First Four Preview: Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt (19-13)

Conference: Southeastern Conference

Tournament history: 10-14 in 13 appearances with an Elite Eight finish in 1965 and four Sweet 16s

Key players: G Wade Baldwin IV, 6-3, So. (14.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 5.2 spg), C Damian Jones, 7-0, Jr. (14.2 ppg, 6.9 rpg), G Matthew Fisher-Davis, 6-5, So. (9.9 ppg), F Jeff Roberson, 6-6, So. (9.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg), F Luke Kornet, 7-1, Jr. (8.9 ppg, 7.2 rpg)

Key stat: The Commodores rank seventh nationally in defensive rebounds per game (29.1) and ninth in blocked shots per game (5.5).

Could make a tournament run if … it can force teams inside. The Commodores use their size to win games, and with 7-footers Luke Kornet and Damian Jones, there aren’t too many teams that can match up.

Will struggle if… it can’t slow down the tempo of games. Vanderbilt struggles against teams that push the pace. The team’s inability to grab offensive rebounds, despite its height, also could come back to haunt it.

Etc: The Commodores return to the tournament for the first time since 2012, despite an upset loss to Tennessee in the SEC tournament. They’re a veteran team with NBA talent in players like Luke Kornet, who ranks fourth in the country in blocks per game (3.0), and Wade Baldwin and Damian Jones, but they’ve struggled with consistency, especially while Kornet was out five games early on with a torn MCL. While the inside game can be dominant, Matthew Davis-Fisher has proven among the most effective perimeter shooters in the country, averaging 45.7 percent from behind the arc.

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