About the Lady Tigers:
The Tigers are a good team and they are led by a coach with great credentials of her own. She was the Olympic Women's basketball coach in 2000, winning a gold medal while also being an ESPN analyst, something she still does for the WNBA. Fortner, who is in her 7th year as Auburn's head coach, has done a remarkable job, turning around a program that was 16-13 her first season to winning 30 games and earning SEC Coach of the Year honors last year. And she has led them to a solid start this year but the team is showing signs of missing junior guard Reneisha Hobbs, out with an ACL injury. They have tried multiple lineups this season with eight players starting at least one game. They possess great size with five players over 6'0".
Projected Starting Lineup:
About the Lady Bulldogs:
The Lady Bulldogs have had a solid start to the season with one solid non-conference road win against Louisiana Tech. They have a balanced attack with all starters scoring in double digits Leading the Lady Bulldogs in scoring is senior Alexis Rack with 19.8 points per contest. The Lady Bulldogs are still searching for additional depth off the bench and the health of Bethany Washington could play a major part in that hunt due to her size upfront. Coach Sharon Fanning-Otis has employed the four-in, one-out strategy all season, taking advantage of her team's perimeter skills. With the onset of conference play, however, more size on the front court may be necessary.
Projected Starting Lineup:
Mississippi State ..... Senior guard Armelie Lumanu has started to emerge as a star in the last couple of games thanks to adding more scoring to her all-around talents. Lumanu even scored 29 points against Alcorn State while also grabbing eight rebounds and dishing out 5 assist. She will be matched up against Lady Tiger star guard Alli Smalley who has similar numbers on the season. So, Coach Fanning-Otis needs one of her better performances if the Lady Bulldogs expect to win this game.
Auburn ..... Senior Center Keke Carrier, all 6'7" of her, is the player to watch for the Tigers. Her height is only exceeded by her production this season. Despite only playing 19.4 minutes a game, she is averaging 13.2 points a game, 7.5 rebounds, and 2.15 blocks per game. Due to her size, she could prove to be a difficult match up for the Mississippi State front line. Don't be surprised to see MSU double-team when possible.
This game matches up two teams who couldn't be more different: Mississippi State is a perimeter oriented team while Auburn is more dominant inside. So far this season, the Tigers have proven to have a stronger bench than the Lady Bulldogs, with Chantel Hilliard, Blanche Alverson, and Nicolle Thomas all capable of starting. The Tigers, because of their size, play at a slower pace than the Lady Bulldogs, averaging just 65.2 points per game compared to the 77.9 points per game by the Lady Bulldogs. Coach Fortner will look to counteract the Lady Bulldogs scoring from the perimeter while Coach Fanning-Otis will look for ways to match up with Auburn's size in the frontcourt. This game, which I expect to be a close game throughout, will come down to coaching and key adjustments in the last few minutes.
Jeremiah Short is a columnist who covers various Mississippi State sports for GenesPage.com. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org