February 23, 2013
Previewing Vanderbilt at Mississippi State
Vanderbilt (10-15, 4-9) vs. Mississippi State (7-18. 2-11))
Tip-off: 12:47 CST
MediaSatellite Radio: Sirius 93, XM 199
TV: SEC Network
TV Talent: Dave Baker (pxp), Jon Sunvold (analyst)
Local radio: 1510 WLAC
HistoryVanderbilt leads the all-time series, 74-45.
Last Meeting: MSU won the last meeting, 78-77, on 1/21/2012, at Memorial Gym.
Record at Vanderbilt: VU leads 43-9.
Record at MSU: MSU leads 31-23
Record at Neutral Site: VU leads 8-5
Coach Stallings vs. MSU: Coach Stallings is 7-9 against Miss. State.
ProjectionsSagarin: Vanderbilt (93) 77, MSU (204) 73 (4 pts added for home court)
Vegas odds: Vanderbilt by 3.5
Mississippi State starting lineup
- PG Craig Sword, 6-3, 6-3, Fr. | 10 ppg, 1.9 apg | Has scored in double-digits 12 times, but has fouled out a team-high seven times and shoots just 18 percent from 3 and 55 percent from the foul line.
- 2G Fred Thomas, 6-5, 191, Fr. | 9.6 ppg, 3.1 apg | Scored 17 vs. Arkansas and 19 vs. Florida, but is just 3-23 over the last three games.
- WF Trivante Bloodman, 6-0 182, So. | 6.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg | a 75 percent free throw shooter, but shoots just 26 percent from 3.
- PF Gavin Ware, 6-9, 270 lb, Fr. | 8.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg | Has had 12 double-digit scoring games this season. Shoots just 52 percent from the free throw line.
- C Colin Borchert, 6-8, 231, Jr. | 8.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg | Scored 14 in blowout loss to Florida.
About Mississippi StateMuch has been made of Vanderbilt's rebuilding process, but Mississippi State actually had an even taller task this year. Just two of the players that played in last year's overtime win over Vandy in Nashville are on this year's MSU roster. The results have been predictable. MSU is easily the worst team in the SEC this year, with a sub-200 RPI, and have lost their last 11 games.
MSU is 0-13 when opponents shoot 45 percent from the field or better, and has an SEC-worst 47 percent defensive field goal percentage. So, do the math.
State averages just a point per game better than Vanderbilt on offense (60), but allows 68 points per game. That spread goes to 58 and 74 in SEC play. The Bulldogs average margin in league games is a shocking -15.9.
MSU averages 28 percent from 3, and still manages to bring up the rear in the SEC in offensive rebounding (29 per game).
There's really nothing that new head coach Rick Ray can hang his hat on other than the fact that a whole lot of young kids are getting a whole lot of experience. Three freshmen are in the starting lineup. Two others that were expected to have a major impact (Andre Applewhite and Jacoby Davis) suffered season-ending ACL injuries early in the year.
Ray also lost senior forward Wendell Lewis back in December with a fractured right patella. Lewis had scored 18 and 20 in the two games prior to his injury.
And last week, Ray suspended forward Roquez Johnson indefinitely on Monday for violating team rules.
Everyone expected MSU to be down this year, but with the personnel losses -- even in a down SEC -- State simply doesn't have the talent or experience to compete in most games.
And yet, there have been some hopeful moments -- like this past Wednesday, when State came from 13 down in the second half to nearly upset Alabama in Tuscaloosa. And here's why: State shot 55 percent in the second half, with just six scholarship players available. In their previous meeting on January 16, Alabama demolished State 75-43 in Starkville.
Key matchup: This is a game in which point guard play should be the difference -- and it's where Vandy has a huge advantage. Kedren Johnson again partially dislocated his shoulder at Kentucky on Wednesday, but still is a much better ball handler, shooter and defender than Sword.
X-factor: Motivation. These are two teams that are playing for pride. With an early tip-off in front of what will almost certainly be a very sparse crowd, it sets up as a game in which one or both teams could simply come out flat. Vanderbilt has the outside shooting to go on a scoring run, but if State comes out early and hits shots, it could put VU on its heels.
Mike's prediction: That Vanderbilt is a 3.5 point favorite on the road in an SEC game tells you all you need to know about how bad State is. Vanderbilt is one of the best defensive teams in the SEC, and that does not bode well for an MSU team that is downright horrific shooting the ball and has even less size inside than the Commodores.
Rod Odom has had his best five-game stretch of his Vanderbilt career, and will have a big advantage in terms of experience and length no matter who he matches up with. This is a game in which he has the potential to dominate on both ends of the court.
That goes for Henderson as well. Look for plenty of slip screens versus the slow and not-very-long Borchert.
MSU is 0-15 when trailing at the half, and I see this being No. 16.
Vanderbilt 68, MSU 55
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