Bulldog Scouting Report – Feb. 25

The Game: Mississippi State (19-9, 6-7 SEC) is in an almost do-or-die situation as the Bulldogs travel to Alabama (18-9, 7-6 SEC) for an unexpectedly crucial matchup. Tipoff in Coleman Coliseum is 5:00 for ESPN telecast, with XM/Sirius channels 200 and 219 carrying the broadcast.

*Four straight losses leave the Bulldogs in perilous league status. Mississippi State has gone from a game out of second place to seventh behind a trio of 7-6 squads, Alabama being one. All have three games ahead, and Tennessee plays at LSU to end their seasons. So the Bulldogs can still jump back among the top four finishers and earn a first-round SEC Tournament bye by sweeping the remaining contests.

*This is Mississippi State's longest losing streak, SEC or overall, since 2006 when those Dogs dropped seven-straight games.

*The losing streak dropped State out of the rankings, where they resided for twelve straight weeks. State reached a high of #15 in the writers poll, most recently on January 2.

*After winning 14-straight home games the Bulldogs have lost their last two, to Georgia and Kentucky.

*State will probably play short-handed again. SF Rodney Hood suffered a bone bruise to a knee in the first half Tuesday night and is likely out for this game. A week ago C Renardo Sidney sat out the Auburn game with back spasms.

*Rick Stansbury is 16-13 against Alabama, including a 56-52 win in January at home. Alabama had swept the 2011 series and won four of the last five meetings. Alabama holds a 114-73 edge all-time. State last won in Tuscaloosa in 2008.

*The MSU coach has 291 career wins and ranks 9th on the SEC list needing 297 to tie for 7th place.

*The Bulldogs rank 11th in the SEC this week in both scoring and shooting defense, where Alabama is 2nd in both.

The Opponent: Not that he'd have planned it this way. And no question the dubious state of most SEC basketball is a contributing factor. But by golly one has to tip the cap to Anthony Grant for what he's dealt with during a tumultuous season. Whether a roster that changes weekly depending on who is suspended now, or a lack of consistent firepower, here's Alabama still holding post-season hopes. They've beaten Tennessee and won at Arkansas despite A) dismissing Tony Mitchell for good now, and B) sitting JaMychal Green for seven total games to date. That's 27 average points-per lost, and yet the Tide is playing maybe their best ball. It also makes for interesting Saturday speculation about whether this is the date senior big forward Green and his 14 points and 7 rebounds are allowed back on the court. Winning without him, or Mitchell, reflects the remarkable versatility of Tide guards. Not to mention gutsy; a backcourt that practically couldn't buy a three-point bucket for weeks (UA was the 2nd-worst team in the nation in trey shooting at one point) suddenly is sticking open looks. OK, nothing like a Florida or Vanderbilt, but still impressive progress allowing Grant to start four guards and survive. He won't have the biggest numbers for the year but Trevor Releford ought to make some All-SEC team with his work under pressure, with 27 points the last two games and the same outstanding defense played all year to lead the league in steals. Andrew Steele is getting in the act again with 10 and 15 points his last two outings, too. Scouting Alabama is made tougher because lately somebody else has come up unexpectedly big, such as Trevor Lacey's 18 against Tennessee or Rodney Cooper at Arkansas with 17 points. And in the last three games UA's bench has out-scored opposing subs at a 3-to-1 rate. Just because it's a guard-sized lineup though, doesn't mean Grant wants to go away from the goal. The balance of the points still come in the paint no matter what sized foes are lurking there, while at the other end this team plays seriously aggressive defense (38% shooting, 28% at arc) and crashes the glass. And while 7-0 Moussa Gueye starts he plays at most half a game as Alabama shuttles in young forward Nick Jacobs or tall guard Rodney Cooper, or for that matter just more fresh and fast legs onto the court regularly. So imagine what can happen if Green is activated? Or for that matter what if he and Mitchell hadn't gone south mid-season?

Projected Starting Lineups (full season stats):

ALABAMA: G Levi Randolph, FR 6-5 185, 5.9ppg, 4.0rpg; G Andrew Steele, JR 6-4 230, 7.2ppg, 3.6rpg, 2.8apg; C Moussa Gueye, SO 7-0 280, 2.0ppg, 2.0rpg; g Trevor Releford, SO 6-0 190, 12.3ppg, 2.9apg, 59 stls; G Trevor Lacey, FR 6-3 200, 7.1ppg, 3.1rpg, 24 3ptrs.

Top Reserves: F JaMychal Green, SR 6-8 240, 14.1ppg, 7.2rpg, 55%fgs; G Rodney Cooper, FR 6-6 205, 5.5ppg, 24 3ptrs; F Nick Jacobs, FR 6-8 250, 6.0ppg, 3.7rpg.

MISSISSIPPI STATE: F Arnett Moultrie, JR 6-11 249, 16.4ppg, 10.8rpg, 55%fgs; C Renardo Sidney, JR 6-10 285, 10.1ppg, 5.0rpg, 52%fgs; G Dee Bost, SR 6-2 175, 16.0ppg, 142 asts, 63 3ptrs; G Brian Bryant, SR 6-3 168, 6.6ppg, 4.6rpg, 50 asts; G Jalen Steele, SO 6-3 195, 8.0ppg, 54 3ptrs.

Top Backups: C Wendell Lewis, SO 6-8 253, 3.9ppg, 4.1rpg, 28 blks; G Deville Smith, FR 5-11 165, 4.9ppg, 47 asts.

HOW THEY COMPARE:

Scoring: MSU 72.2, ALA 65.9%

Scoring Defense: MSU 66.8, ALA 58.4%

FG Shooting: MSU 45.8%, ALA 45.5%

FG Defense: MSU 43.0%, ALA 38.4%

3-Point Shooting: MSU 36.3%, ALA 28.0%

3-point Attempts PG: MSU 19.5, ALA 14.7

Rebounding: MSU 36.8, ALA 35.4

Rebound Margin: MSU +3.1, ALA +2.3

Free Throw Shooting: MSU 69.8%, ALA 70.5%

Turnovers: MSU -1.1, ALA +0.9

BULLDOG NOTES: *Three Bulldogs were pacing the SEC in minutes played per game (all games), until SF Rodney Hood missed the whole second half against Kentucky with his injury and dropped to 4th. So now it is just PG Dee Bost (35.3) and PF Arnett Moultrie (34.7) who are 1-2 in the league ironman standings.

*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 7.1 points.

*Bost now ranks 8th on the all-time scoring list with 1,567 career points. He already leads in all-time assists with 592.

*Moultrie is the only SEC player averaging a double-double on the season. He now has 16 out of 25 games played, and three-straight.


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