Friday, February 19, 2016

Scouting the Enemy: Mississippi State

You will notice I've slightly changed the title for this edition, because obviously we must maintain at least some standards around here.

I reached out to Daniel Black from For whom the cowbell tolls to get their perspective on the game.  I really appreciate him taking the time to give us his thoughts below.  If you visit For Whom the Cowbell Tolls, follow their rules and be a good representative of the University of Alabama.

Mississippi State's team this year has revolved around three players - Gavin Ware, Quinndary Weatherspoon, and Malik Newman. Gavin Ware is our team leader, a senior and the team's leading scorer. Gavin is pretty much our only big man down low. The biggest weakness for State is our lack of depth down low. Because of this, Gavin Ware tends to get the ball the most and can score. Quinndary Weatherspoon and Malik Newman are our freshmen that have found themselves carrying a pretty large load this year. Malik Newman was supposed to be the one who kept us in games, shooting lights out and scoring in double digits every game. Obviously, Malik hasn't panned out like we were expecting, and many of us will not be surprised if he comes back for his sophomore year. With that being said, he's had some flashes of greatness; the Ole Miss, Missouri, and South Carolina games come to mind. Q Weatherspoon has become what we were expecting Malik to be. He's averaging over 11 points per game and has become a very clutch shooter, as was shown by his buzzer beater three to beat Vanderbilt on Tuesday. Other contributors to State's team include Craig Sword, I.J. Ready, and Travis Daniels, but the three I highlighted are the most important. 

Another weakness is just the fact that we can't seem to finish. Time and time again, Mississippi State has found themselves in close games, with which they just can't pull away. We saw it against Texas A&M, Kentucky, Florida, and most recently, your Alabama Crimson Tide. I think our experience plays a role in that. Our juniors and seniors have been a part of the Rick Ray era the last two-three years. We were so bad that it seemed like winning isn't something they can do. With that being said, maybe the win against Vanderbilt can spark some life into this team and give it some confidence. 

As for Alabama, I've labeled the Crimson Tide as the "weirdest team in the country". My reasoning behind that is you can't predict what you're going to see from the Tide. You got murdered by Dayton and Xavier, followed that up with wins over Wichita State and Notre Dame, barely sneaked by a god awful Southern Miss team, beat Clemson on the road, beat Jacksonville State in overtime, got beat down by Kentucky, murdered South Carolina, and after your overtime win over State, you're on an absolute tear. Alabama has been a roller coaster this year, but now you're starting to figure it out. You're starting to become a freight train that is barreling over everyone in its way. When Avery Johnson was hired, I was a bit skeptical. Now, I'm incredibly impressed by your team and his ability to keep the team together after games like Dayton, Xavier, Kentucky, and the first game against LSU. In my opinion, Coach Johnson has locked up the SEC Coach of the Year award, and he deserves it more than anyone else.

Even after the Vanderbilt win, it's hard to have much confidence in Mississippi State. Sure, that win was huge and could be the biggest win the program has pulled off since the Rick Stansbury era, but now we have to face the nuclear missile that is Alabama. As mentioned earlier, you're clicking, and I don't think State can hold on. I think State will keep it competitive and give you a run for your money, but in the end, Alabama pulls away.

Prediction: Alabama 78, Mississippi State 67

While I appreciate the kind words, I don't think I'm quite ready give our team "nuclear missile" status just yet.  I hope he is right, and I think we match up fairly well with them, but they will come in with confidence after the Vandy win and motivated to get back at us for stealing one in Starkville.  It could be a bit of trap game for us, coming off the big road wins, riding the streak and all the tournament talk, and with Kentucky looming Tuesday night.  Hopefully a good crowd can help keep us focused and rattle a young State team.

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