Rick Ray

Mississippi State proves it has a long way to go in UNC loss

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It’s not like no one could see it coming. Mississippi State’s roster was blatantly lacking talent.

If you had North Carolina minus-45 tonight, please collect your winnings, the Tar Heels demolished the Bulldogs 95-49. And frankly, it wasn’t even that close.

It’s going to be a long season for first year head coach Rick Ray. The biggest problem that Mississippi State in the aftermath of Rick Stansbury “retiring” (I’ll continue to use the quotes until someone admits he was forced out) is that they didn’t realize how much his players loved him. Arnett Moultrie was on the fence about leaving until Ol’ Stans got fired. Renardo Sidney, as much of a raging pain in the [neck] as he was, loved Stansbury. He had to, the guy basically sacrificed his career for him.

Guys like Rodney Hood and Deville Smith were Stansbury guys. This was evident. They were all gone before Rick Ray could even get to know them.

With that, Ray inherited a roster that had one impact player left on it from last season in Jalen Steele. Now Steele is out six weeks with a wrist injury.

Now it’s almost a crap shoot as to who is going to be able to give quality minutes to the Bulldogs on a nightly basis.

It wasn’t just the score that said so much about Mississippi State’s incredibly quick fall, it was the way it happened. North Carolina, while a legitimate threat to crash a Final Four, was getting easy looks down low as guys like James Michael McAdoo (10 points on 4-for-8 shooting) and Desmond Hubert (3-for-3) dominated. The perimeter shots came even easier with North Carolina hitting 15-of-32 three’s.

Granted, UNC has the talent this season to do great things. This performance was in part a show of how good they are and how possibly some underrated them and undervalued Roy Williams as a coach.

The effort for Mississippi State, it was definitely there. Roquez Johnson (12) and Wendell Lewis (10) finished in double figures. They were only out-rebounded 45-38. They got to the foul line 19 times, making 13. The want-to is definitely there. Trouble is, the talent is not.

Things will get better for Mississippi State. Ray already has a great recruiting class coming in for 2013. He’s got the roots and the track record of winning. The hope may be that he gets enough time to work out of this. If he’s given it, Ray will.

You just have to feel for Mississippi State. It’s going to be a tough season, by no fault of anyone currently on the team.

Knee injury sidelines Illinois forward Leron Black

Josh Hart, Leron Black
Associated Press
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Illinois will be shorthanded in its front court for the time being, as during the team’s media day Thursday head coach John Groce announced that sophomore forward Leron Black is out due to injury.

Black will undergo surgery Friday to repair a meniscus tear in his knee, and he’s expected to miss anywhere from four to six weeks. A return after four weeks would have Black back on the court just before the Fighting Illini open their season November 13 against North Florida. Any longer and the Memphis native would wind up missing some game action.

Black averaged 5.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in just under 15 minutes of action per game as a freshman. He’s one of the players expected to contribute in the front court for the Fighting Illini, who lost their best interior defender and second-leading rebounder in Nnanna Egwu at the end of last season (guard Rayvonte Rice, who led the team in rebounding, is also gone).

In addition to Black and junior Maverick Morgan, Illinois adds redshirt freshman Michael Finke and grad student Mike Thorne Jr. (via Charlotte) to their front court rotation.

Coach Hamilton likes mix on Florida State basketball roster

ACC Basketball Tournament: Florida State v North Carolina
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Florida State is the only team in the Atlantic Coast Conference that returns all five of its starters from last season.

For most teams that would be cause for celebration. For coach Leonard Hamilton it means he is hoping the struggles of the past two seasons have been valuable experience.

The Seminoles had their first practice on Wednesday as they are looking to bounce back from a season in which they went 17-16 and didn’t play in a postseason tournament for the first time in 10 years.

“We have five starters returning from a team that won 17 games. We have guys that have been around, who know their shortcomings and can pass on their wisdom to the younger players,” Hamilton said.

With an experienced roster and a highly regarded recruiting class, Hamilton is hoping to lead the Seminoles back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012, which is also the year they won the ACC Tournament.

Jarquez Smith, the leading returning scorer from last season, said the open gyms before the start of practice have been extremely competitive as the incoming recruiting class has tried to assert itself early.

“We’ve been going at each other’s neck and it has gotten very competitive,” Smith said. “Everyone is fighting for their position because the guys coming off the bench are just as athletic as who is on the court.”

The newcomers feature Dwayne Bacon (a McDonald’s All-American selection), Terance Mann (the Gatorade Player of the Year in New Hampshire) and Malik Beasley (the Georgia 1A Player of the Year). There’s also Chris Koumadje, who at 7-foot-4 will be the tallest player in school history, and Benji Bell, who helped lead Northwest Florida State to the JUCO National Title.

“This is a very confident and focused group of inexperienced players,” Hamilton said. “They want to make something special happen but aren’t taking anything for granted.”

Two things that Hamilton will look to work on during preseason practices is defense and figuring out his rotation. The Seminoles suffered from a lack of depth last season but this year he could have a roster that goes 10 deep and allows him to go to more of a full-court pressing style of defense.

Xavier Rahan-Mayes led the team in scoring last season, averaging 14.9 points en route to becoming the first freshman in ACC history to score 30 or more points three times. The one thing he said he noticed in preseason practices were that everyone played off each other’s strengths.

Florida State’s first exhibition game is Nov. 2 against Lynn University before opening the season on Nov. 15 against Nicholls State.

“I think we have a pretty good combination of experience and an influx of new players. Any time you have that type of scenario you appreciate it,” Hamilton said. “It looks like we have it moving in the right direction. We’ve had a good offseason and regrouped.”