Bulldog Maroon & White

a Mississippi State sports blog

Analyzing The Mississippi State Bulldogs Basketball Schedule

Posted by Kyle Weidie on October 9, 2008

At the very close of business on Friday, September 19th, the Mississippi State Bulldogs finally posted their basketball schedule to mstateathletics.com. The SEC slate has been out for some time now. I analyzed the 16 conference games and predicted a record of 9-7. Now, I’ll take a look at the non-conference schedule. Has Rick Stansbury allowed for an RPI-friendly line-up?

While the schedule is sprinkled with nationally recognized programs (Washington State, Pittsburgh, Texas Tech, and Cincinnati), and some prominent mid-major programs (Charlotte, South Alabama, Houston, San Diego, and Western Kentucky), the reality is that there is only one bona fide top 25 team (Pitt Panthers, ranked #2 in the nation by Andy Katz). The only team among the big programs that Mississippi State is guaranteed to face is Cincinnati in the SEC/Big East Challenge on December 18th.

Washington State, Pitt, and Texas Tech are each taking part in the Legends Classic. There is a chance that the Bulldogs might not see any of these three, and could play two at best. The first two rounds of the Legends Classic will be played on the campus of each host. The Bulldogs will face North Alabama on November 19th, and then Fairleigh Dickinson on the 22nd in Starkville. So, the opportunity to significantly boost the strength of the schedule is contingent on making it to the Legends final four, which will be played at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. Working off this assumption, Mississippi State would possibly face Washington State on Nov. 28 and either Pitt or Texas Tech the next day should they advance to the final.

Opponent Conference Breakdown

Atlantic 10: Charlotte, St. Bonaventure
Big East: Cincinnati, Pittsburgh*
Big 12: Texas Tech*
Conference USA: Houston
Northeast: Fairleigh Dickinson
Pac-10: Washington State*
Southland: Nicholls State
Summit League: Centenary
Sun Belt: Louisiana-Monroe, South Alabama, Western Kentucky
SWAC: Alabama State
WCC: San Diego

Division II: North Alabama

*not a guaranteed oppnenent

Overall, I have to say that this is a pretty weak schedule. If the cards happen to fall in the wrong direction, the Bulldogs are left playing only one team from a BCS conference. Let’s hope this is not the case.

Run-down on the Bulldog non-conference opponents:

  • Centenary surprised many with an early upset of Texas Tech last season. However, the rest of the year didn’t fare so well as the Gents only won five more games, finishing with a 10-21 record. Centenary has a couple returning seniors, Lance Hill and Nick Stallings, who were ranked second and third respectively in scoring last season.
  • Louisiana-Monroe finished 10-20, 4-14 in the Sun Belt last season. The three departed seniors accounted for just over half of the scoring on last year’s squad. However, Tony Hooper, last season’s leading scorer (15.1 ppg), who was also named to the All-Louisiana 2nd team, returns for his senior season. The Warhawks also have four incoming junior college players who will look to make an immediate contribution.
  • North Alabama may be a DII school, but they finished 27-9 last year, won the South Region championship, advancing to the DII Elite Eight, before losting to Bentley. The Lions don’t have a ton of size, so I’d look for them to take every shot from the outside, else Jarvis Varnado will net 20 blocks.
  • Fairleigh-Dickenson went 8-20, 4-14 in their conference last year. Currently their online roster shows one senior, four juniors, and three sophomores. However, they will also have a handful of newcomers: transfers from St. Joseph’s and Buffalo who are eligible after sitting out last year, a transfer from the Czech Republic, a transfer from Canada, a British high-school player who spent time with the English National Team, and a player from St. Thomas More Prep School. Sean Baptiste is their best returning player (18.5 ppg), but gone is last year’s leading scorer and All-NECer, Manny Ubilla (20.8 ppg).
  • Washington State made the Sweet 16 last year where they fell to North Carolina, losing by 21 points. Now, it’s time to rebuild. Gone are stars Kyle Weaver and Derrick Low. Only five lettermen (in addition to two RS seniors and two RS freshman) return from last year’s 26-9 squad. With seven true freshman on the roster, highlighted by Klay Thompson (son of former NBAer, Michael Thompson), the Cougars will be inexperienced, but talented.
  • Texas Tech is picked to finished towards the bottom of the Big 12 in Pat Knight’s first full season at the helm. However, aside from losing leading scorer, Martin Zeno, the Red Raiders will have most of their top talent from last year’s team. Sophomore point John Roberson and senior guard Alan Voskuil anchor the backcourt, and accounted for over 36% of Tech’s scoring last season. If the Raiders do make it past their hosted games in the Legends Classic (East Central and Eastern Kentucky), I would not anticipate them being able to beat Pittsburgh.
  • Pittsburgh is a team that most expect to contend for a national championship. Leading scorers 1-3 return: senior forward Sam Young (18.1 ppg), senior guard Levance Fields (11.9 ppg), and sophomore forward DeJuan Blair (11.6 ppg). Pitt comfortably took down Cincinnati, and ranked Louisville, Marquette, and Georgetown squads en route to winning the ’08 Big East Tournament. The Panthers fell to Michigan State in the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament, but with key returnees, and mix of young and old, they are primed to have a very strong season. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention that Pitt is known for its defensive intensity, also a trademark of Rick Stansbury teams.
  • St. Bonaventure finished at the bottom of the A-10 with an 8-22 (2-14) record, and lost four seniors who ranked 1-4 on the team in minutes played. They’ll try to stop the bleeding with three incoming JUCO transfers, the headliner being SG, Jonathan Hall. Look for the Bonnies to be an easy win for the Bulldogs, even if it is a road game in Olean, NY.
  • Alabama State will be no pushover. The Hornets won 20 games last year, making it to the NIT, where they lost to Arizona State by nine in the first round. Alabama State will be led by 6-5 guard, Andrew Hayles, the reigning SWAC Player of the Year and an honorable mention AP All-American.
  • Charlotte finished 20-13 (9-7) and lost at Nebraska in the first round of the NIT. They lost four seniors, three of which accounted for 57.6% of the 49ers scoring. The leading returning scorer is junior An’Juan Wilderness (8.1 ppg). Also keep an eye on Rashad Coleman, who spent time at an NAIA school in Georgia, Brewton-Parker, before becoming a 49er. Coleman chose Charlotte over Oklahoma State and Georgia Tech.
  • South Alabama lost only two seniors, albeit their first and third leading scorers, from a squad that went 26-7 en route to an At-Large NCAA Tournament bid. The Jaguars lost to the #7 seed Butler Bulldogs by 20 points in the first round. South Alabama still returns a veteran squad featuring eight seniors and three juniors. Mississippi State will be looking to avenge a 71-67 loss to the Jags in Mobile last year. Demetric Bennett, who dropped 39 points on the Bulldogs that game, was one of the departing seniors. Look for returning leading scorers, Dominic Tilford and Brandon Davis, along with incoming JUCO transfer, LaShun Watson, to shoulder the load.
  • Cincinnati, once a proud program, ESPN analyst Jay Bilas predicts that they will fall in the bottom third of the competitive Big East. The Bearcats finished the season 13-19, ending with a loss to the Bradley Braves in the first round of the College Basketball Invitational (CBI, a college basketball post-season tournament in its inaugural run last year). At one point last year, Cincy had a 13-12 record, 8-5 in the conference, but then lost their final five games. Their best returning player is junior guard, Deonta Vaughn, who averaged 17.3 ppg and 4.2 apg (3.2 to) last year. The Bearcats also add Mike Williams, a transfer from Texas.
  • Nicholls State is the small school from Southeastern Louisiana that BCS schools schedule as an easy win. The Colonels finished 07-08 with 10-21 record, the highlight probably being a 10 point loss to the #1 ranked North Carolina Tarheels in Chapel Hill. They did only lose one senior, fourth leading scorer Adonis Gray, so perhaps Nicholls State won’t be the complete pushover that most would expect. The Colonels field a team that includes five native Australians.
  • San Diego will be one of the better teams the Bulldogs face, and the Bulldogs better be glad it’s a home game. Last year, the Toreros finished 22-14, upset #4 seed Connecticut in the first round of the NCAA tournament, before losing to Western Kentucky in the 2nd round. They upset Gonzaga to win the WCC Conference Tournament. Oh yea, the Toreros return absolutely everyone from last year’s team, including All-WCC 1st teamers, Brandon Johnson and Gyno Pomare. Did I mention they beat Kentucky at Kentucky last year? Ok, so that’s not saying a ton.
  • Houston finished 3rd in CUSA, 22-9 (11-5). The Cougars won at Nevada and beat Valparaiso at home to advance to the final four of the CBI before losing to eventual champion, Tulsa. The best returning player for Tom Penders’ team is junior guard Kelvin Lewis (3rd on the team in scoring in 07-08, 10.2 ppg). Outside of Lewis, three JUCO transfers will look to make up for the loss of four starters.
  • Western Kentucky had a whopping eight seniors on last year’s team, five of them averaged more than 13 minutes per game. Gone is star Courtney Lee (and his 20.4 ppg), who was taken 22nd overall by the Orlando Magic in the NBA draft. He, along with the other departing seniors accounted for 70.5% of the Hilltoppers scoring, and 63% of their rebounding. Western Kentucky’s top returning player will be junior A.J. Slaughter, who averaged 7.6 ppg last season. The Hilltoppers finished 29-7 last season, advancing to the NCAA Sweet 16 as a 12 seed before eventually losing to UCLA by 10 points. With the defections, the Hilltoppers may struggle mightily in 08-09. Last year’s head coach, Darrin Horn, bolted for SEC territory and is now heading the South Carolina Gamecocks.

My gut instinct tells me that the Bulldogs will go 11-4 in their non-conference schedule, making it to the final of the Legends Classic and losing to Pittsburgh. Combine that with my predicted 9-7 SEC record and 20-11 almost seems too optimistic. However, 20 regular season wins is more than attainable, depending on a plethora of factors. If I had to guess, 20-11 does not get the Bulldogs into the NCAA tournament and they would need to help themselves with a strong showing in the SEC tournament. Stay tuned….it will be interesting to see how this young, but very talented, Bulldog team develops.

2 Responses to “Analyzing The Mississippi State Bulldogs Basketball Schedule”

  1. Bill said

    I always look for MSU basketball stories all season long… Thanks for feeding my MSU basketball hunger…

  2. Thanks for stopping by Bill…..basketball is this blog’s specialty, so be sure and check back for updates.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: