With Stansbury entering the new season just one victory away from recording career win No. 150, the Bulldogs claimed preseason exhibition victories over a pair of NCAA Division II opponents with home wins over West Georgia (80-66) and West Florida (76-73) on Nov. 5 and 12, respectively. Stansbury begins his eighth season as head coach of the Bulldogs sporting a career coaching mark of 149-75. Individually, sophomore forward Charles Rhodes paced MSU during the preseason averaging a team-high 17.0 points and 8.0 rebounds per exhibition game. Senior guard Jamall Edmondson tallied 17 points in the team's preseason opener against West Georgia but did not play in the West Florida contest due to a groin injury. Junior forward Piotr Stelmach averaged a steady 15.5 points and 7.0 boards per outing, while shooting a team-best 77 percent (10-of-13 FGs) from the field during the preseason.
Entering the 2005-06 regular season minus 80 percent of the team's scoring, rebounding and assist totals from last year's 23-11 NCAA Tournament squad, Mississippi State ranks fifth among the 326-team NCAA Division I men's basketball field in the lowest percentage of points returning from last season. Returning only 19.7 percent (485 of 2,466 points) of last year's scoring, the Bulldogs also stand seventh nationally in returning but 20.6 percent (259 of 1,257 rebounds) of the club's rebounding numbers from a season ago. Defending National Champion North Carolina ranks first (9.0% returning points) and second (12.9% returning rebounds) nationally in the respective categories. Now without their top six scorers and top six rebounders from a year ago, the Bulldogs will begin the 2005-06 season minus the services of all five starters from the previous year for the first time since MSU's post-Final Four campaign of 1996-97.
The Mocs of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga are the preseason favorites by both a poll of the league's coaches and the media to repeat as champions of the Southern Conference's North Division. A year ago under then-first year head coach John Shulman, the 20-11 Mocs won the Southern Conference Tournament title and advanced to their ninth NCAA Tournament before bowing to Wake Forest, 70-54, in the opening round of the Albuquerque Regional played in Cleveland, Ohio. Having posted a 104-69 home exhibition victory over Campbellsville (the alma mater of Stansbury and MSU assistant coach Phil Cunningham) last Saturday in its lone preseason contest, Chattanooga expects to be headlined this season by senior forward Alphonso Pugh and junior guard Casey Long, who averaged 11.3 and 9.6 points per game, respectively, a year ago. UTC has also added a talented newcomer class that is expected to be headlined by junior college transfer guard Keddric Mays from Cloud County Community College in Kansas and freshman forward Nicchaeus Doaks, the state of Tennessee's reigning Class A Mr. Basketball award winner from Peabody High School in Trenton.
Mississippi State enters the Chattanooga contest having prevailed in 16 of its last 19 basketball season openers dating back to the 1986-87 season, including a 5-2 season-opening record under Stansbury's guidance. With a 6-1 mark in home season openers during the Stansbury era, the Bulldogs have won 37 of their last 39 home lid-lifters dating back to the 1966-67 campaign. One of those home-opening setbacks was an 85-73 loss to Chattanooga during the 1991-92 season opener. With that 12-point UTC road win over MSU marking the most recent hardwood meeting between the two teams, State owns a slim 5-4 all-time series lead over the Mocs dating back to the 1922-23 season.