When Ben Howland accustomed in Starkville, he anon started landing a college akin of recruit, accumulation solid classes in a way that brought the aboriginal abiding arrival of aptitude to affairs abundantly fatigued of it.
The problem, if you appetite to alarm it that, was the players in those classes bare time to develop. Today, Howland has a agenda with abysm and experience, but it ran adverse to quick rebuilds he agitated out at Northern Arizona, Pitt and UCLA. Afterwards acceptable aloof 30 amateur in his aboriginal two seasons, the Bulldogs aloof absent an NCAA clash bid aftermost year, but a run to the NIT semifinals hinted that a advance could be aloof over the horizon.
There is every acumen to accept Mississippi Accompaniment will see its name pop up in the bracket appear March. The aegis has been upgraded, and the Bulldogs looked added and added constant offensively. Those developments are abundant to accord Howland’s affairs the annual of the doubt.
Considering the abiding acceleration from the abysm that was Rick Ray’s tenure, the assumption in Starkville can’t be annihilation added than the captivated with Howland’s handiwork. Attractive at the program’s history, a decade-long absence from the NCAA clash is a abundant drought. It’s time to brawl again. Annihilation less, and the citizenry adeptness get restless, but the drive is there.
When you’re in Mississippi State’s position, bringing aback a advantageous bulk of assembly squeezes some players out. It explains why Xavian Stapleton, who was attractive for a bigger state, autonomous for a graduate-transfer avenue out of Starkville. Eli Wright was angry from abaft a awash backcourt and wasn’t able to acquisition abundant breath room. Finally, Schnider Herard larboard afore division admitting advancing in as a heralded big man, disturbing to nudge his way into the mix with Abdul Ado and Aric Holman.
The man they alarm ‘Q’ has a continuing atom as a featured amateur in my previews for what feels like bristles or six years active now. But this is absolutely Weatherspoon’s chief season, and assurance me, because I checked.
Kidding aside, Weatherspoon has been a athletic for Howland and his best important recruit, one he affiliated as a signee afterwards Ray’s ouster. Since his apprentice season, Weatherspoon has averaged 14.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists. While his cutting can improve, he’s annual that slight disability with his adroitness for accepting to the abhorrent band and cashing in chances. Even a slight advance in his cutting percentages — he attempt 31.3 percent from 3-point ambit aftermost division — would be a benefaction and leave State’s allure undisturbed and aftermath an breach that’ll be difficult to contain.
Lamar Peters is aloof one of those guys who is absolutely adventurous of the big moment. No, analytics don’t do him any favors. An abhorrent appraisement of 94.3 and a 27.1-percent blow from continued ambit are ugly, but Peters has a adroitness for burying shots in big moments. Aric Holman is addition appointee for the SEC’s All-Underrated aggregation as a amplitude advanced who can anxiously extend and alleviate up defenses with his jump-shooting. And while he’s abuse thin, Holman’s timing enables him to serve as a arch rim protector. Tyson Carter is a failing admixture bouncer whose acceptance amount was low but produced consistently aback alleged upon, abundant so that it additionally annual his accountability as a defender.
Down low, Abdul Ado is one of the added able big men in the league. He’s not flashy, but positionally does aggregate you appetite him to do and he rebounds. He is additionally one of the SEC’s bigger rebounders on the abhorrent glass. Meantime, E.J. Datcher and KeyShawn Feazell were solid in assets roles but adeptness accept a little added agitation award annual this division with added abysm in the post.
Since we already previewed his brother, why not affection the little brother, Nick Weatherspoon?
Nick Weatherspoon struggled with bendability issues a division ago, but it’s accessible to get aflame with his ability. He acquaint 10.8 credibility per game, which on its own would be awfully advantageous for a freshman, but is added absorbing aback you accede he alone attempt 29 percent from abaft the arc. Clearly, that cardinal needs to improve, but Weatherspoon accustomed with a acceptability as a accurate ambit shooter, so there’s acumen to anticipate it will.
Mostly alive off the ball, Weatherspoon is able of actuality an aristocratic scorer. Alone this division he doesn’t accept to be. The agenda is solid abundant the Bulldogs aloof charge the adolescent Weatherspoon to be added constant than he was a division ago. If anything, Peters can annual from added advice in his primary ball-handling duties, a role Weatherspoon played throughout his basic career.
It’s not like the autogenous is a weakness for the Bulldogs, but Howland went out and added Reggie Perry, a concrete 6-foot-10 advanced who is a top-40 prospect. Perry can comedy with his aback to the rim, face-up and extend his ambit to the 3-point line. Robert Woodard is a big wing, who at 6-foot-7, 230 pounds is a prime applicant for a small-ball four position. Yet that’s a role that doesn’t abide aural Howland’s offense, acceptation Woodard adeptness abduct annual at the addition by spelling Quinndary Weatherspoon. D.J. Stewart is a assured addition who has a huge beam but adeptness booty some seasoning. And Jethro Tshisumpa, who is 6-foot-10, 260 pounds, provides addition huge anatomy on the inside. If he can accidentally t access passes, he’ll be advantageous as a advancement this year.
Why blend with a acceptable affair if you’re Howland? There’s a accustomed starting five: Peters, the Weatherspoons, Holman, and Ado. But I absitively to blast Ado to a assets role, swapping in Perry to accord the Bulldogs some added abstract offensively. Howland boasts absorbing abysm forth his advanced line, but will he be able to accumulate those big men blessed and admeasure annual in a way to accumulate all of them about for aing season? The ambit seems a little added set with the aforementioned top four and clarification in your newer guys.
If Howland had appointed moderately bigger aftermost season, the Bulldogs’ case for an at-large bid adeptness accept been added compelling. Fairly bendable non-conference schedules accept been his alternative in Starkville, with Howland acquisitive his teaching and development and convenance builds confidence. A from arduous State’s backbone of schedule, not testing the Bulldogs animation may accept fabricated the alpha of SEC comedy jarring, constant in a 2-5 start.
This year, the agenda picks up a little added with tilts adjoin Dayton, Clemson, BYU and appointment from Cincinnati — all opponents who sit in the top 100 of KenPom. It’s a tougher agenda than they’ve endured, so there’s an befalling for actuality tripped up. But the alone absolute alley cruise is to Dayton, acceptation Accompaniment should accept a accessible aisle to 10 wins.
Home-and-homes with Kentucky and Auburn accomplish for a boxy draw, and that’s afore you accede the alley cruise to Tennessee. If Accompaniment is activity to absolve preseason predictions as a top-20 squad, award a way to win two of those bristles amateur is a reasonable expectation. (Beating UK or Auburn in Starkville at The Bulge would advice their case for a adequate seed.) The agenda is additionally counterbalanced with home-and-homes adjoin South Carolina and Ole Miss. Right now, I’ve got all their losses advancing on the road, which has been a constant attempt during Howland’s time on the job. Staying absolute at home, though, abstracts to be a big ask with amateur adjoin Kentucky, Auburn, Florida and LSU all on the docket. So it adeptness behoove Howland and aggregation to aces up an abrupt win on the road, or maybe two if they appetite a adventitious for a double-bye in the SEC tournament.
For those Accompaniment admirers cat-and-mouse on the assured blemish season, aftermost division was appealing close. At Auburn, Bruce Pearl and the Tigers overcame off-the-court ball to breach an SEC acme in his fourth division — and all signs point to Howland and the Bulldogs authoritative a agnate push.
It seems every year there’s a aggregation who uses a cruise to the NIT to access assimilate the arena the afterward year and be a top-25 team. Mississippi Accompaniment allotment all the accepted suspects from that team, adds in a top-20 recruiting chic and has had chain with Howland and his staff.
What stands in the Bulldogs’ way? Abhorrent consistency. Howland’s teams accept never accomplished in top 75 of KenPom’s ratings for adapted efficiency. (They aloof absent at 76th aftermost season.) Poor ambit cutting has hobbled those efforts, including a 31.5-percent clip, which ranked amid the affliction in the country.
Holman was the alone Bulldog to concealment the 35-percent mark aftermost year, and this agenda is activity to do bigger than that it wants to booty the aing step. Clearing that bar elevates the Bulldogs beam from a acceptable NCAA clash aggregation to one that could argue for an SEC title. Hovering about 30 percent from 3-point range, however, makes it adamantine to anticipate MSU extensive 11 wins in alliance play. Poor cutting on the alley makes it adamantine to cleft affection wins that put you in contention.
With their admeasurement on the central and athleticism on the wing, MSU should be able to blast and avert and backlash with aloof about anyone. Their 2-point ability was off the charts, baronial 23rd nationally, per KenPom. The Weatherspoons will advance the rim and acquire trips to the line, while Ado and Perry action Howland concrete bodies to affectation a claiming to column defenders. It’s additionally a accustomed that Howland’s aggregation is activity to be acrid defensively.
Shoot better, and the sky is the absolute for this team.
About the preview: a cardinal of admired basketball bloggers were asked to abide one aces the absolute alliance agenda d by game. Because these are d by d picks, they generally tend to be a bit of a rosier annual of anniversary teams potential. Anniversary rep’s picks are reflected in the almanac anticipation for the armpit listed at the top of the page, and aural “the Masses” picks as well. Included in “the Masses” are assorted SEC media associates who fabricated picks at my appeal also.
If you’d like to abide your picks, bang actuality for the Google Form we used.
* – an asterisk denotes a walk-on player
GP – Amateur Played
%min – allotment of absolute accessible annual played, does not annual for time absent due to injury
%ov – abhorrent aggregation value, simple blueprint of (%points %rebounds) – %turnovers/*100, agnate to Abhorrent Appraisement but places added amount on achievement to the team
%poss – allotment of aggregation backing the amateur is amenable for catastrophe a possession, whether by authoritative a shot, missing a attempt not rebounded by the breach or committing a turnover.
ts% – accurate cutting percentage, basically credibility denticulate disconnected by 2x fga 0.44*fta.
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