*Alabama holds a 111-71 lead in the series, and is 71-14 in home games. Mississippi State last won in Tuscaloosa in 2008 as part of a five-game winning streak over three seasons, which was snapped last year as the Tide took a double-overtime home win.
*Rick Stansbury is 14-10 against Alabama over 11 seasons, which includes a couple of SEC Tournament successes.
*State center Jarvis Varnado has not fouled-out of a game this season. In fact the last time he picked up five personals in a game was a year ago, at Alabama.
*PG Dee Bost had 30 points and 15 assists in two games against Alabama as a freshman.
About the Crimson Tide: The coaching carousel that's been spinning through the SEC in recent seasons made a stop in Tuscaloosa last winter, with Mark Gottfried's largely-successful tenure ending before his 11th season did. Give Alabama credit for beating Georgia and other programs to sign Anthony Grant on for the fresh start. And give Grant's team for performing better than a 11-7 record implies; for example that opening loss to Cornell isn't a joke now. The new boss certainly benefitted from four returning starters, though MSU is grateful none are named Alonzo Gee. Still Grant has adjusted the gameplan and some roles to make a club capable of hanging with most foes and beating some. Vanderbilt and Tennessee can certainly attest to narrow escapes. The attack is built around two Tiders who have made major upgrades from last winter. Though, this was only expected after JaMychal Green broke onto the SEC scene with 10.3 scoring and almost eight boards-per as an all-Freshman forward. His second-time around is even more productive as Green has picked up Gee's points, maintained the rebounding, and worked his way to the foul stripe regularly. That matters because while the Tide is hitting over 70% at the stripe they've made the fewest trips to the line of any SEC squad. The bigger story is how big guard Mikhail Torrance has upgraded his game; from 10.0 points to a team-best 15.2 as of now, making 51% of all shots. And all the while dishing for more scores with 94 assists already, and taking good care of the ball in the process. He's also the league's leading free-thrower at 87% this week. Alabama's problems have been over-reliance on this pair with nobody else contributing double-digits for the season stats. But freshman forward Tony Mitchell is getting there at 9.4 points and his 57% accuracy is best on the squad if not enough to achieve SEC ranking. Guard Anthony Brock has a great 33-to-8 ratio of assists/turnovers and offers perimeter punch, while junior transfer Charvez Davis comes off the bench to lead the team in treys. Together they are around 35% at the arc. Outside shooting is junior guard Senario Hillman's calling card but he's 32% for the season and for this week is not listed as a starter. For that matter Alabama's offense is not built on outside shooting with just 94 treys in 18 games, near the bottom of the league. So is team scoring which ranks 10th, and despite having size around the goal offensive rebounding is an issue. But they do play good defense all over the court, don't commit a lot of unforced turnovers, make smart use of the bench for fresh legs all game, and just manage to keep the opposition within striking range from tip-to-horn. Which is bound to pay-off as Grant's first campaign grinds on and Alabama starts picking people off.
Projected Starting Lineups:
ALABAMA: F Tony Mitchell, FR 6-6 185, 9.4ppg, 57%fgs; F JaMychal Green, SO 6-9 220, 15.0ppg, 7.3rpg, 53.0%fgs; F Justin Knox, JR 6-9 240, 6.3ppg, 3.7rpg; G Anthony Brock, SR 5-9 165, 5.8ppg, 24 3ptrs; G Mikhail Torrance, 15.2ppg, 3.6rpg, 16 3ptrs, 94 asts.
Top Backups: G Senario Hillman, JR 6-1 192, 8.3ppg, 12 3ptrs, 46 asts; G Charvez Davis, JR 6-3 190, 5.8ppg, 31 3ptrs.
MISSISSIPPI STATE: F Kodi Augustus, JR 6-8 220, 9.3ppg, 5.8rpg, 20 3ptrs; C Jarvis Varnado, SR 6-9, 14.1ppg, 11.2rpg, 96 blks; G/F Ravern Johnson, JR 6-7 175, 13.9ppg, 3.5rpg, 54 3ptrs; G Barry Stewart, SR 6-3 170, 11.1ppg, 46 asts, 34 3ptrs; PG Dee Bost, SO 6-2 170, 12.2ppg, 100 asts, 32 3ptrs.
Top Backups: G/F Phil Turner, JR 6-3 170, 6.2ppg, 4.8rpg; F Romero Osby, SO 6-8 230, 5.1ppg, 2.7rpg; G Riley Benock, JR 6-4 180, 1.9ppg, 10 3ptrs.
HOW THEY COMPARE:
Scoring: MSU 75.3, ALA 70.0
Scoring Defense: MSU 61.2, ALA 64.1
FG Shooting: MSU 45.8%, ALA 45.8% FG Defense: MSU 36.7%, ALA 42.2%
3-Point Shooting: MSU 40.2%, ALA 33.6%
3-point Attempts: MSU 433, ALA 280
Rebounding: MSU 41.7, ALA 33.8
Rebound Margin: MSU +6.9, ALA +2.6
Free Throw Shooting: MSU 67.7%, ALA 70.2%
Turmovers: MSU 13.6, ALA 12.3
BULLDOG NOTES: And the longballs just keep falling, albeit at a slightly slower pace (37.1%) in SEC season so-far than the year as a whole. The Bulldogs began this week 3rd in the NCAA for made-treys per game at 9.7; and 20th in three-point shooting. Both lead the SEC of course.
*With 174 made-treys in 18 games this State squad is going to break the season record for longballs set just last winter, 296 in 36 games.
*State paces the SEC, and is 4th-best in the nation, in field goal defense for the year. The Dogs are also first in SEC scoring defense, 35th nationally.
*Now here's a couple of stats that usually don't go together well. Mississippi State continues to lead the SEC in blocked shots, and rank second in the NCAA overall. But the Bulldogs are also the least-whistled squad in the whole NCAA, drawing just 12.7 personals per-game.
*State has blocked 23 shots in the last two SEC wins.
*And only 44 State shots have been rejected so far this season, or less than half the blocks C Jarvis Varnado has on his own.
*Varnado is about to score his third 100-block season, with 96 going into the weekend. He had 157 as a sophomore and set the SEC record with 170 as a junior. He is swatting 5.3 shots per-game, ahead of last year's 4.7 pace.
*As of this week Varnado is 2nd in the NCAA stats for blocks per-game. For context, the SEC's second-best blocker is getting just 3.3 per game but is 9th in the NCAA.
*He has blocked a shot in 35 straight games now.
*Varnado is now 3rd on the NCAA career list for blocks, with 490, and is two shy of catching Adonal Foyle of Colgate for #2. And at his current rate Varnado will break the NCAA blocks record of 535 by Wojciech Mydra of Louisiana-Monroe in nine more games. Or less.
*Varnado had an off-day offensively at Ole Miss to begin SEC season but has come back with 31 points in two league wins, and made 12 of his 20 shots.
*That gives the senior 1,161 career points, placing him 23rd on the MSU list as he just passed Gary Hooker (1976-78). He needs seven points to catch Marckell Patterson (1999-2002), and to make the top-twenty will require exactly 1,200 points or one more than Mario Austin (2001-03).
*Varnado is working on becoming the next Dog to average a double-double for a season. In four of his last five games he's had a double-double, giving him ten for the season. And last week he scored—and rebounded and blocked—his second triple-double with 17 points, 12 boards, and 10 blocks against Arkansas. It was the fourth t-d by a Bulldog ever but the second for Varnado who did the trick as a sophomore in 2008.
*For the season Varnado is shooting 62.2%, giving him a career rate of 59.8% that is third-best in program history.
*Varnado is leading the SEC in rebounding at 11.2, with second-place back at 9.4
*With 928 career rebounds he is 4th on the MSU career list and 36 boards behind Wiley Peck (1976-79).
*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).
*Junior G Ravern Johnson had an off-day against Georgia with seven points. And his one made-trey Saturday was the season-low. Still he's made at least one longball every game this year and hasn't been shut-out at the arc since the SEC Tournament semifinal with LSU.
*It just took that one off-day to drop Varnado to 27th in NCAA three-pointing at 3.0 per-game, and third in the SEC. But he's still second in outside-accuracy in the league, 9th in the NCAA, at 47.0% for the year. His current outside shooting is the second-best season by a Bulldog ever.
*Johnson has 54 treys in 18 games and is just behind the regular-season pace needed to break Darryl Wilson's 1996 record of 97. But with tournament time that mark should fall with Johnson bidding to break the 100-three standard.
*His 144 career treys are 8th already on the MSU career list, and he needs 160 to catch Winsome Frazier for 7th place.
*Johnson still has never fouled out of a college game. In fact he has just 20 personals through 18 games.
*PG Dee Bost has risen to the SEC-occasion offensively with 60 points in three league games, best on the team. In SEC play he is shooting 19-of-42 overall or 45%, though just 4-of-14 at the arc while trying to keep defenses honest.
*As impressive as his SEC scoring has been, Bost is distributing better than ever as well. He has 19 assists in three games. In fact in his last ten games Bost has averaged 6.4 assists.
*He currently ranks second in the SEC and 25th nationally in assists per-game.
*Bost has exactly 100 assists now. He issued 156 last year to set a MSU freshman record.
*And with 256 in two seasons Bost ought to make the career top-ten before this year is out. He needs 314 to match Ray White (1975-79) for 10th place.
*But his free-throwing has slipped a bit, as he's 9-of-16 the last two games.
*Bost has started all 54 of his college games, the only Dog on this roster who has never come off the bench.
*Good thing there was an open date on the slate, because senior G Barry Stewart needed the break after playing 39 minutes against Georgia. Only once this season has he played less than 30 minutes, in the romp over Mississippi Valley.
*That gives the senior 3,804 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 123 games and are closing in on the program record of 127 by Derrick Zimmernan (2000-03).
*Stewart now owns 1,378 career points and is 12th on the MSU scoring list.
*One of only two Dogs with over 200 career treys, Stewart (236) is working towards the record of 258 by Darryl Wilson.
*Stewart's outside shot has been off much of the senior season at 36.6% overall, but in three SEC games he's made 46.2% of trey-tries.
*Stewart is about to reach 300 career free throws made; he has 298 and just moved into the MSU top-ten by passing Jerry Jenkins (1973-75). He's hit almost 74% of his chances at the stripe.
*Junior G/F Phil Turner is working his way to the foul stripe this SEC season, having made 9-of-10 in the last three games. He is 29-of-35 for the season.
*And he's made half his eight trey-tries in league play.
*Turner's 15 points against Georgia were a season-high, and his highest offensive output since…last year's 19-point outing against Georgia.
*Junior PF Kodi Augustus has made at least one longball in the last six games and is 9-of-24 at the arc in this stretch.
*But after getting 21 rebounds in his first two SEC games he was held to two boards against Georgia.
*Augustus has made his last seven free-throw tries.
*G Riley Benock has taken 29 shots this season, 26 of them from the arc with ten makes.
*SEC season has brought F Romero Osby back to action. He's averaged a dozen minutes off the bench in league play, hit 55% of his shots and aided in keeping State ahead of the SEC rebounding race.