#69 Mississippi St: 2010-11 Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #69
Conference Rank: #7 Southeastern Conference
2009-10: 24-12, 9-7
2009-10 postseason: NIT
Coach: Rick Stansbury (256-138 at Mississippi State, 256-138 overall)
It was an interesting off-season for Dee Bost and Mississippi State. After declaring for the NBA Draft, Bost failed to withdraw his name in time…among some other misunderstandings. In the end, Bost is back with the Bulldogs, but will miss the first semester of the season. The return of his 13.0 points, 5.2 assists and 4.4 rebounds is huge for this team and Bost will step right back into his familiar starting role once he is eligible.
Key Losses: F Romero Osby, G Barry Stewart, G Phil Turner, F Jarvis Varnado
While Bost is out, the newcomers will have a bigger load to carry. Junior college transfer Brian Bryant may find himself starting at the point guard position. He had a great season last year and will have to at least provide some quality minutes off of the bench. Shaun Smith could play a relatively big role this year too if he can stay healthy. Jalen Steele may get more minutes while Bost is out, but he should continue to play a big role for MSU as a long range shooting specialist.
Twany Beckham averaged less than nine minutes per game during the 2008-2009 campaign and missed all of last season with a hip injury. Yet, Beckham will find himself in a precarious situation early in the year. He is an athletic player who can handle the ball and that may put him in the starting lineup early in the season. On a team that did relatively well keeping the turnovers down, relying on Beckham and Bryant to run the show early on may be a problem. Riley Benock does not have to worry about replacing Bost at the point, but he does have to help replace the outside shooting of the departed Barry Stewart. Benock is a senior, but has never been more than a shooter off the bench who plays about a dozen minutes per game. Ravern Johnson was once just a shooter, but the 6-7 senior is now a dynamic scorer who will have to hold this backcourt together while Bost is out. After averaging 13.2 points and 3.4 rebounds last season, Johnson should be up for the job. However, he still needs to use his size to attack the basket more often and help out on the glass.
Even without Jarvis Varnado, the Mississippi State frontcourt could be very good. Varnado led the team with 13.8 points, 10.2 rebounds and 4.7 blocks last year. No one player is going to replace those numbers. Even everybody put together may not replace those numbers. However, Kodi Augustus is a returning starter who averaged 8.9 points and 5.4 rebounds last season. Augustus has a decent shot and can spread out the defense from the power forward spot. Wendell Lewis, John Riek and Elgin Bailey will have to play some major minutes after barely playing at all last season. Lewis is a big bodied center who averaged 5.5 minutes during his freshman campaign, but showed signs of productivity if he can get tougher around the basket. Riek needed some time to grow into his 7-1, 242 pound frame as a freshman and could be ready for a big year. Elgin Bailey is a more experienced option, but he needs to stay healthy after being limited during the 2009-2010 campaign with a knee injury.
Who to Watch:
Lewis, Riek and Bailey will have to compliment Augustus in the paint for the first nine games of the season. That is when Renardo Sidney will be eligible to play. After sitting out all of last year due to an investigation into his amateur status, Sidney will finally be able to step on the floor for the Bulldogs. The 6-10, 270 pound forward is a beast in the paint and will step into a starting role as soon as he is eligible. Once he is there he should be productive, but the issue is his conditioning, especially after sitting out for so long.
Winning the first nine games without Bost and Sidney will be extremely important for Mississippi State. They will not get into the NCAA Tournament during the first semester, but they can certainly play themselves out of it. There are issues past that as well. Bost should be able to come in and immediately be ready to go, but Sidney is another story and how well the rest of the team adapts to their new roles once those two return will be the difference between an NCAA berth and an NIT invitation.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Brian Bryant, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Twany Beckham, Sophomore, Guard, DNP last season
Ravern Johnson, Senior, Guard, 13.2 ppg
Kodi Augustus, Senior, Forward, 8.9 ppg
Wendell Lewis, Sophomore, Center, 1.3 ppg
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