*The teams have faced four common SEC foes so far, with identical results; both beat South Carolina, Arkansas, and Mississippi, and lost to Alabama. Also, MSU and LSU each played New Orleans in December, and beat the Privateers.
*LSU is the only West foe State has yet to play. The Dogs are 3-1 in the Division to date. The teams meet again in Starkville on February 16.
About the Tigers
It's hard to get a handle on where things stand in Baton Rouge these days. Since winning the SEC crown in 2000, Tiger teams have enjoyed erratic fortunes in the league and the Division. Two years ago John Brady's club did return to NCAA play by tying for second in the West; but last season LSU also deadlocked for second and had to settle for the NIT after late-year internal problems. Now the Tigers find themselves at an early-season crossroads of sorts, and the results of the next couple weeks may well decide what chance this team has of dancing in March. This certainly should be a strong contender, with four starters back and one of the most intimidating rookies in the country joining the lineup. Yet LSU had some most unexpected pre-conference struggles, including losses to lowly Southern Mississippi and Houston that hurt the RPI as much as the record. Now the Tigers have to do better than break-even in the final SEC tally to be certain of a NCAA berth. The talent and experience is clearly there, at least in terms of the starting lineup that has with one exception been the same since the season tipped off. Brady won two crucial skirmishes with the NBA; first, PF Brandon Bass wisely chose to come back for a second college season and hone his impressive skills. Second, mammoth rookie Glen ‘Big Baby' Davis opted to go to school first. The 310 (or thereabouts) pound freshman more than fills the void left by Jaime Lloreda in the post, and his SEC-game averages of 17.8 points and 12.2 rebounds (ranking first) show how much the big kid adds to this frontline. The backcourt is entirely familiar and a year better, and all three can and will pump up treys from all around the perimeter. It's an athletic group as well and creates quite a few steals. So, why isn't the record any better? Well, all these individual parts only rank 9th in SEC-game scoring as a unit, and 10th in scoring defense. Also, LSU is last in the league in turnover margin and 11th in assists, so there are problems with ball movement. The biggest issue is actually depth, as this essentially has been a seven-man team for the last two months. The starters play a LOT of minutes, which is bound to take an increasing toll not just at the end of games but as SEC season grinds on. This puts all the more pressure on LSU right now, as the margins will only shrink as we turn the calendar page.
Probable Starting Lineups
Louisiana State: F Brandon Bass, 6-8 SO, 16.7ppg, 8.7rpg; G/F Antonio Hudson, 6-6 SR, 13.2ppg, 35 3ptrs; C Glen Davis, 6-9 FR, 13.7ppg, 8.8rpg; G Tack Minor, 5-11 SO, 11.4ppg, 89 asts, 21 3ptrs; G Darrel Mitchell, 5-11 JR, 13.4ppg, 39 3ptrs.
Tiger Alternates: F Ross Neltner, 6-9 SO, 2.5ppg, 3.1rpg; G Xavier Whipple, 6-2 SR, 2.2ppg, 1.7rpg.
Mississippi State: G Gary Ervin, 5-11 SO, 8.3 ppg, 110 asts; G Shane Power, 6-5 SR, 9.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 31 3pts; C Marcus Campbell, 7-0 SR, 7.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg; F Lawrence Roberts, 6-9 SR, 18.8 ppg, 11.3 rpg; F Ontario Harper, 6-5 SR, 7.3ppg, 5.2rpg.
Scoring: MSU 74.6ppg, LSU 76.1ppg
Scoring Defense: MSU 63.5ppg, LSU 73.8ppg
Rebounding: MSU 42.2rpg, LSU 36.1rpg
Rebounding Margin: MSU +9.7, LSU +4.5
Shooting: MSU 45.5%, LSU 45.8%
Shooting Defense: MSU 39.1%, LSU 46.0%
Three-Point Shooting: MSU 33.0% (117/355), LSU 36.3% (116/320)
Three-Point Defense: MSU 29.0% (128/442), LSU 39.9% (121/303)
This is Mississippi State's second-most played rivalry, but it is actually the oldest with the first meeting in 1909…five years before the Bulldogs played Mississippi. Louisiana State has led the series since the start with the score now standing at 97-88, and as late as 1987 the Tigers owned a commanding margin. But since then State has slashed away at the deficit, winning seven of eight games from 1988-91 and then going on a 11-game winning streak from 1994-99. Going into this game the Dogs are on a four-game run. LSU still has a 61-31 cushion at home, but State has lost just once at The Hump since 1993 and twice beaten the Tigers in SEC Tournaments. Rick Stansbury is 9-5 against LSU, while former MSU aide John Brady is 5-11 against Bulldog teams.
Did You Know?
*Talk about recruiting locally; LSU's roster lists no less than nine Louisiana products. By contrast Mississippi State has just five Mississipians in uniform and only one, F Ontario Harper, starts.
*Besides Brady, an assistant to both Bob Boyd and Richard Williams at State from 1983-90, the Tiger coaching staff features former Bulldog Butch Pierre, a guard for Boyd from 1981-84.
Bulldog Game Notes
*Senior guard Winsome Frazier, who had surgery January 10 to stablize a broken bone in his left foot, had the cast taken off Tuesday. He is expected to rehabilitate for at least three more weeks before being cleared to resume practicing and, hopefully, playing by late February.
*Since Frazier's injury the Bulldogs have lost their last two SEC road games, and along with them perhaps their ‘road warrior' status. But the homecourt is still very friendly for State with a ten-game winning streak dating back to last February.
*State changed starting lineups for the fifth time this season for the South Carolina game, inserting F Ontario Harper for three-game starter G Jamall Edmondson. It was Harper's first start since the 2003 NCAA Tournament.
*Senior forward Lawrence Roberts continues to lead the SEC in all-game rebounding at 11.3 boards, and his NCAA-leading rebound total is now up to 1,024 including two years at Baylor.
*Roberts has notched nine ‘double-doubles' this season, best in the SEC, and his 48 career ‘dds' leads all active NCAA players. Roberts has scored 117 points in his six league games, and pulled down 64 rebounds.
*Center Marcus Campbell has scored in double-figures four of the six SEC games played, and each time the Bulldogs have won. The senior had just two and nine points in MSU's league losses.
*Rick Stansbury is 57-45 in his 101 SEC games coached at State. He is both third among MSU mentors in league wins, and in winning percentage.
The Bulldogs have a quick turnaround when return home, with a Tuesday night game against Florida in Humphrey Coliseum for ESPN2. LSU hits the league road for an inter-Division match at Georgia on Wednesday.