Tonight, the Mississippi St. Bulldogs welcome the Kentucky Wildcats to The Hump in Starksville, Mississippi for a basketball contest that has no major implications for the SEC regular season, but major implications, at least potentially, for the NCAA tournament. A win here by the Bulldogs would really help them climb the seed ladder.
However, this Kentucky team seems to know not indifference, or overconfidence. What they do know is winning, and intensity, and execution, and they don't seem to need motivation from anywhere but within. That's nice to see, and as this team has matured, Calipari has been giving them their head more and more often, and it's paying off big time. With that said, this road trip is an SEC away game, and all such games require extra care, extra effort, and extra attention to detail.
Mississippi St. has been the other side of that coin. They seem to require a constant reminder of what they are playing for and what is at stake lest they drift off into fruitless basketball. The last three games, inexplicable losses to less talented teams all, stand in stark contrast to Kentucky's in terms of motivation, execution, and frankly, success. Mississippi St. is talented enough to go far in the NCAA tournament, but they don't seem to be willing, or able, to put all that talent to purposeful, efficient basketball.
|Jalen Steele||Maj. Res.||So.||G||27||21.9||2.6||6.4||40.2||1.9||4.8||39.2||0.7||0.9||87.0||0.6||1.2||1.8||0.7||1.0||0.3||0.1||1.2||7.8|
|Deville Smith||Maj. Res||Fr.||G||20||15.6||1.8||4.4||39.8||0.4||1.7||23.5||1.3||1.9||67.6||0.4||1.5||1.9||2.4||1.7||1.0||0.1||1.9||5.2|
|Wendell Lewis||Maj. Res.||Jr.||C||27||21.5||1.8||2.7||64.9||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.4||1.0||44.4||1.8||2.4||4.2||0.3||0.6||0.5||1.0||1.6||4.0|
- Renardo Sidney - back spasms - questionable tonight, likely game-time decision.
- Shawn Long - personal issue - out indefinitely.
- Kristers Zeidaks - Eligibility - out for season.
Mississippi St. Strengths vs. UK
- MSU rarely puts teams on the free throw line, and it's a good idea to keep Kentucky off the stripe.
- MSU is a very good defensive rebounding team, surrendering less than 30% OR's to foes. They are in the top 25 in the country in DR%
- The Bulldogs do not turn the ball over much.
- MSU shoots the three well. Not as well as Kentucky, but well.
- MSU is at home in a tough arena worth at least three points.
Mississippi St. Weaknesses vs. UK
- MSU is not a good offensive rebounding team.
- The Bulldogs do not get to the free throw line very well, and don't shoot them great.
- Kentucky's defense inside the arc is much stronger than MSU's offense.
Kentucky Strengths vs. Mississippi St.
- Kentucky's offense and defense are much more efficient than Mississippi St.
- The Bulldogs do not defend either the 2 or the three particularly well.
- Kentucky is a vastly better shot-blocking team than MSU.
- Kentucky is a better offensive rebounding team.
Kentucky Weaknesses vs. Mississippi St.
- The Hump is a very tough place to play, and Bulldog fans are loud and proud.
- MSU's good defensive rebounding could make UK's offense less efficient.
Key Matchups for Kentucky:
- Dee Bost. Bost is a dynamite point guard who can do it all -- shoot, pass, and attack the rim. Bost also takes very good care of the basketball. He will be a handful for whoever is guarding him.
- Arnette Moultrie. Moultrie is a slasher who finds a variety of ways to get the ball in the basket, and is an outstanding rebounder on both sides of the ball.
Key Matchups for Mississippi St.
- Terrence Jones. Other than Renardo Sidney, the Bulldogs just don't have the mass to match up to Jones. He will be very tough in the post, and Jones is far too mobile for Sidney, who has a nodding relationship, at best, with the concept of defense.
- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Rodney Hood is his likely defender, and although Hood is technically big enough, he just isn't strong enough to match up with MKG.
This game depends a lot on which Mississippi St. team shows up. If it is the tough, determined Bulldogs that took down Vanderbilt in Nashville, we are in for one heck of a fight. If it is the laissez-faire Bulldogs with cowbells for brains that dropped the last three games in a row to inferior foes, they are going to get a sharp lesson from Kentucky.
The Dawgs have played the 'Cats tight they last three years, and some controversial calls have led to outbursts by MSU head coach Rick Stansbury of varying intensity. Look for another one tonight if there is even a little controversy, as Stansbury seems to feed on that kind of energy.
As ponderous, overweight, and limited as he is, Renardo Sidney is still a great talent and creates some matchup issues for Kentucky. Sidney is far too massive to be defended effectively by Anthony Davis, and he is a serious load in the post. Don't be surprised, if he plays, if Kentucky double-teams Sidney and forces him to pass. He ought to be a capable post passer, but he just doesn't seem to have the feel for it.
Arnett Moultrie will definitely create some problems with his length and aggressiveness, particularly on the glass, Kentucky must pay particular attention to making sure they have a body on him when Davis goes for blocks, or he will have a field day getting stickbacks.
Kentucky must also be careful to identify MSU's shooters, as the Dawgs have some good ones in Rodney Hood, Bost, and Jalen Steele who can really light it up from the outside. MSU is one of the tougher matchups in the SEC when they are playing well, because they have all the pieces for a great team, even though their depth is limited. But they can shoot, post, rebound and defend when motivated, so they represent one of the major dangers for Kentucky remaining in the regular season.
This is a dangerous game, and an upset would not be a surprise.