Mississippi State is the youngest team in the SEC.
In 2016-17, Mississippi State has strangely high expectations from sportsbooks and mediocre bracketologists. Why? They have eight freshmen in the Class of 2016 and a returning Quinndary Weatherspoon. Does that make much sense? Just because there is an influx of young, raw talent, it does not mean that there is a reasonable expectation of success. Mississippi State is not Kentucky.
Ben Howland typically gets the ship righted in Year 2 and gets his team into the postseason. He has nearly a brand new team this season, so is it Year 1 again in Starkville?
Howland’s metrics at Pittsburgh and UCLA
Howland’s metrics at Mississippi State
Ben Howland has always been a strong defensive coach, he prefers man-to-man defense and he was able to get a good defensive showing from last season’s team. This Mississippi State team is very young and it is tough to expect Howland’s Dogs to play the level of defense expected to win in the SEC and against the schedule that they have put together.
Mississippi State’s Roster, Lost Contributions and Featured Members of the Roster
Lost Contributions from the Mississippi State Roster
Basically it’s Ready at the Point Guard spot, Weatherspoon at Shooting Guard and Holman as the lead post on this team. Holman was not very productive while Weatherspoon and Ready were. Ready is not going to produce more than he has over the past three seasons, he is who is he is. The Freshmen will be called upon to make up for all of the lost production from last season. The toughest production to make up for was produced by Gavin Ware. Ware was the only competent student-athlete inside the perimeter last season for the Bulldogs.
Mississippi State is basically starting from scratch and hoping that the newcomers can produce as well as last season’s team did. It is tough to expect that an inexperienced team like Mississippi State can actually make a postseason tournament. Last season’s team was not particularly good at shot selection, trying to work to get the right shot and setting up the shots.
Mississippi State attempted 24.6% of their shots in transition and they were a bit better than in transition than they were in their half court offense. Mississippi State’s zone offense was atrocious and opponents will try to press and zone Mississippi State this season to take advantage of their inexperience and poor chemistry.
Featured Members of the Mississippi State Roster
I.J. Ready is a steady hand at Point Guard, he is not much of a scorer and certainly is not a good perimeter shooter. His main contribution is ability to distribute without turning the ball much. He does not get to the Free Throw Line enough to make a difference even though he is a very good Free Throw shooter.
Ideally, opponents want Ready to take perimeter jump shots as he takes many of them off the dribble. His mid-range game is solid and the majority of his shots are taken between 4 and 20 feet from the basket. Mississippi State went 10-6 last season, when he shot 50% or better inside the perimeter.
Weatherspoon could end up being ready for the NBA Draft soon. He outshined Malik Newman last season. Weatherspoon is an underappreciated defensive player and he is a strong three point shooter. He can stand to improve his ability to score inside the restricted arc off the dribble, but he will likely be better this season.
Weatherspoon is not afraid to take care of the dirty work and get on the glass either, unlike Malik Newman.
It would not be surprising to see him put up 16 to 18 points per game and be on an All-SEC Team of some sort, unfortunately the majority of this Mississippi State team is ill-equipped to help him at this juncture.
Aric Holman is poised to have a better season than last. He is a strong shot blocker who should be able to get two blocks per game. Holman is envisioned as a Combo Forward much like the way Yante Maten is viewed, but he is FAR from Maten’s level. However, Holman will get his opportunities to grab rebounds and take shots as he sees fit.
Holman can be an 8 point, 7 rebound, 2 block per game contributor this season. Reaching these benchmarks would be considered a job well done.
Kegler is a big guard and he will likely play the three spot, but he will stick to the perimeter for the most part. In fact, in the exhibition game against Delta State he took 9 out of 12 shots from three point range. He hit four of those threes. Kegler’s size helps him on the glass and he will be helping Weatherspoon and Holman greatly to get second chance opportunities and stops on the defensive end.
He’s a freshman, do not count on him to be a defensive dynamo. He may even be a defensive liability. He’s not short on strength and size and the quicker he learns how to play defense at a high level, the quicker he can get his chance to play in the NBA.
Kegler is not a one-and-done talent.
Expected Starting Lineup
PG: I.J. Ready
SG: Tyson Carter
3G: Quinndary Weatherspoon
Swing: Mario Kegler
PF: Aric Holman
What to Expect From Mississippi State
Struggles to defend all season. This is not going to be a strong defensive team due to their inexperience. This is not a team on the same level of Kentucky as far as talent is concerned, their most hyped talent in the Class of 2017 need time. Another consideration is that Mississippi State and the media poorly evaluated Malik Newman as compared to Quinndary Weatherspoon. Is it possible that Howland and his staff could end up having another situation like this arise?
Freshmen that are not NBA-ready are going to make mistakes that cost games. There are going to be bonehead mistakes in games that Mississippi State should win on paper, but lose on the court. The inexperience and chemistry factors are going to doom this team.
Mississippi State may have a soft schedule as far as RPI and Strength of Schedule, but it is loaded with traps.
In the Charleston Classic, Mississippi State draws UCF and their first-year coach Johnny Dawkins. They will face the winner or loser of the Boise State-College of Charleston game. The toughest opponent they could draw is just Villanova, the defending NCAA Champions. However, the rest of the field is a bit soft with Wake Forest, UTEP and Western Michigan as the other possibilities. However, Boise State should be a tough draw if they get them.
Mississippi State then hosts Lehigh on Black Friday. Dr. Brett Reed is not a slouch of a coach and Lehigh is going to be a tough out for Mississippi State. Lehigh could upset these Dogs in Starkville.
Oregon State comes into town and they might not have Gary Payton II anymore, but they do still have a talented team. Oregon State should beat Mississippi State even on the road in a close one. Oregon State has more chemistry and proven talent. Mississippi State is about to hit Finals during this time and with all of those Freshmen having their first week of Final Exams as college students, it could be a distraction.
Georgia State is going to be a challenge too. Georgia State has a good mixture of young and veteran talent. Jeremy Hollowell, Willie Clayton, D’Marcus Simonds, Isaiah Williams, Justin Seymour and Devin Mitchell are going to make things difficult for Mississippi State. Mississippi State lost out to Georgia State in recruiting for D’Marcus Simonds and Chris Clerkley. Georgia State is full of talented student-athletes looking to make a statement in Starkville.
Immediately after final exams, Mississippi State gets possibly their final trap game against ETSU. ETSU is very experienced and they like to press a bit, which is not so good for a team like Mississippi State. Freshmen are poor communicators on the floor and an experienced team like ETSU with the style that they play could get these Dogs frazzled.
The first five games of the season are not exactly kind to Mississippi State. The end of the season is also rough having to face Georgia, Vanderbilt and South Carolina on the road while facing Florida and Ole Miss at home. It is tough to find a segment of this schedule that can provide any sort of hope that this team can create and build momentum. Mississippi State is not going to be able to win three games in a row with this schedule.
Mississippi State could be on the right side of the bubble though, but not the bubble one may be thinking. This bubble consists of teams trying to avoid playing on Wednesday in Nashville. Missouri and Tennessee are locks for this distinction, but Mississippi State, LSU and Auburn will be fighting to not play on that Wednesday.