NCAA Basketball

College Basketball Preview: Mississippi State vs. Kentucky

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The 2010-11 season has been a bit of a circus for the Mississippi State Bulldogs. They started out the year with both Renardo Sidney (suspended for being an idiot) and Dee Bost (suspended for academic issues and for not withdrawing his name from the 2010 NBA Draft by the deadline) on the pine. Because he knew they would be out, head coach Rick Stansbury decided to take things into his own hands and grabbed the keys to the clown car. He decided to put the Bulldogs through a gauntlet of a schedule in December so they would play enough games to get Sidney and Bost eligible by conference play.

Mississippi State went to the Bahamas, to Hawaii and to Las Vegas to play in invitationals. The result was a bit of a joke. They suffered losses to Florida Atlantic, East Tennessee State, Virginia Tech, Washington State, Hawaii and St. Mary’s. At one point during this stint they played five games in five days. The team lacked energy.

But, an event that transpired in Hawaii is what most people remember about these trips. Renardo Sidney was walking through the stands of Hawaii’s gym, teammate Elgin Bailey didn’t move his legs to let him walk though, so Sidney threw a left hook at Bailey and an altercation immediately transpired.

Following the fight, Bailey, a junior co-captain, decided to transfer. Sidney was suspended indefinitely. That indefinite suspension ended up lasting two games. At the time of the fight, Bailey was averaging six points to Sidney’s 16. Think that had anything to do with the decisions made by the MSU coaching staff?

We’re not done. Prior to their one-point win over LSU, a game where they were forced to hold the Tigers scoreless over the final 3:30 to get the win, senior Ravern Johnson was suspended for questioning the coaching staff on his Twitter account. Want to hear something else hilarious regarding the genius that his Renardo Sidney? Sidney retweeted Johnson’s tweet, yet received zero disciplinary action.

Rick Stansbury has lost this team. Very seldom will you see a collection of athletes play with such a don’t-give-a-damn attitude. In their win over LSU it was almost comical. They didn’t move on offense, they didn’t crash the offensive glass, they didn’t play defense until they absolutely had to and they played with zero heart, whatsoever.

On Saturday things got worse, as they fell to Auburn, a team that could possibly have less talent than any other team in one of the big six conferences, after leading by 19 with under 12 minutes to go in the game. Auburn used a 19-0 run late to get back into the contest and eventually win the thing.

They lost to the Tigers despite getting two players back from suspension. Johnson returned from his two-game suspension from his evil tweets and Rob Chubb returned after being suspended for being arrested on charges of public intoxication, disorderly conduct, attempting to elude a police officer. Fun.

Put this into perspective. Johnson got two games for his degrading tweet. Sidney got zero games for retweeting it. Johnson got two games for the tweet. Sidney got two games for fighting with a teammate who was forced to transfer willingly.

Rick Stansbury has lost this team.

They have talent. That is why many picked them to win the SEC West. That is why many predicted them to make the NCAA tournament at the end of the year. But, at 5-5 in league-play and three games back of Alabama, an SEC West crown appears highly unlikely. A trip to the Big Dance appears even less likely. In fact, it is going to take four strait wins in the SEC tournament to get it done.

It is almost scary to think what this season would have been like for the Bulldogs without junior point guard Dee Bost (6-2, 170). Bost has been the lone constant for MSU since his return ten games ago. He leads the Bulldogs in points with 17.7 and assists with 5.2. He is also effective from deep, knocking down 27 threes while shooting 37-percent. He has scored in double figures in all but two games since his return and in those two contests he scored nine points.

The junior guard does struggle with turnovers from time to time. He has five or more in three of his last four games and is averaging 3.4 per game. All too often he attempts to split double teams and more often the not the result is the other team racing the other way with the basketball.

He is a good player and it is scary to think how dysfunctional this team would be without his presence. But, I still find the fact that he entered his name into the draft following his sophomore year and failed to remove it before the deadline to be absurd. He’s a decent college guard. He is nowhere near an NBA-ready point guard.

Sophomore Renardo Sidney (6-10, 270) has the size and the ability to play at the next level. That is what made him such a highly sought after recruit a year ago. But, to reach that potential he is going to have to find a way to stop acting like an idiot.

He could easily cause UK problems because of their lack of depth in the front court. When he gets the ball on the block, he has the size, footwork and a plethora of post moves to score the basketball. But, very seldom will the ball leave the post once it touches his hands. When the ball doesn’t touch his hands, he pouts. If he doesn’t get the touches that he deems necessary, you will see him jog up and down the court, not try to rebound and play no defense.

The kid has a ton of ability. He just needs to figure things out.

On the year he is third on the team in scoring with 13.1 points and his 7.3 rebounds lead the way. He is also shooting an impressive 50-percent from the floor. In the last three games he has shown signs as he has double figure rebounds in all three of those contests. They are his only three double figure rebound games of the year. In two of those three games he has recorded double doubles.

If he can become a reliable source of production and a good teammate, the Bulldogs have the talent to be dangerous. But, at this point you have to wonder if that will ever happen.

Senior and evil texter Ravern Johnson (6-7, 175) is the Bulldogs’ best shooter. He is second on the team in scoring with 17.0 points and has knocked down a team-high 54 threes, while shooting 35-percent from beyond the arc. He has knocked down at least one three in all but one game this season and has the ability to go off on opposing defenses. He has two games of 30 or more points and has four games where he has knocked down more than five threes.

He has not been as consistent in SEC play and in their loss at Auburn on Saturday he finished with just three points on 1-for-6 shooting.

Wildcat defenders will also have to be aware of senior Riley Benock’s (6-4, 180) ability to knock down shots from deep. He is second on the team with 44 threes and is shooting a team-high 44-percent.

As a team, the Bulldogs have knocked down 179 threes, which ranks fourth in the SEC, and are shooting 34-percent. In comparison, the Wildcats’ 183 threes rank second behind Vandy and they are shooting a league-high 40-percent.

Stansbury’s teams are usually known for their aggresiveness on the glass. This year, their lack of energy is effecting their rebounding totals. In SEC games this year they are being out-rebounded by nearly five a game and they rank ninth in the league with 39.6 per game.

To have a chance in Lexington, the Bulldogs will have to play some defense and limit the Wildcats to under 65 points. When MSU plays defense, they put themselves in position to win and are 9-2 when their opponent scores less than 65 points.

I mentioned twice in my preview that Stansbury has lost this team and I don’t think a loss at Auburn is going to really wake them up. The only way Kentucky struggles with the Bulldogs is if Sidney decides to play hard on both ends and gets UK’s bigs in foul trouble. I just don’t see any evidence that it could happen.

I’m telling you they are brutal to watch. Teams with talent that don’t play hard are just frustrating.

Kentucky rolls.

Kentucky 78, Mississippi State 66