*Both Bulldog teams have played the ranked Rebels in week-one of the season. State won 80-75 in Oxford, while Georgia lost 80-76 at home.
*State is off to a good start on the annual goal of winning the SEC West. Since the league went Divisional, Bulldog teams have won outright or shared six West crowns. Georgia tied for the East title in 2002, but they are the only East squad that has never won an outright Division crown.
*Georgia is one of the two original SEC members that Mississippi State has a winning record against all-time. Ole Miss is the other. State holds a 51-49 margin, including wins in seven of the last nine meetings, and is 30-14 in home games with the other Bulldogs. But, Georgia is 8-3 against State in SEC Tournament games including that notable 2008 upset in Atlanta played on the Georgia Tech campus. State got a measure of revenge last March in Tampa.
About the (other) Bulldogs: Yeah, like you could have answered the question ‘name the current Georgia basketball coach' without referring to an official source either. His name is Mark Fox, he comes from four good seasons at Nevada, and he was a ‘huh?' choice after UG was turned down by a couple of on-the-rise names. But he had 123 wins in five years at Reno with three NCAA trips, and more to the point was willing to take on a most daunting challenge at a program that had all but disappeared from SEC consciousness since the, umm, unpleasantness involving Jim Harrick. Expectations are naturally minimal considering he inherited just eight scholarship players and recruiting can't be easy. In fact no freshman is providing more than 2.2 points this winter. But then the real ‘recruiting' was just getting soph forward Trey Thompkins to hang around and play for a new regime after providing 12.6 points and 7.4 boards during Dennis Felton's lost half-season. Thompkins is an even more central piece to Georgia's puzzle in his second season with upgraded stats at both ends that make him an all-conference candidate. One thing this lineup surely has is size. If Georgia wants to go with a true post 6-11 Albert Jackson gets the start, ten of them so far; but 6-8 forward Chris Barnes has drawn six tipoffs himself. Combine them with the 247-pound Thompkins and the Bulldogs have both height and bulk, with even more on the bench in 260-pounder Jeremy Price. How mobile these big Dogs are, now, is another matter as Georgia has just 80 blocks as a team and rebounding is merely adequate, not impressive. State's defense won't have to chase a lot of gunners around this time as Georgia relies on just two outside shooters…though the 6-10 Thompkins can contribute the occasional trey. Ricky McPhee has thrown in 32 longballs and Dustin Ware 16 and that's about it for the perimeter game. And State has shown in its first two SEC outings that smallish shooters can be covered, and there isn't much in the way of backcourt help on the bench at the moment. MSU's Bulldogs have made almost as many treys as Georgia has attempted. Yet the scores to-date show that with all the liabilities Fox's first team is putting up a good battle against almost all opposition so this isn't a game to take for granted, particularly given the short turnaround for MSU. The question for Georgia isn't so much can they be competitive, as it is can Fox make anyone care about basketball in Athens again? That jury is always out.
Projected Starting Lineups:
GEORGIA: F Trey Thompkins, SO 6-10 247, 16.6ppg, 8.3rpg; F/C Albert Jackson, SR 6-11 265, 3.4ppg, 4.1rpg; G Travis Leslie, SO 6-4 202, 13.6ppg, 5.7rpg; G Ricky McPhee, SR 6-1 184, 9.9ppg, 32 3pts, 41% 3pts; G Dustin Ware, SO 5-11 182, 8.3ppg, 16 3pts, 44 asts.
Top Backups: F Chris Barnes, JR 6-8 240, 3.4ppg, 4.1rpg; F Jeremy Price, JR 6-8 260, 6.2ppg, 4.6rpg.
MISSISSIPPI STATE: F Kodi Augustus, JR 6-8 220, 9.3ppg, 6.1rpg, 19 3ptrs; C Jarvis Varnado, SR 6-9, 14.1ppg, 11.0rpg, 90 blks; G/F Ravern Johnson, JR 6-7 175, 14.4ppg, 3.6rpg, 53 3ptrs; G Barry Stewart, SR 6-3 170, 11.2ppg, 44 asts, 32 3ptrs; PG Dee Bost, SO 6-2 170, 11.1ppg, 54 asts, 32 3ptrs.
Top Backups: G/F Phil Turner, JR 6-3 170, 5.6ppg, 4.8rpg; F Romero Osby, SO 6-8 230, 5.2ppg, 2.8rpg; G Riley Benock, JR 6-4 180, 2.0ppg, 10 3ptrs.
HOW THEY COMPARE:
Scoring: MSU 75.5ppg, UG 66.5ppg
Scoring Defense: MSU 60.8ppg, UG 66.3ppg
FG Shooting: MSU 46.0%, UG 44.2%
FG Defense: MSU 36.3%, UG 42.5%
3-Point Shooting: MSU 41.3%, UG 34.6%
3-point Attempts: MSU 402, UG 179
Rebounding: MSU 42.2rpg, UG 35.7rpg
Rebound Margin: MSU +8.2, UG +3.5
Free Throw Shooting: MSU 67.9%, UG 71.6%
BULLDOG NOTES: Over the last dozen games Mississippi State has allowed just 34.8% shooting overall, though the two SEC victims did both barely top 40% accuracy.
*State began the week #3 in NCAA treys-per-game and outside accuracy, leading the SEC in both. They have made 18-of-39 trey-tries in two SEC games, 46%.
*At this pace of making 9.8 threes per-game these Bulldogs will break the season record for longballs of 296, set just last year, in just 13 more games.
*After blocking ‘just' 17 balls in the previous three games, the Bulldogs got to 13 against Arkansas last night.
*And only 41 State shots have been rejected so far this season, or less than half the blocks C Jarvis Varnado has on his own.
*With 90 blocks in 17 games, Varnado is way ahead of last year's 4.7 game pace when he set the SEC record with 170.
*Having just surpassed Tim Duncan on the NCAA career list, Varnado is now third in college ball history with 484 blocks. He needs eight tomorrow to catch Adonal Foyle of Colgate for #2 on the NCAA chart. And at his current 5.3 per-game rate Varnado will break the NCAA blocks record of 535 by Wojciech Mydra of Louisiana-Monroe in ten more games. Or less.
*After an off-day at Oxford with nine points, Varnado resumed scoring double-digits with a 17-point outing against Arkansas. He's scored ten or more points in all but three games this senior season.
*He now has 1,147 career points, and just passed both Wiley Peck (1976-79) and Gary Hooker (1976-78) to move up to 23rd on the MSU chart. Next up is the 1,168 by Marckell Patterson (1999-2002), and to make the top-twenty will require exactly 1,200 points.
*Last night Varnado recorded only the fourth ‘triple double' in program history with 17 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 blocks against Arkansas. But he because the first Bulldog to turn the trick twice, adding to his 2008 feat against Kentucky.
*It was Varnado's first double-digit blocks game of the year, fourth of his career but first since 2008.
*Varnado has gotten double-digit rebounds the last four games, raising his season rate to a career-best 11.0. He stands to become the first Bulldogs to average a double-double since Lawrence Roberts in 2005.
*Varnado is leading the SEC in rebounding.
*With 914 career rebounds he is 4th on the MSU career list and 50 boards behind Peck.
*He can become the first Dog with over 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds since Rickey Brown (1977-80), and only the third all-time including Bailey Howell (1957-59).
*Varnado has blocked a shot in 34-straight games, matching his longest previous run which was snapped last season at home by LSU.
*Varnado has not fouled-out of a game so far this season.
*Junior G Ravern Johnson has 53 treys in 17 games, which puts him on a regular-season pace to match the season record of 97 by Darryl Wilson in 1996. Adding in the post-season and Johnson could become the first Dog to pop 100 threes in a single year.
*His 143 career treys are 8th already on the MSU career list, and he needs 160 to catch Winsome Frazier for 7th place.
*After a 2-of-6 interruption at Western Kentucky to end the non-conference season, Johnson is 6-of-10 at the arc in two league games. His 49.5% shooting on threes this year would set a MSU season record, and his 41.8% career accuracy there is also best in program history…so far.
*The team's leading scorer, Johnson has had double-digit points in all but two games.
*Johnson still has never fouled out of a college game. In fact he has just 18 personals through 17 games.
*PG Dee Bost has gotten back on the offensive track just in time for SEC season. Having shot just 7-of-29 overall, 1-of-12 at the arc in the last three non-league games, Bost is 13-of-28 in two SEC contests for 45 points. And he's made 4-of-10 on longballs.
*Bost has had 12 SEC assists already. Though, he's also had 10 turnovers in the same span.
*With 249 assists in two seasons Bost should crack the career top-ten before the year is out. He needs 314 to match Ray White (1975-79) for 10th place.
*And this point guard is suddenly a force chasing missed shots, with 15 rebounds in the last two games and a 4.8 average on the season as a whole.
*Bost has scored 55 free throws this year, second on the team only to Varnado.
*Bost has started all 53 of his college games, the only Dog on this roster who has never come off the bench.
*Old Dog Barry Stewart just keeps rolling along and piling up the minutes, having played 30 or more every game this season but the Mississippi Valley walk-through. He's played 34 minutes both SEC games.
*That gives the senior 3,765 career minutes as he closes in on the program record set by Jeff Malone (1980-83) with 3,851. But Malone got his in just 110 games.
*Stewart, along with classmate Varnado, have both played in 122 games and are closing in on the program record of 127 by Derrick Zimmernan (2000-03).
*Stewart now owns 1,368 career points and is 12th on the MSU scoring list.
*One of only two Dogs with over 200 career treys, Stewart (234) keeps inching closer to the record of 258 by Darryl Wilson.
*But his shooting has been off lately, as Stewart is 13-of-43 in the last four games.
*With 131 steals, Stewart is in 8th on the career list.
*Stewart is about to earn top-ten career status in made free throws. He has 296 and needs one more to tie Jerry Jenkins (1973-75) for 10th place.
*Junior PF Kodi Augustus is struggling with his shooting, 7-of-21 in the last three games. But he's been a force on the boards with 21 rebounds in his two SEC games.
*Augustus has made at least one longball in the last five games and is 46% for the season.
*Junior G/F Phil Turner is 25-of-31 on free throws for the year, with four of his misses coming in a single game, at Western Kentucky. He is 5-for-6 at the stripe in SEC action.
*Turner has scored at least two points in every game this season.
*G Riley Benock knows his relief-role. He has gotten 20 SEC minutes with three assists but has not taken a single shot yet.
*Of Benock's 28 shots this season, 25 have come from beyond the arc.
*His playing time dropped in December but with SEC season, F Romero Osby has returned to a regular role. He's played double-digit minutes off the bench both games, scored five and nine points, and been 5-of-8 shooting.
*Osby has hit half his trey-tries this year, 8-of-16.