It has been an eventful off-season at Mississippi State… and that is not a good thing. The Bulldogs will deal with early season suspensions to their top two players but should be an NCAA Tournament-caliber team once they are at full strength.
The Sports Bank’s “99 in 99” countdown ranks the 72 power conference college basketball teams and top 27 mid-majors in reverse power rankings order. Click here if you missed teams #41-#99.
By: David Kay
Mississippi State Bulldogs (T-4th, 9-7 in SEC, 24-12 overall)
Projected Depth Chart
C: Renardo Sidney (So)/John Riek (So)
F: Elgin Bailey (Jr)/Wendell Lewis (So)
F: Kodi Augustus (Sr)/Shaun Smith (Fr)
SG: Ravern Johnson (Sr)/Riley Benock (Sr)/Jalen Steele (Fr)
PG: Dee Bost (Sr)/Brian Bryant (Jr)/Twany Beckham (So)
Gone: C-Jarvis Varnado, SG-Barry Stewart, F-Romero Osby (transfer-Oklahoma), F-Phil Turner (transfer-Delta State)
It will be a case of survive and advance through the first month-plus of the season. Highly-recruited big man Renardo Sidney was forced to sit out all of last season as the NCAA investigated his eligibility after he accepted improper benefits while in high school. Part of Sidney’s punishment also requires him to sit out the first nine games of the season but when he returns, he will be an immediate difference maker with his inside/outside ability.
Then there is the issue with starting point guard Dee Bost who declared for the NBA Draft but failed to withdraw his name prior to the May 8th deadline. After applying for re-instatement, Bost was issued a nine-game suspension. Tack that on to the fact that he is academically ineligible for the first semester, and Bost will miss the first 14 games of the year but will return in time for SEC play.
With Bost and Sidney sidelined, a lot of pressure will rest on Ravern Johnson and Kodi Augustus who will be the only returning players to average more than two points per game a year ago. Getting Elgin Bailey back from an ankle injury that cost him most of last season will help replace Jarvis Varnado inside and provide some muscle until Sidney becomes eligible.
Losing Romero Osby and Phil Turner to transfer will hurt MSU’s depth up-front. Sophomore post players John Riek and Wendell Lewis were used sparingly last season but will be counted on to play bigger roles especially the first nine games of the season.
With Bost on the bench, Rick Stansbury will turn to redshirt sophomore Twany Beckham, who missed last season due to hip surgery, or JUCO transfer Brian Bryant to run the point early in the year. Freshman Jalen Steele will also be relied on to contribute off the bench.
If the Bulldogs can hold their head above water sans Sidney and Bost and find that chemistry once both players are back in the line-up, the Bulldogs should be the team to beat in the weak SEC West. How they hang with the boys in the SEC East will determine whether or not Mississippi State gets back to the dance.
Player to Watch: Ravern Johnson, G/F
Johnson is a slinky wing player who can stroke it from distance as he shot nearly 41% from three last season. Like Bost, Johnson flirted with the NBA Draft before deciding to return to school for his senior season. The Bulldogs’ schedule is fairly weak the first nine games of the season, but Johnson will need to provide some leadership and up his scoring numbers if MSU is going to avoid being upset without Bost and Sidney.
Key Non-Conference Games:
12/18 vs. Virginia Tech (in Bahamas)
12/22 vs. Washington State (Diamond Head Classic)
12/23 vs. Baylor/San Diego (Diamond Head Classic)
12/25 vs. Butler/Florida State/Utah/Hawaii (Diamond Head Classic)
12/29 vs. St. Mary’s (in Las Vegas)
Other 99 in 99’s:
#41 Utah State
#45 Seton Hall
#46 Wichita State
#47 Washington State
#48 St. Louis
#49 Old Dominion
#51 New Mexico
#55 Southern Mississippi
#56 St. Mary’s
#57 Texas A&M
#59 Arizona State
#60 Northern Iowa
#64 Texas Tech
#65 Miami, FL
#68 Ole Miss
#69 George Mason
#71 Weber State
#74 Central Florida
#75 Wake Forest
#76 Georgia Tech
#78 Oklahoma State
#82 South Carolina
#86 Penn State
#87 South Florida
#89 Boston College
#93 Oregon State
#97. Iowa State
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