Bulldog Basketball Scouting Report

Mississippi State opens the 2004-05 season on the road, and in a tournament setting, as the Bulldogs participate in the Coaches Vs. Cancer Classic. The defending Southeastern Conference champions take on Fairfield University of the Metro Atlantic Athletic league in the Birmingham, Ala., Jefferson Civic Center at a scheduled 8:00 tipoff. There is no telecast of the game, which can be heard over the MSU basketball radio network.

  • The Bulldogs are officially the ‘home' school in this four-team regional, though local program Birmingham-Southern College is playing Alabama A&M in the 6:00 game. NCAA policy prevented this ‘pre-sited' event from being hosted in the state of Mississippi. The regional winner will join the winner of similar tournaments at Memphis, California, and Syracuse in New York City's Madison Square Garden on November 18-19 for the semifinals and consolation/championship rounds.

  • State carries a #12 preseason ranking (Associated Press) into this regional, the only team in Birmingham with a ranking. Last year's team was ranked as high as #4 during the season, though it did not begin the year in either top-25 poll. The 2002-03 team did debut ranked #12 also, and was upset at home in their season-opener by Louisiana-Lafayette. Only two other MSU teams have gone into a year ranked: the 1962-63 squad was #6, and the 1995-96 team #9.

  • The Bulldogs not only are away from home, but short-handed for the first week of the season. Senior PF Lawrence Roberts has been suspended for the first game of 2004-05 by the NCAA for having his expenses paid at a May NBA tryout. He is cleared after the first game, but will miss that one—and possibly others—after surgery to repair a nose broken in practice Nov. 4. Roberts is the premier player not just for State but in the regional and likely entire tournament, a first-team All-American and defending SEC Player of the Year.

  • Also, senior starting center Marcus Campbell goes into tonight's game with a pulled hamstring suffered this week in practice. His status is not certain. Junior Wesley Morgan would likely start if Campbell is not able to open, with freshman Walter Sharpe in the rotation.

  • For the CvsC and other exempt tournaments, some experimental rules are being used. The three-point line is 20-6 instead of the usual 19-9, and there will be an ‘arc' under the basket where defenders cannot draw a charge. Fairfield played under these rules last year in the Rainbow Classic.

    About Fairfield

    As much as Mississippi State appreciates this opportunity to open a season in a national tournament, Coach Rick Stansbury clearly would prefer an easier team to tip-off against. Fairfield might not be a big name in SEC country but basketball experts know how good the Stags are. Coach Tim O'Toole's team is coming off a 19-11 season and third-place finish in the MAAC, yet the 2003-04 squad could have done so much more if not for loss of two key players at mid-season. Now those leaders are back along with an experienced, successful roster, and Fairfield is predicted to finish second to Manhatten in this year's MAAC chase. They may well be better than that, with three players named preseason All-MAAC (Gai, Todd, Maxwell).

    Probable Starting Lineups (2003-04 stats)

    Fairfield: G Tyquawn Goode, 5-5 SR, 5.6 ppg, 3.3 assists, 32 3pts; G Terrence Todd, 6-0 JR, 14.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 31 3pts; C Deng Gai, 6-9 SR, 13.3 ppg, 8.6 rpg; F Michael Bell, 6-4 JR, 8.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg; F Dewitt Maxwell, 6-5 JR, 10.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg.

    FU Backups: G Kudjo Sogadzi, 6-2 SR, 6.4 ppg; G Mike an Schaick, 6-2 SO, 2.5 ppg; F Marty O'Sullivan, 6-7 SO, 2.3 ppg.

    Mississippi State: G Gary Ervin, 5-11 SO, 5.4 ppg, 2.5 apg; G Winsome Frazier, 6-4 SR, 13.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 62 3pts; C Marcus Campbell, 7-0 SR, 6.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg; F Shane Power, 6-5 SR, 9.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 38 3pts; F Piotr Stellmach, 6-9 SO, 0.9 ppg, 1.1 rpg.

    MSU Backups: F Ontario Harper, 6-4 SR, 7.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg (2002-03); C Wesley Morgan, 7-2 JR, 2.1 ppg, 1.6 rpg; F Michael Boler, 6-5 SO, 0.3 ppg, 1.0 rpg; C Walter Sharpe, 6-9 FR; F Charles Rhodes, 6-8 FR.

    The Coaches

    Rick Stansbury (Campbellsville, Ky., College 1982) is starting his seventh season as head coach at Mississippi State. He has a 126-64 record at MSU, with one overall SEC championship, two Western Division titles, one SEC Tournament championship, and three NCAA tournament berths. He already ranks third in career victories at MSU, both overall and SEC (53-43).

    Tim O'Toole (Fairfield, 1986) is starting a seventh season at his alma mater, after stints as an aide at Fordham, Army, Iona, Syracuse, Duke, and Seton Hall. He is 88-86 both at Fairfield and as a head coach.

    The Series

    The teams have never met. State is 4-0 against Alabama A&M, the last meeting in 2002; and 7-0 against Birmingham-Southern with the last game in 1992. BSC is coached by Duane Reboul, a former MSU aide to Richard Williams. The Stags have never beaten a SEC team.

    Bulldog Notes

  • The last time Mississippi State opened a season in any sort of tournament play was 2000-01 when the Bulldogs played at California in the first round of the Preseason NIT.

  • State's last regular-season tournament title came in 2000-01 when Stansbury's Bulldogs beat Louisiana-Lafayette and Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl Classic. The last tourney title of any sort for State was a year later as the Bulldogs won the 2002 SEC Tournament in Atlanta.

  • This is an ‘exempt' tournament in that no matter how many games State plays the entire event counts as just one game on the schedule.

    The Outlook

    The last time the Bulldogs played on this particular court, it was another four-team tournament at the other end of a season. March, 2003 to be exact, and favored State went down hard to Butler. And we all recall last March's loss to Xavier in the 2004 NCAAs. The lesson: whether pre- or post-season, in tournament play anybody in Division I can beat anyone, even ranked teams from ‘power' conferences. And especially teams that are missing star players. If this opening-week lineup gets by the Stags, as well as the second-round opponent, they've won something worthwhile indeed and will be that much more confident when Roberts—and Edmondson—are able to rejoin them. They'll also have earned a trip to New York to play in the spotlight again.

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