*This year's edition is unique in that the Bulldogs will play a doubleheader with the MSU women, who also take on New Orleans (4:30 tipoff). Thus the Coliseum gates will open at 3:30. State has not played a mens/women's twinbill since the 1980s, as now the Ladydogs sell their own season tickets.
About the Privateers: Like all teams in the area, New Orleans had a tough 2005-06 on and off the court, and under the circumstances a 10-19 year and 6-9 (tie 4th) Sun Belt mark was an achievement. It was also the end of Monte Towe's five year-tenure; now 33-year old Buzz Williams has taken charge with his first top job after stints as an assistant in six programs. Most recently, two years as top aide at Texas A&M. He's stepped into a still-stressed situation, such as playing for now at 1,200 seat O'Reilly Auto Parts Center while repairs continue to Lakefront Arena. The other home court has been an advantage though as the Privateers are 4-1 there with three-straight victories. Two of these have been conference wins, too, a most encouraging turn of events for the program under new management. It's an interesting squad with four players scoring in double-digits, but there is clearly one to watch. Guard Bo McCaleb has led the team in points ten of the 11 games. And the junior guard is on a career-role with his best-yet scoring performances coming in the last two contests with 36 and 39 points. That earned him Sun Belt POTW honors. There's more to his game than putting up points with team-best tallies in steals and, startlingly for 6-0, in rebounds. Then again, he plays closer to the goal than most guards and has taken just 21 trey-tries (making only four) in 11 games. But he gets fouled a lot and cashes in at the stripe. Long-range shooting is provided by a couple of other veterans as guards Jamie McNeilly and James Parlow have 42 of the team's 68 treys between them. Not a lot of longballs, but UNO is rightly selective and effective when they do pull the trigger from the arc. And talk about a backcourt-oriented squad, the fourth double-figure scorer is also a guard, Shawn Reynolds. Good thing McCaleb can go rebound because this is perhaps the smallest starting lineup State will see all season. At 6-10 Ben Elias certainly stands out from his teammates, moving into the starting lineup for league play but not putting up much in the way of numbers. In fact there is very little scoring help coming from the bench, period. Big forward Tim Tillman has started five games and does give some help on the boards, as does recently-activated center Asrangue Souleymane. That matters because the Privateers otherwise tend to get beaten-up on the glass, and they don't block a lot of shots.
The Series: Mississippi State and New Orleans have met seven times since 1977, with Bulldog teams winning six times. This includes the last three meetings in 2004-05-06 with the Privateers scoring 59 points each time. UNO's only win in the series came in 1990 when the teams played twice, both times at Lakefront Arena. After State took a seven-point decision in December the Privateers hosted a rematch in the second round of the NIT and won 65-60. The only neutral-site meeting was in 2004 with State winning at Tupelo.
Projected Starting Lineups:
McNeese State: G/F James Parlow, JR 6-3 170, 12.6ppg, 4.3rpg, 18 3ptrs; C Ben Elias, JR 6-10 260, 1.7ppg, 2.9rpg; G Bo McCaleb, JR 6-0 180, 26.8ppg, 7.3rpg, 2.9apg; G Jamie McNeilly, SR, 6-3 175, 12.2ppg, 3.8rpg, 24 3ptrs; G Shawn Reynolds, JR 5-11 175, 11.4ppg, 4.7apg
Top Backups: F Tim Tillman, SR 6-8 220, 4.0ppg, 4.3rpg; F/C Asrangue Soulemayne, JR 6-9 220, 3.5ppg, 5.3rpg, 11blks; G Joey Barnitz, SR 6-1 170, 3.8ppg, 12 3ptrs.
Mississippi State: F Richard Delk, SO, 6-4 175, 7.5ppg, 2.8rpg, 14 3ptrs; F Jarvis Varnado, FR, 6-9 195, 6.5ppg, 4.8rpg, 24 blks; G Ben Hansbrough, FR, 6-3 200, 8.9ppg, 3.4apg, 3.9apg; G Reginald Delk, SO, 6-4 175, 9.1ppg, 2.1rpg, 17 3ptrs; G Jamont Gordon, SO, 6-4 225, 15.7ppg, 8.1rpg, 4.8apg
Top Backups: C Charles Rhodes, JR, 6-8 240, 9.9ppg, 6.0rpg; G Barry Stewart, FR, 6-2 165, 12.3ppg, 3.4rpg, 23 3ptrs; C Vernon Goodridge, JR, 6-9 225, 4.5ppg, 4.7rpg, 16 blks.
By The Numbers:
Points Per Game: MSU 77.1ppg, UNO 70.8ppg
PPG Allowed: MSU 59.6ppg, UNO 72.4ppg
FG Shooting: MSU 47.7%, UNO 46.5%
FG Defense: MSU 35.5%, UNO 46.6%
3PT Shooting: MSU 37.4%, UNO 42.0%
3PT Made Per Game: MSU 8.0, UNO 6.2
3PT Att's. Per Game: MSU 21.4, UNO 14.7
Rebounding: MSU 41.8rpg, UNO 32.5rpg
Rebounds Margin: MSU +6.3, UNO –2.5
FT Shooting: MSU 62.5%, UNO 68.2%
Free Throws Att. Per Game: MSU 25.1, UNO 22.0
Assists PG: MSU 14.3, UNO 12.5
Turnover Margin: MSU –1.7, UNO 0-1
Did You Know: Rick Stansbury's first game as head Mississippi State coach was played in the Mississippi Coliseum, on Nov. 17, 1998 when the Bulldogs beat Arkansas-Pine Bluff 105-53.
Bulldog Basketball Notes: Coach Rick Stansbury now stands alone in second place for MSU career coaching victories, with 172 in his nine seasons. He surpassed Babe McCarthy (169 wins from 1956-65) when the Bulldogs defeated Miami. The MSU standard is 191 wins by Coach Richard Williams (1987-98).
*In nine seasons Stansbury teams are now 97-24 in non-conference competition and have won 70 of the last 79 non-league games. In this stretch State is 55-9 in December games.
*Soph G/F Jamont Gordon has another streak of double-digit scoring underway. After getting ten or more points for 15-straight games (including last season) he managed just nine at Clemson. Since then though Gordon has a six-game double-digit streak, in which he has averaged 16.8 points on 45% shooting. In the first four games Gordon shot 32.6%.
*His scoring is boosted by frequent trips to the foul line; Gordon has been there 77 times through ten games. But, his accuracy could certainly improve as he is making just 67%. In the last two games he has been 9-of-17 at the stripe.
*More impressive perhaps is Gordon's work on the backboards. The 6-4 guard tops State with a 8.1 rebound average, well-ahead of his freshman pace of 6.8. He now has 284 career rebounds in just 40 games. Only once this season has Gordon failed to lead State in either points, rebounds, or assists.
*The SEC's turnover leader last year, Gordon now has a positive rate of 48 credited assists against 43 charged turnovers.
*Freshman C Jarvis Varnado is getting comfortable in his starting job. The rookie has posted consecutive double-digit games of 13 and 12 points on 12-of-16 shooting. In fact over the last five games Varnado has shot 71.4% and averaged 9.0 points, though he has not been on court more than 23 minutes in any contest.
*The 6-9 Varnado gets more attention for his shot-blocking. He has swatted 17 shots in the last five games, and 24 for the season to lead the team. He and soph C Vernon Goodridge now account for 40 of State's 68 blocks. These Bulldogs are far ahead of last year's pace of 4.5 blocks per game.
*Goodridge has also become a productive performer off the Bulldog bench, averaging 6.8 points over the last five games and 8.0 rebounds. In the first five games Goodridge had only seven rebounds and 12 points; in the next five he has 34 and 40.
*After averaging 13.2 points in the first five games, junior F/C Charles Rhodes has struggled with both a wrist problem and the effectiveness of the younger posts playing in front of him. Rhodes missed one game in the last four has averaged 5.8 points and 5.5 rebounds. Of course playing time is another factor, at 17.5 minutes these past four games. At Miami, Rhodes had a streak of double-digit games stopped at 24 dating back to last December 30.
*In his third varsity year Rhodes is the team's leading career scorer with 537 points in 54 games. He is closing in on 300 career rebounds with 291. The minimums for top-20 status at MSU are 1,144 points and 564 rebounds.
*He doesn't start but freshman G Barry Stewart plays a major role in this lineup. The rookie is back up to second in team scoring at 12.3 points, having scored 22, 14, and nine in the last three contests. Stewart already has 23 treys for the season, all off the bench. But his accuracy has been up-and-down lately; Stewart was 0-of-5 at the arc at Miami, then a combined 9-of-20 in the next two games followed by a 2-of-8 outing Monday. He is still the team's top longball threat at 39%.
*Freshman G Ben Hansbrough has also slipped into a long-shot slump lately. He's been 1-of-6 in the last four games at the arc, after hitting 5-of-6 against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. But Hansbrough is focusing more on other aspects now that he is a starter; he has issued 39 assists for the season and 29 of these are as a starting guard. Hansbrough is averaging 27.2 minutes, not only best of any freshman but second on the team as a whole only to Gordon.
*Soph G Reginald Delk has regained his outside touch in the last five games, hitting 11-of-28 from the arc. He was 6-of-18 in the previous five. Delk holds the MSU freshman record for made-treys at 59, a mark Stewart will certainly threaten.
*State's 37.4% team-accuracy at the arc is well ahead of last year's 31.4% overall season shooting and 31.2% in non-conference games.
*Mississippi State has played dominating defense in their last six victories, and now lead the SEC in both overall shooting (35.5%) and three-point shooting (21%) defense. MSU's average margin of victory in this stretch has been just under 22 points.
*Three Dogs have started all five games this early season: Gordon and Delk twins Richard and Reginald. State has used four lineups in ten games. Stansbury used ten starting lineups in 30 games lasts season.
*State goes on the road after extending their mark for consecutive December homecourt victories to 21.