, March 1 vs. Tennessee and March 6 at Texas A&M.
Vanderbilt’s conference opener is against LSU, Jan. 2 at Memorial.
Riley LaChance is one of 24 players who will vie later this month for a spot on the 2015 USA Basketball Men’s Under-19 World Championship Team.
The Vanderbilt guard was the Southeastern Conference’s highest scoring freshman last season at 12.3 points. His 429 points were third highest total ever by a Commodores freshman. He also had 102 assists.
A 12-player team will be selected following a two-week training camp (June 12-26) in Colorado Springs. That team, coached by Arizona’s Sean Miller, will compete at the FIBA Under-19 World Championships, June 27-July 5 at Heraklion, Crete, Greece.
The 24 players include 10 who previously have won gold medals with USA national teams. LaChance is one of 10 who played college basketball last season and the only one did so for an SEC school.
To be eligible for the 2015 Under-19 national team, players must be born on or after Jan. 1, 1996.
“It should be looked upon as a tremendous honor to be selected to tryout for this team, because the competition is so strong,” Jim Boeheim Syracuse Hall of Fame head coach and chair of the USA Basketball Men’s Junior National Team Committee, which is responsible for selecting players and coaches for the team, said in a release. “Our committee does a great job identifying players who will represent our country in international competition. We know that even in the training camp, the competition will be fierce.”
Sure, there are some new faces.
Vanderbilt’s Kevin Stallings, though, believes that Southeastern Conference basketball is in good hands – and in a good place – even with the departure of former Florida coach Billy Donovan, who left for the NBA, and several other coaching changes since the end of last season.
Stallings, who has led the Commodores since 1999-00 is the longest-tenured men’s basketball coach in the league.
From The Associated Press:
“I think our league is so well positioned going forward that we’re going to see some really incredible things,” Stallings said during SEC meetings this week in Destin, Fla. “The best of the SEC is getting ready to happen in men’s basketball. We’ve got very proven, good, successful coaches and we have arguably the best program in the country in our league. Obviously some other people can make a similar claim. No many, not very many.”
Among the first-year SEC coach are Mississippi State’s Ben Howland, who once led UCLA to three straight Final Fours, Tennessee’s Rick Barnes, who took Texas to the NCAA Tournament 16 times in 17 seasons, and Alabama’s Avery Johnson, who has extensive experience as an NBA player and coach.
“Those guys will do great things for the league,” Stallings said.
It’s ‘Take 2’ for Vanderbilt in the third year of the Big 12/SEC men’s basketball challenge.
For the second time in three years, the Commodores will travel to Austin to play the University of Texas as part of the 10-game lineup (four SEC teams do not participate), which for the first time will take place in a single day, Jan. 30.
A bye in the schedule was created to allow for the event to take after the start of conference play. In previous seasons the game were spread out over a period of days in November and December.
Vanderbilt lost 70-64 at Texas the first year of the Big 12/SEC Challenge. This past season the Commodores hosted Baylor but lost 66-63.
The Big 12 was the winner in each of the first two seasons (7-3 in 2013-14 and 6-4 in 2014-15). Vanderbilt is one of three SEC schools that is 0-2 in the event. Auburn and Ole Miss are the others.
This year’s complete Big 12/SEC Challenge lineup (tip-off times to be determined at a later date):
Vanderbilt at Texas
Texas Tech at Arkansas
Oklahoma State at Auburn
West Virginia at Florida
Georgia at Baylor
Kentucky at Kansas
Oklahoma at LSU
Ole Miss at Kansas State
Tennessee at TCU
Iowa State at Texas A&M
Vanderbilt will play a home-and-home men’s basketball series with Dayton beginning with the 2015-16 season.
The Dayton Daily News said Flyers coach Archie Miller revealed the games Monday. The schools will play at Nashville in 2015-16 and at Dayton in 2016-17.
Vanderbilt has not yet announced its non-conference schedule for next season, but Dayton is the type of quality opponent the Commodores need to face – and beat – in order to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012.
Dayton went 27-9 in 2014-15 and reached the NCAA third round with victories over Boise State in the First Four and Providence in the second round. The Flyers’ roster included just two seniors.
Vanderbilt, which relied primarily on five freshmen, two sophomores and one senior, went 21-14 and reached the third round of the National Invitation Tournament.
This will be the third time the programs have scheduled this type of two-game set and each time the first game has been at Memorial Gymnasium with the return contest at Dayton. Vanderbilt won all four of the previous meetings – 84-64 at home in 1991-92, 73-53 on the road in 1992-93, 90-74 at home in 2004-05 and 63-60 on the road in 2005-06.
Al Pinkins was not with Donnie Tyndall at Southern Miss.
Where he has been has a lot to do with where he is going.
After one season at the University of Tennessee he has joined Johnny Jones’ staff at LSU. It will be the third different Southeastern Conference program in as many seasons for Pinkins.
LSU announced the move Friday.
“His familiarity with the style of play of our conference opponents, plus his knowledge and ability to recruit the caliber of players that it takes to compete at this level will allow him to be an instant asset to our program,” Jones said in a release from LSU. “We look forward to him getting started on the recruiting trail and being a part of our summer workouts as we begin to prepare for the upcoming season.”
Pinkins, 42, was an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Ole Miss for three seasons (2011-14) before he signed on with Tyndall at UT last season. He also spent eight years as an assistant (2003-11) at Middle Tennessee State.
When Tyndall was fired in March for his connection to recruiting violations during his two seasons at Southern Miss, Pinkins was named interim head coach but ultimately was not retained by Rick Barnes, who brought in a completely new staff.
The fact that he was not connected to Tyndall’s time and troubles at Southern Miss no doubt made it easier for him to get another job.
Bruce Pearl does not exactly have the reputation of a Boy Scout.
That doesn’t mean he can’t abide by the Scouts’ motto: Be prepared.
The second-year Auburn basketball coach confirmed Monday that his team will face Middle Tennessee State University at Bridgestone Arena on Dec. 12. The schools agreed to the contest nearly a year ago and now have set the date.
MTSU has not announced its 2015-16 schedule.
One of the benefits for Pearl and his team, according to The Anniston Star, is that it will give the players a chance to get familiar with the site of the 2016 SEC Tournament (as well as future conference tournaments). Plus, neutral site games carry more weight in the RPI.
“If we can get our team to where we're on the bubble for a (NCAA) tournament bid it can put you over the top,” Pearl told The Star, “if you can win it on a neutral site.”
Pearl is 12-3 all-time at Bridgestone Arena as a head coach. All three losses have come in conference tournament games.
Some of Rick Barnes’ recruiting trips require a passport.
The Knoxville News Sentinel reported Thursday that the new University of Tennessee men’s basketball coach intends to continue a Canadian connection he forged in his last job.
At the University of Texas, Barnes recruited two Canadian players who ultimately made it to the NBA and he intends to do the same with the Volunteers.
From the News Sentinel:
Canadian forward Kyle Alexander and his parents boarded a plane Thursday for his official visit to UT this weekend. The 6-foot-10 1/2, 200-pound prospect at Orangeville (Ontario) Prep said he received a scholarship offer from UT about two weeks before Barnes and associate head coach Rob Lanier visited him and his parents on Monday.
… Providing more proof Barnes is trying to move his Canadian connections to Knoxville, Alexander will join fellow Canadian Ray Kasongo, a College of Southern Idaho junior college forward originally from Toronto, who is also scheduled for a weekend visit.
Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph were Canadians who played high school basketball in Nevada. After one season at Texas (2010-11) Thompson was the fourth overall pick and Joseph went 29th in the 2011 NBA draft. The next year he signed Canadian Myck Kabongo from a New Jersey high school and two years later Kabongo turned professional.
It did not take long for Shelton Mitchell to find a new home.
A freshman point guard who started 11 games for Vanderbilt this past season settled on Clemson as his next stop following a weekend visit to campus. He will have to sit out the 2015-16 season under NCAA transfer rules but will have three remaining years of eligibility.
He announced his plans to transfer ‘for personal reasons’ fewer than two weeks ago.
“I feel at home and trust the coaching staff," he told TigerIllustrated.com, Clemson’s Rivals.com website. “I felt like I had a good relationship with all of the coaching staff and built a good relationship with the team as well.”
A North Carolina native, Mitchell initially signed with Wake Forest but was released from his letter-of-intent when that school made a coaching change last year. He signed with Vanderbilt and was in the starting lineup for the first five games but eventually lost that spot to Wade Baldwin.
Now he gets his chance to compete in the ACC after all.
According to TigerIllustrated, Mitchell chose Clemson over North Carolina State, Purdue, Cal, Charlotte and East Carolina.
Of course, things could not go that smoothly for Vanderbilt basketball.
Point guard Shelton Mitchell, one of five freshmen who were key contributors during the 2014-15 season, announced Thursday his plan to transfer for what the athletics department said were ‘personal reasons.’
Mitchell was the starting point guard in the season opener but by the end of the season was the backup to Wade Baldwin. He played in 31 games with 11 starts and averaged 4.3 points and 3.3 assists.
“I have decided to transfer from Vanderbilt for personal reasons,” Mitchell said in a release from the school’s athletics department. “I loved my basketball experience at Vanderbilt playing for Coach Stallings and his staff and with a great group of guys we have on this team. However, I feel it is in my best interests to continue my college education elsewhere. I want to thank Coach, the fans, and my teammates for the support they’ve given me during my stay at Vanderbilt.”
In high school, Mitchell originally committed to Wake Forest but reopened his recruitment when that program changed coaches following the 2013-14 season.
He is the first player this offseason to leave Vanderbilt, which has faced a steady stream of player departures the last two years.
On Wednesday, the Commodores learned that post player Josh Henderson had been granted a sixth year of eligibility, which would have meant eight of the top nine players from this year’s team would be back (James Siakam had been the lone roster loss). Now it’s seven of nine.
“Shelton is a great young man from a great family and I have thoroughly enjoyed having him in our program,” coach Kevin Stallings said. “We wish him the very best as he moves forward with his college career.”
(Photo: Getty Images)
POSTDATA: WARRANTY DEEDS