by Joel Welser
Last NCAA Appearance: 2005, Second Round Loss
Coach: Rick Stansbury
Barry Stewart, Sophomore, Guard,
Ben Hansbrough, Sophomore, Guard,
Jamont Gordon, Junior, Guard,
Jarvis Varnado, Sophomore, Forward,
Charles Rhodes, Senior, Forward,
Phil Turner, Freshman, Guard
Brian Johnson, Junior, Forward
Why They Can Surprise:
Mississippi State only allows their opponents to shoot 36.7 percent from the floor. That is second in the nation and an amazing number. The solid perimeter defense looks even better thanks to Jarvis Varnado. Varnado leads the nation in blocks with 4.9 per game. There is no scoring around the basket when Varnado is in the paint. Last year he was a decent shot blocker, but this year he has learned to block without fouling and that will keep him on the floor.
Charles Rhodes is no slouch in the shot blocking department either. But Rhodes brings an offensive game to the Bulldogs frontcourt. Rhodes averages 16.2 points per game. Most of Varnado’s baskets are on easy put backs, but Rhodes is a true post scorer. They both are also solid on the glass and it is a rare occasion when the opposition grabs an offensive rebound.
Why They Can Disappoint:
With all that scoring in the paint, Mississippi State will get plenty of open looks from outside. However, the squad is not a great shooting team by any means. While the three-point shooting has improved as the season has moved along, it is pretty much up to Ben Hansbrough to hit the long balls. He will knock down about two per game, but if his shot is not falling, there are not a lot of other options that consistently hit the three-point shot. The same can be said for free-throw shooting. Hansbrough hits over 80 percent of his attempts, but nobody else who sees major minutes shoots over 70 percent from the charity stripe.
Who To Watch:
Jamont Gordon does everything well and the 6-4 guard leads the team in points, assists and steals and even grabs over six rebounds per contest. He can handle the ball to help out the young backcourt and hit the glass to help the frontcourt. Most importantly, he averages 17.1 points per game and rarely fails to reach double digits. Gordon will hit the outside shot, but is not very consistent from beyond the arc. When the outside shot is falling and he continues to use his size to get to the basket, Gordon will easily eclipse the 20 point mark.
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