Monday, January 02, 2017

Game Preview - at Mississippi State

Alabama will begin conference play on the road in lovely Starkville, Mississippi on Tuesday night. It will be the SEC opener for both teams. Tip time is 7:30 CT. The game will be televised on SEC Network. The Bulldogs enter conference play with a 9-3 record. Alabama leads the all-time series with a record of 120-74, but Mississippi State has a home record against Bama of 56-38. Both Ben Howland and Avery Johnson are in their second years as head coach with similar records of 25-20 (Johnson) and 23-20 (Howland).


                                               Alabama                                                Mississippi State

68.6 PPG 73.9

61.8 OPP 65.5

43.4 FG% 45.5

40.1 OPP 41.9

49.6 EFG% 52.8

46.6 OPP 47.6

31.8 3PT% 37.7

35.5 OPP 32.1

64.5 FT% 71.7

65.6 OPP 70.6

36 FTRATE 32.9

33.9 OPP 25.5

37.9 RPG 35.8

33.1 OPP 35.1

32.5 OREB% 26.6

26.2 OPP 27.1

13.4 TOPG 11.7

15.3 OPP 14.7

19.8 TO% 16.9

22.6 OPP 21.2

80 KenPom Ranking 116

My Two Cents: Our guys have played some of their best basketball of the season in the last two games, following what was probably their worst game of the season vs Clemson. Does that mean anything? Tuesday night will begin to answer that question. Mississippi State is a young team, but this Alabama team has yet to prove that they can handle the rigors of a true road game. They fell to pieces in the 2nd half at Texas, and in the final minutes at Oregon. They've gotta prove it.

Players to Watch: Riley Norris finally snapped out of his scoring slump with an 18-point outburst vs Stetson. Riley had been tentative as a shooter in recent games, but against Stetson he led the team in field goal attempts, knocking down 7-11 (3-6 from 3-point range). While younger players like Dazon and Braxton may be the more talented members of this team, it's the play of the upperclassmen such as Riley, Jimmie, Shannon and Corban, when he returns from a groin injury, that will help determine the remainder of this season.

While Quinndary Weatherspoon is the unquestioned star of this team, another player that has impressed me when watching MSU is Aric Holman (6'10, 222 lbs). Holman leads the team in FG% (54), rebounds (6.5), and blocks (2.1). He's also averaging 10 ppg.

Prediction: Maybe this is just my heart talking, but I still believe this Alabama team can salvage this season after a slow start. The rotation is starting to round into shape (too bad it took a groin injury and a lung infection to get there, but so it goes) and this Alabama team is starting to look a bit more comfortable with each other as a result. Mississippi State is a talented, well-coached team, but they are also a very young team. If Alabama brings their defense on the road, they've got a chance. Alabama - 71 - Mississippi State - 64

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