Mississippi State Bulldogs (4-2)
- Conference/Location: SEC (Starkville, MS)
- Head Coach: Ben Howland (2nd Season)
- Top Performer: I.J. Ready (13.7 PPG, 5.2 APG)
- Points For: 69.7 PPG (T-267th)
- Points Against: 71.3 PPG (T-172nd)
- Last Game/Streak: 65-59 Win v. Northwestern State (1W)
After former Top 10 recruit and star guard Malik Newman transferred out of the Mississippi State program this off-season, the second year of the Ben Howland era got off to a bit of a rocky start. So when just over a week ago, it was announced that leading scorer Quinndary Weatherspoon would miss the rest of the season with a wrist injury, the struggle down in Starkville to salvage the 2016-2017 campaign has only increased.
And to think it’s not even December yet, Bulldog fans.
Well, crap. Quinndary Weatherspoon is injured and is out for the season. This is less than ideal iyam. https://t.co/VT38ufDnyn— FWtCT (@mstatesports) November 22, 2016
While Mississippi State has mostly navigated the first six games of the season so far, with Weatherspoon now out of the line-up, the Bulldogs only currently have five players who log between 20-34 minutes on average per night. Simply put, head coach Ben Howland will need some new faces to step up and fill not only the statistical but also, the leadership voids left by Weatherspoon’s absence.
Guard I.J. Ready (13.7 PPG, 5.2 APG) will likely be the one to pull his best “Drew Eubanks impression” and carry the load, but a bevy of young and developing talent in freshman Tyson Carter (12.5 PPG), Mario Kegler (8.8 PPG) and Lamar Peters (6.0 PPG) can all make their own suitable impacts as well. Sophomore forward Aric Holman (11.7 PPG, 6.3 RPG) might also be the most improved player on this Bulldogs roster, who posted just 1.9 PPG in just over 9 minutes of nightly action, a season ago.
Keys To The Game
⇛ Continue To Develop Options #2 & #3
It was no secret that forward Drew Eubanks was going to be the star of the show without Tres Tinkle in the line-up but it’s now time to find two more reliable pieces that the Beavers can rely on going forward. Against Southern Oregon, the backcourt duo of Ronnie Stacy and Kendal Manuel filled that role fittingly. Who will continue to pick up the slack in this one?
⇛ Get A Thin Bulldogs Team In Foul Trouble
Ben Howland’s team was already slated to be youthful and inexperienced, so the losses of Newman this off-season and Weatherspoon to injury have only sped up some of the growing pains of this Bulldogs team. With Freshman Eli Wright now projected to be a starter and walk-on guard Nick “L.J.” Singleton seeing minutes, Mississippi State will be digging deep into their bench if foul trouble comes to fruition.
⇛ Own The Rebounding Margin
In the Beavers’ three wins this season, Oregon State has out-rebounded their opponents by a margin of 134-99. In all, that’s been one of the biggest indications of this team’s success. With a margin of over 11.6 more rebounds than opponents in victories, the Beavers hold a 4.5 rebound per game average over the Bulldogs overall, heading into this one. They’ll need to utilize that advantage against an upstart Mississippi State program.
Player To Watch
Guard - I.J. Ready (Senior)
With Weatherspoon now lost to injury, the focus of this Bulldogs team turns to senior guard I.J. Ready, who will be called upon to lead an increasingly thin Mississippi State roster through the rest of non-conference slate. The aptly named Ready has already increased his production, playing all but 11 minutes in the two games since Weatherspoon has been ruled out, scoring a combined 34 points on 22 shots, in the process. While Ready has been a steady and reliable four year presence for the Bulldogs, the growth from solid contributor to focal point of this year’s Mississippi State team may get tougher as the year trudges on.