#103 Mississippi State Bulldogs: College Basketball 111 in 111


mississippi state dance team

Welcome to The Sports Bank’s fourth annual college basketball season preview series where we break 111 teams in the 111 days leading up to the opening tip-off of the 2013-2014 season.  We will rank the 84 power conference teams (including the new Big East and American Athletic Conferences) and top 27 mid-majors in reverse power ranking order.  We’ll break down rosters, transfers, incoming freshmen, non-conference schedules, and pick a player to watch for each team.

The Mississippi State Bulldogs were BAD last year.  I’m talking “Taylor Swift singing live in concert” bad.  With that being said, everyone is back from last year so the team should make strides this year.  Don’t expect a major leap though from Rick Ray’s team but rather a What About Bob baby steps-type progression.

Last Season: T-12th, 4-14 in SEC, 10-22 overall
Predicted SEC Finish: 11th

Projected Depth Chart
C: Gavin Ware (So) or Wendell Lewis (Sr)/Fallou Ndoye (Fr)
PF: Colin Borchert (Sr)
G/F: Fred Thomas (So)/Roquez Johnson (Jr)/Travis Daniels (Jr)
SG: Craig Sword (So)/Jalen Steele (Sr)/Andre Applewhite (Fr)/Tyson Cunningham (Sr)
PG: Trivante Bloodman (Jr)/I.J. Ready (Fr)/Jacoby Davis (Fr)

Gone: Nobody

2013-2014 Outlook:
When Rick Ray took over the Mississippi State Bulldogs program last year, it was in shambles.  MSU had a young, inexperienced roster that suffered losses before the season even began when freshmen guards Andre Applewhite and Jacoby Davis went down with torn ACL’s.  The lone senior on the roster, Wendell Lewis lasted just eight games before fracturing his right patella and being sidelined the remainder of the year.

Lewis had been granted a medical hardship waiver by the SEC and will return for his sixth season in Starkville.  He brings strength and physicality down low and combined with Gavin Ware who was named to the All-SEC Freshman Team last year, the Bulldogs aren’t short on toughness inside.  Freshman Fallou Ndoye will add length and athleticism to the frontcourt as well.  Colin Borchert figures to return to his starting spot at power forward and in addition to being a stretch four who can knock down outside shots, he also led the team in blocked shots a season ago.

Craig Sword, Jalen Steele, and Fred Thomas finished one, two, three on the team in scoring last season and are all back in the fold.  Sword suffered expected growing pains during his freshman campaign with an almost one-two assist-to-turnover ratio.  Yes, 1-2… not 2-1.  He shared the starting backcourt with Trivante Bloodman whose assist-to-turnover ratio wasn’t much better.

Steele and Thomas flat out didn’t shoot the rock well at all with respective 33.9 and 32.8 field goal percentages.  Plain and simple, that foursome must take better care of the basketball and show better shot selection if the Bulldogs are going to improve this year.

Getting Applewhite and Davis healthy adds depth at guard along with freshman point guard I.J. Ready.  Expect Roquez Johnson to once again be a key contributor off the bench as he allows Mississippi State to use a smaller, more athletic line-up since he is capable of playing some four.  Junior college transfer Travis Daniels will try to earn minutes off the bench as well.

It is hard to imagine Ray’s team not being slightly better as they have a year of taking bumps under their belt.  With four players already verbally committed for the 2014 class, the Bulldogs are heading in the right direction.  Still, time is needed and expecting a complete 180 from this team in 2013-14 would be foolish.

Player to Watch: Fred Thomas
With the reputation as a shooter coming out of high school, Thomas was broke during his freshman year connecting on less than 24% of his triple tries while still attempting nearly six per game.  For a team that collectively shot just 28% from distance, Mississippi State needs to find a legit outside threat.  Improving his shot selection and limiting his chucker-ness should help Thomas become a more reliable outside shooter and negate one of the Bulldogs’ major weaknesses.

Key Non-Conference Games:
11/23 at Utah State
12/5 vs. TCU (Big 12/SEC Challenge)
12/19 vs. Florida Gulf Coast
12/22 vs. South Florida (Las Vegas Classic)
12/23 vs. UNLV/Santa Clara (Las Vegas Classic)

OTHER 111 IN 111’S:
#104 DePaul
#105 South Carolina
#106 Texas Tech
#107 TCU
#108 Virginia Tech
#109 Georgia
#110 Utah
#111 Auburn

David Kay is a senior feature NBA DraftNBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank.  He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities.  David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu to Milwaukee.  He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft and the most accurate 2012 NBA Mock Draft on the internet , AND the second most accurate 2013 NBA Mock Draft. (Yup, nearly 3peat champ… #humblebrag.)

You can follow him on Twitter at David_Kmiecik.

Speak Your Mind