*History offers contradictory clues to this rematch. Mississippi State hasn't been swept by Alabama since 2005, but neither have the Dogs had much success the past decade in Tuscaloosa. Their last road win in the rivalry was 2008. And Alabama hasn't lost on their court so far this season.
*The teams split last years games with home-court wins by each.
*And while Alabama owns a 113-72 lead in the series, Rick Stansbury is 15-12 against Tide teams. That includes a 2-0 mark in SEC Tournament play, most notably when the teams met in 2002 for the championship.
*State's last overall SEC Championship, in 2004, was clinched with an overtime victory at Alabama.
*Bulldog guard Dee Bost has scored 76 points in five games against Alabama, a 15.2 average. He's also averaged five assists even in these games.
The Opponent: Some may call it winning ugly, but a grinding, even grating style of success looks awfully fine to Coach Anthony Grant. It's also put his second Crimson Tide team in a surprising position of SEC West strength. This squad has been the best example of how great defense can offset average offense. In SEC games the Tide typically scores just 67 points but they allow barely 57 points. Ditto for shooting, though it's worth noting Alabama's 44.2 league-game accuracy is 4th-best this week. More impressive is the 36.2% allowed, by far best in the conference through January action; and Alabama paces the NCAA this week in field goal defense. Opponents simply struggle seeking open looks against this group, much less making good on any, and with the muscle they post around the rim misses are almost assured of ending up in Alabama hands. And lest any suspect this is a static sort of defense, notice that Alabama leads the league in SEC-game steals by a significant margin. Such prowess on the defensive end and a low-risk, high-efficiency offense has sufficed for a fast, so to speak, SEC start. Yet one must wonder if this will catch up over the longer haul because there'll be nights—Wednesday looking like a very good possibility--where the Tide simply has to put up shots earlier and oftener than they like. Not that JaMychal Green isn't up to such opportunity; he's proven adaptable to staying inside or drifting a few steps out for jumpers. And frontcourt cohort Tony Mitchell has developed into a reliable scoring force as well, averaging five more points this second season than last year. Charvez Davis is the designated gunner with 42 treys. But…he's still netting just nine points-per, and the whole team has made just 16 longballs in six SEC games and shoot only 24% out there. Depth is also a looming issue going into month-two of the league schedule. Not in the backcourt, as Senario Hillman has been a reliable scorer/passer all four varsity seasons and a healthy Andrew Steele will come in handy down the stretch. But should Green and other big guys get in foul trouble, or anyone be injured, things could get ugly indeed for a team that has been the SEC's January success story.
Projected Starting Lineups (full-season stats):
ALABAMA: F Tony Mitchell, SO 6-6, 14.5ppg, 52.1%fgs, 7.6rpg, 22 blks; F JaMychal Green, JR 6-8, 15.8ppg, 53.2%fgs, 7.5rpg, 34 blks; C Chris Hines, SR 6-8, 5.3ppg, 6.8rpg, 35 blks; G Trevor Releford, FR 6-1, 9.5ppg, 3.5rpg, 69 asts; G Charvez Davis, SR 6-3, 9.2ppg, 42 3ptrs.
Top Reserves: G Senario Hillman, SR 6-2, 8.4ppg, 42asts; G Andrew Steele, SO 6-4, 4.3ppg, 2.0rpg; G Ben Eblen, SO 6-0, 1.0ppg, 1.2rpg
MISSISSIPPI STATE: F Kodi Augustus, SR 6-8, 11.7ppg, 8.4rpg, 16 3ptrs; F Renardo Sidney, SO 6-10, 16.1ppg, 6.1rpg; G Dee Bost, JR 6-2, 13.6ppg, 6.5apg; G Ravern Johnson, SR 6-7, 16.8ppg, 48 3ptrs, 3.3rpg; G Riley Benock, SR 6-4, 7.2ppg, 3.8rpg, 32 3ptrs.
Top Backups: C Wendell Lewis, SO 6-8, 3.8ppg, 3.5rpg, 16blks; G Brian Bryant, JR 6-2, 6.7ppg, 4.0rpg, 39asts; G Jalen Steele FR 6-3, 5.5ppg, 14 3ptrs.
HOW THEY COMPARE:
Scoring: MSU 69.3, ALA 67.7
Scoring Defense: MSU 70.2, ALA 56.8
FG Shooting: MSU 42.6%, ALA 45.3%
FG Defense: MSU 41.7%, ALA 36.1%
3-Point Shooting: MSU 33.3%, ALA 30.4%
3-point Attempts PG: MSU 22.6, ALA 14.2
Rebounding: MSU 36.5, ALA 38.8
Rebound Margin: MSU -2.1, ALA +5.5
Free Throw Shooting: MSU 70.6%, ALA 71.8%% Turnovers: MSU 13.2, ALA 14.8
BULLDOG NOTES: The Bulldogs' record is reflected in their shooting. In wins State has shot 45.2%, while they are just 39.1% shooters in losses. It's even more marked a difference at the arc where the Dogs have made 38.4% in wins, just 26.9% in defeats.
*Yet for SEC season so far, State is tied with Florida for the league lead in overall accuracy at 44.8%.
*The Bulldog defense has also improved greatly in the past month, and when foes miss State is best in the SEC at getting to defensive rebounds.
*MSU subs account for only 13.3% of scoring in SEC season. And starters have accounted for all but two three-pointers made in these six league games.
*After setting the SEC shot-blocking pace for three seasons, these Bulldogs have just 21 swats in six games.
*Not that he wouldn't rather have been playing…but delaying his junior action until SEC season has worked out very well for G Dee Bost. The junior is tearing up the league with his 18.3 scoring average, is first in assists at 6.2 (#2 is only 4.4), and is tied for second in steals.
*He now has 970 career points so at the current rate he can become the 33rd member of MSU's 1,000 Club in this week's games with Alabama and LSU.
*Bost has thrown in 15 treys in six games, only one less than Alabama's entire team.
*But he has more than twice as many assists as treys in the same stretch, 37.
*Since going 3-of-9 on free throws his first game back, Bost is 20-of-24 in the last five contests.
*Bost now has 381 career assists and needs 413 for top-five status.
*His 139 career treys put Bost alone in ninth place in MSU history.
*Bost has started all 78 games he's played at State.
*SEC season got off to a rough start for G/F Ravern Johnson, but after getting 14 total points the first two games he's back on the double-digit track his last four contests.
*Still his 13.7-point average for SEC play is well behind the 20.1 he scored in non-conference games.
*And Johnson has yet to regain his old outside shooting form. He's making 26.2% on trey tries in SEC action, compared to 50% even accuracy when he moves closer to the goal.
*He's also tops on the team in free throw accuracy at 79% in league play.
*Only once this season has Johnson played less than 31 minutes, a 26-minute night against North Carolina A&T. He has played 225 out of a possible 240 SEC minutes.
*With 229 career treys Johnson is third on the MSU list, and closing in on the 258 of Daryl Wilson (1994-96) for second place.
*Johnson broke into the 1,000 Point Club on opening night of this season. Since then he's bolted up to 14th on the list with 1,311 points, with former teammate Jarvis Varnado (1,403, 2007-10) coming up next.
*His own career is barely underway, but C/F Renardo Sidney is off to a flying start with 109 points in just eight games.
*In SEC wins, Sidney has shot 20-of-34 from the floor. In the losses he is 8-of-22.
*Regardless of outcome though Sidney is reliable at the line. He is 20-of-26 on SEC free throws.
*But he's limited his own playing time by fouling out three times and notching four personals three more games.
*Sidney has tried just four treys in the last four games and missed them all.
*In his first three State seasons PF Kodi Augustus had a pair of double-doubles. He has seven this senior season.
*Augustus has made himself a force on the SEC boards with a team-best 7.7 average in league play.
*Against Florida, Augustus got his first SEC block of the season.
*Augustus is also having a career-year at the stripe making 79.2% and getting to the foul line more than any other Dog.
*In his first five SEC games he was 1-of-5 at the arc; then he went off against Florida making 3-of-5.
*He's no ‘Swat' but C Wendell Lewis is leading the team in blocks with 22.
*PG Brian Bryant had 14 points against Washington State on December 22, but has scored just 17 total points in the eight games since.