*There are 16 Bulldog regular-season games scheduled for either regional or national telecast.
About the Eagles: It isn't the best-known name in the game, but basketball folk know very well about Winthrop. The defending Big South champions aren't just looking for another big year in Rock Hill, S.C., they're looking for an even better season. Four starters and eight lettermen are back from a team that went 23-8 and dominated the BSC with a 13-3 mark, and should have knocked off Tennessee in the opening NCAA round. These Eagles are flying high again as unanimous pick to defend their league title, nothing unusual in Gregg Marshall's tenure. He has coached Winthrop to six conference championships with six automatic NCAA appearances in his eight years and is a three-time league coach of the year. They're off to another good start, routing North Greenville 89-46 and then Iona 57-38 in the Preseason NIT before giving #2-ranked North Carolina all the ‘heels could handle in a 73-66 loss in the regional final. That game showcased the big talents of big guard Torrell Martin, the best player in the Big South and a national all-star candidate. The 6-5 senior threw in seven treys against Carolina and tallied 25 points, and is averaging 15.6 through three contests after a 13.8 scoring rate last winter. He's more than just a gunner, too, grabbing eight boards an evening. And his game might be better in one crucial aspect now; after hitting just 56% of his foul shots as a junior Martin is 6-of-6 so far from the stripe. There's more than one marksman in this lineup because Winthrop likes life from long-range, having poured in 238 treys last season on 36% team shooting. Guard Michael Jenkins certainly can shoot it, having tied the league record with 12 treys (on 18 tries) against North Greenville. He showed it was no fluke by hitting five more threeballs against UNC and has 19 already through three games. Junior Chris Gaynor is back to run this show, notching five assists per game but also chipping in nearly nine points. The frontcourt lineup has been subject to change in the early going, reflecting the shortage of sheer size in WU's roster. Against the Tarheels, Marshall put 6-10 senior Craig Bradshaw in the post and he delivered 14 points and eight rebounds. He wasn't as productive in the Iona game (2 points, 5 boards), and while he's got the green light from the arc Bradshaw is 0-of-6 so far after hitting for 32 treys last season. 6-8 Phillip Williams alternates between forward and center, and Winthrop has gone with 6-5 Mantoris Williams and 6-7 Taj McCullough on the front line. All these combinations have been solid on the glass, with Winthrop guards just as likely to chase down rebounds too. If there is any glaring weak point it is with free-throwing; the Eagles were under 70% last season and are just 18-of-34 through three '06 games. Of course throwing in enough three-pointers can offset any issues at the line.
Tentative Starting Lineups:
Winthrop: G/F Torrell Martin, SR, 6-5 195, 15.7ppg, 8.3reb, 11 3ptrs; F Phillip Williams, SR, 6-8 215, 7.0ppg, 5.3reb; C Craig Bradshaw, SR, 6-10 238, 8.0ppg, 6.5reb; G Chris Gaynor, JR, 5-10 160, 8.7ppg, 5.0ast, 7 3ptrs; G Michael Jenkins, JR, 6-2 185, 21.7ppg, 19 3ptrs.
Top Backups: F Taj McCullough, JR, 6-7 215, 4.3ppg, 2.7rpg; G/F Mantoris Robinson, FR, 6-5 190, 1.3ppg, 2.7rpg; G De'Andre Adams, SO, 5-8 150, 2.0ppg, 1.3rpg.
Mississippi State: F Richard Delk, SO, 6-4 175, 5.5ppg, 2.0rpg, 2.0apg; F Piotr Stelmach, SR, 6-9 204, 4.5ppg, 0.5rpg; C Charles Rhodes, JR, 6-8 240, 12.0ppg, 7.0rpg; G Reginald Delk, SO, 6-4 175, 9.5ppg, 3.5rpg, 3 3ptrs; G Jamont Gordon, SO, 6-4 225, 13.0ppg, 8.5rpg, 4 3ptrs.
Top Backups: G Barry Stewart, FR, 6-2 165, 13.5ppg, 3.0rpg, 3 3ptrs; G Ben Hansbrough, FR, 6-3 200, 9.0ppg, 2.5rpg; F Jarvis Varnado, FR, 6-9 195, 3.0ppg, 3.5rpg, 4 blks; C Vernon Goodridge, JR, 6-9 225, 3.5ppg, 2.0rpg.
The Series: This is the first meeting of the schools on hardwood.
Notable Numbers: WU Coach Gregg Marshall has 167 career wins in nine seasons. MSU Coach Rick Stansbury has 166 career wins also in nine seasons.
By The Numbers:
Points Per Game: MSU 75.5, WU 70.7
PPG Allowed: MSU 46.0, WU 52.3
FG Shooting: MSU 54.3%, WU 51.9%
FG Defense: MSU 28.7%, WU 39.5%
3PT Shooting: MSU 39.5%, WU 40.9%
3PT Made Per Game: MSU 7.5, WU 12.7
3PT Att's. Per Game: MSU 19.0, WU 31.0
Rebounding: MSU 42.5, WU 40.3
Rebounds Margin: MSU +16.5, WU +7.0
FT Shooting: MSU 69.2%, WU 52.9%
Assists PG: MSU 13.0, WU 17.7
Turnover Margin: MSU –6.5, WU +3.3
Bulldog Basketball Notes: Rick Stansbury, his ninth season in charge now underway, now has coached the second-most Bulldog basketball games of any MSU mentor at 256. He broke his tie with the legendary Babe McCarthy on Saturday, and is now 98 games in back of his former boss Coach Richard Williams who directed 354 Dog games. Stansbury has 166 victories and needs four more to catch McCarthy for second place on the career list. Williams had 191 wins.
*In Stansbury's nine seasons, the Bulldogs are now 32-7 in November games.
*It's very, very early, of course. But as of today the team's leading scorer is a freshman who hasn't started a game. G Barry Stewart has put up 13.5 points through two games, a half-point ahead of soph G Jamont Gordon for the squad lead.
*And the best shooting average on the squad belongs to another rookie as G Ben Hansbrough has made 75% of his attempts. That's just 6-of-8 but still fine freshman shooting.
*There are no current Dogs yet in the career top-20 for either scoring or rebounding. Junior C Charles Rhodes is on a pace to reach both milestones sometime next season. Rhodes now has 472 career points and 251 rebounds; the minimums for top-20 status are 1,144 points and 564 rebounds.
*Rhodes has scored 14 and 10 in his team's opening victories. This gives the junior a 20-game streak of scoring 10 or more points, dating back to last December 30.
*Gordon has his own double-digit scoring streak going, which now stands at 14 games. He notched 14 and 12 in the first two outings this season. That 13.0 average is on the same track as the 13.8 points Gordon recorded through his freshman season.
*Gordon, the league leader in turnovers as a freshman, has a positive ratio through two games with a dozen assists against ten turnovers.
*Gordon played ‘only' 29 minutes against Nicholls State and 31 against LMU. As a freshman he set the class record for minutes played with 988, breaking the mark of 968 set in 1981-82 by Jeff Norwood. He was the only Bulldog to play in all 30 games last season.
*After setting the freshman-year record for made-treys with 59, soph G Reginald Delk has three in two games. He needs 39 more treys to move into the career top-ten in just two seasons.
*Records are only available back into the mid-1970s. But as best can be judged, Mississippi State set a modern-day standard by holding Loyola-Marymount to 20.7% (12-of-58) shooting in Monday's victory at Humphrey Coliseum.
*By contrast, State's 66% shooting in the opening victory over Nicholls State was the best by a MSU team since a 1991-92 win at Eastern Kentucky.
*The Bulldogs had their streak of leading the SEC in rebound margin end last winter, at five years (an all-time standard according to league records). But they got this year off to a good start on the glass, with a 85 boards to the opponents' 52 so far.
*The Bulldogs have blocked 11 shots; freshman Jarvis Varnado has four of those and soph Vernon Goodridge three.