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Archive for the ‘ncaa tournament’ Category

Rick Stansbury At It Again

Posted by Kyle Weidie on March 19, 2009

Good ol’ Rick Stansbury, stumping for the support of Oregonians who despise the state of Washington and everything about it, including the UW Huskies.

Ok, despise may be a little harsh, but Coach Stans is trying to rally local support for his team and not the one about 150 miles away.

“We know all the Oregon people are behind us here. If you’re not, get behind us!” Stansbury said Wednesday at a news conference.

Stansbury then called out a reporter from the Portland daily newspaper in the bowels of the 19,980-seat Rose Garden, which is sold out through the weekend.

“I expect to see the headline, ‘Bulldogs love Ducks!’ It’s all on you,” the folksy coach and native of Kentucky deadpanned with a straight face. “I understand Oregon folks don’t like you Washington folks.
seattlepi.com

Uh….coach? Don’t you remember beating the Oregon Ducks in the first round of the 2008 NCAA tournament?

I don’t think people in Oregon will exactly be lining up to support the Bulldogs from Starkville. But hell, it’s worth a try, right?

Sports memories aren’t nearly as enduring as rivalries.

Coach Stansbury was also asked if he’d ever sought support in such a manner before, “No, but hey, there’s a first time for everything. I’m not afraid to do it,” he said.

Again, uh…coach?

I can’t remember if Stansbury publicly stumped in 2005, but he sure didn’t turn away the hoards of UNC Tar Heel fans who feverishly rooted for Mississippi State against the hate Duke Blue Devils when all teams played in Charlotte in the ’05 NCAA Tournament.

No matter, this is year is not past years…but Stansbury might make a helluva politician nonetheless.

GO DAWGS!!!!!!

[side note] – Everyone thinks this Brockman cat will destroy Varnado on this inside because he’s thick and Jarvis is skinny. Really?

Please…Varnado has faced plenty of big bodies in his career, and this guy is no different.

Suggested Reading:

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Posted in Bulldog Basketball, mississippi state bulldogs, ncaa basketball, ncaa tournament, oregon ducks, rick stansbury, sec basketball | Leave a Comment »

Why The NCAA Would Bring Back The Consolation Game

Posted by Kyle Weidie on October 21, 2008

I’m just getting around to reading John Feinstein’s book, “Last Dance: Behind the Scenes at the Final Four,” given to me by my father this past Christmas. The book was published over two years ago, but contains a ton of great NCAA tournament tid-bits. Feinstein seems to jump around, but the smooth transition between the various stories reads as if you were sitting next to him at the bar talking shop.

One part which recently caught my eye was talk of the consolation game, a match between the two Final Four “losers” for third place. Feinstein recounts the last consolation game played between LSU and Virginia in the 1981 NCAA Tournament played in Philadelphia. LSU, led by shooting guard Howard “Hi-C” Carter and point guard Ethan Martin, fell to Isiah Thomas and the Indiana Hoosiers 67-49 in the semi-finals. On the other side,  North Carolina, featuring Sam Perkins and James Worthy (but pre-Michael Jordan), took down Virginia, led by All-American Jeff Lamp and Naismith Player of the Year, Ralph Sampson, 78-65.

The Hoosiers went on to be national champions, beating the Tar Heels 63-50. Virginia beat LSU 78-74 in the third place game. Both games were played under “eerie” circumstances, as Feinstein describes. March 30, 1981 was also the day that John Hinckley shot President Ronald Reagan. So, not many were in attendance for the LSU-Virginia matchup, and people were unsure if either the consolation or championship games would be played in the first place. But they went on and that was the last time the NCAA had a game for third place in the Big Dance.

I’ve often wondered, with the media coverage (and bracket frenzy) surrounding the NCAA tournament today, why not hold a consolation game? More times than not, it would feature a matchup between young stars that could be billed as ‘Must See TV.’ But what circumvents that possibility is the sensible approach that neither team, or coaches, could muster the will to play after halting to a disappointing stop at the doorstep of a national title.

One could argue that the outcome of a consolation game has much less meaning than even an early season gimme between a D1 powerhouse and a tiny NAIA school…..just ask a 1982 Chaminade team. But what if the consolation game meant something? What if the winner was guaranteed a spot in next year’s tournament?

Of course, this idea could not happen unless the tournament expanded. The tournament committee is not going to subtract from the pool of at-large bids, and the lone play-in game is already controversial enough. I can honestly see the NCAA tourney field expanding within the next 10 years. Perhaps the new deal will involve regular season and tournament champions from each conference getting an automatic ticket, evening the playing field for one-bid conferences.

If the NCAA were ever looking for a way to make even more money off the men’s basketball tournament, which we know they have the propensity to desire, then a championship Monday double header with four teams playing for future hopes and present titles would be the way to go.

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To Upset Calipari’s Tigers, Jamont Gordon Must Have Best Game Ever

Posted by Kyle Weidie on March 23, 2008

And I’m talking a LeBron James-like 27 points, 7 assists, 7 rebounds, 3-6 from three, 48% from the field with only 3 turnovers. There is it, plain and simple. Oh yea, find a way to “contain” Derrick Rose as well. Charles Rhodes and early paint intentions are still the key. But to overcome a #1 seed, there is more than one lock so you need more than one key.

This is a quick post….no numbers and no analysis, just a prediction (by the way, Sheridan is giving Mississippi State 9.5 points in USA Today): The Bulldogs pull off the upset 76-75. And I’m off to watch the game….

Check these links:

Charles Rhodes on Joey Dorsey:I really think he’s got to get the better of me in this matchup. He’s a great offensive rebounder. He’s not really an offensive player.” [Kyle Veazey’s Blog]

“Help for Rhodes finally arrives in marksman Stewart” [Rick Cleveland, Clarion-Ledger] – I’m also predicting that the momentum continues for Barry Stewart on offense, sparking even better defense from the sophomore.

Stansbury on Tests: “No one has played close enough to them to see how they play in a pressure situation,” he said in regards to Memphis. “I think that’s our challenge. Can we keep the game close enough that it becomes a close game in the last five minutes? There’s no question we’ve been tested there a lot more than Memphis has.” [Gregg Ellis, NE Miss. Daily Journal]

Mississippi State and Memphis last met on the hardwood in December of 1984.

Posted in Bulldog Basketball, memphis tigers, mississippi state bulldogs, ncaa basketball, ncaa tournament | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Another bag of Charles Rhodes please – Miss. State looks to continue NCAA survival

Posted by Kyle Weidie on March 23, 2008

But to beat the Memphis Tigers, Rick Stansbury will want much more from the supporting cast. Against the Oregon Ducks, Jamont Gordon made a lot happen, but his scoring needs to be sweet for the Bulldogs to reach the round of 16.

But first, speaking of Oregon, here’s the game run-down:

Half Number One

First 5 Minutes: Jamont Gordon started out physical in guarding Malik Hairston while Charles Rhodes set his personal tone early getting a dunk for the game’s first points at the 18:30 mark. Three turnovers came for the Bulldogs in the first three and a quarter minutes, two coming from Ben Hansbrough. Crisp passing wasn’t on the agenda to start, chalk it up to nerves. Oregon shot more threes than I expected, 3-7 in this first segment. Rhodes started off on Oregon’s Maary Leunen, but when Jarvis Varnado was on the Ducks three point wizard, the lane was wide open for a Bryce Taylor layup which gave the Ducks an early 13-6 lead.

The Next 10 Minutes: “Play until you hear the whistle.” Ben Hansbrough is learned in the game of basketball as he got a steal off a near Oregon backcourt violation and sprinted the length of the court for a layup. Meanwhile, Rhodes wasn’t disciplined on defense. In a three possession sequence, Charles fell bad for a Leunen pump fake in the paint – layup; Rhodes got an offensive rebound and put-back off a Barry Stewart miss; and back down the court, Leunen got Charles to bite again with a fake three dribbling into a mid-range jumper, 21-17 Oregon.

Overall, Mississippi State ball movement was slow; Oregon was able to easily react and get in the right position. Abundant Bulldog misses gave the Oregon offense a head start. With a lightening quick 5’6″ point guard in Tajuan Porter, the Ducks pushed the rock to the tune of a 28-20 lead with seven minutes left.

Persistent work in the paint was still the key. Going to Rhodes down low led to a 2nd foul on Maarty Leunen. Having to sit with seven minutes left in the 1st half went towards disrupting his rhythm. On defense, the Bulldogs finally returned to man after a failed experiment with the zone – the result of a minor panic after Oregon hit some long distance buckets early in the game. Varnado’s work in the interior was of utmost importance, one block to this point, but he changed a lot of waddling duck shots. The Dogs did limit their mistakes during this stretch by committing only 2 turnovers – 5 total to Oregon’s 2.

Last Five: Heading into the final five minutes of the first half, Oregon had a 30-23 lead. Rhodes was dominating with 13 points while his teammates totaled 10. Even though the Bulldogs were shooting 38% from the field, I never felt like they were losing control. But Jamont Gordon didn’t help the cause of good vibrations with forcing the issue at times while Ben Hansbrough was doing a bad impression of a catch-and-shoot ball player. Ben, along with Barry Stewart, was added to the amber alert list. The Ducks ended the half with a Porter triple with five seconds left to take a 38-28 lead.

Half Number Two

First 5 Minutes: Jamont Gordon got a charge called against him in the early going, my dad is glad the refs blew the whistle on something that blatant. Oregon stayed firing with the threes, going 1-7 in this first segment. The game announcers relayed to the viewers that Mississippi State Coach Rick Stansbury said that if the Ducks shot 40% from long distance, the Bulldogs would not win. This struck me as odd as 40% is Oregon’s 3-point average for the season. You’re telling me if Oregon plays their “average” they can’t be beat? Rhodes continued to push with 22 points while his teammates had 12. Despite a sub-par shooting game, Hansbrough provided constant hustle with another steal converted to a layup. The Oregon Ducks were up 43-36 after the first five.

The Next 10 Minutes: The Bulldogs started out this segment like this: A forced Gordon layup miss, a Barry Stewart offensive rebound, a Jamont Gordon ill-advised 3 miss, a Charles Rhodes offensive rebound, and a Barry Stewart 3 miss. The Bulldogs were 0-12 from the 3-point line as Gordon was 2-12 from the field. Something had to give, and it just might be Jamont’s NBA chances if he leaves after this year.

Finally, at the 13 minute mark, Barry Stewart broke the cold long distance ice with a three (assisted by Gordon). The Dawgs were hanging around only down 6, 47-41. On a subsequent play, Jamont Gordon failed to contest a mid-range baseline jumper by Hairston. But Gordon was making the game happen in other areas: picking up 6 assists in a stretch from just under the 14 minute mark to just under the 9 minute mark. Mississippi State continued their push despite a couple calls not going their way leading to a 4th foul on Jarvis Varnado. The frigid shooting of the Ducks became the biggest help, with about 7.5 minutes left in the game, the Bulldogs were shooting 69% for the 2nd half while the Ducks faltered with 28%. Mississippi State would head into the last 5 minutes with a 61-58 lead.

Last Five:
Once Oregon’s threes slowed down, they didn’t have much else in the offensive repertoire. Meanwhile, the plan for the Bulldogs was coming to fruition. Double Charles Rhodes? No problem, that just left Barry Stewart open for a three – he found the right time to rediscover his stroke. Even Jarvis Varnado kept himself in the offensive mix with a great cut to the basket which led to a composed and balanced layup – a nice display of basketball I.Q. – to give MSU a 68-61 lead with 2:15 left.

Overall, Mississippi State had more in their tank down the stretch. With more perseverance, the Dawgs outlasted the Ducks. It also didn’t hurt that Oregon made a 3 at the 19:21 mark of the 2nd half, proceeded to miss 17 in a row, then made one with 14 seconds left when the game was in the bag. In the 2nd half, the Bulldogs weren’t giving up many open looks from long distance. The final tally would have Mississippi State advancing to the 2nd round of the Big Dance with 76, sending the Ducks back to Oregon with 69 – only 1 point off of my 76-68 prediction.

Stat Check:

  • Oregon was close to their season average of 8.7 3s per game with 9 against MSU. However, their season average of attempts was 21.7, they hoisted up 38 threes on this night – 2-21 from deep in the 2nd half after going 7-17 in the1st.
  • Charles Rhodes dominated with 34 and 9.
  • Jamont Gordon finished 2-14 from the field and 4-8 from the FT line, but contributed with 9 assists, 11 rebounds and the “usual” 6 turnovers.
  • Barry Stewart picked up the slack with 16 points on 4-8 from three point land.

Full Box Score

Other Reading:

  • “Rhodes leads MSU past Oregon” [NE Mississippi Daily Journal]
  • With four media timeouts per half, the starters can withstand a lot of minutes: [Bulldog Notebook – NE Mississippi Daily Journal]
  • “Rhodes loudest with a career game” [Clarion-Ledger]
  • “State sticks with starters in 2nd half” [Clarion-Ledger] – On the end of Alltel Arena’s floor closest to the Mississippi State bench, teams were 11-of-24 from the 3-point line. On the end in front of the Oregon bench, teams were 2-of-31. One observer who had watched games all day said the shooting was a trend. The hot-shooting end doesn’t have an upper deck; the cold one does. “We need to play on the one end where it goes in better,” MSU coach Rick Stansbury said, laughing.

Posted in charles rhodes, mississippi state bulldogs, ncaa basketball, ncaa tournament, oregon ducks, sec basketball, SEC Sports | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Total Game Preview: Mississippi State vs. Oregon

Posted by Kyle Weidie on March 21, 2008

Everyone is worried about a bunch of quacks, including myself. Oregon can fire the rock…to the tune of 40.1% from 3-point territory on the year, knocking down 8.7 per game. Big man center, Maarty Leunen, who hoisted 114 threes this season, making 50.9%, is on the chalk-talk from Eugene to Starkville. The remaining Duck starters combined to shoot 38.8% from long distance. The Bulldogs as a team only mustered up 34.1% from beyond the arc, yet they only attempted 7.2% less three-pointers than this gunning Oregon squad.

The point is, 39% of Oregon’s shot attempts are 3 pointers. Can you guess what that percentage is for Mississippi State, a team with an interior offensive presence which is described as being “rough and tumble,” especially when it comes to defense and rebounding? 36.8%. More than a third of the Bulldogs’ shots are 3 pointers. Why does the difference between these two teams seem so little? I’m certainly baffled, but the conclusion is simple: Mississippi State can’t afford to get in a shooting contest against the Oregon Ducks, because……well, the Bulldogs can’t really shoot.

Meet the Press:

OK, so how does one go about predicting this game?

I almost spit up my [insert what you might be drinking here] when I read the Dawgs-Ducks game preview on the Sporting News:

Defense usually prevails in postseason, and that would lead one to pick Mississippi State. But the Ducks played in the nation’s toughest conference this season and are more tested. Don’t expect Oregon to get the score into the 90s, but it should be able to impose its will.

The Crap-10 is the nation’s toughest conference? Are you kidding me? First of all, the Pac-10 is #2 in conference RPI, ACC is 1, SEC is 4. Another fact: those are just numbers. I know it’s a down year for the SEC, but the Pac-10 will never, repeat, never be “tougher” than the SEC, much less the best in the nation. That’s why I never read the Sporting News anyway.

——

Joe Lunardi, Bracketologist, M.D., ranks the tourney participants 1-64. Mississippi State is #30, Oregon is #45.

Accuscore on ESPN gives Mississippi State a 53% and Oregon a 47%, and predicts the score: 71.9 to 70.6 in favor of the Bulldogs.

Pat Forde says the “best case scenario” for the Bulldogs is to beat Oregon and push Memphis to the limit before losing. The worst? Stans catches heat for another early exit and Jamont Gordon hires an agent, gets a new car, and never makes it back to Starkvegas (a paraphrase).

CBS Sportsline “Expert” Picks:

Gary Parrish, Senior Writer – MSU wins, loses to Memphis.
Gregg Doyel, National Columnist – MSU wins, loses to Memphis.
Michael Freeman, National Columnist – Oregon Wins.
Dennis Dodd, Senior Writer – MSU wins, loses to Memphis.
Brian De Los Santos, College Producer – MSU wins, loses to Memphis.
Pete Gillen, CBS College Sports Analyst – Oregon Wins.
Steve Lappas, CBS College Sports Analyst – Oregon Wins.

But most importantly, Neil Patrick Harris (Doogie Howser, M.D.) picked the Dawgs to beat the Ducks. Aren’t you excited?

The Rivals.com experts have picked Mississippi State across the board.

However, both Bill Simmons and his wife are picking Oregon.

ESPN.com Bracket Caster

Back to ESPN……no joke, my first and only run at the ESPN Bracket Caster for the South Region produced this result (click thumbnail to the right to see the results):

—–

MY PREDICTION:

What worries me the most about this game is not en fuego Oregon 3-point shooting; it’s the Bulldogs themselves. One can only hope that they don’t shoot themselves in the foot (no pun intended) with careless turnovers and missed free-throws. Mississippi State averaged 15.5 turnovers per game and shot 63.5% from the line this season. But it’s not like Oregon takes care of the ball and their business at the charity stripe either. They committed about 12.7 tos per and shot 68.9% on freebies.

The Oregon Ducks are small, and they are not known to be a good defensive team. I certainly see them packing in a zone against the Dawgs, usually not a good sign for MSU. But this game will be won on the boards and the vertically challenged Ducks will have a hard time keeping Mississippi State away from the offensive glass in their zone defense.

In contrast, the gritty Bulldog D will be able to extend their man defense out to the 3-point line as Jarvis “Swat” Varnado will allow them to do so. The guy Varnado will probably guard is Joevan Catron, the 4 that’s really a 3 in Oregon’s three guard offense. Catron is only 6’6″, but is not known to knock down the trey as he’s only 5-13 from deep this year.

So, as the cliché goes: defensive teams are set-up to do well in the NCAA tournament. This game will be no exception. Oregon will not get hot because they will not get many open looks or second chances. The Bulldogs will overcome their own mistakes to move on to the second round.

Mississippi State 76 – Oregon 68

Other News Items:

Posted in jarvis varnado, mississippi state bulldogs, ncaa tournament, oregon ducks, rick stansbury, sec basketball | 1 Comment »

Bulldogs Help Bulldogs Make History

Posted by Kyle Weidie on March 16, 2008

How dare the Mississippi State Bulldogs lose to the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday. Unfortunately, I was not able to see any part of the game, outside of the last 6 seconds, just after the Charles Rhodes technical foul. I wanted to watch the game, but had obligations of a friend’s birthday dinner. Oh well, I had thought……the Bulldogs, those hailing from Starkville, had the game in the bag, right?

After all, the Georgia Bulldogs played a late (9:45 est start) overtime game versus Ole Miss on Thursday where this happened:

Ole Miss (21-10) sent the game to overtime when David Huertas was fouled on a 3-pointer and made all three free throws, and the Rebels looked to have forced another extra period when Chris Warren sank three after a virtually identical foul with 5.5 seconds left in OT.

But Georgia inbounded the ball to Corey Butler, who had fouled Warren. The walk-on guard made up for his blunder by driving nearly the length of the court before dumping the ball off to Bliss for an open 10-footer. He banked it in softly off the glass, sending the Bulldogs on to face Kentucky in the quarterfinals Friday night.
from secsports.com

Then, after thinking they would be playing Kentucky in the last game on Friday night, Georgia had to wait on a tornado. [So did Mississippi State, but at least the MSU Bulldogs got to finish their game.] UGA waited until noon on Saturday to play the Wildcats; the winner knowing that they would be playing again at 8:30 pm on the same day. Unprecedented.

Just a reminder: this is the same Georgia Bulldogs squad that lost 11 of their last 13 regular season games between January 26 and March 8. Georgia would go on to beat Kentucky, once again in overtime, thanks to some guy named Zac.

Silly me for thinking that Mississippi State would take care of business, especially when factoring in Georgia’s hurdles. Silly me indeed. How could one set of Bulldogs possibly underestimate another set of Bulldogs to the tune of 64-60 [box score].

Good for Georgia though, and good for Dennis Felton. I think he’s a good coach, and he might have just saved his job as Georgia capped their amazing run by beating Arkansas for the 2008 SEC Tournament Championship and earning them an automatic bid to the Big Dance; a 14 seed playing #3 Xavier in Washington, DC.

Many people, such as the Clarion-Ledger’s Rick Cleveland, will tell you that the Georgia Bulldogs “wanted it” more. I’m just struck as to why my Mississippi State Bulldogs “wanted it” less.

Did the loss hurt seeding for MSU? Of course. Mississippi State had a chance to be a 6, maybe even a 5 seed with an SEC Tournament win…but more likely a 6. This notebook entry from the Clarion-Ledger gives a report on seeding, as well as this excerpt: “As for tempo, Stansbury lauded Georgia’s decision to play mostly zone, which helped UGA save its legs.”

Clearly, zone defense was a great option for UGA to preserve their strength. However, I’d be willing to gamble that Georgia would have used a zone against Mississippi State regardless of their situation. From other post-game quotes, Rick Stansbury seems to be pretty upset that Mississippi State was able to limit their turnovers (only 6) and sink 16-20 FTs (better than par for the course), yet giving up a whopping 46 rebounds to Georgia while MSU only totaled 33…..a fact that Stansbury harped on: “It’s easy for me to watch that game and see that happening, but I always look at one stat, and that one stat tells me where it lies. We got rebounded again, probably the most we got out rebounded all year long, 46 to 33.”

So Where Do The Mississippi State Bulldogs Stand Right Now?

Well, M-State is an 8 seed in the 2008 NCAA Tournament and are semi-close to home in Little Rock, Arkansas. The Bulldogs will be playing the 9 seed Oregon Ducks, the winner most likely going up against the south bracket #1 seed (and national #2) Memphis Tigers. “It ain’t going to be easy,” as goes the classic Stansbury quote. Hopefully, the loss to Georgia will light a fire under some MSU Bulldog butts. An analysis of the NCAA tournament and the chances of Mississippi State will be forthcoming.

The Gaffe of the SEC

The Big Lead gives us a clip of the live CBS coverage as the tornado hit during the Mississippi State – Alabama game in Atlanta — in case you didn’t see it, or if like me, you were watching the game in a bar with no sound.

Only 400 tickets were available to each school for the SEC tournament games at Georgia Tech, most going to officials, families and big money contributors. In case you missed it, Gary Parrish of CBS Sportsline already compared the organization of the 2008 SEC Tournament to that of AAU ball.

But the Southeastern Conference screwed up. Yea, yea…I’m sure that making last-minute arrangements and switching venues as a result of an unexpected tornado wasn’t easy. I sympathize. But any time you have teams playing in front of a half-full arena, the right thing to do has not occurred. The SEC seats schools by sections in their annual conference tournament. Are you telling me that something could not be done to allow those who purchased tickets through the respective participating schools to attend the games, even via a lottery, or on a first-come, first-serve basis? From a major conference, I expect better. This article from the AJC expresses some frustrations, along with the fact that the SEC isn’t sure about a reimbursement program.

Filling Out A Bracket Online…For Money?

The FBI may be watching you.

Posted in georgia bulldogs, mississippi state bulldogs, ncaa basketball, ncaa tournament, sec basketball, SEC Sports, sec tournament | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Profiling the Field: Mississippi State Bulldogs

Posted by Kyle Weidie on March 10, 2008

Mississippi State
21-9 (12-4 SEC West Champions)
RPI: 37-39
Seed:
6-9

The Growth of a Seed
ESPN.com’s Joe Lunardi is currently projecting the Bulldogs to be a falling 7 seed, after being a rising 6 seed last week. The March 10th edition of Projecting the Seed on CBS Sportsline also has Mississippi State as a 7 seed. Seeding can clearly rise and fall with conference tournament performance. Today, I’ll put the Bulldogs down as a 7 seed as well. With their strength of schedule at 50 and an SEC West title in the trophy case, the Bulldogs are a lock to make the NCAA tournament, even though they are only 3-7 against top 50 RPI teams.

Mississippi State has a bye in the first round of the SEC tournament and is set to play the winner of the Alabama/Florida game on Friday, March 14th at 7:30 pm. If the Bulldogs win one, or even two, in the SEC tournament (after the Crimson Tide/Gators, MSU is on the Kentucky vs. Georgia/Ole Miss side of the bracket), I think they have a solid chance of being a 6 seed. If the Bulldogs lose to Florida in the second round, they might have a chance of staying a 7 seed in the Big Dance. But if it’s a loss to lowly Alabama, they could drop to 8 or 9.

Wins That Count
Well, all of them count….but wins at home against Kentucky, Ole Miss and Arkansas stand out. The selection committee will no doubt most notice Mississippi State’s 12-4 conference record. Yes, it’s a down year for the SEC, currently ranked 4th in conference RPI, but that should not take away from a division championship in a traditionally strong conference.

Losses That Hurt
Seven of Mississippi State’s nine losses have come to RPI top 50 teams….so, no bad ones there. Although, blowing a game at South Alabama with a 13 point lead and 10:25 left in the 2nd half should never be considered “okay.” State’s two worst losses have come at the hands of Southern Illinois and Miami Ohio (#61 and #81 in RPI respectively) during the Anaheim Classic back in late November; the Bulldogs have obviously improved since. Southern Illinois bowed out in the quarterfinals of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament, their 17-14 record only leaving them with faint NIT hopes. [Epic Carnival has officially popped the SIU bubble] Miami OH, ranked 5th in the Mid-American Conference, still has a chance to dance as their conference tournament starts Wednesday. In any case, dropping two games to “mid-major” Mid-Majors is a blemish, albeit minor, on the Mississippi State résumé. The NCAA tournament selection committee will note that there are no true “bad” losses (to a 100+ RPI team) for this Bulldog squad.

Players to Eyeball

Mississippi State has plenty players of note. Ben Hansbrough, the sophomore and younger brother of North Carolina’s Tyler Hansbrough, has helped push the Bulldogs to the next level after he missed SEC games 5 through 7 due to injury/sickness, two of those games being back-to-back losses to Arkansas and Tennessee.

Rail-thin sophomore Jarvis Varnado led the NCAA in blocked shots with 4.8 per game. On the season, Jarvis had three 10 block games and 16 total games with 5 or more blocks.

Junior Jamont Gordon gets a lot of attention. He’s even one of the 24 finalists for the 2008 John Wooden Award. He is capable of dominating every aspect of a game, as he averaged 17.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 4.8 assists on the year.

The key to Bulldog success? Senior Charles Rhodes. The agile big men can lead his team to tournament victories if he is able to effectively establish himself in the paint on offense early in games. I am looking for him to improve on his season averages of 16.8 points and 7.7 rebounds as Mississippi State charges into the post season.

Strengths
A Rick Stansbury team traditionally means tough defense and rebounding, and this season’s campaign is no exception. Let’s go through some numbers:

  • The Bulldogs led the SEC in scoring defense, holding opponents to an average of 65 points per game.
  • MSU was first in the SEC in field goal percentage defense, opponents shot .369 on the year (MSU was second to Tennessee in 3-point FG% defense at .316).
  • The Dawgs were first in the SEC in rebounding offense, 40.9 per game (second in rebounding margin at +5.1).
  • Mississippi State was first in the SEC in shot blocking averaging 8.10 per game (second place LSU averaged 6.5 per game).

So as you can see, with the nation’s leading shot blocker, Jarvis Varnado AKA “Swat” patrolling the paint, Mississippi State is capable of locking down very good teams. Statistics point to the Bulldogs having one of the top 10 defenses in the nation.

Weaknesses
Free throws and turnovers, another tradition of Rick Stansbury teams. This season, Mississippi State is second worst in the SEC at the charity stripe shooting 63.5% (good for 313th in the nation). It’s no surprise that in their nine losses, the Bulldogs have been even worse at the line, making 58.8% of their FT attempts. In fact, we should stop using Mississippi State and free-throws in same sentence all together. Let’s just refer to them as “Line Challenges.”

Freebies: The Bulldogs have accomplished a 12-4 conference record despite their penchant for something else “free” – giving the ball away….turnovers. M-State has averaged 15.5 turnovers per game on the year (99th worst in NCAA DI), good enough for the second worst turnover margin in the SEC, along with the 10th “best” assist/turnover ratio in the conference. Of the 465 turnovers committed by the Bulldogs on the season, the team’s star players, Jamont Gordon and Charles Rhodes, are responsible for close to 40%. Gordon, the team’s starting point guard, came through with 121 turnovers of his own, compared to his 143 assists…..good thing he’s 3rd in the SEC in dimes I suppose. There are 12 NCAA Division I players who have committed more turnovers than Gordon this season.

Prediction
Rick Stansbury, for all the accolades he’s garnered in his 10 year career as head coach at Mississippi State University: 206 wins (most in school history), a .646 winning percentage, 4 NCAA tournament appearances and 4 SEC West titles; Stansbury has yet to lead his team to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. This will be the year that he succeeds. Given that the Bulldogs don’t face some incredible dominating post player or an exceptional 3 point shooting team in the first two rounds (the latter happening has a much higher chance, especially when dealing with a possible mid-major 8, 9 or 10 seed), their chances of willing themselves into the round of 16 are high. Some believe that the Mississippi State Bulldogs even have Final Four potential. Hey, if the two superstars get on a roll, the sky is the limit, or, at least breathing the early April air in San Antonio.

Posted in Bulldog Basketball, mississippi state bulldogs, ncaa basketball, ncaa tournament, sec basketball | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »