Kentucky Wildcats at Mississippi St. Bulldogs: Game Preview

USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky hits the road today to face the Mississippi St. Bulldogs in Starkville.

So today, we travel down to Stark-Vegas to take on the Mississippi St. Bulldogs in our second meeting of the year. This one, I suspect, will be rather more difficult than the first, as the Bulldog fans will be frothing at the mouth and whiting out the place to try to encourage their team to upset the mighty Wildcats. This game, as John Calipari is fond of saying, is their Super Bowl. To beat us would mean more even than beating their traditional foe, Ole Miss, with whom they have split the series this season.

General

About Mississippi State

  • Location: Starkville, Mississippi
  • Conference: SEC
  • Head Coach: Rick Ray (Since 2012)
  • NCAA Appearances: 10
  • Most recent NCAA appearance: 2009
  • Most recent NCAA win: 2008
  • Founded: 1878
  • Enrollment: 14,949
  • Last season's record 10-22 overall, 4-14 in conference

Source: Basketball State

Season so far for Mississippi:

  • Season record: 13-9 (3-6 SEC)

Mississippi St. has played a very soft schedule this season. In fact, their non-conference schedule is reckoned last in all of Division I college basketball by Ken Pomeroy.

The best win MSU has had this season is versus their bitter rival, Ole Miss, in Starkville on January 11th. Their second best? Against Auburn. MSU has had a better season than last year, but they still have a long way to go.

Series history

Kentucky and Mississippi St. have a comparatively short series as SEC series go, playing only 101 games so far, with Kentucky prevailing in 83 (0.84).

MSU does have one 3-game series of success against Kentucky — from the SEC Tournament in 2007 until 2009, the Bulldogs took 3 straight off Kentucky, by far their best string of wins. Their best sustained success, though, was between 1957 and 1963, where the Bulldogs won 4 out of 7 games, including knocking off #1 Kentucky in 1959, one of only 3 games Kentucky lost that year.

Also notable was MSU's victory over #1 Kentucky in 1996, only the second team (John Calipari's UMass team was the other) to prevail over what may be the greatest Kentucky team in history, and the eventual national champion. Mississippi St. is one of relatively few SEC schools to beat a #1 ranked Kentucky team twice in history.

Source: BigBlueHistory.net

Stats

Team Comparison

Rank and Records UK MState
RPI #13 #163
Strength of Schedule #7 #173
Overall 17-5 13-9
Conference 7-2 3-6
Home 14-0 11-2
Away 2-3 0-6
Top 25 1-1 0-2
RPI Top 50 3-2 0-2


Courtesy of Statsheet.com

Four Factors

Team Notes

  • Mississippi St. is a very weak offensive team, averaging lest than 0.94 points/possesion.
  • The Bulldogs are the worst offensive rebounding team in the conference.
  • MSU shoots free throws poorly, even worse than Kentucky.
  • The Dawgs don't shoot the ball badly from 2, but they are not very good at all from the arc.

Mississippi St. Roster

1 Thomas, Fred S** G 6-5 206 So. Jackson, MS 21 8.5 3.0 1.6
15 Ready, I.J. S G 5-11 170 Fr. Little Rock, AR 16 6.4 1.6 3.1
32 Sword, Craig S** G 6-3 194 So. Montgomery, AL 22 13.2 3.5 2.7
3 Borchert, Colin S** F 6-8 231 Sr. Glendale, AZ 22 10.2 4.5 1.4
20 Ware, Gavin S** F 6-9 268 So. Starkville, MS 22 10.5 7.9 0.3
10 Dallas Prater WO G 6-3 170 Fr. Jackson, MS



33 Kyle Dobbs WO G 6-6 160 Fr. Grayson, GA



4 Bloodman, Trivante MR* G 6-0 182 Jr. Bronx, NY 22 5.5 2.0 2.3
25 Johnson, Roquez MR* F 6-7 210 Jr. Montgomery, AL 22 9.0 4.8 0.7
11 Davis, Jacoby MR G 6-1 191 Fr. Charlotte, NC 18 2.3 0.6 0.7
12 Wilson, De'Runnya R G 6-5 215 Fr. Birmingham, AL 2 0.0 2.5 0.5
13 Moore, Tevin R+ G 6-3 185 Jr. Olive Branch, MS 9 1.1 0.2 0.0
24 Cunningham, Tyson R* G 6-3 197 Sr. Columbus, MS 22 1.8 0.4 0.3
22 Fallou Ndoye RS F 6-11 215 Fr. Senegal



2 Applewhite, Andre - G 6-5 217 So. Memphis, TN 12 5.5 3.9 1.3













Legend









S Starter









MR Major reserve









R Reserve









RS Redshirt this season









WO Walk-on









- Transfered out of program









+ JUCO transfer










Courtesy of Basketball State

Player notes

  • Craig Sword is a nightmare on defense, the 29th best in the nation in steals%.
  • Gavin Ware is a fine defensive rebounder, 11th best in the entire nation. He is also very efficient, in the top 100 in eFG%
  • I.J. Ready is a lethal 3-point shooter off the bench at .438
  • Trivante Bloodman is a fine defender, and a dangerous shooter.

Injuries

  • No known injuries for either team

Likely matchups

Starters

  • Craig Sword vs. Andrew Harrison — Sword is smaller, but a bit quicker, and is a streaky scorer. He isn't a good 3-point shooter, but he likes to take you off the bounce. He's also the best defender on the team.

Advantage: Draw

  • I.J. Ready vs. Aaron Harrison — Ready is really undersized, and there's no way he can defend Harrison. On the other hand, he's quicker than Aaron and will reall test him off the bounce. Overall, though, Arron wins this one.

Advantage: Kentucky

  • Fred Thomas vs. James Young — Thomas has good size, but he's just overmatched in almost every respect by the long, talented Young. MSU had better hope that Young's shooting slump carries over from next game.

Advantage: Kentucky

  • Gavin Ware vs. Julius Randle — Ware and Randle were about even last time. This time, I expect Randle to do better, but Ware is a great matchup for him size-wise.

Advantage: Kentucky

  • Colin Borchert vs. Dakari Johnson — Dakari has the size on him. I don't think MSU can handle Johnson and Randle together in the post, they just aren't big enough

Advantage: Kentucky

Bench

Kentucky is deeper, and if Willie Cauley-Stein is as good as he was last game, this one won't be close.

Advantage: Kentucky

Analysis

If both teams play to their capability, there is no way Mississippi St. wins this game. Even though they are at home, this Kentucky team is just one matchup nightmare after another for them. They are smaller, thinner, and less talented, and that's just the way it is.

But if Kentucky comes in and allows the emotion of the crowd to take over like they did at LSU, the Bulldogs could get an early lead and parlay that into game pressure for the Wildcats. Kentucky's players know they have been vulnerable to the exegesis of youth so far in this campaign, and LSU proved at Georgia that no many how many NBA players you have, it won't make up for low energy and hot opponent shooting.

If Kentucky takes MSU seriously, they will win this game — they just have way too many advantages not to. If they don't, MSU could do some real damage, and if they were to pull this upset, it would put Kentucky in a place they don't want to be.

But I don't think it's likely. Kenpom has Kentucky 90% to win this game, and figures it by 14 points. I think that's a good projection.

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