State-ments Of Intent

Mississippi State head basketball coach Rick Stansbury is, as might be expected, looking forward to his team's trip to New York City for the NIT semifinals, but he knows he has a big challenge ahead in the unorthodox offensive and defensive systems run by West Virginia.

"We are very excited about the opportunity to come to New York and Madison Square Garden," Stansbury said in his syrupy southern drawl. "It's still special to be playing at this time of the year. But we know we have our work cut out for us. We will be playing an excellent basketball team in West Virginia. They are well-schooled and well-coached.

"I have a lot of respect for John Beilein and the job he's done and where he's been," Stansbury continued. "We have played some games against each other, and I had even greater respect for him afterward. West Virginia is different. They play a different style than what you are used to seeing. That makes it a challenge."

Stansbury has obviously been watching tape non-stop since the Bulldogs' win over Florida State, as he has a good handle on WVU's schemes. However, he notes that he team, having not faced West Virginia's versions of the 1-3-1, might have some adjustments to make.

"We have not faced a 1-3-1 like West Virginia's. There are teams may throw it at you for a trip or two as their second or third defense, but this is primary defense. And because of that, they are so much better at it.

"They run an open-post Princeton-type of offense, but it is different than Princeton. It has the same values and structure, with lots of screening and back-cutting. You don't see that very often."

Like most teams that have had success in the NIT, Stansbury's squad was able to put away the disappointment of not getting an NCAA bid.

"We were disappointed, but you can turn around and make a positive out of it," he said of his team's attitude toward the NIT. "I think both teams have done that. Like West Virginia, we were awarded a one seed, three home games, and national TV. And now we have the chance to play in New York on one of biggest media stages in the country. And for kids to still be practicing, that's a big help too."

Mississippi State has won nine of its last 12 games – a late surge that put them in contention for post-season play. The turnaround was fueled not by big improvements, but small things, according to Stansbury.

"It was a fine line. We had three losses on last second shots, and it wasn't that we weren't playing good basketball [earlier]," the coach said. "We were in a position to win some of those games. But we all found a way to get a little bit better. We have some guys understanding their roles better, and those little improvements were enough to make us better. Also, there's no substitute for experience."

Like West Virginia, the Bulldogs put a young lineup on the court, one that improved greatly from the start of the season to the finish. Both Stansbury and Beilein will be looking to cap that improvement with a pair of victories next week.


  • Stansbury on Frank Young: "I think that Frank Young is a really good player, He's a senior, scores 15 points per game, and does a lot of things for his team. He presents a lot of problems in a lot of ways. I don't think we've played anyone who has made 107 threes this year."

  • The Bulldogs will depart Starkville on Sunday for New York.

  • BlueGoldNews Top Stories