Rick Ray has had a rough season in his first as head coach at Mississippi State. A massive amount of transfers and players going pro, a rash of injuries and a late start on recruiting led to a general lack of talent within the Bulldogs’ program this season.
And it got worse when the team announced that guard Jalen Steele was suspended indefinitely to days ago.
Well, Ray isn’t leaving it at that. Not by a long shot.
In an interview session on Monday, Ray sounded off on Steele’s suspension.
No one knows what got Steele suspended. But whatever it was, it was enough for Ray to avoid the “internal matter” cliche and go straight to putting his lone returning consistent contributor on blast for everyone to see.
I don’t blame Ray. It’s been a season where rarely anything has gone his way and I’m sure he’s getting fed up with it. He trusted Steele, who is averaging 9.3 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game this season, to be a type of leader with this team, being that he’s the only one who can truly tell you what it was like to play with Renardo Sidney and Arnett Moultrie last year. Steele getting benched for something other than bad play has to infuriate a guy who has made Steele his bell cow this season.
And when you break it down to brass tax, that’s a statement that can be used in general. Any player that has an impact on his team’s play and attitude like Steele does is screwing with their respective team. In a season that little can go wrong if you want to at least be respectable, Steele just made it even tougher. And I’m sure Ray is the most disappointed of anyone.
Follow David Harten on Twitter at @David_Harten.
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
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.