April 16, 2024

Bulldogs Start Daunting SEC Slate 

Bulldogs Start Daunting SEC Slate 

Coming off a loss, 68-62, to South Carolina this past Saturday, the Mississippi State Bulldogs now have a bit of worry looking ahead. The Bulldogs are 11-3 overall and 0-1 in SEC play, but the upcoming schedule is daunting.  The Dogs play host to no. 5 Tennessee, on Wednesday, at “The Hump,” followed by Alabama coming into Starkville on Saturday. One would imagine that Chris Jans’ team would have to win one of these games at home before the Bulldogs head up to Rupp Arena to take on no.6 Kentucky on January 17th. 

Starting SEC play 0-4 is not ideal, and could have folks ready to get their spots set up at Dudy Noble sooner rather than later. State’s defense only allows 63.1 PPG, which ranks 19th nationally, but the offense barely cracks the top half of all Division 1 teams in scoring. While the defense can and will win you some games, with these run-and-gun teams coming up, State will have to adjust and be ready to go bucket for bucket, or it could turn ugly quickly.  Let’s look at this opponent, the Vols, and some series history, plus more.

Series History With Tennessee 

The Volunteers lead the overall series, 90-44, including winning nine of the last 10 matchups. The Bulldogs will be looking for their first win in Starkville in the series since an 86-73 win in 2020. Under Jans, the Bulldogs are 0-2 in this series, including a 70-59 loss on January 17, 2023. 

While Tennessee doesn’t put up the same gaudy offensive numbers (78.7 ppg) that Alabama (91.8, 2nd nationally) and Kentucky (90.8, 3rd nationally) do, they’re a very well-coached fundamental team that will wear you down. The Bulldog’s defense will definitely slow these offenses down, but winning the battle on the boards is key to pulling out a win during this stretch. In the loss to South Carolina, the Bulldogs were out-rebounded for only the 2nd time this season, and the Gamecocks took advantage, scoring 16 second-chance points.

Outlook On Matchup

It will be a physical battle when these two SEC programs tip-off starting at 6 pm on SEC Network. Mississippi State must play its game and style while trying to slow down a hot shooting top 5 ranked Volunteers team. 

Listen, we are realists, and head Coach Chris Jans has the Bulldogs playing really good basketball right now, despite the loss in Columbia, but the Bulldogs are about to be tested. Starting conference play 0-4 this year in a deep SEC could prove costly come March. That being said, the State has the opportunity to prove that they belong in the mix all in a week’s time.

What’s it going to take? For Mississippi State to upset the Vols, they will have to limit the turnovers and get hot from behind the arc. The Bulldogs are averaging right at 13 turnovers a game while only shooting 31% from 3-point land. Tennessee is currently forcing 13 turnovers a game while limiting opponents to shooting only 29% from the perimeter. The Bulldogs and Vols are pretty even in most statistical categories, but the biggest key to winning this game will be the play of the bigs down low. If State can out-rebound the Vols and limit the points in the paint, there’s a good chance for a Starkville party to be had.

Mississippi State will go as preseason All-American Tolu Smith, who’s working his way back to form after recently returning from injury. Since his return, Tolu has been averaging 14.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. They’ll also rely heavily on Josh Hubbard who’s averaging 14.4 ppg to continue his incredible freshman season. The Bulldogs will going to have to utilize the talents of guys such as like D.J. Jeffries, Cam Matthews, and Jimmy Bell Jr. execute and dominate as they did early in the season against non-conference opponents in order to pull this upset. 

The Vols will be led by Dalton Knecht, who’s shooting 45% from the field, 36% from 3 points, and averaging 15.1 ppg. The combination of Jonas Aidoo and Josiah-Jordan James, who are both averaging over 11 ppg and 7 rebounds, is going to be more than enough for the Bulldogs to deal with. And if that’s not enough, they’ll also have to worry about Jahmai Mashack, who’s recently found his outside shot and is shooting 44% from 3 points. 

Hail State! 

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