For the first time since the 1961-62 season, Mississippi State's men's basketball team is 13-1 to start off the season. Think about that: It has been 40 years since a Mississippi State basketball team won 13 of its first 14 games to start off a season.
You can say things like it is only because the teams were patsies or whatever you may want to say but the fact is this team has only lost one out of their first 14 games. Not even the Sweet 16 and Final Four teams can say that and they played so-called patsies as well. Give credit where credit is due.
When you look back at history, it always seems like every Mississippi State team found a way to lose to at least one team that they shouldn't have, one of those so-called patsies. Even the Final Four team did. Now, I'm not comparing this team to that team of course. What I am saying is this team is doing what it takes to win. They haven't stubbed their toe so to speak. I guess you could even say that they are making the routine plays. You continue doing that, and you will be successful. And, maybe, along the way, this team will make a few of those big plays as well.
Coming up this weekend is Kentucky, one of those possible big plays. Kentucky, ranked 6th prior to today's ranking, is a tall challenge for this young and, to an extent, inexperienced, team. I say young and inexperienced, because the leaders -- the guys who are stepping up -- on this Mississippi State team are two sophomores (Bowers and Austin), a junior starting his first full season as the starting point guard (Zimmerman), and a junior college transfer (Ignerski) who is playing his first season in D-I ball. You add in an ever-improving freshman center (Campbell) and you have the makings of a steadily improving team that could turn out to be a very good team by season's end.
However, Mississippi State isn't near the end of the season; they are at the beginning of the SEC season and they face a team that has defeated the likes of Indiana and Louisville with very little trouble. And they gave Duke all they wanted before losing a nail-biter by three points.
Will this Mississippi State be ready to face that challenge?
Mississippi State has faced an excellent team previously in Cincinnati and, basically, got man-handled by one man, two-guard Steve Logan. Kentucky has a guard, Keith Bogans, who could do the same thing if Mississippi State is not prepared for him. However, I look for Mississippi State to put Derrick Zimmerman on him and neutralize him.
However, the wild card is the 6-9 Tayshaun Prince, a potential player of the year candidate. Mississippi State has no one who can guard him. About all they will be able to do is guard him as best as they can and try and shut down the rest of the team.
To counter the strength of Prince, Mississippi State will have to use its quickness and athleticism. And use one other strength that they will have: The homecourt advantage.
That is where the fans come in, and I hope they come in in record numbers. Each one of you needs to attend this game. And you need to be there early and be loud early. The Hump, when the crowd is loud, is deafening and can be a factor in a game.
I've already asked if this team will be ready for the challenge, now, I ask you, are you ready for the challenge?
Be there, folks. Accept the challenge.
The Mississippi State basketball team started off the year with a 187 RRI rating. They have slowly seen it creep down to 123, 74, 63, 47, 44, 34, and now to the present 23. I say present, but the RPI rating seems to change as often as the hour hand on a clock. And just think, what a team's RPI rating is seems to have become the main factor in choosing teams for the NCAA tournament. What a pity, letting a math formula decide who will and who won't have the opportunity to play in March Madness.
Anyway, since so many of us -- and so many coaches as well -- watch the RPI like hawks, I thought I would go ahead and play the game and compare the rest of the SEC to Mississippi State's RPI. I'll post each team's national rankings in parentheses to the right of their RPI ranking.
Now, if the NCAA does as it has in the past and takes six SEC teams, that means Kentucky, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, MSU and USC go to the Dance, while the rest of the SEC plays in the NIT or sits home wondering how to figure out how to shoot that mathematician who came up with the RPI formula.
The dead period is just about over and recruiting is about to start picking up again. MSU will have between 7 and 12 players in for the weekend of January 4-6. Considering that at least 4 or 5 of the players will be from Memphis, I guess you could say it is Memphis weekend in Starkville that weekend. Don't forget that MSU plays Kentucky that weekend. It would be great to see a packed Humphrey Coliseum that game.
The big weekend -- if numbers mean big -- occurs the following weekend when MSU has between 20 and 25 players in for an official visit. What kind of quality does MSU have coming in that weekend? If you just talk about Mississippi only, included in that number will be 5 to 6 of The Clarion-Ledger's Dandy Dozen players (Williams, Norwood, Burch, Topps, Robinson and, possibly, Nelson). Plus, of those visiting, three of them (Norwood, Williams and Robinson) were selected to The Sporting News' top 25 players in the nation list and are considered the top players in Mississippi by most recruiting publications. What the heck, if we signed all the players that come in that weekend, we would probably have one of the top 15 recruiting classes in the nation with just those players.
A lot of you seem to be having trouble when you first attempt to post a message on my message board. The first thing you have to do is set up an account. The second thing you need to do is attempt to post. The third thing you have to do is click on the APPLY FOR MEMBERSHIP button. When you do that, your username is automatically sent to my database where I then approve it. You are then sent an automated email that lets you know your username has been validated and that you are able to post on my message board. I set my message board up that way so that I would have final approval of all usernames.
UPCOMING CALENDAR EVENTS
Just thought you guys would like to know that Mary Ann has added more MSU sports schedules as well as the NCAA basketball tournament information to the Gene's Page calendar. She'll be adding more MSU schedules and the women's NCAA basketball tournament information this week. Don't hesitate emailing her if you have an event you would like to see added. Also, email her your recruiting party information so that she can post them. We purchased the calendar for your use, so please don't hesitate using it. Mary Ann's email address is email@example.com.
Well, that wraps up this week's edition of the Monday Morning Bulldog Coffee Break.
Have a great Bulldog week and a great New Year!
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.