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.
Steve Prohm announced on Monday that starting center Jameel McKay will not be in the lineup on Wednesday when the Cyclones take on Texas Tech.
“He’ll practice today because I want him in practice,” Prohm said, “but game-wise, he’s suspended.”
McKay did not make the trip to Stillwater with the team on Saturday, where Iowa State beat Oklahoma State, 64-59. Prohm has not gotten into specifics regarding the cause of McKay’s suspension, but it’s reportedly an issue with the way he has been practicing. McKay is dealing with a nagging knee injury, which may play a role in the situation as well.
“My hope is he’ll be with us on Saturday,” Prohm said.
Like the Coaches Poll, Villanova found themselves No. 1 in the AP Poll during the regular season for the first time in the history of the program.
And like the Coaches Poll, there isn’t much in the way of a consensus when it comes to who is the No. 1 team, as there are six teams that received No. 1 votes in the poll this week.
The biggest shock to me?
The No. 1 team in the NBC Sports Top 25, Iowa, received just 11 first place votes and is ranked fourth in the AP Poll.
They were ranked fifth in the Coaches Poll.
Can we get Fran McCaffery the love they deserve?
Here is the rest of the AP Poll:
1. Villanova (20-3, 32 first-place votes)
2. Maryland (21-3, 13)
3. Oklahoma (19-3, 7)
4. Iowa (19-4, 11)
5. Xavier (21-2)
6. Kansas (19-4, 1)
7. Virginia (19-4, 1)
8. Michigan State (20-4)
9. North Carolina (19-4)
10. West Virginia (19-4)
11. Oregon (18-4)
12. Miami (FL) (18-4)
13. Louisville (19-4)
14. Iowa State (17-6)
15. Texas A&M (18-5)
16. SMU (20-2)
17. Arizona (19-5)
18. Purdue (19-5)
19. Dayton (19-3)
20. Providence (18-6)
21. Baylor (17-6)
22. Kentucky (17-6)
23. USC (18-5)
24. Texas (16-7)
25. Wichita State (17-6)
DROPPED OUT: No. 22 Indiana, No. 25 South Carolina
NEW ADDITIONS: No. 23 USC, No. 24 Texas