First of all, apologies to anyone out there who has been a reader of this blog and has wondered why there has been no posting in over a month. I’m obviously not dead and I’m definitely not abandoning Bulldog Maroon & White. Busy turned into procrastination turned into neglect. But I still love Mississippi State basketball and that passion will keep me writing about the program in whatever capacity I can manage. So, with a nice win for the Bulldogs today, one that I got to watch with my father, there couldn’t be a better time to pick things back up.
So admittedly, with the lack of posting, I’ve only kept up with the Bulldog basketball team in passing recently…..something I hope to change in the ’09.
Losses to Washington State and Texas Tech were understandable, a loss to Charlotte at home was unacceptable, a loss to Cincinnati was embarrassing, and an overtime loss at home to San Diego was a disgrace. But overall, even with a weak schedule, Bulldog fans should not be all that surprised at the current 9-5 record, but should be allowed to be disappointed.
What’s done is done, we all knew we had a young team coming into the season; Stansbury sold us this fact like a desperate Willy Loman. But from here on out, it’s all about how this team grows together, and the framework for potential is evident.
As I understand it, this new four guard lineup has expanded scoring opportunities for Jarvis Varnado, but has left me a skeptic as to how the Bulldogs will fare with the gimmick come SEC time.
For one, many times it forces all five Bulldogs on the court to go for defensive rebounds, and understandably so…..allowing the opponent second chances can be a game killer. However, with all that quickness on the court, MSU cannot get out and run as much with everyone hitting the glass. Trouble with four guards and rebounding was especially evident in the first half against Houston. The game plan of Tom Penders was obviously to have his Cougars to be aggressive on the offensive boards, and it worked. Houston killed Mississippi State to the tune of 16-6 in the first half alone.
However, with Houston missing so many shots, there will clearly be more chances for them to secure offensive rebounds. By my count, the Cougars went 4-24 from the field in the last 10 minutes of the first half.
But in the second half, the Bulldogs did a much better job at securing defensive boards, as Houston continued to be ice cold from the field. Long rebounds allowed the Bulldog guards to run. In the process, the played relatively under control, shared the ball, and did a great job at getting the ball into the post within the first look of the offensive set.
Sharing is caring and 18 assists on 30 Bulldog field goals meant a day of Bulldog domination and reconciliation from a loss to the San Diego Toreros.
Before all is said and done, Romero Osby will be considered the best player on the court for the Bulldogs (if this isn’t already the case). He can obviously step out and hit the three, but rarely neglects to mix it up in the paint. He rebounds, he takes charges, and he’s down to run (definitely more than Jarvis Varnado). Obsy could stand to work on his left hand a bit, but when conference play begins, he will surely make the case for Rick Stansbury to shy away from the 4-guard lineup as Osby is the perfect PF.
Living & Dying by the Three
Overall, this may be the best outside shooting team that Rick Stansbury has had in his tenure as head honcho…..perhaps more of a reason to set up shop and do some livin’ from long distance. However, for consistent winning efforts in the future, that living needs to be worked from the inside out and not the opposite.
In the first half, the Dawgs did a lot of gunning, and luckily, they were on, hitting 7 of 17 threes attempted (41.2%). The pace slowed down in the second half as the Dawgs only went 4-8 from deep. In addition to Osby, Elgin Bailey and Brian Johnson both did a great job of taking up space down low. Let’s hope they keep on their painter’s cap and maintain the tough work under the rim.