Justin Sutton of the Mississippi St. Bulldogs community For Whom The Cowbell Tolls and I have done a five-question swap about the game tonight. You may find my half here at FWTCT, and Justin's answers to my question just below.
Mississippi St. has had a pretty fair 10-3 start, but looking at the schedule, it's easy to see why; their non-conference strength of schedule ranks dead last in Ken Pomeroy's rankings. Do you think the schedule has helped give this team confidence at all, and if so, how will we recognize that against Kentucky?
While the Bulldogs have an amazingly low non-conference strength of schedule, Mississippi State needed this type of schedule early. After having so much turmoil last year forcing so many players have to step up early in their careers, the Bulldogs had to learn how to win. They would not have done that against the Louisvilles and Michigan States of the world.
I think what Kentucky fans will see is a Mississippi State team that looks more sure of itself on the court, and one that makes fewer mistakes. Whether that keeps it close is a whole different story.
The Bulldogs have defended pretty well, but they have struggled to put the ball in the basket. Is that more of a talent thing, or a youth thing? Who needs to step up to provide scoring punch against the Wildcats?
Mississippi State has some talented players, but they are young. Fred Thomas came out of Jim Hill High School as an amazing shooter, but he has yet to find his touch at the college level. Craig Sword puts an amazing amount of practice into his game, and I.J. Ready has been a welcomed addition to this team, and he is a player the Bulldogs would like to see shoot more.
Of the big men, Gavin Ware can be a force in the paint, and Colin Borchert has good range.
Thomas will explode at some point this season, and Sword would be a safe bet for a high scorer.
Mississippi St. doesn't shoot many threes. Is that because they don't have many shooters, or is it more of an attempt to go to inside strength? Who is your most dangerous inside threat?
The Bulldogs have not shot well from three-point land this season, only about 30%. Some games have seen strong averages, and some have been pretty rough.
If they were consistent outside, shooting from beyond the arc would help. However, playing a slower version of basketball and getting inside probably help this team more.
If Ware can get room to operate, he can go for a double-double, and Sword can get inside as well.
I notice starting small forward Andre Applewhite is out for the season with a knee injury. How much of a loss was that to your team, and what player or group of players are going to have to step up to fill that void?
Mississippi State will have to find a replacement for Applewhite as he has left the program. There is not much talent off of the bench to replace him, so that burden will fall largely on the guys already in the rotation. He was averaging 5.5 points and nearly four rebounds a game, but the big contribution, about 17 minutes a game may be what Mississippi State will miss the most from him.
Coming into Rupp Arena to play Kentucky is always challenging. What can MSU do to steal this game? How do you see it going?
It would take a near miracle for Mississippi State to steal this game. Several players would have to have their best games of the season to win this one. Add that to the fact that Rupp Arena makes for a hostile environment, and it would prove to be quite the upset to see Mississippi State take this game.
In the end, expect Kentucky to win going away, probably by about 15 points.
Thanks to Justin and For Whom The Cowbell Tolls for doing this, and let's hope for a good game tonight.