Basketball Scouting Report

THE GAME: Mississippi State (20-13, 8-8 SEC) hosts Florida State (22-12, 7-9 ACC) in the North regional finals of the National Invitation Tournament. Game time at Humphrey Coliseum is 6:00, with telecast by ESPN. The winner advances to the semifinal round in Madison Square Garden.

*Mississippi State is hosting by virtue of their #1 seeding in the region. The Seminoles were seeded second in this eight-team regional.

*The NIT semifinal round in New York City is on Tuesday, March 27 and the championship game on Thursday. There is no longer a consolation game. Mississippi State is trying to reach the NIT semifinals for the first time.

*This is the second time Mississippi State has reached the quarterfinal round of an NIT. The 2001 team won its first two games (one home, one away) and also hosted the quarterfinal game, losing to Tulsa on the last shot of the evening. Tulsa went on to win the event.

*Mississippi State has played ten games in six NITs, all since 1979. Bulldog teams are now 5-5 in the tournament, and 4-2 in home games; all played in Humphrey Coliseum. These records do not include the Preseason NIT of 2000-01 State played in and lost at California in the opening game.

*Florida State has also played in six NITs, since 1984, and never failed to win at least their first-round game. FSU is 9-6 in NIT action.

*Six of FSU's NIT games have come since 2004, so Seminole seniors are very familiar with this sort of post-season play. Until this March no current Bulldog had played in the NIT and only seniors Dietric Slater and Piotr Stelmach had participated in any post-season action (2004 and '05 NCAAs).

*Coach Rick Stansbury has taken three teams to NITs: 1999, 2001, and now in 2007. He has a 4-2 record in this tournament, with a first-round loss at Colorado State in '99 and the quarterfinal loss to Tulsa in '01.

How They Got Here: Mississippi State has advanced with a pair of home-court wins, beating Mississippi Valley State 82-63 and Bradley 101-72. Florida State also got to stay home as region #2 seed and defeated Toledo 77-61 and Michigan 87-66. Including regular-season and conference tournaments, both teams have won four of their last five games.

Common Opponents: Florida State's biggest win of the year was a 70-66 homecourt victory over SEC champion Florida; the Bulldogs lost their regular-season meeting with the Gators 70-67 in Starkville. Both defeated McNeese State (MSU 89-63, FSU 85-65) and New Orleans (State 89-63 in Jackson and FSU 69-50 at home). State lost at Clemson 69-66 while the Seminoles lost twice to them in ACC games, 68-66 at home and 71-58 at Clemson. And both beat Miami; State 70-52 in a non-conference game while FSU swept their ACC series 86-67 and 98-90.

The Series: Mississippi State and Florida State have played seven times since 1952, all in regular-season games or holiday tournaments. The Seminoles have a 4-3 lead. The most recent meeting was in 1999 in the Rainbow Classic in Honolulu, won by FSU 69-58. The other six meetings were all in the 1950s. State won home games with the ‘Noles in 1952 and '54, then lost in Starkville in 1955. FSU won at home in 1953 and '55.

Projected Starting Lineups:

Florida State: F Al Thornton, SR 6-8 228, 19.8ppg, 7.2rpg, 35 3ptrs, 50 stls, 38 blks; F Uche Echefu, SO 6-9 225, 7.1ppg, 4.3rpg, 25 3ptrs; G Jason Rich, JR 6-3 205, 10.4ppg, 3.4rpg; G Toney Douglas, SO 6-1 200, 12.7ppg, 2.7rpg, 2.8apg, 31 3ptrs; G Isaiah Swann, JR 6-2 205, 9.6ppg, 2.9rpg, 3.2apg, 59 3ptrs.

Top Backups: G Jerel Allen, SR 6-4 200, 5.1ppg, 2.0apg, 28 3ptrs; G Ralph Mims, JR 6-3 210, 4.9ppg, 2.2rpg, 2.1apg, 24 3ptrs; F Ryan Reid, FR 6-9 230, 2.9ppg, 3.2rpg, 15 blks.

Mississippi State: G/F Dietric Slater, SR 6-3 200, 10.0ppg, 5.7rpg; F Richard Delk, SO, 6-4 175, 5.5ppg, 2.4rpg, 29 3ptrs; C Charles Rhodes, JR, 6-8 240, 13.8ppg, 6.1rpg, 61 blks; G Reginald Delk, SO, 6-4 175, 9.9ppg, 2.0rpg, 61 3ptrs; G Jamont Gordon, SO, 6-4 225, 16.2ppg, 7.2rpg, 5.2apg, 41 3ptrs.

Top Backups: F Jarvis Varnado, FR, 6-9 195, 5.0ppg, 4.3rpg, 65 blks; G Barry Stewart, FR, 6-2 165, 9.8ppg, 3.2rpg, 65 3ptrs; G Ben Hansbrough, FR, 6-3 200, 7.3ppg, 3.7rpg, 45 3ptrs, 3.3apg.

By The Numbers:

Points Per Game: MSU 77.1, FSU 74.6

PPG Allowed: MSU 68.6, FSU 68.5

FG Shooting: MSU 46.2%, FSU 48.0%

FG Defense: MSU 40.1%, FSU 45.2%

3PT Shooting: MSU 36.0%, FSU 37.5%

3PT Made Per Game: MSU 7.9, FSU 6.6

Rebounding: MSU 39.0, FSU 31.6

Rebounds Margin: MSU +2.8, FSU +0.1

FT Shooting: MSU 65.6%, FSU 76.4%

Assists PG: MSU 14.8, FSU 12.4

Turnover Margin: MSU +0.1, FSU +1.8

Bulldog Team Notes: This Mississippi State team has set a pair of season records, for made three-pointers and blocked shots. The Bulldogs have hit on 261 treys, breaking the 1994-95 mark of 240. And they have surpassed the 1995-96 team's standard of 175 blocks with 216. Only once this year have the Dogs not swatted a shot, at LSU.

*The 101 points scored in beating Bradley set a program post-season record, surpassing the 99 scored against Stanford in the 2005 NCAA Tournament.

*The Bulldogs were the SEC's worst team in assist/turnover ratio all last year and for the first two months of this season. But now State has reversed the trend and is in positive territory for the season, and in five of the last seven games has had more assists than turnovers.

Bulldog Player Notes: All-SEC sophomore Jamont Gordon came close to notching a second ‘triple-double' of his career (and only the third in MSU history) with a 18-point, nine-rebound, 8-assist game against MVSU. He came back with a 20-point effort against Bradley with 10 assists and six boards. Using those three categories, Gordon has had a double-double six times this season and 10 for his two-year MSU career.

*Gordon scored double-digits in all but three games this soph season, and 20 or more points nine times. His career-high is the 27 scored this year at Alabama.

*Gordon now has 947 career points and 441 rebounds in his 63 Bulldog games. He needs 53 points to become the 28th Bulldog in the 1,000-point club, but it will take 564 rebounds to make the career MSU top-20 list.

*As a freshman Gordon had an assist/turnover rate of 129/142 and ‘led' the SEC in giveaways. This year he has turned that balance to the better at 171/117.

*Gordon now has exactly 300 career assists and needs only one to match Timmy Bowers in 10th place on the MSU career list.

*Junior C Charles Rhodes has bounced back from an eight-point game against Arkansas in the SEC Tournament semis, scoring 21 and 17 points in the NIT wins. And he has shot 15-of-20 from the field in the process, raising his season average to 56.5%. For his career Rhodes is now also a 56.5% shooter, which is 9th-best in State annals.

*As the big Dog goes, so does his team. In State wins this year Rhodes has shot 60.2%; in losses 50.4%.

*Rhodes now has 889 points and 433 rebounds in his 77 career games.

*Rhodes is now up to 6th in MSU career blocked shots with 98, and his 61 this season is tied for the 7th-best year in program history.

*Freshman C Jarvis Varnado has tied the rookie-year record for blocking shots, equaling the 65 by Erick Dampier in 1994. His season is also tied for third-best in MSU history, though the record of 108 by Dampier in 1996 is out of reach.

*Senior G/F Dietric Slater has scored double-digits in 14 of his 21 games since activation this season. He only had three points against Valley, interrupting a late-season run, but came back with 13 points Saturday. For this year he is averaging exactly 10.0 points; as a junior he netted 10.1.

*Even when not scoring, and despite a series of injuries, Slater has been a beast on the backboards. He has not failed to garner less than four rebounds in his last nine games and averaged 5.3 in this stretch, better than anyone on the team but Gordon.

*In his first three seasons Slater hit 14 three-point baskets. In this half-season he has 12.

*The team three-point race is going down to the proverbial wire. Freshman G Barry Stewart is still in front with 65 treys, but soph G Reginald Delk has come on strong since January and now has 61. This, after he set the MSU freshman record with 59 last year; a mark Stewart just re-wrote.

*Delk now has 120 career treys, ranking 9th on the MSU list.

*Between them, brothers Reginald and Richard Delk have hit 90 longballs; they combined for 70 as freshmen.

*In home games, Stewart is a 39.3% shooter at the arc; in road and neutral-site games he has hit 39.5%. The real indicator is in MSU wins Stewart is 41.4% good on long shots while in Bulldog losses he makes 36.4%.

*Freshman G Ben Hansbrough has picked up his scoring markedly in the last three weekends. Since the regular-season finale the rookie has scored double-digits four times in five games and averaged 12.2 points. In this stretch he has hit 10 three-point buckets with 14 assists.

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