Top 68 Team Previews: #38 Mississippi State Bulldogs
If he can stay out of trouble, Renardo Sidney is one of the best players in the SEC. (Icon SMI)
By Kevin Mallory
Monday, September 05, 2011
Mississippi State Bulldogs
Last Season: 17-14 (9-7)
Key Losses: Ravern Johnson, Kodi Augustus
Head Coach: Rick Stansbury
Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Dee Bost 6-2 Sr.
SG: Jalen Steele 6-3 So.
SF: Rodney Hood 6-7 Fr.
PF: Renardo Sidney 6-10 Jr.
C: Arnett Moultrie 6-11 Jr.
Key Reserves: Wendell Lewis 6-9 Jr. C, Deville Smith 6-0 Fr. PG, Brian Bryant 6-3 Sr. PG
A team coming off a 17-14 season may not sound like a team that could be on its way to an NCAA tournament. However, Mississippi State with its mixture of experience and talented newcomers may be one of the most intriguing teams in the SEC, if not the country.
But the Bulldogs must become more consistent and mature while avoiding the turmoil that seemed to hound them all last season.
Highly touted freshman D.J. Gardner, a 6-foot-7 guard, was dismissed from the team after "repeated actions deemed detrimental to the team." In fact, (including Gardner) four players have left the Mississippi State program in the last nine months. Coach Stansbury felt the need to ban Twitter during last season following Ravern Johnson and Renardo Sidney's criticism of the Bulldogs' coaching staff.
Speaking of Sidney, it has been reported that he stayed behind during the team's European trip in order to work out with former NBA player and coach John Lucas. Sidney might end up as another one of Lucas's reclamation projects. The talented, but often troubled, junior forward averaged 14.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game in 19 games. On the other hand, Sidney was suspended on two separate occasions, one of those for his melee with a teammate at the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii. Yet and still, his pairing with UTEP transfer Arnett Moultrie could provide the Bulldogs with one of the most formidable frontcourts in the SEC.
Moultrie tore it up during the team's five-game exhibition trip in Europe. The 6-foot-11 forward/center averaged a team-high 16.8 points and 11.2 rebounds per game. It has also been reported that Moultrie has added 10 pounds of muscle to deal with the rigors of the SEC. If Sidney has indeed matured physically and emotionally, Mississippi State will have one of the best 4-5 combinations in the nation.
Dee Bost returns for his senior campaign after dealing with some turbulence of his own. Bost missed the first 14 games last season after a suspension for withdrawing from the NBA Draft after the deadline along with academic issues. Through it all, Bost still led the team with 6.2 assists per game and finished second on the team in scoring average (15.3 per game) while only playing in 17 games. Bost is one of the best returning point guards in college basketball, and how well he plays this season will be a key for the Bulldogs.
There may be some concern with Jalen Steele, who will be returning from a serious knee injury suffered in February. Prior to the injury, Steele did a solid job of replacing the suspended Ravern Johnson in the starting lineup.
Stansbury pulled off a major recruiting coup in keeping Rodney Hood, a five-star Rivals.com recruit, at home. The 6-foot-7 guard/forward will have to play more off the ball than he did in high school when he was a two-time state player of the year, but Hood and Stansbury agree that he will not have many issues in adjusting to the college game. Hood will need to get stronger, but there is a consensus in Starkville that he will be a "terrific player" for the Bulldogs.
The onus will be on Mississippi State to realize its potential of being one of the elite teams in the conference. If the Bulldogs can actually have its players on the floor and not serving suspensions, they have a very good chance of realizing that potential. The SEC will of course have the usual suspects at the top (Kentucky, Florida and Vanderbilt), but Mississippi State will field a very talented and competitive team. If all the parts mesh and the team can avoid the drama that plagued them in 2010-11, Mississippi State should field an NCAA tournament-worthy squad.