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Posts Tagged ‘jarvis varnado’

Going Back On My Words: The Bonnies Are Not A Cream-Puff

Posted by Kyle Weidie on November 26, 2008

Before last night’s game against St. Bonaventure, I wrote this:

“….the Mississippi State Bulldogs will head to Olean, NY for another cream-puff game against St. Bonaventure on Tuesday before facing the big boys (Washington State on Friday the 28th and possibly Pittsburgh on Saturday the 29th) in the Legends Classic in Newark…”

Well, let’s just say that some on the Bonnies Bandwagon message board did not take too kindly to those remarks. Admittedly, I did a minimal amount of research on St. Bonaventure before the season, and posted the blurb below about them in an analysis of the MSU basketball schedule.

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.

After Mississippi State squeaked out a 76-71 win on Tuesday night, St. Bonaventure certainly proved that they are no pushover. Some Bulldog fans may still feel that the score was too close, nor will many admire the Jack Bauer the Dawgs dropped in the turnover department, that’d be 24, but there are some positives to be taken from the game:

  • Winning in a hostile environment – No, it’s not exactly like going on the road in the SEC, but 5,111 fans packed into the 5,780 capacity Reilly Center can feel just as hostile and just as loud as a much larger crowd, if not more because of the closeness of the environment.
  • Pulling through, even after failing the seal the deal the first time – At the 9:31 mark, Jarvis Varnado got a dunk, And 1, to put the Dawgs up 63-48. Over the next 3+ minutes, the Bonnies would go on an 13-4 run, assisted by three Dee Bost turnovers, who was playing with a sprained ankle that occurred in the 1st half, to put the score at 67-61 Bulldogs with 6:12 left. The Bonnies would continue to claw their way back, tying the game at 71 with 1:52 left. For the rest of the game, the Bulldogs would not allow St. Bonaventure to score. One can be justifiably disappointed that the Bulldogs could not put the Bonnies away, but be happy that this young team came through when it mattered most.
  • Ravern Johnson, rising star – Johnson was second on the team in scoring with 18 points and also pulled down seven rebounds. But Johnson is a rising star because in the final 22 seconds, he grabbed an offensive rebound, hit a big 2-pointer, snatched a defensive rebound, and sealed the game by making two free-throws with one second on the clock…..ice water may be in the kid’s veins.
  • Jarvis Varnado can score – Big players provide big stat lines, and they don’t come much bigger than 19 points, 12 rebounds, and 6 blocks from Varnado.
  • Arrival of Twany Beckham – Here’s what Rick Stansbury said about Beckham via the Inside Miss. State Sports blog: “We were very fortunate that Twany came and rescued us. He played with a lot of poise, played with a lot of toughness, played a lot more minutes that he was ready to play.”

Up Next:

The Bulldogs will play Washington State on Friday at 5:30 pm eastern time in the Legends Classic. Unfortunately, right now it looks like Dee Bost is “very questionable” to play in the game. Beckham stepped up when Bost hurt his ankle the other night, hope he is ready for round two.

Game Stories:

Other Links:

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

Better Bulldog Shot-Blocker: Jarvis Varnado or Erick Dampier? A Statistical Analysis

Posted by Kyle Weidie on November 25, 2008


At face value, the answer is simple. Having surpassed Erick Dampier’s all-time Mississippi State record of 249 career blocked shots this past Saturday, Jarvis Varnado is clearly more prolific at sending the ball back from where it came. Even more amazing is that Varnado needed 20 less games than Dampier to amass his current career total of 255 blocks.

But totals are one thing, is Jarvis Varnado a better shot blocker than Erick Dampier? The stats point to yes.

Per game statistics don’t tell the whole story as they don’t always indicate how a player performs with the minutes he is given. Dampier averaged 2.7 blocks per game for his career. So far, Varnado is swatting 3.5 per game.

Part of the deeper tale is how many blocks a player is getting in his minutes on the court. For his career, Dampier averaged 28.4 minutes per game. So far, Varnado is clocking in at 21.1 per. To even the playing field, let’s compare how many blocks each player swatted per 25 minutes on the court in each of their first three years.

Full Raw Data Spreadsheet

As you can see, while Dampier remained a consistent shot blocker throughout his three-year career (a 2.36 blocks per 25 minutes average), Varnado is improving his rate. Of course, the 08-09 sample is small as Varnado has only played four games against inferior competition. However, Jarvis’ rate increased 14.5% between his freshman and sophomore years, while Dampier’s went down 4.6%.

What percentage of opponent shots are blocked?

If the opponent is shooting more shots, then there are more opportunities for blocks. Part of assessing the shot blocking prowess of Dampier and Varnado is looking at what percentage of opponent field-goal attempts end up being blocked by those individual players. However, it’s hard to directly compare because Varnado only averaged 13.5 minutes per game his freshman year while Dampier averaged 23.4 minutes per game in his first season at Mississippi State.

I don’t have a way of measuring exactly how many shots were taken while Varnado and Dampier were on the court. I’m sure those in-depth statistics are kept by someone, but they are not available to me. So, for each respective season, I’ll adjust total opponent field goal attempts to match the ratio of each player’s average minutes to the full 40 minutes of a college basketball game. It’s an imperfect statistic, but it better compares the percentage of opponent attempts blocked when the players are averaging different amounts of minutes per game.

If you want to better understand, you can check the full data here. Similar to blocks per 25 minutes, Dampier’s numbers remain relatively flat throughout his career. I won’t necessarily discuss this current year for Varnado since, as mentioned, the sample size is so small. Dampier blocked about 6% of opponent shot attempts adjusted to his time on the court (6.13% career average). Varnado, in contrast, has sent back more than one out of every 10 opponent field-goal attempts adjusted for his time on the court (10.67% career average).

Block, but don’t foul.

Blocking shots is an art. A player must have discipline and cannot go after every shot that comes his way or he’ll be spending time on the bench, unavailable to help his team. So, an obvious comparison would be to look at how many shots a player blocks against how many fouls he is committing.

Raw Spreadsheet Data

Both players have similar blocks-per-foul ratios for their first seasons (Dampier – 0.79, Varnado – 0.91). However, in year two, when both players averaged similar minutes per game (Dampier 28.4, Varnado – 28.5), and when both players committed 99 fouls on the season, Varnado swatted 79 more shots than Big Damp.

SEC Record Book

Last year, Jarvis Varnado tied Shaquille O’Neal for most blocks by an SEC player in a season with 157, albeit O’Neal accomplished that number in four less games.

SEC Record Book [PDF]

Currently, with 255, Varnado ranks 9th on the SEC’s list for most career blocks:

  1. Shaquille O’Neal, LSU (90-92) – 412
  2. Kyle Davis, Auburn (01-04) – 360
  3. Lavon Mercer, Georgia (77-80) – 327
  4. Steven Hill, Arkansas (05-08) – 318
  5. Robert Horry, Alabama (89-92) – 285
  6. Dwayne Schintzius, Florida (86-90) – 272
  7. Jamaal Magloire, Kentucky (97-00) – 268
  8. Roy Rogers, Alabama (93-96) – 266

Will Varnado finish his career as the SEC’s all-time leader in shots blocked? Undoubtedly. For one, I simply cannot see Varnado jumping to the NBA after this season. If he were three inches taller, maybe. But the kid is still skinny and his offensive game has a long way to go. Of course, that’s not to say he can’t be in the league as a hustling, defending big who runs the floor like a gazelle, yet with not much offensive game to speak of. However, NBA players have the strength and know-how to avoid getting their shot blocked, so Varnado would be much better prepared for the next level with four full years of college seasoning.

If Varnado repeats his sophomore block amount of 157 in each of these next two seasons (which would total 538 career blocks), he’d not only shatter the SEC career record, but would also break the NCAA Division I career shots blocked record. (The list: Wojciech Mydra, Louisiana Monroe: 1998-2002 – 535; Adonal Foyle, Colgate: 1994-97 – 492; Tim Duncan, Wake Forest: 1993-97 – 481; Alonzo Mourning, Georgetown: 1988-92 – 453; Ken Johnson, Ohio State: 1997-2001 – 444).

With 19.7% of last year’s total through only four games, Varnado is well on his way to breaking more records. No, he won’t continue to face the North Alabamas and Fairleigh Dickinsons of the world, but I imagine that Varnado’s minutes, currently 24.5 per game (down 4 minutes from last year), will increase as the competition increases.

Either way, don’t blink Mississippi State fans, you may be watching the best shot blocker in college basketball history, much less Mississippi State school history.

Other Notes:

Varnado was also named the SEC player of the week, here are the media coverage links:

Posted in Bulldog Basketball, erick dampier, jarvis varnado, mississippi state bulldogs, ncaa basketball, sec basketball | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

MSU Bulldogs Head to Brick City After Undefeated Start Against Unimpressive Competition

Posted by Kyle Weidie on November 24, 2008

Miss. State v. Fairleigh Dickenson

Opening Tip: Miss. State v. Fairleigh Dickenson

Actually, the Mississippi State Bulldogs will head to Olean, NY for another cream-puff game against St. Bonaventure on Tuesday before facing the big boys (Washington State on Friday the 28th and possibly Pittsburgh on Saturday the 29th) in the Legends Classic in Newark, New Jersey aka “Brick City.”

But on Saturday, after witnessing the MSU footballers squeak out a win versus Arkansas, I had the privilege of catching the MSU basketballers live after a short walk from Davis-Wade to The Hump.

I’d heard the stories about the ball movement of Rick Stansbury’s team having vastly improved from the days of the domineering Jamont Gordon Point Guard Experience. Now, I can attest that those theories are true. Sure, the ultimate differentiator between Mississippi State and Fairleigh Dickinson was athleticism, but this version of the Bulldogs can rest assured that the future looks bright with PG Dee Bost at the helm and a company of soldiers willing to go to war.

Game Observations:

  • Dee Bost is the selfless pass first point guard, who also has the threat of a jumper, that the Bulldogs have craved for years. His 27 assists to 13 turnovers on the year is most impressive.
  • Elgin Bailey is a big dude. He’s seemingly turned old baby fat into brute strength.
  • Kodi Augustus has significantly improved since his freshman year to the point where he is a key factor in the team’s future success….plus, he’s stepping up nicely in the abscence of Brian Johnson, out with an ankle injury.
  • Ravern Johnson is a great scorer, but he should to avoid the habit of prowling around the 3-point line. To truly help the team, Johnson needs to develop a mid-range game. Getting into the paint for buckets will open up the offense for the entire team. On the other hand, his stroke is so pretty, I can’t blame him for wanting to fire long-range bombs.
  • Romero Osby has diverse, raw talent. He should become a multi-faceted threat on both ends of the floor.
  • The perimeter defense is stiffling, but it’s the presence of Jarvis “Swat” Varnado that allows the Bulldogs backcourt to get up into opposing guards.
  • Both Elgin Bailey and Kodi Augustus fouled out. Avoiding cheap fouls may be the hardest aspect to learn in playing aggressive defense.
  • Rebounding Fundamentals: The Bulldogs were out-rebounded 50-45 by the FDU Knights. When the level of competition increases, the dependence on athleticism in rebounding must be trumped by proper blocking-out technique.
  • Silly Moment: Out of a timeout, with the Bulldogs set to full-court press the Knights, Romero Osby and Jacquiese Holcombe got into a slight shoving match argument about who would be covering the baseline out of bounds passer for Fairleigh Dickinson. They kissed and made up on a dead ball down the court.

Game Story Links:

Fairleigh Dickinson Trivia:

Other Web Quotables:

“As much as I miss Charles Rhodes and Jamont Gordon, when they were here, they were our team. It was Charles and Jamont and three other people. However, this team is five guys working together.”
[Nails In The Road]

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

MSU Bulldog Basketball Recruiting Bad News: Tiny Gallon Boomer Sooner

Posted by Kyle Weidie on November 20, 2008

About three weeks ago, I wondered if Mississippi State basketball coach Rick Stansbury had a chance at the 21st rated prospect in the nation (3rd among centers), Keith “Tiny” Gallon. For a while, the Bulldogs seemed to be high on Gallon’s final list of schools with Stansbury supposedly having the inside track on signing the kid to suit up in Maroon & White. However, rumors circulating within the past couple of months indicated that Coach Stans was losing out on a prized recruit. Today, those rumors were confirmed.

The Oklahoman reported that yesterday, Gallon officially became an Oklahoma Sooner. There are a variety of reasons as to why the Bulldogs lost out: Gallon’s high school teammate has already signed with the Sooners, current sooner big man, Blake Griffin, will probably be departing for the NBA after this season, and the Bulldogs, aside from Brian Johnson, should have three big men returning next season with significant roles, Jarvis Varnado, Elgin Bailey and Romero Osby. But none of that matters now. Mississippi State has lost out on recruits before, and the Bulldogs have caused other schools to lose out on recruits in turn. All the program can do is move on.

But there is good news……

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

MSU Bulldogs Hold Strong in Opening Exhibition Basketball Game

Posted by Kyle Weidie on November 2, 2008

TCOB….“Taking Care of Business”….that’s what the Mississippi State Bulldogs did in their opening exhibition match against the DII Montevallo Falcons. In 2007, the Falcons were champions of the Gulf South Conference, and made it to the DII Elite Eight. On Saturday, the Bulldogs held the Falcons to 32.4% shooting en route to an 88-59 win.

Didn’t see the game, but here’s what I learned from the boxscore:

  • The Bulldog offense started out slow shooting 36.1% in the first half, and ideally, you’d like MSU to put up more than 88 points against a DII opponent……but all that’s okay. With a mix of fresh faces, and a new PG trying to get acclimated to running the offense, the development won’t be instant gratification.
  • Speaking of that point guard, Dee Bost couldn’t find the range from outside, going 1-5 from deep, but I’d much rather see that 7 assists to only 3 turnovers in his stat line. Bost played a team high 32 minutes.
  • Ravern Johnson led the Dawgs in scoring with 19, and took the most shots, 14 attempts, making 8. It’s looking more and more like he will be the safe bet to be Mississippi State’s leading scorer this year.
  • Barry Stewart filled up the stat sheet in good ways (10 points, 4 assists, 5 rebounds, a block and a steal), and bad (3 turnovers, 4 fouls). I believe that if Barry Stewart accepts the role of Robin to Ravern Johnson’s Batman, the two will form one of the more dangerous scoring duos in the SEC. I hope to see Stewart hitting a lot of spot up jumpers created by Bost and Johnson.
  • Jarvis Varnado had a very strong game — 17 points (7-9 shooting), 12 boards, 8 blocks, 4 assists, 1 turnover — those last two categories being the most remarkable.
  • Perhaps freshman big man, Romero Osby, was just as impressive with a double-double (10 points, 11 rebounds) in only 13 minutes on the court.

News Quotables:

[MSU rolls past Montevallo for hoops win – NE Mississippi Daily Journal]

Stansbury was especially pleased with his team’s unselfish play. The Bulldogs had assists on 23 of their 32 field goals. “I think the thing that was most pleasing to me was, we shared that basketball,” he said. “I thought that basketball flowed through a lot of people.”

[Rick Stansbury Post Game Quotes MStateAthletics.com]

  • “[Jarvis Varnado] is special in his ability to pass out of the paint. If people double team him it is okay to throw it in there. It is not like a black hole, once it goes in it does not go out.”
    In other words, Varnado is not like Robert Jackson….or Mario Austin….or Lawrence Roberts….or Charles Rhodes. Nothing against those guys, but a big man more willing to pass is refreshing.
  • “Number one [Romero Osby] plays hard and he is very active. He goes after the boards every time a shot goes up.”
  • In reference to Dee Bost: “If I were a player I would be smiling, because all you have to do is run if you want to score. I should never as a coach, tell you to sprint, because if you want that basketball all you got to do is run hard.”
  • “I like our ability to share the basketball and the chemistry we are working with. Brian Johnson did a good job establishing his presence tonight as well.”

For other thoughts, check out the comment section on this post at bullybasketball.blogspot.

Next up: Exhibition #2 against Oklahoma City in Starkville on Saturday, November 8th.

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

Gearing Up For Basketball: The Mississippi State Bulldogs

Posted by Kyle Weidie on October 24, 2008

Media days have come and gone. The Mississippi State Bulldogs are entrenched in preparations for a scrimmage this Saturday, and the first preseason game on Saturday, November 1st. There has been a lot of media coverage surrounding the Bulldogs, especially Jarvis Varnado. Below are the best excepts……the added commentary comes at no charge.

—————————

Mark Gottfried’s eyes widened a bit when asked about Mississippi State’s Jarvis Varnado becoming an offensive threat this season………Varnado said he can hit a jump shot as far out as 15 feet.
[“Bulldogs’ Varnado broadens his game,” NE Mississippi Daily Journal – Brad Locke]

Still…..teams are going to give Varnado space, he needs to be ready to take advantage from the get-go.

“[Jarvis Varnado] leads by example for the most part with his effort every day,” [Rick] Stansbury said. “He’s not a guy we have to prod very often to get him to play hard. We just have to get him to play hard for more minutes…..He’s a good person and a good kid. Those kind of people you don’t have to worry about much. You don’t have to go to that whip very often with Jarvis.”
[“Varnado wants to be bigger offensive threat,” The Commercial Dispatch – Danny P. Smith]

Uhhh….coach? I know you consider the kids you coach horses….but I still don’t think you wanna talk about whipping black kids in the South….I’m just saying.

Varnado still seems to have that shot-swatting body – he’s still thin as a rail, maybe having gained five pounds in the off-season…..On the 20-minute flight to Birmingham on Wednesday from Starkville’s Bryan Field, he couldn’t even finish a sandwich from Arby’s……”I can eat two of them,” Stansbury said. “He can’t even eat one of them.”
[“A defensive threat, Varnado goes to work on his offensive game,” Clarion-Ledger – Kyle Veazey]

Wait, is Arby’s good for you? No matter…..just reading about Arby’s had my mouth salivating like Pavlov’s dog at the sound of a bell.

“I think the real strength is my creativity,” [Barry Stewart] he said. “You have to find a way to get your shot sometimes. If a (defensive) guy is playing me tight, I might use the big guys as a pick or to run plays off of. You also have to move without the ball.”
[“Stewart, Bulldogs shoot for SEC crown,” The Mississippi Press – Tommy Hicks]

Boy….if Stewart can become a Reggie Miller/Richard Hamilton type (on the college level), then this Mississippi State team can be scary….then again, Rick Stansbury coached teams have been offensively challenged in the past, and the Bulldogs haven’t had a knock-em-down shooter worthy of constantly running ball screens for in a long time.

“I love Dee Bost,” Stansbury said. “He’s got a chance to be as good as we’ve had and that’s a big statement. There’s not many holes in his game right now except he’s a freshman and he’s about 163 pounds. Besides that, he possesses everything that I want a guy to have right now. He’s got a toughness about him. He can defend that ball. He can score it. He’s a terrific passer. But he can defend that basketball, and I love that about him. He’s just young and new.”
[“SEC basketball: Blame the economy for sluggish ticket sales,” Memphis Commercial Appeal – Marlon Morgan]

Hey, I already like this kid better than Gary Ervin.


Suggested Reading:

Zebra Talk – Inside Mississippi State Sports with Brad Locke

Talk about getting grown….the college three point line has been extended a full foot.

“Donovan center of discussion over SEC’s best coach,” Orlando Sentinel – Jeremy Fowler

Posted in Bulldog Basketball, mississippi state bulldogs, ncaa basketball, sec basketball, SEC Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Mississippi State Basketball Picked to Finish 4th in SEC West; Jarvis Varnado Named 2nd Team All-SEC

Posted by Kyle Weidie on October 20, 2008

A panel of SEC and national media members was recently comprised to vote on preseason first and second All-SEC teams, and the predicted order of each division, along with an overall conference champion.

When Mississippi State’s votes were added up, the Bulldogs were predicted to finish fourth in the West Division, after Alabama, LSU, and Ole Miss respectively. With 91 overall poll votes, MSU is essentially picked to be the 7th best team in the conference, having received the most votes among teams which did not receive any first place votes within their division.

Bulldog big man, Jarvis Varnado, was selected to the preseason All-SEC 2nd team. For the full press release, visit secsports.com.

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

3:45 PM Madness! The Mississippi State Bulldogs Commence Basketball Practice

Posted by Kyle Weidie on October 19, 2008

At 3:45 pm last Friday afternoon, the Mississippi State Bulldogs began a quest for another basketball championship. And so coach Rick Stansbury puts a decade at the helm of the program behind him and begins a new one with his 11th year. For the utmost time, Stansbury is selling his team as young and inexperienced. As the Clarion-Ledger’s Kyle Veazey implies, Stansbury’s media quotes are….manufactured, if you will……and the factory seemingly went out of business awhile ago (damn economy), so Rick is forced to blow the dust of the same ol’ quote handbook year after year.

Can you blame him? There’s a term for the same song and dance, it’s called “coach-speak” and it’s a standard around the country from college to the pros. Coaches aren’t necessarily straight-shooting mavericks, they’re teachers of the game (and let’s be honest, businessmen). But in any case, I’m looking forward to the basketball season and I’m anxious to see just how this young Bulldog team, and the coaching of Rick Stansbury, develops.

Recently, there have been several great articles from media outlets covering the onset of practice, such as from The Commercial Dispatch, the NE Mississippi Daily Journal, College Hoops Net, and Inside Mississippi State Sports (Daily Journal Blog).  Here’s a summation of what I’ve learned from those articles:

  • Stansbury essentially claims the team to be an unknown entity to him….however, that doesn’t mean he’s not aware of the individual strengths and weaknesses observed from the NCAA sanctioned individual workouts, which have been going on almost since the start of school.
  • Stansbury knew well enough to ride the talent of Jamont Gordon like butter on warm bread…..put the ball in the guy’s hands and get out of his way. Sure, many times this laissez-faire method worked to the detriment of the team, but would the Bulldogs have won an SEC West Championship without Gordon? I doubt it.
  • However, Coach is not exactly shedding tears over the early departure of Jamont, and looks forward to working with two new point guards, Dee Bost and Twany Beckham, who are more towards the pure end of the spectrum, yet whose games are different enough to give Stansbury diverse options.
  • Speaking of Beckham, he claims himself to be a leader….I like that.
  • But Barry Stewart is expected to be the leader of the team…..I’m not sure how vocal Stewart is, but in terms of his on-court presence, hopefully he leads by example.
  • Brian Johnson, and his new-found leg strength, could be the pleasant surprise that the rest of the SEC isn’t ready for.
  • The man-child who will garner the most attention is obviously Jarvis Varnado….but one of those “unknowns” Stansbury was speaking about would surely be Varnado’s offensive game. Jarvis had a very active summer, from going up against the likes of Chris Paul and LeBron James, to unveiling some offensive skills at the renowned Adidas Nations camp. So, there’s no reason to think that Varnado’s scoring abilty hasn’t improved by leaps and bounds, and thus, Stansbury will be able to feed him the ball with confidence.

Posted in Bulldog Basketball, mississippi state bulldogs, ncaa basketball, rick stansbury, sec basketball, SEC Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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.

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Jarvis Varnado Ranked 5th Best SEC NBA Prospect By Draft Express

Posted by Kyle Weidie on September 16, 2008

The popular NBA draft website, Draft Express, has been ranking the top NBA prospects from various NCAA conferences. The top five basketball players the Southeastern Conference has to offer was released on September 15th.

Mississippi State center, junior-to-be Jarvis Varnado, was ranked 5th behind Vanderbilt center, Andrew Ogilvy, Kentucky Forward, Patrick Patterson, Tennessee forward, Tyler Smith, and Florida guard, Nick Calathes.

I suggest you go read the well-researched full profile on Varnado, but a couple excerpts which stood out to me are below.

At 6’9” he [Jarvis Varnado] is maybe a tad undersized for a post player, but what really hinders him is his tremendously narrow frame. The reports last season were that Varnado has bulked up to 210 pounds, but from what we were able to see from him at the Adidas Nations event in Dallas last month, he still needs to put on a good 20 pounds before he can consistently hold his ground on the block. His narrow shoulders don’t appear as though they support the type of natural filling out that he needs to go through.

At this point, unless he makes huge strides this season, Varnado is likely going to need to be a four-year prospect. This season will be a good test for him, as he now must become more of a factor in the Bulldog’s offense. While there have been hints of a developing mid-range jumper, he must first become a more effective low post scorer, and adding weight would be a step in the right direction for him. Showing more hustle as a perimeter defender too would only add to his growing reputation as a stopper on the other end of the floor.

Posted in bulldogs in nba, mississippi state bulldogs, nba draft, ncaa basketball, sec basketball, SEC Sports | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

MSU Bulldog Basketball Ranked #96 in the Country, or #36

Posted by Kyle Weidie on August 21, 2008

Well, the former ranking in the title of this post is according to collegehoopsnet, where they are previewing the top 144 NCAA basketball teams in the nation at the rate of one per day in descending order. More on the latter ranking, later.

Yesterday, the preview for the Mississippi State Bulldogs basketball team came out, ranking them 96th in the nation and 9th in the SEC. The author, Joel Welser, has a well educated breakdown of the Bulldogs. However, as you can tell by his ranking, Welser doesn’t think MSU will do much in the upcoming season. I can’t blame his assessment.

With the departures of Jamont Gordon and Charles Rhodes, leaving the “playing” squad with one senior (a transfer from Louisville who first played for MSU last year), three juniors (one of whom is a Juco transfer), five sophomores (one redshirted his first year), and three freshmen (two attended prep school), Coach Rick Stansbury will spend a lot of time blindly sticking his arm into a mixed bag of tricks during the 08-09 season.

Nothing could better illustrate that Bulldog fans will not know what to expect from their basketball team than the fact that, in contrast to collegehoopsnet, ESPN’s Dick Vitale has ranked Mississippi State #36 in his preseason top 40. Dickie V claims that the Dawgs would be in the top 20 if Gordon had stayed in school.

There’s no doubt that the Bulldogs will be guard/wing heavy and will not be able to survive a significant injury to the nation’s leading shot blocker, Jarvis Varnado, lone senior Brian Johnson, sophomore big Elgin Bailey, or even 6’8″ freshman Romero Osby. Which begs the question, with Charles Rhodes being a senior this past season, and thus, his departure was impending, why is the Bulldog front court set up to be so thin? I suppose the 6’8″, 220 pound Kobi Augustus could play some at the four spot. However, no Bulldog is taller than 6’9″.

There will be plenty of time in the future for preseason analysis and breakdowns, but I just wanted to get down some quick thoughts on how the returning leading scorer for the Bulldogs needs to improve.

Barry Stewart
Personally, I think MSU will be in trouble if Stewart has to play a lot of point, a possibility mentioned in the collegehoopsnet breakdown. But when the other main options are Dee Bost, a freshman, and Riley Bennock, a soph who I’m not sure has the moxie to be an SEC PG (hopefully he proves me wrong), I’m not sure Stansbury will always have much of a choice.

The Bulldogs need Stewart to be a Timmy Bowers type shooter……who did actually backup Derrick Zimmerman at the point at times during his tenure, and started at PG during his 03-04 senior year, when he was supplanted by Gary Ervin off the bench.

Between his freshman and sophomore years, Stewart’s minutes increased by 47.5% to 35.7 per game. He took 12 more 3-pointers, but made six less, dropping his 3P% by 5.8 points to 33.3%. Sure as a frosh, Stewart mostly had to worry about coming off the bench and hovering around the perimeter….evidenced by the fact that 59.6% of his points came from treys in year one versus 47.5% in year two. But why did his sophomore year seem to fall short of expectations? Many theorists would pin blame on the point guard skills of Jamont Gordon. I’ll only say that as great of a player he was, Gordon was not the ideal PG, rather one with whom Stansbury made due.

In terms of Stewart, I’m not as concerned that turnovers per game increased from 0.8 to 2.3, because not only did his minutes go up as mentioned, but he shared a greater responsibility in ball-handling duties as well, resulting from the absence of the Delk twins.

The greatest hope is for Barry to get back the shooting touch which built so many expectations after his All-SEC Freshman 06-07 Bulldog debut. If Stewart can extend defenses, look for opposing zones to become befuddled and those such as Ravern Johnson to have a field day. Hopefully, Barry will be able to improve the consistency of his shooting stroke while rehabilitating the broken ankle which occurred during a pick-up game earlier in the summer.

Posted in mississippi state bulldogs, ncaa basketball, sec basketball, SEC Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Jarvis Varnado Denies Chris Paul and LeBron James

Posted by Kyle Weidie on July 10, 2008

A lot of people love to knock the NBA, college basketball die-hards included. The league is full of selfish, money hungry players who individualize a game where you only need to watch the final two minutes, which take forever by the way…..or so goes the stereotype. This blog entry could go on a diatribe against such a gross misconception, but it won’t. I’ll just tell a story about two of the best players in the world heading down to the local rec center to play pick-up because they love the game.

Recently, a buzz filtered throughout the University of Akron campus….LeBron James, the self-proclaimed ‘King of Ohio’ was playing pick-up at the recreation center. Oh yea, 07-08 NBA MVP runner-up Chris Paul was there too, playing alongside LeBron. But King James and CP3 weren’t playing against your run-of-the-mill scrubs, they were matched against some of the best college basketball players in the nation who were in town for the LeBron James Skills Academy. How the NBA duo fare? Four wins and three losses. Huh? I know, I just did a double-take and heard a record scratch to a halt as well. LeBron James and Chris Paul lost?

Upon reading this story via CBSSportsline.com, I figured that LeBron was just going through the motions, much akin to the way Michael Jordan casually beats and berates the old men (35 and over) who pay $17,500 to attend his Senior Flight School. Two caveats, Jordan didn’t lose those games, and LeBron was actually playing with a competitive spirit. Quoting Gary Parrish’s article on CBSSportsline: “Proof of this came during one of the last games, when James wasn’t just attacking the rim but also complaining to an official about getting fouled on his way. James looked just as intense in this pick-up game as he does during the NBA playoff games and was visibly disgusted every time he lost.”

Previously, I wrote a blurb in a Bulldog Maroon & White blog post about Mississippi State’s Jarvis Varnado participating in Amare Stoudamire’s Big Man Skills Camp, part of a network of Nike academies focused on bringing fundamentals back to the American game. Well, it appears as if Varnado AKA “Swat” made the trip to Ohio to further hone his game at LeBron’s specialized academy. A Bulldog fan could not be more encouraged by this revelation.

Even better is that fact that Varnado’s squad, featuring Patrick Beverley (6’1″ G – Arkansas), Patrick Christopher (6’5″ G – California), Jonny Flynn (6’0″ G – Syracuse) and Terrence Williams (6’6″ F – Louisville), gave Team James-Paul the most difficulty, winning two and losing two. From the account, Terrance Williams spent the day guarding LeBron, even blocking his shot once, but we all know that Swat was holding down the painted area for his team.

Bulldog fans are well aware that Jarvis Varnado has a great attitude. Now he is getting, by far, more prolific summertime experience than any other Mississippi State basketball player in history. I’m expecting big things from this young man in the future, and in turn, for the MSU Bulldog basketball program as well.

Posted in arkansas razorbacks, jarvis varnado, mississippi state bulldogs, nba, sec basketball | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »