Vanderbilt unveiled its out-of-conference schedule last week, and it reflects that of a team that didn’t win an SEC game a season ago.
The Commodores do not have any team from one of the power conferences on its non-conference slate and only have one true road game before the meat of SEC play begins.
There are a few decent non-major conference teams on the docket, but there will be a limited number of opportunities for quality wins outside of SEC opponents.
The team’s schedule doesn’t get going very much at all until December, with most November games against low-major competition at home that an SEC team should be able to handle comfortably, with a game at Richmond mixed in Nov. 14 and a home date with Tulsa on Nov. 30. To kick off December, the Commodores welcome a new-look Buffalo squad to Nashville on Dec. 3. The Bulls have been to four of the last five NCAA Tournaments, but they’re starting over with a new head coach and lost a good deal of the talent on last season’s team that went to the second round. Buffalo should still be good, though, at least by MAC standards, and will be one of Vanderbilt’s most challenging non-conference opponents.
Vanderbilt’s next non-conference game will be at home against Liberty, a second-round team last year, then go to Phoenix for a neutral site game versus Loyola-Chicago, a Final Four participant in 2018, in the Basketball Hall of Fame Showcase on Dec. 18.
“We look forward to the challenge of facing Loyola, a recent Final Four program, in Arizona,” said first-year head coach Jerry Stackhouse in a Vanderbilt Athletics press release. “The road trip will allow us to face strong competition at a neutral site and provide Saben Lee, a Phoenix native, the opportunity to play in front of a hometown crowd.”
The ‘Dores round out their out-of-league slate with home games against UNC-Wilmington (Dec. 22), Davidson (Dec. 30) and SMU (Jan. 4).
All in all, this is not an impressive out-of-conference schedule, but for a team in Vandy’s position, that’s okay. Vanderbilt is in a total rebuild phase after the deep holes that were dug the last few years. Stackhouse is brand new, and it will take time for him to instill the culture he wants and attract the type of talent and depth required to compete for NCAA Tournament bids.
You have to start somewhere, and in college basketball, you get your legs under you by winning at home, which would explain the rationale behind this schedule. Plus, this doesn’t mean Stackhouse won’t be more adventurous with his scheduling in the future.
“We’re excited to announce that our fans will have 20 opportunities to experience Memorial Magic this season,” Stackhouse said in the press release. “Going forward, we will look to increase the level of nonconference competition each and every year, and this year’s schedule is a great place to start. Our objective will be to continue to play a challenging nonconference schedule, but one with more of a balance between home and away. We want to continue to test and challenge our players and pursuing top-level competition that will not only prepare us for the rigors of SEC play, but ultimately in our pursuit of becoming a championship contending program.”