SEC Mississippi St Tennessee Basketball

Mississippi State’s rebuilding project receives needed boost

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When Mississippi State hired Rick Ray as the school’s new basketball coach last spring, the former Clemson assistant had a lot of work ahead of him. Heavy personnel losses left Ray with quite the rebuilding project, and the end result of playing with such a young team (that was also hit hard by the injury bug) was a 10-win campaign in his debut season.

With the need to bolster the program’s depth quite apparent, recruiting is even more important for Mississippi State if the program is to be consistently competitive in the SEC. And on each of the last two days Mississippi State has received verbal commitments from players in the Class of 2015.

One day after 6-9 forward Joseph Struggs made his pledge to attend Mississippi State, 6-4 shooting guard Dante Scott did the same. According to Rivals, both players made unofficial visits to Mississippi State over the weekend.

While neither player has received the level of attention that follows around the nation’s best recruits, the ability to land prospects without the aid of on-court success is a positive sign for the Mississippi State program.

Mississippi State will enter the 2013-14 campaign with just four upperclassmen (three are seniors), so once again the Bulldogs will be a young team. But there’s more experience, with rising sophomores Craig Sword (10.5 ppg), Fred Thomas (9.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg) and Gavin Ware (8.4, 6.4) all expected to figure prominently in Ray’s plans.

Both Sword and Ware were named to the SEC All-Freshman Team last season by the league coaches.

Rebuilding projects take time, and the Bulldogs will take their lumps in a conference that should be improved next season. But if they can apply the lessons learned during a tough 2012-13 season, Mississippi State is capable of showing signs of improvement as well.

Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Tom Izzo’s point is valid, but he’s wrong about the new fouling rules

Eron Harris, Tom Izzo
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
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On Sunday night, after No. 3 Michigan State knocked off No. 23 Providence in the final of the Wooden Legacy, Spartans head coach Tom Izzo made sure to make his feelings known about the new college basketball officiating mandates.

He doesn’t like them.

At all.

“I just think we’re taking the flow of the game away,” Izzo said. “Maybe it’ll change. We’ll play by the same rules everybody else does. But I think I can voice my opinion to say that I don’t agree with it.”

Part of what frustrated Izzo was that, in a matchup between the two best players in college basketball, both Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn were sent to the bench with foul trouble.

“I didn’t like it either way,” Izzo said. “I didn’t like having Denzel on the bench, and I didn’t even like watching Dunn on the bench.”

“Don’t tweet this now and leave out the officials,” he added, according to “It’s not their fault. Because that’s the way they’re mandated to call them. So I am really either blaming the rules committee, which ends up on the coaches somewhat. So I’m looking in the mirror and blaming myself because I should have argued it more maybe. I just don’t think it’s fun to have these guys sitting.”

This is nothing new for Izzo. This was calculated. He basically said the same thing after Michigan State, then No. 1 in the country, beat Oklahoma in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic two seasons ago, when the rules committee tried to implement these same rules. It was his pushback that started the campaign to get rid of the freedom of movement rules.

But here’s the thing: we all knew this was going to happen. We knew there was going to be an adjustment period, for coaches and players and referees alike. In the long run, freedom of movement is good for basketball. It’s part of the reason the NBA is so much fun to watch these days, as their emphasis on the freedom of movement got us out of the days where the Detroit Pistons were winning titles without scoring 80 points.

Physicality is ingrained in college basketball. Coaches teach defense a certain way. Players play defense a certain way. The guys in the NBA are stronger, but the style of play is much more physical in the college game than the pro game. That doesn’t change overnight.

It changes when those rules are enforced and those fouls are called, and, as a result, the players and coaches learn to adjust to them.

Kennesaw State blows eight-point lead in 16 seconds, loses to Elon

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Kennesaw State entered Monday night at 1-6 on the season, but with 19 seconds left, it looked like the Owls have their second of the season locked up. Kendrick Ray made a pair of free throws with 19 seconds left to put KSU up 89-81, and all they had to do was avoid a complete meltdown to get out with a win.

They couldn’t.

A Luke Eddy layup with 16 seconds left cut the lead to six, and after KSU’s Nigel Pruitt missed two free throws, Dainan Swoope his a three with seven seconds left to make the score 89-86.

On the ensuing inbounds, Kennesaw State threw the ball away … and then proceeded to foul Eddy when he was shooting a three. This is what that disaster looked like:

Eddy would hit all three threes before, shockingly, KSU turned the ball over again. Elon could not capitalize this time, sending the game to overtime, where the Phoenix outscored the Owls 14-4.

Elon won 104-94.

Here’s what the comeback looked like on the play-by-play:

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