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Welcome to The Sports Bank’s third annual college basketball season preview series. Two years we looked at 99 teams in 99 days. Last year, we were slightly more aggressive and expanded to 111 teams in 111 days and will do so again as we look ahead to the 2012-2013 season.
We will rank the 75 power conference teams and top 36 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 one of the most disappointing teams in college basketball last season. As a result, fourteen-year head coach Rick Stansbury “retired” and was replaced by little known Clemson assistant, Rick Ray. Ray inherits a messy situation in which he loses six of the Bulldogs eight rotation players from last season.
MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS
Last Season: T-6th, 8-8 in SEC, 21-12 overall
Predicted SEC Finish: 14th
Projected Depth Chart
C: Wendell Lewis (Sr)/Shawn Long (Fr)/Gavin Ware (Fr)
PF: Colin Borchert (Jr)/Kristers Zeidaks (So)
SF: Shaun Smith (Jr)/Roquez Johnson (So)
SG: Jalen Steele (Jr)/Fred Thomas (Fr)/Andre Applewhite (Fr)
PG: Trivante Bloodman (So)/Craig Sword (Fr)/Jacoby Davis (Fr-torn ACL)
Gone: PG-Dee Bost, F/C-Arnett Moultrie, F/C-Renardo Sidney, SG-Brian Bryant, SF-Rodney Hood (transfer-Duke), PG-Deville Smith (transfer-Southwest CC)
The Bulldogs lose 84% of their scoring from last season including the loss of Rodney Hood who would have been the star player this year but decided to transfer to Duke after Stansbury stepped down. That leaves Jalen Steele as the team’s top returning scorer even though he only averaged 8.7 points per game. He was often the fifth option on the floor last year but will become MSU’s go-to option this year. Seldom used Shaun Smith could join Steele on the wing although even less-used Roquez Johnson, and freshmen Andre Applewhite and Fred Thomas will both push to land that starting spot and earn minutes off the bench.
With Bost gone and Deville Smith transferring, junior college transfer Trivante Bloodman will take over as the starting point guard. He has a reputation for being a pesky on-the-ball defender but is also capable of creating on the offensive end. Depth behind Bloodman took a hit when freshman Jacoby Davis tore his ACL during summer workouts meaning he will likely miss the entire season. Freshman Craig Sword is likely assume the back-up point guard duties even though he is more of a two-guard. However, his status is up in the air after being arrested for having a bb gun in his dorm room.
Wendell Lewis will man the middle for Mississippi State and also take over the leadership role as the only senior on the roster. Lewis is only 6’8 but knows how to throw his 260 pound frame around inside. He hasn’t displayed much of an offensive game during his three years in Starkville but must be more assertive on the offensive end this season.
The other starting spot in the frontcourt is up for grabs. JUCO transfer Colin Borchert is a stretch four who brings some versatility to the floor. Latvian transfer Kristers Zeidaks was ruled ineligible for all last season by the NCAA due to amateur issues. He will have to sit for the first 11 games of this season as well but should be a contributor once he becomes eligible. Redshirt freshman Shawn Long will bring some size off the bench as well as an ability to knock down outside shots. True freshman Gavin Ware will also try to earn playing time in a reserve role.
Ray has a rebuilding effort on his hands after losing a few transfers and a couple of talented incoming freshmen who decided to de-commit due to the coaching change. It won’t be an easy transition and as a result, the Bulldogs will struggle to survive in the expanded SEC.
Player to Watch: Fred Thomas
The most of highly-touted of the Bulldogs’ incoming class, committed to Stansbury after his junior year and decided to stick with Ray during the new coaching regime. He is a shooter who isn’t shy about pulling the trigger. On a team that lacks a lot of offensive firepower, Thomas will be relied on at some point to help the team puts points on the board.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/19 vs. North Carolina (Maui Invitational)
11/20 vs. Marquette/Butler (Maui Invitational)
11/21 vs. Texas/Chaminade/USC/Illinois (Maui Invitational)
12/1 at Providence (Big East/SEC Challenge)
David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, 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. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft and the most accurate 2012 NBA Mock Draft on the internet (Yup, repeat champ… #humblebrag.)
You can follow him on Twitter at David_Kmiecik.