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Previewing Mississippi State

Blue is a much better color on you, Twany.

Wednesday night, John Calipari and his Cats will play host to the Bulldogs of Mississippi State.  Whereas recent seasons have seen Kentucky and Mississippi State play fiercely competitive games, this season looks to be drastically different as the Bulldogs are a complete disaster. Of course, there was nothing first year head coach, Rick Ray, could do about their futility. He inherited a team with limited scholarships and was then promptly struck with a severe case of the injury bug. Because of this, the Bulldogs are moving into rare territory for all the wrong reasons; they’re on a 12-game losing skid, have zero wins against Kenpom top-100 opponents, and are being defeated by an average margin of 10 points per game against awful competition. Even though Mississippi State was twice victorious in SEC play, they’ll in all likelihood go down as the worst team in SEC history during the modern era. Though they shouldn’t pose much of a threat tomorrow night, here’s what to watch for.

The Bulldogs happen to be one of the nation’s youngest teams, ranking 329th nationally in team experience according to Much like their team make up would suggest, they’re led by 6-foot-3 freshman guard, Craig Sword.

Sword, who hails from Montgomery, Alabama, is currently averaging 9.8 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game.  He’s also one of the conference’s best freshman ball-hawks, forcing opponent turnovers 1.5 times per game.  However, this is where things start to get ugly.  Sword may nearly average double figures in scoring, but it takes him an extraordinary amount of possessions to get there.  He’s currently connecting on 17% of threes, 45% of twos, and 56% of attempts from the charity stripe.  Adding insult to injury, Sword also turns the ball over nearly four times per game. Their team offense isn’t much stronger. As it currently stands, the Bulldogs rank 318th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency according to For those wondering, that’s the worst offense in SEC history since efficiency metrics have been monitored (starting in 2003). Mississippi State can’t shoot; connecting on 27% of threes and 46% of twos.  They also have a severe turnover problem, losing the ball on 25% of total possessions (342nd nationally).

While Rick Ray’s squad has supreme trouble scoring, their defense isn’t nearly as bad. Of course, that’s a relative term as the Bulldogs currently rank 166th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency.  They may not be much above the D-1 average, but I’m sure they’ll accept it given their extreme level of offensive futility.  The bread and butter of their defense comes via the turnover. They’re currently forcing opponents to lose the ball on 23% of possessions, placing them 48th nationally. While four players average over 1.2 steals per game, the brunt of the pressure is brought by Fred Thomas and Craig Sword who respectively average 1.7 and 1.5 per game. In recent losses to Tennessee and Florida, turnovers were a major pitfall for Kentucky. Both contests saw the Cats lose possession over 23% of the time.  Not to mention, other defeats and close victories this season have been the direct result of a high turnover rate. Admittedly, Mississippi State is probably too poor in other areas to capitalize on turnovers, but they can keep the game closer than anticipated by pressuring Kentucky’s guards.

Despite the opposition being one of the worst teams in SEC history, tomorrow night’s game remains highly important for Kentucky.  While this match-up certainly won’t boost our strength of schedule, it allows us the opportunity to break the 20-win barrier, something highly important for bubble teams.  Of course, taking a loss against a team with the resume of Mississippi State would be a likely death blow to Kentucky’s tournament hopes.  However, that’s highly improbable as Rick Ray’s squad is rated lower than Eastern Michigan, Portland, Lafayette, and Morehead State (KenPom). Given this, it’s no surprise that Vegas and numerous computer systems have Kentucky as heavy favorites.

Article written by Jonathan Schuette

17 Comments for Previewing Mississippi State

  1. SexnNursinHomes
    8:33 pm February 26, 2013 Permalink

    TIL Rachel Ray is the daughter of Coach Rick Ray. Who is the son of James Earl Ray. Small world.

  2. Twany
    8:37 pm February 26, 2013 Permalink

    An ever going to play…… Is his back better or what is the deal with twany? Does he have another year? Just curious

  3. Hasn
    8:51 pm February 26, 2013 Permalink

    Curious, what do you all think would be our NCAA tournament seed if we ran the table and won the Sec tourney seed? About a 4??

  4. Rae
    8:55 pm February 26, 2013 Permalink

    Minnesota isn’t a bubble team I hope. I’d hate to have to root for Indiana.

  5. Joe
    9:02 pm February 26, 2013 Permalink

    Minnesota fans are getting ready to rush the court. Maybe they will smack Crean in the back of the head.

  6. TRex
    9:05 pm February 26, 2013 Permalink

    Is it just me, or does Twanny have incredibley short arms for a basketball player. He looks like a midget from the waste up..

  7. UK Homer
    9:10 pm February 26, 2013 Permalink

    3 – You may be right, but I don’t see us getting that high. Maybe if we had to beat UF and Mizzou again in SEC tourney, but I bet we hit a ceiling at 5 or 6.

  8. UK Homer
    9:13 pm February 26, 2013 Permalink

    4 – Minnesota has the #1 SOS in country, so I’m betting they’re not on bubble – for now. Reminds of Arizona a few years back when they lost a ton of games, but got in because of their schedule and quality wins. Minnesota would do themselves well to not choke away this game though.

  9. Chuck
    9:19 pm February 26, 2013 Permalink

    TUB….. BY! ! !

  10. Bill Self's Wig
    9:21 pm February 26, 2013 Permalink

    Yeah IU just went down!!!

  11. Ville Cat
    9:24 pm February 26, 2013 Permalink

    Congrats to Tubby for the big win over IU.

  12. seriously
    9:25 pm February 26, 2013 Permalink

    i forgot twany beckham existed

  13. Pioneer
    9:26 pm February 26, 2013 Permalink

    IU getting karma again. Bet they are tired of getting the court rushed on them. Haha

  14. SoCalCat
    9:31 pm February 26, 2013 Permalink

    I know I should already know this, but how many times as Indiana lost this year while ranked #1? Karma indeed!!

  15. Rae
    9:35 pm February 26, 2013 Permalink

    So next week’s number 1 is…Gonzaga? That’s how strange this year has been.

  16. Bill Self's Wig
    10:05 pm February 26, 2013 Permalink

    I wonder if oldschool and HOOHOO are still crying because their Hoosiers lost? Clappy the Clown’s team has now lost twice as many games as UK lost during the entire season last year. I thought they did things “the right way”…

  17. James K
    9:38 am February 27, 2013 Permalink

    Man, we are asking for a close game, with this post.