If Mississippi State didn’t have bad luck in the first year of the Rick Ray era they’d would have none.
Since Ray took over in Starkville four players have suffered season-ending knee injuries, with junior guard Jalen Steele becoming the fourth after tearing the ACL and meniscus in his right knee in Wednesday’s loss to South Carolina.
Steele suffered the injury during the second half, and for the season he averaged 10.1 points and 2.9 rebounds per game.
Due to their lack of both depth and experience Mississippi State has struggled mightily this season, tallying just eight wins (8-21 overall, 3-14 SEC) heading into their season finale on Saturday against Auburn.
According to Brandon Marcello of the Clarion-Ledger, Mississippi State will have just six scholarship players available for Saturday’s game.
In addition to Steele, Wendell Lewis, Jacoby Davis and Andre Applewhite all suffered season-ending knee injuries this season. This is Steele’s second major knee injury during his time at Mississippi State, as he tore the ACL in his left knee back in 2011.
Mississippi State lost every key contributor from last season’s 21-win team, with the departure of one of the SEC’s best freshmen in Rodney Hood (transferred to Duke) being the toughest blow to take when considering the future of the program. With that in mind, and the injuries that sapped what little depth the Bulldogs had to begin with, Mississippi State’s struggles haven’t come as a surprise to anyone.
The Bulldogs have three commitments in the 2013 class, led by shooting guard Travis Daniels, and the recovery of players such as Steele and Lewis will be just as important to the future of the Mississippi State program.
Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.
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.