The Mississippi State men's basketball team has now won 10 straight games, which is its best start since the 1961-62 season when Babe McCarthy led that team to a 24-1 record after starting the season 10-0. The best start that an MSU team has ever had was the 1958-59 season when it started off 11-0.
You would think a 10-0 start would generate quite a bit of excitement but for some reason the MSU fans seem to be taking a wait and see attitude about this team. Why, I really don't know.
I guess it could be because of the football season MSU just had or it could be what some consider the soft schedule that the team has played so far.
All I know is this team is fun to watch. Even a sports writer who has covered sports in Mississippi for years has noticed the fun the players seem to be having. He told me he didn't remember a recent MSU team having so much fun on the court as this one seems to be having.
You know, he is probably right. In the past, it seemed like the team would go down the court and make a few passes, none that exciting to be truthful about it, then shoot. It was almost boring. Not this year!
Not since Chuckie Evans was the point guard at State have I seen such precision, and exciting, passing. Sometimes a player will be driving to the basket and before you know it he has made a crowd-pleasing, behind-the-back pass which is turned into a layup by one of his teammates. It almost seems now that the players are trying to on-up each other with their passes.
MSU coach Rick Stansbury has mentioned the skill level of this team. He considers passing a significant basketball skill. This team definitely has stepped it up a notch as far as the passing skill level is concerned.
A player who has really stepped forward this year is junior point guard Derrick Zimmerman. Derrick has always had tremendous athletic ability but finding a place on the floor that fit his special talent was seemingly difficult to do. His shooting ability is ok but not what you want in a two-guard in the SEC. He is too small to play small forward or wing guard. That left point guard, a position he seemed to not be interested in playing.
The problem for Derrick was not the fact that he didn't have the talent required to play the position. His problem was first accepting the fact that his role would have to be the point guard. He was THE scorer in high school, the guy point guards tried to get the ball to so that he could score. Obviously, this season Derrick has accepted that role. In fact, he has even thrived in the role. He is currently leading the SEC in assists per game (7.5) and is one of the top five in the nation. Plus, an added benefit to having Derrick on the court is his ability to completely shut down an opponent with his smothering defense. I can't remember how many times Derrick has talked with pride about his ability to play defense.
Give Coach Stansbury credit for being extremely patient with Derrick and knowing the right buttons to push to get the best out of this supremely gifted athlete.
Another thing about this team that I have noticed is the chemistry it has. Coach Stansbury has talked about it as have the players. Team chemistry doesn't just happen. These players, and coaches, have worked hard to develop the chemistry that you are seeing out on the court. The players stayed in school during most of the summer working out and playing basketball together. Even the newcomers came in as soon as they could during the summer to work out with the veterans. The chemistry is obviously showing in the play of this team. Think about this, have you heard anyone that sits near you at a game say something like 'that player is a ball-hog'? I can't remember hearing a single person say that during a single game this year.
I'll tell you something else about this team, no I should say about these players; they are good kids who work well with the media. I have the privilege of being able to talk to them on a one-on-one basis during post-game press conferences. They are always very patient with the media and come out when requested. And almost all of them are very good at handling the media and are well-spoken.
One that is truly gifted talking to the media is Derrick Zimmerman. Next time you have the chance to hear him talk to a media person, just listen to him. Derrick, a management major, should be majoring in communications because he sure has excellent communication skills. Another one that is coming on strong with his ability to talk to the media is Mario Austin. He has improved that skill as much as he has improved his play on the basketball court.
Well enough with the opinions.
Here are some facts you might like to know about this team. These stats are through Saturday and are SEC rankings only.
Mississippi State is in the top third in 8 of 12 categories.
Mississippi State commitments Jerious Norwood and Darren Williams have been selected to The Sporting News' top 25 national players' list. The other Mississippian included on this list was Hernando HS's Deljuan Robinson.
Jerious Norwood was also selected as The Clarion-Ledger's Player of the Year.
Several MSU commitments made The Clarion-Ledger's All-State team.
The early signing date is this Wednesday. As of now, it looks like MSU may sign two players, Will Prosser and, possibly, Georgia Military College's offensive lineman Manuel Dickson. Will, who will be a wide receiver, is a former Starkville Academy standout who was a part-time student at MSU this fall.
Some of you have continued to use the old Gene's Page web address (http://www.genespage.com) as the address you use to access my new site. I set it up so that it would redirect you to the new site. Due to a server problem the past few days you were not able to access my new site from my old. It is now back up and running once again but I would suggest you put my new address in as your Gene's Page favorite just in case I should have the same problem in the future. The old site address is http://www.genespage.com. The new Gene's Page address is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. I highly recommend that you set up the latter as Gene's Page in your browser's favorites.
UPCOMING CALENDAR EVENTS On tap on the Gene's Page calendar this week is the beginning of the early football signing period on Wednesday and MSU basketball games on Thursday (men's and women's), Friday (men's and women's) and Saturday (men's). Gene's Page Calendar link....
Well, that wraps up this week's edition of the Monday Morning Bulldog Coffee Break.
Have a great Bulldog week.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.