Ahead of the NFL Playoffs on Saturday, the Mississippi-Mississippi State basketball Game gets national TV treatment on CBS. It’s a weird choice by CBS, but either way it’s an important Game for the Mississippi schools. Mississippi State had hopes of winning the SEC this season and then it lost in overtime to South Carolina in its Conference opener. Mississippi doesn’t have those kinds of hopes in its first season under Kermit Davis, but that may change soon enough after back-to-back, double-digit wins with one of those coming against Auburn.
The difference between these teams is that the Bulldogs challenged themselves a bit more in non-Conference play while the Rebels picked up most of their wins against bad teams. Sure, the Rebs got a win against Baylor but this in-state Game is probably their hardest test of the season so far. Because of the Schedule, it’s hard to look at a lot of Mississippi’s numbers, namely the effective field goal percentage that has them as one of the best in the country. MSU doesn’t have a great defense, but it’s hard to see Ole Miss lighting it up in this spot on the road.
The Bulldogs do everything well offensively outside of get to the free throw line and that will be a problem for the Rebels who don’t have a great perimeter defense. The options are seemingly endless for the Bulldogs with big man Aric Holman (13.0 ppg, 8.7 rpg) continuing to shoot the ball well from distance at over 40 percent. Throw in LAmar Peters (13.4 ppg, 6.2 apg) and Nick Weatherspoon who are also above 42 percent from three and the shooters are there. Quinndary Weatherspoon (17.1 ppg, 5.5 rpg) isn’t the same kind of shooter, but he does everything else for the team from drawing fouls to getting easy buckets in the lane. The versatility, but also size, of this team, will be a problem for most in the conference.
The Rebels will have their hands full at almost every position because they don’t exactly have one guy that can matchup with Holman when he goes to the perimeter. They also only have one player listed above 6-foot-8, while MSU has three and they all play a decent amount. To have a chance, the Ole Miss backcOurt has to continue its dominant play. Breein Tyree (18.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.2 apg), Terence Davis (15.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.7 apg) and Devontae Shuler (10.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.5 apg) have been an awesome trio, but that hasn’t been the case against better teams. Shuler managed Four points in the loss to Butler and Davis didn’t Scoreagainst Cincinnati. Even in the win against Auburn, Davis did all of the scoring with 27 points, as Tyree managed just five.
Mississippi State doesn’t have the best perimeter defense so there should be open looks for Ole Miss and that should keep the Game competitive. The question is if the Rebels can make those shots because they’ll all be worked on the defensive end. While the backcOurts are fairly even, the Bulldogs could control the frontcOurt and if they win on the offensive glass, which has often been the case this season, that’s another problem. The Rebs have had a nice start to the season, but getting to that next level and making the NCAA Tournament will require better defense and it starts by competing on the road against legit teams.
Our Pick – Miss St -5