*State plays one of those four competitors, Alabama, this Saturday in Tuscaloosa. A day-off at the SEC Tourney is always valuable but in the case of this Bulldog roster will be priceless, not to mention the NCAA implications.
*The Bulldogs lost their AP ranking a week ago and now are not listed in the Coaches poll either, unranked for the first time since November 21. State reached a high of #15 in the writers poll, most recently on January 2.
*Kentucky is of course on top of all polls for another week. The last time State hosted a #1 team in Humphrey Coliseum was Florida in 2007, with the Gators winning by a three-pointer. Rick Stansbury teams are 0-2 against top-ranked opponents, and 22-51 against teams of any ranking.
*Kentucky leads the series 87-20, and has won the last three meetings after State took three-straight in 2007-08. Stansbury is 4-12 against Wildcat teams, though 1-8 when UK is ranked.
*State had its 14-game (five SEC) homecourt winning streak snapped by Georgia.
*These Bulldogs are 1-2 in overtime games. Stansbury teams are now 14-15 in overtimes.
*State's average SEC winning margin is 4.5 points; in the six league losses the margin has been 7.2 points.
*The MSU coach has 291 career wins and ranks 9th on the SEC list needing 297 to tie for 7th place.
*Mississippi State is averaging the second-fewest fouls called in the NCAA, at 13.6 personals per game. Probably not coincidentally, the top four SEC teams also are among this week's NCAA leaders with Kentucky 11th-best, Florida 26th, and Vanderbilt 30th.
The Opponent: While Mississippi State scrambles to secure a first-round bye at the SEC Tournament, there are no such concerns for the Wildcats. They are on the verge of locking up at least a share of the conference championship, and when the NCAAs are seeded this will be one of the #1s. Probably the #1 given how an exceptional team is only getting better over the course of the season. Relying annually on young superstars making a temporary stop-over in college might not appeal to purists, but it's the way of the modern pro-oriented game and nobody does it better than John Calipari, His first two shots with freshman-powered teams came up a bit short but this third time looks nigh unstoppable. Which is a darned good description of Anthony Davis, who in a few weeks will be named national player of the year. He's a 66% shooter, not far off his 70% work at the free throw line, and if not the most physical Kat that's a mere matter of proportion; if teammates weren't so active on the glass Davis would be netting a double-double for the season. Oh, and he's only fouled out once. Back off on conspiracy comments, though, it is more a reflection of both smarts in traffic as well as UK being able to limit him to 31 minutes. Not that it is a deep rotation overall, just seven Wildcats average significant minutes with big body Kyle Wiltjer getting most of the backup frontcourt work. Flanking Davis are 252-pound Terrence Jones and 232-pound Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, with the trio combining for nigh 24 boards-per. If, and this is a huge if, there is any weakness…no, lets' call it any less-strong…area to the squad it is sub-.500 shooting for everyone but Davis. This hasn't hurt much obviously, nor has Kentucky often needed to call on their outside shooting to do more than keep coverage honest. Doron Lamb has thrown in 54 treys, with some-time starter Darius Miller usually subbing in to shoot threefers. And Wiltjer can hit from the arc as well. And should there come an evening when everyone's aim is off, Kentucky will still win by just shutting the opposition down. This is the SEC's top squad in scoring and shooting defense, and has twice as many blocks in league play as the #2 league team. Not that these Wildcats are thinking much any more of conference matters. Their sights are set on the one prize to elude them since 1998 and the confidence is, shall we say, justified?
Projected Starting Lineups (full season stats):
KENTUCKY: F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, FR 6-7 232, 12.0ppg, 7.7rpg; F Terrence Jones, SO 6-9 252, 12.3ppg, 6.7rpg; F/C Anthony Davis, FR 6-10 220, 13.9ppg, 9.7rpg, 131 blocks; G Doran Lamb, SO 6-4 210, 13.8ppg, 3.2rpg, 54 3ptrs; G Marquis Teague, FR 6-2 189, 9.6ppg, 130 asts.
Top Reserves: G Darius Miller, SR 6-8 235, 9.9ppg, 38 3ptrs; F Kyle Wiltjer, FR 6-9 239, 6.0ppg, 2.3rpg.
MISSISSIPPI STATE: F Rodney Hood, FR 6-8 200, 11.1ppg, 5.0rpg, 41 3ptrs; F Arnett Moultrie, JR 6-11 249, 16.5ppg, 10.8rpg, 55%fgs; C Renardo Sidney, JR 6-10 285, 10.4ppg, 5.2rpg, 53%fgs; G Dee Bost, SR 6-2 175, 15.8ppg, 135 asts, 60 3ptrs; G Brian Bryant, SR 6-3 168, 6.7ppg, 4.5rpg, 48 asts.
Top Backups: G Jalen Steele, SO 6-3 195, 7.8ppg, 51 3ptrs; C Wendell Lewis, SO 6-8 253, 4.0ppg, 4.2rpg, 27 blks; G Deville Smith, FR 5-11 165, 5.2ppg, 47 asts.
HOW THEY COMPARE:
Scoring: MSU 72.5, UK 77.8
Scoring Defense: MSU 66.6, UK 58.0
FG Shooting: MSU 46.0%, UK 48.7%
FG Defense: MSU 42.9%, 36.2%
3-Point Shooting: MSU 35.0%, UK 38.1%
3-point Attempts PG: MSU 19.4, UK 15.1
Rebounding: MSU 36.9, UK 39.4%
Rebound Margin: MSU +3.4, UK +7.4
Free Throw Shooting: MSU 69.7%, UK 71.8%
Turnovers: MSU -1.0, UK +0.9
BULLDOG NOTES: *Three Bulldogs still pace the SEC in average minutes, it's just their order that shuffles again. PG Dee Bost is at 36.7 per league game, SF Rodney Hood 36.4, and PF Arnett Moultrie 35.8.
*Tonight's game matches the best SEC-game shooting team against a State squad that ranks 11th in the league scoring defense, 10th in shooting defense.
*Bost is leading in SEC-game assists average with 5.8 per game. *No Bulldog ranks in the top-ten for SEC-game free throw accuracy. Bost comes in 12th this week.
*In a three-game stretch the Bulldogs were sizzling at the arc, 28-of-60. But the last two times out they are 11-of-39, including a 5-of-22 effort at Auburn.
*That was an anomaly too, because up to then State was shooting better on three-pointers in road games than at the Hump. Now the percentages are just about equal at 36.8% in home games, 37.6% away.
*It's not that big a differential either as to the game's outcome. The Bulldogs make 39.6% in SEC wins, 35.2% in league losses.
*Moultrie is the only SEC player now averaging a double-double. He went three games without a D-D but now is back on pace with two straight, albeit in losses. Moultrie has 15 D-Ds for the season out of his 24 games played.
*Moultrie has scored 396points so far at State, giving him 1,046 career markers. And Moultrie has 781 career rebounds including those two seasons at UTEP.
*Moultrie has averaged 21.0 points in State's SEC wins; 11.5 in losses. And while in wins he's shot 59.0%, in losses it is 48.1%.
*There was a point Moultrie was hitting just under 90% of his free throws. He's dropped off that pace at 17-of-29 the last five games.
*Moultrie hasn't had more than three fouls in the last five games, with just one personal at Auburn.
*Bost had found his shooting groove for a couple of weeks, but in the last three games—all losses—he is 7-of-24 at the arc.
*He's still on a tear with the assists though. Since the Arkansas game Bost hasn't had less than four assists in any contest and posted a career-high 13 against Ole Miss two weeks ago. He has pushed the MSU school record out to 585 through 116 games.
*The flip-side is risking lots of turnovers. Bost has nine the last two games and is on a career-pace in this category, too!
*When Bost fouled-out against Auburn in the home, it was his first time to draw five personals since the 2009-10 opener against Rider; a 68-game stretch. In the four games since he has just three total personals.
*Just the fourth Bulldog with 200 career treys, Bost now has made 222. He needs 258 for third place.
*Bost just moved into MSU's career top-ten scorers. He now has 1,546 points to rank #9 and needs a dozen points to catch Jamont Gordon for 8th.
*Bost has started every game played in his four State seasons.
*C Renardo Sidney missed the road game at Auburn with back spasms and remains uncertain for tonight. He hadn't sat out a game since November 25.
*Before then Sidney was shooting 20-of-35 in the previous four games, and scored double-digits in all; his longest such stretch of the season.
*Sidney hasn't gotten over three fouls for his last six games played, and has not fouled-out all SEC season.
*G Jalen Steele was on a three-point tear, having hit 19-of-37 at the arc in a six game stretch. But in the last two contests, on the road, he is 1-of-7. And he went scoreless at LSU.
*He is still 4th-best in SEC-only accuracy, 43.8%.
*In SEC play, Steele has taken 81 shots; 64 of them were trey-tries.
*Steele has one assist all SEC season, and one steal.
*Hood too has camped out at the arc a lot in league play, with 55 of his 105 shots being longballs. He is shooting 31% there.
*A 6-of-11 night at LSU was a good change of shooting pace for Hood, as in the two games before and one since he is just 9-of-30.
*At Auburn, Hood got his first blocked shot since…the home game with Auburn!
*G Brian Bryant has gotten warm though, making 7-of-13 in the last two losses. And he took all those shots inside the arc, where Bryant has made just one trey all SEC season (at Florida).
*After a six-game absence G DeVille Smith has played 6 and 16 minutes the last two times out.