/Bulldogs hold serve, have plenty work to do

Bulldogs hold serve, have plenty work to do

Mississippi State now stands at 18-10 overall, and 9-6 in Southeastern Conference. This puts them in fifth place overall, just before Wednesday’s games. The Bulldogs won their seventh consecutive SEC victory at The Hump. This feat keeps State in the NCAA Tournament conversation. This is the good news for Bulldogs supporters. The downside: For whatever reason, most NCAA Tournament bracket experts project the SEC to be a four-team league. The Bulldogs remain outsiders when it comes to March Madness. State is a favorite among bracket forecasters. On Tuesday morning, State coach Ben Howland said, “I think we played the most competitive game in a long time.” We beat a very good team. Defense was the best part of my teams at UCLA and Pittsburgh. I thought we played a great defense last night, especially in second half. Reggie Perry was excellent defensively, which was huge.” The Bulldogs still have three games: at Missouri (Saturday), South Carolina (March 3), and Ole Miss at Home (March 7). Howland stated that “Nine and six points in the league don’t mean much right now.” We have three crucial games left and must survive the next on the road against an extremely good team. They beat Auburn like a drummer. At home, they beat Ole Miss (a very tough team to play). They beat Arkansas at home. They could easily have defeated LSU. It will be a challenge to play there on Saturday afternoon in front of a large crowd. They will need to perform better on the road to be able to make the NCAA Tournament. Truth be told, the Bulldogs have been a solid NCAA Tournament team at their home, and a NIT team (or worse) away from home. This can also be said for many other college basketball teams. State has won home victories of double-digits against Tennessee, Georgia, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt. It was enough for them to lose by 21 points to Alabama, 25 to Ole Miss, and 12 to Texas A&M while on the road. Howland doesn’t agree with my opinion that much of the inconsistency is due to the absence of a true point guard. Nick Weatherspoon plays the point but is more suited for the off-guard position. State is a better team when Weatherspoon plays well. He did Tuesday night with three assists, one turnover and only one turnover. The Bulldogs are hurt when he doesn’t protect the ball as often has been the case (5 turnovers at A&M; 6 at Ole Miss; 6 at home against Auburn). Howland stated that Nick is doing well and that he is improving. He’s leading the conference in assists. Weatherspoon has 78 assists to his name, and 55 turnovers. Tyson Carter, another natural off-guard, often plays the point when Weatherspoon does not. He has been responsible for 89 assists and 60 turnovers. Howland and his team have recruited Deivon Smith, one of the most highly-rated point guards in the country. He is a unique talent from the Atlanta area. That’s just the beginning of next season. This season, the Bulldogs still have a lot of work ahead of them. To be successful, it will require more effort and performances like Tuesday’s._x000D