The SEC microsite will preview each of the league teams over the next few weeks, starting today with the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
Strengths. Continuity. Okay, continuity may not be Rick Ray’s best friend considering that his Bulldogs have gone just 24-41 since he took over the program two years ago. But players grow through experience, and Ray has a quintet of upperclassmen who have seen plenty of action together during his tenure. Trivante Bloodman, Craig Sword, Fred Thomas, Roquez Johnson and Gavin Ware know their roles and what to expect from one another. That kind of consistency is a step in the right direction for a program that has struggled with injuries and dismissals the last two years (although Sword’s recent back injury clouds that idea a bit).
|G Craig Sword (Jr.)||26.7 MPG/29.3 USG%||28.1 MPG/30.0 USG%|
|G Fred Thomas (Jr.)||28.7 MPG/22.1 USG%||29.9 MPG/17.5 USG%|
|Trivante Bloodman (Sr.)||29.1 MPG/15.6 USG%||24.7 MPG/15.2 USG%|
|F Roquez Johnson (Sr.)||26.1 MPG/22.3 USG%||23.7 MPG/22.5 USG%|
|F Gavin Ware (Jr.)||25.8 MPG/17.6 USG%||26.0 MPG/16.8 USG%|
Weaknesses. When you don’t expect to win the sheer talent battle on a game-to-game basis, you simply can’t give away free points. The Bulldogs did just that by shooting 66.3 percent from the free throw line as a team last season, good for 288th in the country. Part of the problem was that their lead guards, Sword (62.0%) and Thomas (62.5%) weren’t effective despite getting to the line at a high rate. When paired with a lack of three-point shooting, this resulted in a sub-standard 0.96 points per possession. The injury bug also extended its stay in Starkville by knocking out JuCo forward Johnny Zuppardo for the season. That leaves the Bulldogs entirely dependent on two freshmen (Oliver Black and Demetrius Houston) for frontcourt depth.