Rick Ray

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

Leave a comment

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.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
Leave a comment

Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
Leave a comment

Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.