SEC BASKETBALL PREVIEW: The Miss. State Bulldogs

This is the next in our continuing preview of the 2002-03 SEC Men's basketball season. Today, hoops expert VeeMan gives us a preview of the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

Returning Players

                      MIN  PPG  %FG  %3P  %FT  REB AST

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Mario Austin Jr      1051  16.1 55.7 ---  65.8 266  47

Derrick Zimmerman Sr 1144   9.2 53.0 29.4 57.6 141 210

Timmy Bowers Jr       804  10.6 42.4 36.8 60.3  91  49

Michael Ignerski Sr   685   8.8 46.1 36.5 70.5 113  38

Ontario Harper So     466   4.1 48.7 43.9 39.1  98  23

Lincoln Smith Jr      252   2.3 45.0 ---  71.4  61   3

Marcus Campbell So    198   2.8 52.8 ---  50.0  60   4

Winsome Frazier So    178   3.4 44.6 32.1 30.0  18  12

Roy Goffer Jr         105   1.1 30.4 27.3 50.0   7   5 

Players Lost

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Marckell Patterson   1004  12.3 48.2 33.0 77.9 147  76

Michael Gholar        888   6.2 38.9 33.0 71.0 216  64

Guy Gardner           246   1.4 45.2 33.3 61.9  18  31 

New Players and Rank in PrepStars

Brandon Vincent 6'8" Junior (#17 in junior college)

Stephen Cowherd 6'2" Freshman (unranked)

Wesley Morgan 7'2" Redshirted freshman 

Strengths

(1) Mario Austin, at 6'9" and 255 lbs, rivals Erwin Dudley for best big man in the SEC. 6'2" Derrick Zimmerman is a dynamic point guard who takes the ball to the basket extremely well, does an amazing job of rebounding, and even led the team in blocked shots last year!

(2) There is a lot of size. Beside Austin, there is Marcus Campbell, 7'0" and 265 lbs, who showed signs last year of becoming a force. Wesley Morgan, who is even taller but not as heavy (230 lbs), was held out last year. And then there are Vincent, Michael Ignerski (6'9", 225 lbs), and Lincoln Smith (6'9", 270 lbs), and Ignerski is a good shooter. Mississippi State is the biggest team in the conference.

(3) Timmy Bowers, 6'3", and Ontario Harper, 6'7", are good outside shooters on the wings, but this is an area that needs development. 

Weaknesses

1. Zimmerman is a poor free-throw shooter, and he had plenty of company in that category last year (Harper, Bowers, Austin).

2. An injury at point guard or to Bowers or Harper might produce a critical situation. Freshman Cowherd would have to take over the point and the only smaller substitute wing players haven't seen much action (Frazier, 6'4"; Goffer, 6'3"), but Ignerski could fill the breach.

3. The team lost defensive stopper Michael Gholar, and it isn't clear who will fill his place.

4. Outside shooting is not the forte of this team, which doesn't take many three-pointers and doesn't make a high percentage of those. 

Keys

1. Turnovers must be kept down, as happened late last season. Earlier, it wasn't uncommon for the Bulldogs to turn the ball over 18-24 times.

2. Finding enough outside shooting to keep opponents from packing the defense around the basket. 

Near Certainties

1. Zimmerman will get a great many assists (a whopping 210 last year) but will turn the ball over rather often.

2. The Bulldogs will be confident after a surprising 27-8 season in 2001-2002 and a nine-game winning streak in February and March, which included winning the SEC Tournament. 

Prospects for 2002-2003

Mississippi State is expected to give Alabama a battle for the championship of the SEC West, not winning but holding off Mississippi for second place. The Bulldogs will again go to the NCAA tournament and should win more than one game this time. 


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