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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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Big Surprise: NBA Hopeful Receives Bad Advice

Posted by Kyle Weidie on May 28, 2008

I wasn’t exactly sure how to convey the sarcasm intended by the first two words in this post’s title. I could’ve gone with the oft-used quotes, but I’m inexperienced in using them within titles, usually opting to place abundantly within the body of text. The resolution? This cumbersome paragraph.

Back to the matter at hand……How many years will this story rehash itself? Perpetually I suppose. No matter how many barriers to entry David Stern instills to safeguard basketball talents from being horse-blinded by dollar signs, similar mistakes are doomed to historically repeat themselves on an annual basis.

The 2008 NBA draft is no exception as there is not one, but two “eyebrow-raisers” (in this case, the quotes serve their natural intention), and one of them is Mississippi State’s Jamont Gordon.

Draft Express, in their Day 1 NBA Pre-Draft coverage, has denoted Jamont Gordon, along with Kyle Weaver (a G/F out of Washington State) as their “eyebrow-raisers” for pulling out of the NBA pre-draft camp in Orlando. I can’t speak for Kyle Weaver, but if you know Gordon’s game like I do, his move is a lot more brow furrowing and head shaking than eyebrow raising and head scratching. The big difference between the two seems to be that Weaver, being a senior, cannot return to school, while Gordon has one year of eligibility left at Mississippi State. However, signs point to Bulldog head coach Rick Stansbury already moving past the Jamont Gordon era.

This is a follow-up to yesterday’s Bulldog Maroon & White post about Jamont Gordon pulling out of the NBA pre-draft camp, where I speculated that the reasoning behind the decision was either an injury, or that Gordon received a “promise” from a team (in the second round I assumed).

Not so fast……Gordon spoke to the Clarion-Ledger’s Kyle Veazey late Tuesday and the word on Jamont’s street is that his stock has been rising, so much that he might be considered a late first-rounder. Wow, such acceleration without even formally working out in front of NBA scouts. As it’s been reported, Gordon has been training in Houston, Texas with John Lucas II. Now, the name Jerry Meyer has surfaced as being tied to Jamont’s NBA interests.

From Kyle Veazey’s blog entry:

Jerry Meyer, who described himself as Gordon’s trainer and is also a Rivals.com scout, said there was little to gain in the trip.

“He’s been down in Houston working out with coach John Lucas, been doing extremely well, playing well against some guys projected ahead of him,” Meyer said. “The feeling was, really, going to Orlando could only hurt him and we feel confident he’s a first-round pick.”

Meyer said about 10 teams have contacted Gordon about setting up workouts.

Gordon said Tuesday he didn’t know what the chances of a return to MSU might be, but Meyer offered a more stark prediction.

“He’s almost 100 percent set on staying in the draft,” Meyer said.

Talk about an eyebrow raiser which begs a lot of questions.

1. Who exactly is this Jerry Meyer cat?
Well, we know that Jerry is the son of Don Meyer, the current head basketball coach at Northern State University in South Dakota. Don Meyer is also the former coach of Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN. Not only did Jerry play basketball at David Lipscomb High School, but he also attended the University to play for his father in 89-90. Jerry Meyer broke Lipscomb and NCAA assist records, but ended his college basketball career playing his senior season at the University of Minnesota, Duluth (D2). During his time at Lipscomb, Jerry was once named an NAIA All-American (Lipscomb U has since become an NCAA DI school).

Don and Jerry Meyer also penned a book together in 1999, Basketball Skills and Drills, which was edited by former Chicago Bulls GM, Jerry Krause. Jerry Meyer is, as mentioned by Veazy, a national recruiting analyst/scout for Rivals.com (which was acquired by Yahoo in June ’07). Meyer’s input and expert opinion is constantly sought out by national and local media outlets.

2. Ok, so Meyer sounds more than credible, but who exactly has Jamont Gordon been boosting his rankings against in Houston?
Wouldn’t you like to know? Well, the world wide web gives us some hints.
This article from CSTV tells us that Gary Forbes of UMass and DJ Augustin of Texas have been working out with Lucas II, along with NBAers Sean Williams, T.J. Ford, Cuttino Mobley, and Jeremy Richardson.

3. That sounds fine, but wait…..Jerry Meyer’s job is to be an unbiased scout of pro-prospects, but he proclaimed himself as Jamont Gordon’s trainer…..isn’t that a conflict of interests?
Hmmm….that’s an interesting question. It seems like a gray area…..but what’s not a gray area in the money game of amateur pro basketball?

On one hand, Jerry Meyer has seen Jamont Gordon up close and personal for however long they’ve been working together….while most pro scouts probably only have Gordon’s performances at Mississippi State as their basis for assessment.

On the other hand, those in the know, such as the aforementioned Draft Express and Gary Parrish of CBS Sportsline, including an NBA assistant with whom Gary recently spoke about Jamont Gordon, seem to be under the impression that Gordon has been the recipient of bad advice.

You make the call. My considerations are that Jerry Meyer is probably not training Jamont Gordon pro bono. Maybe he’s not getting paid, as footballer Randy Moss would say, ‘straight cash homey,’ but I bet Meyer is getting something out of it…..if not exposure to prospects for his Rivals.com reports.

I will also consider the implication, by Meyer himself, that he is actually training Jamont Gordon. It would seemingly behove Jerry Meyer that a certain buzz about Gordon sneaking into the first round would be generated. Perhaps one way or the other, Meyer’s reputation as a trainer, or a scout, may be affected. And that’s where my perception of conflicting interests comes into play……you can’t necessarily be the former while being unbiased as the latter.

Either way, the fact that Gordon may be receiving bad advice is not necessarily a knock on his skills. Rather, it’s a numbers game. There are too many other prospects vying to get into the first round, not to mention those who are already virtual locks to be selected among the first 30 picks. Which all makes Gordon’s move to pull out of the NBA pre-draft camp even more curious. If Gordon and his handlers are truly confident in his skills and rising stock, then they would want to prove it to the world by matching up against more than what’s in Houston…..as opposed to creating negative speculation among NBA draft insiders. Stay tuned.

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