Kevin Stallings soon will discover whether it's better to have one great scorer or several good ones. The sixth-year Commodores head coach will be without Matt Freije, the school's all-time leading scorer, but he does have a roster loaded with capable threats.
"We will be way more balanced," Stallings said. "For four years our offense needed to run through Matt. Now, I think we are going to have more guys capable of averaging 12-to-16 or 17 points than we've had."
The Freije-led Commodores ended a six-year NCAA tournament drought last season and then advanced to the Sweet 16 with a thrilling come-from-behind win over N.C. State in the second round.
With Freije, SEC Sixth Man of the Year Scott Hundley and savvy point guard Russell Lakey no longer around, it will be up to a retooled lineup to get Vanderbilt back into the postseason.
FRONTCOURTDawid Przybyszewski stands well over 7-feet tall and is listed as the Commodores' center, but the stats tell a different story. The native of Poland hit more 3-point field goals (51) than shots inside the arc (47) and averaged just 3.7 rebounds per game.
Stallings would like to see his big man be more productive around the basket, but it's hard to argue with Przybyszewski's results. He shot a team-high 45.5 percent from three and emerged as one of the Commodores' top offensive threats in the second half of the season. During a key seven-game stretch of SEC play, Przybyszewski averaged 13.7 points and shot 54.5 percent from the 3-point line.
Power forward Julian Terrell is the Commodores' best rebounder and one of the team's most athletically gifted players, but the Nashville native struggled through a disappointing sophomore season. He lost his starting position in early February and wasn't much of a factor down the stretch of the regular season. He did respond, however, with a monster game (16 points, seven rebounds) in the Commodores' upset win over Mississippi State in the SEC Tournament.
Sophomore Ted Skuchas will be the first big man off the bench. He is a physical presence down low and boasts some nice offensive moves.
BACKCOURTThere's only one stat that you need to know about Mario Moore: The junior point guard has averaged 16.6 points in eight career postseason games and 7.3 points in 54 regular-season games. Moore clearly plays his best ball on the biggest stage.
This year, however, Vanderbilt needs Moore to shine in every venue. "Mario runs the team," Stallings said, "and does a good job with that. But at the same time, he's one of the most talented offensive players we have. We need him to utilize his scoring abilities."
Senior Jason Holwerda is the likely starter at shooting guard, but he is not much of a shooter. He hit just 4-of-18 3-pointers last season, and his career mark of .261 doesn't exactly remind Commodore faithful of Scott Draud or Drew Maddux. But Holwerda excels on defense, and Stallings loves his intangibles. "He finds a way to help us. He's just a winner."
Small forward Corey Smith doesn't wow you with gaudy stats, but he is a clutch performer who delivered time and again for the Commodores in key moments late last season. Smith is quite capable of emerging as a 13- to 15-point scorer as a senior.
Sophomore sharpshooter Dan Cage (42.6 percent from 3) and a trio of talented freshmen -- Alex Gordon, Shan Foster and DeMarre Carroll -- will all see time off the bench. Gordon, a true point guard, will back up Moore, while Foster, the Commodores' top recruit, figures to see major minutes.
FINAL ANALYSISVanderbilt has enough talent to return to the NCAA tournament. But without Freije delivering 18 points per night, the Commodores will need some of last year's role players to assume more of the scoring load. Moore and Przybyszewski are the likely candidates, but Smith and Terrell are also capable offensive players.
Vanderbilt's postseason fate could depend on the strength of SEC. The league, on paper, appears to be down a bit. The Commodores earned a No. 6 NCAA seed with an 8-8 conference record last March. Another .500 finish, however, might not be enough to punch a tournament ticket in 2005.