#113 Mississippi State Men's Basketball 2015-2016 Preview

Mississippi State Bulldogs

2015-2016 Overall Rank: #113
Conference Rank: #10 SEC

Mississippi State Team Page#113 Mississippi State Men's Basketball 2015-2016 PreviewBuy Mississippi State Basketball Tickets

Mississippi State made a splash by hiring Ben Howland to lead the program. And this is not one of those hires that is flashy just for the sake of flash. Coach Howland was last seen on the sidelines ending his ten year tenure at UCLA winning the Pac-12 regular season title and losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament back in 2013. He had success at Pitt and Northern Arizona previous to his long stint in Westwood. For Mississippi State, it has already boosted their recruiting and those results will begin to show on the court sooner or later.

2014-15 Record: 13-19, 6-12
2014-15 Postseason: none
Coach: Ben Howland
Coach Record: 0-0 at Mississippi State, 401-206 overall

Who’s Out:
There were only two seniors on the roster last year, Roquez Johnson and Trivante Bloodman. Johnson was a solid interior scorer and rebounder, averaging 9.3 and 5.1 per game, respectively. Without Johnson, there is not a whole heck of a lot of returning frontcourt talent on this team. Coach Howland has already made up for it with his newcomers though. Bloodman started a dozen games, but spent most of his time as a backup point guard. During his senior year he averaged 3.8 points and 2.0 assists, both down from his junior year. Oliver Black filled in nearly 16 minutes per game in the frontcourt as a freshman, but opted to transfer to Arkansas-Little Rock. Maurice Dunlap is also transferring. He played in seven games before a couple injuries ended his freshman campaign. Dunlap did get a medical redshirt so will have four years left to play elsewhere.

Who’s In:
Bulldog fans are much more excited about who they have coming in, and they should be. Shooter Malik Newman is a great pickup for the program. He has the talent to be one and done, but just the fact that he turned down Kentucky and Kansas to come to Mississippi State will help recruiting in the future. For now though, Newman will clearly be the best player on the team. A top ten recruit in this class according to most, Newman should be able to lead this team in scoring thanks to his ability to shoot and attack the basket. Quinndary Weatherspoon adds even more options to the backcourt and he could push some much more experienced players for a starting spot on the wing alongside Newman. The frontcourt adds another big time recruit, Aric Holman. The 6-10, 195 pound forward does not have the strength to battle with the best the SEC has to offer, but he is very talented and will compete for a starting job from day one. The three incoming freshman are great, but this class is supplemented with a couple more experienced transfers. Xavian Stapleton, a 6-6 guard, comes to Starkville after one solid season at Louisiana Tech and Johnny Zuppardo, a 6-9, 235 pound forward, played very well at the junior college level and redshirted last season with Mississippi State after tearing an ACL.  

Who to Watch:
With Newman and Weatherspoon in the mix, the Mississippi State backcourt is suddenly pretty crowded. Craig Sword, I.J. Ready, Fred Thomas and Travis Daniels all started at least half of the games last year. There will not be room for all of them in the starting lineup now. Sword has led the Bulldogs in scoring for the last two seasons, averaging 11.3 in 2014-2015. The 6-3 senior is a capable shooter, but he does most of his damage attacking the basket. Ready is the point guard of the bunch and averaged 8.2 points, 2.4 assists and 1.3 steals during his sophomore campaign. Ready is still the point guard for Mississippi State despite the influx in talent and he could be a very good scorer too if his outside shot starts falling more consistently. Thomas is mostly a shooter and he does that extremely well. However, at 6-5, he has the size to be more effective attacking the basket. Travis Daniels is an interesting option since he is a 6-8 guard. Last year Mississippi State could play small with Daniels manning the four spot. That could still happen this year, but will likely depend more on the development of players like Holman and Zuppardo in the frontcourt. Daniels, meanwhile, can be a big wing who can knock down some shots.

Final Projection:
Ideally, the frontcourt will have two bigger, strong players at all times. One of the starters should be Gavin Ware, a 6-9, 260 pound senior. He led the team with 7.1 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game last year and added 10.0 points. Ware is tough on both ends of the floor. Fallou Ndoye had good showings in spurts last year and now the hope is that the experience gained by the 6-11, 222 pound sophomore will lead to bigger things this year. Ndoye is still a bit raw offensively, but he is getting better. Demetrius Houston is another sophomore option in the frontcourt. He was used 13.0 minutes per game off of the bench last season, but struggled with consistency. In the end though, this team will go as far as the freshmen can take it. Big years from Newman, Weatherspoon and Holman will have Mississippi State shooting for the NCAA Tournament. More realistically though, any postseason tournament should be considered a success while Coach Howland continues improving the talent level across the board.

Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI/CIT

Projected Starting Five:
I.J. Ready, Junior, Guard, 8.2 points per game
Malik Newman, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Craig Sword, Senior, Guard, 11.3 points per game
Aric Holman, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
Gavin Ware, Senior, Forward, 10.0 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 61.8 (301st in nation, 13th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 63.5 (89, 5)
Field-Goal Percentage: 43.0 (200, 9)
Field-Goal Defense: 41.6 (107, 10)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 4.2 (339, 14)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 30.6 (307, 13)
Free-Throw Percentage: 69.6 (153, 7)
Rebound Margin: 2.6 (90. 4)
Assists Per Game: 8.7 (339, 14)
Turnovers Per Game: 14.8 (324, 14)

Madness 2016 NBA Draft Rankings:
#8 Malik Newman

Madness 2015 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#8 Malik Newman
#103 Aric Holman
#110 Quinndary Weatherspoon


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