Entering next Saturday's (Nov. 19) season home opener against reigning NCAA Tournament participant Chattanooga minus 80 percent of the team's scoring, rebounding and assist numbers from a year ago, Mississippi State ranks as one of only five programs within the 326-team NCAA Division I men's basketball field not to have any returning starters as the 2005-06 season tips off. MSU joins reigning national champion North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Arkansas-Litte Rock and Texas-Pan American with this distinction. Now without their top six scorers and top six rebounders from a year ago, the Bulldogs will begin the 2005-06 regular season minus the services of all five starters from last year for the first time since MSU's post-Final Four campaign of 1996-97.
Challenged with the unenviable task of attempting to continue Mississippi State's current school-record streaks of four-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances and four-straight, 20-win seasons, much of the preseason optimism regarding State's possible bid for a fifth-consecutive NCAA Tournament berth centers around the arrival of a five-man recruiting class that has been ranked eighth nationally by RivalsHoops.com and singled out by Lindy's Basketball preseason magazine as the best group of newcomers in the SEC. Looking to headline this nationally ranked newcomer quintet is southpaw swingman Jamont Gordon of powerhouse Oak Hill Academy in Virginia by way of Nashville. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound standout was recently tabbed by CBS SportsLine.com as one of 11 freshmen who look to make the biggest impact nationally on the 2005-06 college basketball season. Gordon led all Bulldog newcomers last week with seven points, eight rebounds and four assists against West Georgia.
An NCAA Division II school located in Pensacola, Fla., the West Florida Argonauts were 12-15 overall and 4-10 in league play to finish seventh in the Gulf South Conference's East Division last season. With nine newcomers on their 2005-06 preseason roster, the Argonauts most recently dropped an 84-41 exhibition road decision to the Florida Gators on Nov. 4. Limited to 33-percent field-goal shooting as a team and only 1-of-14 from three-point range by UF, West Florida was paced by Pensacola Junior College transfer guard Maurice Thomas' game-high 16 points a week ago in Gainesville. Guided by 13th-year head coach and 1981 South Alabama graduate Don Hogan, the Argonauts return senior starting guards Kashif Russell and Tuck Taylor, who averaged 12.5 and 6.0 points per game, respectively, a season ago for UWF.
With next month marking the 30th anniversary of the opening of MSU's Humphrey Coliseum, the Bulldogs' 94th season of collegiate competition commences next Saturday evening (Nov. 19) as they play host to the Chattanooga Mocs of the Southern Conference. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. on the State campus.
Set to begin the 2005-06 regular season by playing their first six games over a busy 12-day span, the Bulldogs have won 16 of their first 19 basketball season openers dating back to 1986-87. With a 6-1 mark in season home openers under Stansbury, State has prevailed in 37 of its last 39 home lid-lifters dating back to 1966-67. Heading into the new hoops campaign, MSU is 26-5 in the month of November, 79-19 overall against non-SEC competition, 41-3 versus non-conference home opposition, and 83-17 overall at home during the Stansbury era.