2007-08 Mississippi State Basketball Preview
Mississippi State Bulldogs
Overall Rank: #23
Conference Rank: #3 SEC
2006-07: 21-14, 8-8, 1st (t) West
2006-07 postseason: NIT
Four players are transferring from Mississippi State and maybe they saw what the rest of us will see soon enough…that this is a very deep and talented team. It has been a couple years since Coach Rick Stansbury has seen so many possibilities on his roster. The Bulldogs were in the NCAA Tournament in 2005 and anything but another trip in 2008 will be disappointing.
The Delk brothers are headed their separate ways. Reginald is the key loss to the team after averaging 9.5 points per game and starting all 35 contests. Richard started 33 games and tallied 5.7 points per contest. Both saw their minutes dwindle as the season progressed last year in favor of freshmen. Forward Vernon Goodridge started five contests and fellow forward Bernard Rimmer is joining him on the transfer list after seeing limited action last season. Dietric Slater missed the early portion of the season, but once the New Year hit, the versatile lefty wing was ready to roll. He was a hardworker and a solid defender and that is what Mississippi State will miss more than his 10.5 points per game. The only other senior lost is Piotr Stelmach who saw limited action in 19 contests.
Brian Johnson, a transfer from Louisville, came on strong at the end of the 2005-2006 season for the Cardinals. If the 6-9 power forward can continue that trend, the Bulldogs frontcourt is suddenly full of talent. Johnson is extremely tough and can score in the paint. However, it is his ability to rebound that the team desperately needs in the frontcourt. Elgin Bailey will add some depth up front. The wide-bodied 6-8, 265 pound New Orleans, Louisiana product can use his size to get some easy baskets and rebounds, but it will be tough for him to make too much of an impact as a freshman. Kodi Augustus and Ravern Johnson will be the two most exciting newcomers. At 6-8 Augustus has great size for a wing and he will have some high flying dunks sooner rather than later. He is not the greatest shooter around, but he can at least keep the defense honest between drives to the basket. Johnson, the two-time Mississippi Player of the Year is the shooter of the bunch. At 6-7, he has great size for a player who can spend minutes at the two guard. Once he adds a little weight and strength, his size will be an asset if he ever wants to become more than just a catch-and-shoot guy. Point guard Riley Benock and redshirt freshman Phil Turner will bolster the depth on the perimeter. Walk-on Brandon Bolen also joins the program this year.
Who to Watch:
You can call him a point guard, you can call him a shooting guard or you can call him a wing, but whatever you call him, you better call him a great player. Jamont Gordon led the team with 16.0 points, 7.1 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game last year and the hopes and dreams of a deep NCAA Tournament fall on his shoulders. Gordon took over the point guard duties last year and, eventually, it worked out pretty well. At times, the turnover numbers were horrendous, but it did get better by the end of the year. Joining Gordon in the backcourt will be sophomores Barry Stewart and Ben Hansbrough. Stewart had a surprising freshman campaign in which he averaged 9.8 points per game. He spent all of last year coming off the bench and with starters minutes coming his way and a year of experience under his belt, Stewart could become a household name in SEC country by year’s end. Hansbrough, the younger, shorter, less talented brother of North Carolina’s Tyler Hansbrough, earned nine starts last year and averaged 7.3 points and 3.2 assists. By the end of the season, when Mississippi State went on a nice run, it was Stewart and Hansbrough who were making a big impact and taking away the minutes from the Delk brothers. The group may be young, but they are talented and have already proven that they can play with anybody in the conference.
The frontcourt is led by Charles Rhodes. After flirting with the NBA, Rhodes opted to return to college for his senior season. He is a decent scorer and can step out and occasionally hit the long ball, but the key for him is consistency. He was outrebounded by the 6-4 Gordon who was running the point all year and that is what Rhodes needs to improve on before thinking about playing at the highest level. Jarvis Varnado is the last on the long list of freshman who made an impact last year. He will have to battle with Brian Johnson for the starting job up front, but Varnado is a great shot blocker and will see more than 13.5 minutes per game this year.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Jamont Gordon, Junior, Guard, 16.0 points per game
Barry Stewart, Sophomore, Guard, 9.8 points per game
Ben Hansbrough, Sophomore, Guard, 7.3 points per game
Charles Rhodes, Senior, Forward, 13.7 points per game
Brian Johnson, Junior, Forward, DNP last season