#74 Mississippi State Men's Basketball 2016-2017 Preview

Mississippi State Bulldogs
2016-2017 Overall Rank: #74
Conference Rank: #7 SEC
Year one at Mississippi State did not go particularly well for Coach Ben Howland. The Bulldogs finished 14-17 overall, but the team did win seven SEC games and got better as the season progressed. Last year’s team did have quite a few seniors on it though and now Coach Howland has to rebuild with a very young squad. The recruiting classes have been very good though and Mississippi State is ready to be a competitor in the SEC. However, reaching the NCAA Tournament this year is probably asking a bit too much for such a young team.
2015-16 Record: 14-17, 7-11
2015-16 Postseason: none
Coach: Ben Howland
Coach Record: 14-17 at Mississippi State, 415-223 overall
Who’s Out:
Gavin Ware, Craig Sword, Travis Daniels, Fred Thomas and Johnny Zuppardo were all experienced seniors who were at least part of the regular rotation last season. Ware, a 6-9 forward, led the team with 15.4 points and 7.8 rebounds. Sword was the leader in the backcourt, averaging 13.0 points per game. Daniels was a regular starter too and the big guard did much of the dirty work for Mississippi State. Thomas did not have a great senior season, but he was a dangerous weapon off of the bench when his shot was falling. Zuppardo finally had a healthy season and provided much of the frontcourt depth. Perhaps the biggest loss though is Malik Newman. He entered Starkville last season as the best recruit in program history. He showed some of that potential last season, averaging 11.3 points per game, but opted to transfer to Kansas after just one season.
Who’s In:
In total, 12 players will potentially suit up for Mississippi State for the first time. Drew Davis, L.J. Singleton and Xavian Stapleton join nine freshmen. Stapleton, a 6-6 transfer from Louisiana Tech, is the experienced player to watch. He averaged 6.7 points with Louisiana Tech as a freshman two years ago and he has the size the Bulldogs need on the perimeter. The experience is nice, but the Bulldogs will likely rely on the nine freshmen more. Lamar Peters and Tyson Carter highlight the group of newcomers on the perimeter. Peters is the point guard of the future and Carter is a big time scorer who will be one of the best shooters on the team from day one. Eli Wright should find his way into the regular rotation as well. He too can score in bunches, but he is also bigger than Carter and can help out more on the glass. The frontcourt needs some bodies and they add six freshmen who will battle it out for minutes. Abdul Ado is the highly regarded recruit of the bunch. The 6-11, 235 pound Chattanooga, Tennessee native is a defensive specialist who can swat away plenty of shots. Mario Kegler, Schnider Herard and Joe Strugg are the others who figure to battle for playing time. Strugg redshirted with the Bulldogs last season and even that little bit of experience in the program should give him an early leg up in the battle for quality minutes. Miles Washington and Elton Datcher will likely need some time to develop their games.
Who to Watch:
Coach Howland will have to rely quite heavily on his newcomers, but there are three returning players who are ready to emerge as leaders. Quinndary Weatherspoon had an amazing freshman campaign and even outshined Newman among last year’s class. Weatherspoon averaged 12.0 points and 4.7 rebounds and shot 39.4 percent from long range. Those numbers do not even tell the entire story though. Weatherspoon just kept getting better and better as the season progressed and he is poised for a breakout sophomore season. Aric Holman did not make that big of an impact as a freshman, but he is a talented 6-10 forward who has added some much needed bulk to his frame. Holman should be able to step into a starting role and play a lot more minutes as a sophomore. The lone senior on the roster is I.J. Ready. And if there is going to be a key upperclassman on this team, it is in the right position for the Bulldogs. Ready will run the point and he has the ability to get all of the newcomers involved on both ends of the floor. Ready dished out 4.5 assists per game and added 9.2 points. He is not the most consistent shooter around, but Ready can score when he needs to do so. However, more importantly, Ready will be a great leader on the floor.
Final Projection:
This will be an interesting season for Mississippi State. They are loaded with talent that can compete in the SEC and for a spot in the NCAA Tournament, but their youth and inexperience will cause some problems. Down the road in a year or two, this could be a very good team. For now, the Bulldogs need to make progress and show that they can be a team that can compete for an SEC title in the years to come. A trip to the NIT would be a good stepping off point.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
I.J. Ready, Senior, Guard, 9.2 points per game
Tyson Carter, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Quinndary Weatherspoon, Sophomore, Guard, 12.0 points per game
Aric Holman, Sophomore, Forward, 1.9 points per game
Mario Kegler, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 74.9 (138th in nation, 9th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 72.8 (200, 9)
Field-Goal Percentage: 45.6 (84, 3)
Field-Goal Defense: 43.1 (145, 11)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.3 (148, 7)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 33.4 (235, 10)
Free-Throw Percentage: 72.5 (73, 2)
Rebound Margin: -1.6 (244, 11)
Assists Per Game: 13.9 (131, 6)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.7 (177, 10)
Madness 2017 NBA Draft Rankings:
#28 Malik Newman
Madness 2016 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#86 Eli Wright
#97 Abdulhakim Ado
#100 Tyson Carter
#110 Lamar Peters