This team has proved not only to itself but to the Bulldog fans there is more to it than what you see on the surface. They also have those intangibles - chemistry, heart, unselfishness - that make a good team a potentially great team.
While there no doubt is excellent talent on this team - outside shooters Timmy Bowers and Winsome Frazier and inside forces Wooden Award candidate Lawrence Roberts and 7-foot center Marcus Campbell - this team is winning because it has a trait all Rick Stansbury teams seem to have: The players know their roles and are willing to play those roles for the good of the team.
Roberts, who should be a future NBA player once he leaves MSU, is doing what was expected of him when he signed with State after leaving Baylor; he is scoring (16.0 ppg) and rebounding (11.3 rpg). Bowers, the team captain, has steadily improved his scoring each year and now leads the team in scoring with 16.1 points per game. Frazier is showing fans what MSU's coaches saw when they recruited him; a player who plays with a lot of energy and who can shoot from the outside. Campbell, a player who Coach Stansbury has always said can be good when he decides he wants to be, is playing 19.1 very productive minutes per game (11.3 ppg and 6.2 rpg).
While those players are the ones that usually end up with most of the minutes, points and rebounds, there are other players on the team who will determine whether it will be a good team or a very good to great team.
Junior Shane Power, a transfer from Iowa State who had to sit out last year, is averaging 7.1 points and 4.7 rebounds per game while playing a little over 25 minutes per game. Very few people realize this but he is the top three-point shooter on the team, percentage-wise (9-of-22, .409). He has become a fan favorite because he always seems to make a clutch play or two each game.
Steady senior forward Branden Vincent always comes to play. Effort, hard work and toughness are the three traits he always brings to the court. Although he leads the team in offensive rebounds with 28 in 9 games, it's his inside defense that sets him apart from so many other inside players. If the other team has a inside player who needs to be shut down on the offensive end, then Vincent becomes his shadow.
True freshman point guard Gary Ervin started the season off slow, but has shown flashes of the player he will be before he leaves MSU. After starting slow offensively (3.1 points per game first 6 games), his offensive game has picked up (6.6 points per game last three games).
Other players who have played in most games include freshmen newcomers Dietric Slater and Piotr Stelmach. Dietric has shown the ability to make crowd-pleasing offensive plays on occasion and is willing to play in-your-face defense. Piotr has shown that he has skills beyond his age. Both should continue to receive spot duty throughout the season.
How does this team's pre-season record compare to past MSU teams?
With a 9-0 record, this team is one of just five teams in MSU history to start a season off with 9 or more consecutive wins. Three of those first four teams either won or shared an SEC league or tournament championship.
The 1957-58 team, coached by the legendary Babe McCarthy, started the season 11-0 and went on to finish the season 20-5. The following season, McCarthy led his team to a 9-0 start, a 24-1 record and the championship of the SEC. In 1961-62, McCarthy led his team to a 10-0 start, another 24-1 record and another SEC Championship, although it was a co-championship. The only other coach to lead an MSU team to more than 9 consecutive wins at the start of the season is none other than current MSU coach Rick Stansbury. Coach Stansbury led his 2001-02 team to a 11-0 start. That team set the MSU record for most wins in a season (27) and won the SEC Tournament Championship. Unless this team absolutely falls apart, big things appear to be in store for Mississippi State basketball.
What is Rick Stansbury record during his 5+ years as MSU's head coach?
With the 9-0 start, he currently stands at 109-60, a 65% winning percentage. When you take into account non-SEC pre-season games only, he is 58-11. His pre-season record his five-plus years as MSU's head coach has, for the most part, progressively gotten better: 10-3, 8-4, 8-2, 13-1, 10-1 and currently 9-0. His regular season SEC record is 39-41 while his SEC Tournament record is 5-3. In NIT play his teams are 2-1 and in NCAA Tournament play his teams are 1-2. His overall post-season record as head coach is 8-6.
While I supported him from the very beginning, little did I know he would become such a great coach in such a short time. The Mississippi State basketball program and its fans are lucky to have him.
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Merry Christmas from the Swindoll family...
This is the 8th Christmas Mary Ann and I have been doing Gene's Page. It's hard to believe that Gene's Page has been around that long but thanks to the support of thousands of wonderful Bulldog fans, it has progressed from being a hobby to a hobby that is also my career. From my heart, I want to thank each one of you for allowing me to do Gene's Page, something that is a labor of love for me.
Have a great Christmas from the Swindoll family: Mary Ann, Gene, Hannah (little dog), Sadie (big dog) and Allie (the cat) Swindoll
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing email@example.com.