*This Bulldog season opens a week earlier than the last as the NCAA moved up the basketball calendar for 2006-07.
About the Colonels: It's been a tough start down in Thibodaux for Coach J.P. Piper, as in his first two seasons the Colonels have managed to wing just six and nine games. The 2006 team was 5-11 in Southland Conference play, 10th of the dozen teams, and local interest was minimal as Nicholls managed to draw only 3,800 total fans to their ten home games. But year-three appears to have more promise. The roster overall has more experience and the lineup returns four starters, who are joined by a talented transfer who fills a need. After sitting out a season, junior forward Aaron Scott announced his presence by scoring 27 points in NSU's exhibition with SUNO. The 6-6 Scott sank six treys and also led the squad with eight boards in the 83-75 win. Scott slots fits into a team that already had some punch from the forward position. 6-6 Stephan Blaczczynski, a senior from Australia, led NSU in offense last year and ranked fourth in the league with 16.4 points, earning third-team All-Southland. He was also fifth in SC rebounding, but that meant little as the team ranked last in the league in rebound margin. The Colonels were also last in both scoring and shooting defense and 11th in steals, so stopping the other side is obviously an emphasis this time around. 6-9 Chris Paige (5.0 points, 2.8 rebounds) had 28 blocks as a freshman, and this year Nicholls welcomes 6-11 Mitch Boyce to the lineup after redshirting as a true freshman. There was plenty of perimeter experience already but Piper has brought in some fresh faces who could shuffle the backcourt quickly. 6-2 junior Adonis Gray had a breakout soph season with 12.5 points, 13th in the league, and 6-2 soph Michael Czepil showed he both shoot and pass; he paced his team in both treys (40) and assists (57). More outside punch is available from 6-6 soph Ryan Bathie (38 treys, 7.4 points) and as a freshman 6-0 Gil Verner put in good minutes with 41 assists. Rookie 6-4 Reggie Shanks came off the bench for 13 points in the exhibition and hit the boards hard, so he may break into the lineup sooner than later. There are only two seniors on this roster, so this is still very much a program in progress. And that won't be easy early as the Colonels play their first eight games on the road, where NSU was only 2-13 last season. That opening stretch includes contests at State, LSU, and Texas, an ambitious slate to say the least. But at least when the Colonels do open at home on December 9 they'll have been tested.
The Series: The programs have met just three times with Mississippi State winning all three, most recently in 2004-2005 by a 98-69 score at home. The other two wins also came in Humphrey Coliseum; 81-65 in 1994-95 and 95-59 in 2001-02. Rick Stansbury is 2-0 against the Colonels, and J.P. Piper is 0-1 against State.
By The Numbers (2005-06 Statistics)
Points Per Game: MSU 68.1, NSU 70.3
PPG Allowed: MSU 68.6, NSU 79.8
FG Shooting: MSU 44.5%, NSU 43.9%
FG Defense: MSU 41.0%, NSU 45.2%
3PT Shooting: MSU 31.4%, NSU 33.2%
3PT Per Game: MSU 5.6, NSU 6.9
Rebounding: MSU 38.9, NSU 34.5
Rebounds Margin: MSU +1.1, NSU –3.8
FT Shooting: MSU 63.3%, NSU 70.5%
Assists PG: MSU 11.0, NSU 12.8
Turnover Margin: MSU –3.3, NSU –3.8 Bulldog Basketball Notes: Mississippi State has won 17 of the last 20 regular-season openers, and seven of the eight by Rick Stansbury teams. The only setback in his tenure on opening night was in November 2002 with a loss to Louisiana-Lafayette. For the month of November, Stansbury teams are 30-7.
*Stansbury begins his ninth MSU season with a 164-90 record. He has the third-most wins for a Bulldog coach, and is tied with Babe McCarthy in total games-coached at 254. Richard Williams remains the winningest MSU coach ever with 191 victories, and is 100 games ahead in games-coached starting this year.
*The Bulldogs return 76 percent of the points scored in 2005-06, and 74 percent of the rebounds.
*There are only four Mississippi natives on the MSU scholarship roster this year, less than the five Bulldogs hailing from Tennessee.
*The oldest Bulldog is junior walk-on G Billy, who turned 23 in September. Junior C/F Vernon Goodridge will turn 23 in February. The youngest is freshman F Jarvis Varnado, who won't turn 19 until next March 1.
*Mississippi State started ten different lineups over 30 games in 2005-06. None of those ten lineups can be used for the opener due either to graduation or current suspension. With senior G Dietric Slater sidelined for the fall semester, and transfer F/C Brian Johnson redshirting the year, State has 11 scholarship players to play with until at least the mid-school year break.
*There are two walk-ons dressing for the opener. Begley dressed all last season but did not play, though he got into 12 games the previous season. And G Joseph Iupe has been added to the roster for this season.
*The preponderance of youth on this roster is reflected in that no Bulldog ranks in the career top-20 in scoring or rebounding. Junior F/C Charles Rhodes enters his third varsity season with 448 points and 237 rebounds. The baselines for breaking into the top-20 in either category is 1,144 points and 564 rebounds…both totals belonging to Gary Hooker (1976-78).
*Rhodes and soph G Jamont Gordon are the returning Dogs who earned honors last season. Rhodes was tabbed second-team All-SEC, and Gordon All-Freshman SEC.
*Gordon set the MSU freshman-year record for minutes played when he tallied 988 on court as a rookie. That was 30 minutes more than Jeff Norwood in 1981-82. He was the only Bulldog to play in all 30 games last season.
*Gordon also set freshman standards for assists (129, two more than Rich Knarr in 1972-73) and free throws both made (108, surpassing the 97 by Knarr) and attempted (167, more than Erick Dampier's 159 in 1993-94).
*And G Reginald Delk re-wrote the freshman record for three pointers. He made 59, breaking the record of 30 held by Tony Watts (1988-89) and attempted 144. Ironically Gordon now ranks second in that freshman-mark after putting up 104 last winter, though he made just 27. The record had been held by Derrick Jones (24-of-80 in 1996-97).
*A similar season will put Re. Delk in the top-ten for made-treys. 101 is the current tenth-best total (Marckell Patterson, 1999-2002).