*State is now ranked 11th by Associated Press, and 15th in the ESPN/Coaches poll. The AP ranking is the highest so far this season, after MSU was rated 12th in both the preseason and opening-week polls. At that time the Dogs were ranked 14th in the coaches list.
About the Volunteers
A veteran team; proven stars and talented newcomers; a fourth-year head coach…there's every reason for Tennessee to expect a strong 2004-05 season and a return to NCAA play.Yet one week into SEC play the Volunteers again are confounding fans and foes alike and scuffling to stay above break-even. The Vols won their league opener by outlasting a bad Georgia club, then were shot up on the homecourt by red-hot rival Vanderbilt. That leaves UT 8-6 overall and 1-1 SEC, with little margin for error the rest of the way if they hope to win the first NCAA berth since 2001. Give Buzz Peterson credit for an ambitious early slate, and strength-of-schedule is not an issue with non-conference games against Stanford (a win), North Carolina, Texas, and others. Of course the fourth-year coach expected to win a few more of those ‘quality' games, since he has all five starters and five more veterans back from last year's 15-14, 7-9 squad. There is certainly the star-power for an outstanding team, led by do-it-all guard C.J. Watson, bruising Brandon Crump, and shooter Scooter McFagdon. Watson is the triggerman, a passer/shooter/scorer/defender to rank with the best anywhere. Crump—who seems to have been around forever—can score in and outside the lane, and former Memphis Tiger McFagdon is the wild card, and explosive scorer able to go off any night. And while two other familiar faces are back, they have been supplanted in the starting lineup by newcomers. Guard Chris Lofton has emerged as the top outside shooter and forward Andre Patterson is a big boost to team rebounding. Four Vols average in double-figure scoring, so with all that ability and experience, as well as veteran depth, why the record? Well, other than the schedule of course, Tennessee gives up a lot of points and doesn't rebound particularly well for their size. Their huge homecourt is not a real advantage, and pace of play might be an issue also because the Vols actually have more turnovers than assists so far. And it's been a long time since a Vol team appeared to have what coaches like to call chemistry, as there has been maybe too many talented players and not enough team players. But, as any coach would quickly add, with talent comes the potential for all the pieces to come together and explode all over an opponent. Tennessee clearly has that possibility, which is why that postseason bid remains within reach.
Probable Starting Lineups
Tennessee: F Andre Patterson, 6-7 JR, 7.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg; F/C Brandon Crump, 6-10 SR, 11.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg; G Scooter McFagdon, 6-5 SR, 15.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 24 3ptrs; G C.J. Watson, 6-2 JR, 12.4 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 70 asts; G Chris Lofton, 6-2 FR, 11.6 ppg, 36 3ptrs.
Vol Alternates: C Major Wingate, 6-10 SO, 3.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg; F Jemere Hendrix, 6-8 JR, 3.0 ppg, 2.6 rpg; G Dane Bradshaw, 6-4 SO, 2.1 ppg, 1.8 rpg.
Mississippi State: G Gary Ervin, 5-11 SO, 8.6 ppg, 6.2 apg; G Jamaal Edmondson, 5-9 JR, 4.1 ppg, 16 3ptrs OR G Dietric Slater, 6-3 SO, 2.9 ppg, 2.2 rpg; C Marcus Campbell, 7-0 SR, 6.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg; F Lawrence Roberts, 6-9 SR, 18.8 ppg, 11.5 rpg; F Shane Power, 6-5 SR, 10.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 26 3pts.
Scoring: MSU 76.7ppg, UT 71.9 ppg
Scoring Defense: MSU 61.2 ppg, 68.3 ppg
Rebounding: MSU 43.9rpg, UT 34.4rpg
Rebounding Margin: MSU +11.2, UT +2.4
Shooting: MSU 45.7%, UT 47.9%
Shooting Defense: MSU 37.7%, UT 43.5%
Three-Point Shooting: MSU 35.1% (105/299), UT 41.0% (107/261)
Tennessee owns a 69-38 advantage in a series dating back to 1924, and played annually since 1945. The Vols have a commanding 40-9 lead in games played in Knoxville, while the Bulldogs are 26-23 on campus. The last eight games played since 1998 have been split, with State taking last year's contest in Starkville 82-60. Rick Stansbury is 4-3 against the Vols, including a 1999 win in the SEC Tournament.
Did You Know?
*Mississippi State's last loss in a true ‘road' game played on the opposing team's home court came at Tennessee, on March 5, 2003. Since then Bulldog teams have won 16-straight true road games.
*Rick Stansbury has one win in three trips to Knoxville. That was in his first season as head Dog, in 1998-99.
*Two Tennesseeans are on the Bulldog roster: C Wesley Morgan of Gallatin, and F Jerrell Houston of Memphis. There are no Mississippi natives on the Vol roster.
*Both teams claimed December wins over Xavier. The Vols beat the Musketeers 71-69 in Knoxville, while State took a 80-74 victory at XU.
Bulldog Game Notes
*Since being allowed to play without a protective mask, senior forward Lawrence Roberts has averaged 21.8 points and 12.3 rebounds in eight games…all Bulldog wins. His season averages are now up to 18.8 points and 11.5 rebounds. In his first two SEC games Roberts notched 42 points and 22 boards. He currently is tied for the league scoring lead with Auburn's Douglas Toney.
*What is not as noticed about Roberts' game is that the frontcourt star is a playmaker for teammates. Roberts has handed out 30 assists this season.
*Roberts leads active NCAA players in career double-doubles with 45, 23 of them at State. Counting his two seasons at Baylor, Roberts now has 1,663 points and is the NCAA's active rebounding leader.
*Before he was injured, senior Winsome Frazier had climbed to eighth on the MSU career steals list with 135. He also ranked sixth in career three-point goals at 137.
Tennessee is at South Carolina this Saturday, while the Bulldogs return home to host Arkansas.