*But since MSU has already lost twice to Alabama, while the Razorbacks own a home win over the Division leader, this is practically a must-win for the Bulldogs in terms of potential tie-breaks. The rematch is March 2 in Fayetteville.
*The Bulldogs have good reason for home-court confidence, with a ten-year winning streak in Starkville. State has also won 13 of the last 18 meetings overall. Arkansas still has a 27-22 margin all-time.
*Rick Stansbury is 13-13 against Arkansas.
The Opponent: Hmmm, what to make of John Pelphrey's third Razorback squad… Starting with the obvious progress, Arkansas already has as many victories as the previous two entire winters produced. As noted they're the only SEC squad to mar Alabama's record; while whipping Vanderbilt on the road raised respect as well. And they reach February with a legit shot at a first round SEC tourney pass. So far so good. Yet recent tough losses, at home, to Georgia and Ole Miss remind there is still something shaky about the situation. Perhaps it is as simple as the state of Marshawn Powell's grace at the moment, and how hot—or not—Rotnei Clark is. When both are on upticks this attack is as well-balanced as any in the West. Soph forward Powell is a pre-season All-Conference pick after a 14.9 point debut year and, essentially, the whole inside offense for this team. That is, when both healthy after foot and ankle issues; and on the same page with his coach which hasn't always been the case. Perhaps Pelphrey can compare notes with his MSU counterpart on such internal issues. Despite not starting against Ole Miss, Powell dominated after entry and is the team scoring leader for SEC season at 14.6, yet only averaging 21 minutes since he runs, errr, afoul of officials often as well. Junior gunner Clarke's SEC stature is a bit outsized, so to speak, based more on a few really big nights than long-term consistency. He's only getting 12.0 points in SEC play, specifically, yet as 59 longballs in nine games show he's also always capable of going off against somebody. It hasn't been State of late as Clarke shot 3-of-16 in two meetings last season. His outside efforts stand out more in the context of his team, too; only Alabama has made fewer treys in SEC action, but then the Tide plays defense well enough to offset it. Arkansas isn't a bad defensive team by 2011 standards but their major weakness is getting to misses as the poorest rebounding club in the league. Albeit, right behind the Bulldogs. Senior Delvon Johnson anchors the interior with 3.1 SEC blocks-per and does hit the boards harder than most. Iowa transfer Jeff Peterson is listed to start in the backcourt but State expects to see playmaker Julysses Nobles, a Jackson native, on the court soon enough to shoot and dish. His challenge also is avoiding fouls, with 59 personals to date. Wednesday might not be a mathematical must-win for Arkansas given they get a home shot at State later on. Realistically? After some painful setbacks, looking at who else is left to face in SEC play, and with the locals increasingly restless, coach and club alike badly need this one to show serious progress.
Projected Starting Lineups (full-season stats):
ARKANSAS: F Michael Sanchez, JR 6-8, 3.6ppg, 2.2rpg; F Delvon Johnson, SR 6-9, 10.0ppg, 7.5rpg. 3.5blks; G Marcus Britt, SR 6-3, 4.1ppg, 1.8rpg; G Jeff Peterson, JR 6-0, 6.5ppg, 2.4apg; G Rotnei Clark, JR 6-0, 13.2ppg, 3.1rpg.
Top Reserves: F Marshawn Powell, SO 6-7, 10.9ppg, 4.3rpg; G Julysses Nobles, SO 6-1, 9.0ppg, 3.3apg, 18 3ptrs; G Madracus Wade, FR 6-2, 4.1ppg, 1.1rpg.
MISSISSIPPI STATE: F Kodi Augustus, SR 6-8, 12.0ppg, 7.5rpg, 20 3ptrs; F Renardo Sidney, SO 6-10, 13.6ppg, 6.6rpg; G Dee Bost, JR 6-2, 17.1ppg, 6.0apg; G Riley Benock, SR 6-4, 7.1ppg, 3.7rpg, 42 3ptrs; G Jalen Steele, FR 6-3, 5.1ppg, 17 3ptrs.
Top Backups: C Wendell Lewis, SO 6-8, 3.5ppg, 3.7rpg, 22blks; G Brian Bryant, JR 6-2, 5.4ppg, 3.4rpg, 1.8asts.
HOW THEY COMPARE (SEC only stats):
Scoring: MSU 67.4, ARK 65.4
Scoring Defense: MSU 71.0, ARK 68.1
FG Shooting: MSU 43.5%, ARK 43.0%
FG Defense: MSU 41.8%, ARK 42.5%
3-Point Shooting: MSU 32.2%, ARK 27.8%
3-point Attempts PG: MSU 21.8, ARK 12.8
Rebounding: MSU 34.6, ARK 31.3
Rebound Margin: MSU -5.4, ARK -7.3
Free Throw Shooting: MSU 69.9%, ARK 69.4%
Turnovers: MSU 13.6, ARK 13.5
BULLDOG NOTES: Mississippi State's SEC fortunes have swung with the shooting. In their four wins the Bulldogs have shot 47.1% overall and 37.0% at the arc. In the four losses the accuracy is just 40.2% and 28.0%.
*Bulldog backups account for only 13.4% of the team's scoring in SEC season. And starters have made all but four of the three-point buckets notched in eight league games.
*Fans might not believe it, but State is 10th-best in the NCAA for fewest fouls assessed. Really
*And in the last four games the Dogs have shot 76% on free throws.
*In SEC action State has not had more steals than the opposition even once.
*G Dee Bost is definitely playing up to pre-season All-SEC forecasts, having led State in scoring five of eight conference games. For that matter a 17-point, 6-assist average halfway through league play ought to put the junior in all-American consideration.
*Bost played 36 minutes at LSU on a painful Achilles tendon but is expected to make his 81st consecutive start Wednesday.
*And tomorrow night Bost ought to become the 33rd member of the MSU 1,000-Point Club. He has 997 points after 80 career games.
*Arkansas has played a part in his career, as Bost has averaged 17.5 points in four games with Razorback squads.
*Bost has accounted for one-third of State's treys in SEC play.
*But not at the cost of distributing, since Bost has 46 assists against 19 threes in the same span. Bost now has 390 career assists and needs 413 for top-five status.
*His 143 career treys put Bost in ninth place in MSU history, needing 160 for the next rung on the ladder.
*He also is closing in on top-ten in steals with 116, needing 127 to make the list.
*Bost has not fouled-out of a game since the 2009-10 season opener, 43 games ago.
*G/F Ravern Johnson was suspended for the LSU game, officially for critical comments posted on social networking sites. Now he remains under "indefinite" suspension for both missing two practices last week as well as missed classes. "Indefinite" is not specified to mean not playing, though.
*Of course maybe he needs the rest, having only once this season played less than 31 minutes. Johnson was on court for 265 of the possible 280 minutes in his SEC games.
*Before suspension Johnson had a five-game streak of double-digit scoring. Still his 13.1-point average for SEC play is well behind the 20.1 he scored in non-conference games.
*And Johnson is still seeking the old outside shooting touch, making just 26.1% on trey tries in SEC action. But when he moves closer to the goal Johnson is a 49% marksman.
*With 230 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 1,321 points, with former teammate Jarvis Varnado (1,403, 2007-10) coming up next.
*C/F Renardo Sidney has scored double-digits the last three games, and eight of his ten games so far.
*He posted his first college double-double Saturday with 16 points, 11 rebounds at LSU.
*He has averaged 17.8 points in State's conference wins; only 8.5 in losses.
*In SEC wins, Sidney has shot 27-of-50 from the floor. In the losses he is 13-of-31.
*Regardless of outcome though Sidney is reliable at the line. He is 23-of-31 on SEC free throws.
*Sidney put in 31 minutes in Saturday's win, his longest stint since 36 minutes at Ole Miss.
*Here's an odd one: Sidney averages 21.5 minutes in home SEC games, 29.5 minutes on the road!
*Sidney has tried just five treys in the last five games and missed them all.
*G Riley Benock was 4-of-16 at the arc the previous four games, but he blew up LSU by hitting 4-of-5.
*His 42 treys this season are double the most longballs of any previous season (21 as a sophomore).
*He also posted a SEC-season best four assists in the win at Baton Rouge.
*Benock has not been to the foul line in a calendar month.
*F Kodi Augustus has taken eight shots each of the last four games, and hit half of them.
*He has a four-game string of scoring double-digits going now.
*Augustus is also having a career year at the foul line, making 80.6% of attempts.
*The four points scored at LSU was the most by G Brian Bryant since December.
*G Jalen Steele earned his first college start Saturday at LSU.