My Two Cents: This rivalry is getting back on track. The two games last season were very hotly contested with both teams winning on the other team's home court, and the game in Starkville to open conference play this season was a very competitive affair. Avery and Ben Howland are recruiting well so the games between the two programs are only going to continue to grow in importance. For now, both teams are trying to play their way into the postseason. The NCAA Tournament appears to be a long shot for both due to missed opportunities in the non-conference for Bama, and a weak non-conference schedule for State, but both coaches in their second seasons would be happy with any postseason bid at this point in the program's development. I expect another competitive game tomorrow. Our guys need the fans to show up in force, be loud, and help this team get to 6-2 in league play.
Players to Watch: Dazon Ingram is going through a bit of a funk. His offensive numbers have dipped, and he's had his struggles with protecting the ball. He did end the Georgia game strong, knocking down some free throws late, and had a huge block of a J.J. Frazier shot when Georgia made a late attempt at a run. The team is finding a way to compete, and Braxton is slowly growing into a go-to player, but I still believe for this team to be a consistent winner, they need Dazon playing at a high level.
The emergence of freshman Lamar Peters has been a big reason for State's improvement in recent weeks. In SEC play, Peters is averaging 15.8 ppg, 3.7 apg and 1.4 spg. Peters is also shooting 40% from 3 in league play, including a 7-11 performance in the last game vs Missouri. Peters has been fantastic with breaking down a defense with the dribble and opening up the floor, creating opportunities for his teammates. As a result this State team has really improved on offense. Our guys have to keep Peters under wraps. If he has a strong game tomorrow, it could be the key to State leaving Tuscaloosa with a second consecutive win.
Prediction: This is a tough one to call. Both teams have improved in conference play, both are well-coached, and road teams in the conference have been very successful this season. Alabama's offensive issues make them vulnerable in every game. State can be an explosive offensive team so our guys must control the tempo, while working hard to avoid the droughts that seem to happen every game (despite the final score, Alabama had a field goal drought of nine minutes in the Georgia game). I really can't decide so I'll go with the home team in this one. Alabama - 72 - Mississippi State - 60