Tag: Mississippi State

Wendell Lewis, Jamil Wilson

Report: Senior center Wendell Lewis dismissed from Mississsippi State program

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In late June 6-foot-9 senior center Wendell Lewis was granted a fifth year of eligibility by the Southeastern Conference, a move that was supposed to give Mississippi State head coach Rick Ray some added experience in the paint in 2013-14. Lewis played in just eight games last season before fracturing the patella in his right knee, with the injury occurring after a two-game stretch in which Lewis accounted for 20 points and 16 rebounds.

“We are pleased that the SEC has granted Wendell another year of eligibility,” Ray said in June.  “I really believe that Wendell needed another year in our program to improve on the court because he was just beginning to make strides right before his injury after coming off two straight games where he scored career highs. This move is beneficial for both Wendell and our basketball program.”

Unfortunately for Lewis he’s played his last game as a Bulldog, with Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com reporting on Thursday that Lewis has been dismissed from the program. Lewis is the second Bulldogs to be ruled out for the 2013-14 season in the last month, with guard Jalen Steele seeing injuries play a role in his Mississippi State career coming to a premature end in mid-September.

In the eight games Lewis played in last season he averaged 8.1 points and 4.9 rebounds per contest, more than doubling his scoring average from the 2011-12 campaign (3.8 ppg). His season-ending injury was just one of the many blows the Bulldogs incurred in the first season of Ray’s tenure in Starkville. The lack of depth did the Bulldogs (10-22, 4-14 SEC) no favors last season, and with Lewis no longer in the fold that could once again be a concern entering the 2013-14 campaign.

Inside the Bulldogs return senior Colin Borchert (9.0, 5.0), junior Roquez Johnson (8.8, 4.5) and sophomore Gavin Ware (8.4, 6.4), with Ware coming off of a season in which he was named to the SEC’s All-Freshman Team. All three were productive last season, but Lewis’ dismissal puts the Bulldogs in a spot where they can ill afford to lose any of their three remaining interior options (signee Fallou Ndoye has to sit out the 2013-14 season but will be eligible to play next year).

Scheduling improvements won’t occur overnight for the SEC

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Last season was not a particularly good one for the Southeastern Conference on the basketball court. The conference went through one of its worst seasons in recent history, managing to place just three teams in the NCAA tournament field. While the struggles of the league’s premier program (Kentucky) didn’t help matters, the true culprit for the conference was its non-conference scheduling.

While some programs scheduled ambitiously, putting together a slate that was designed to get them ready for conference play and (hopefully) give them a resume worthy of inclusion in the NCAA tournament field, others cobbled together slates that weren’t befitting of a power conference program. And with some of those teams losing games to programs that reside in the lower regions of Division I, the SEC’s computer numbers took a beating.

Auburn lost to Winthrop. Mississippi State lost to Troy and Alabama A&M. South Carolina lost to Elon. Texas A&M lost to Southern. Vanderbilt lost to Marist. Georgia lost to Youngstown State. Alabama lost to Mercer and Tulane.

And there were plenty of bad wins. The SEC played 30 games against teams Ken Pomeroy ranked 300th or lower out of 347, with every team but Kentucky playing at least one. Arkansas and LSU each played four 300-level teams, which is a virtual invitation to miss the NCAA tournament. Pomeroy rated five SEC schools between 302 and 344 in non-conference strength of schedule: Mississippi, Mississippi State, LSU, Auburn and South Carolina.

With that in mind SEC commissioner Mike Slive saw the need to make changes, hiring former NCAA tournament executive Greg Shaheen as a scheduling consultant and making Mark Whitworth the league’s associate commissioner for men’s basketball (a newly-created position). The conference that has won the last seven national titles in football would now focus on improving its basketball product. And given the way in which some programs have scheduled in recent years, these moves were necessary.

But Rome isn’t built in a day, and a list compiled by ESPN’s Jason King on the ten worst non-conference schedules among power conferences shows that there’s still some work to do in the SEC. Three SEC programs made the list (Arkansas, Mississippi State and Texas A&M), but to be fair each has significant question marks to address entering the 2013-14 campaign.

Arkansas has to replace its top two leading scorers (B.J. Young and Marshawn Powell), Mississippi State is in the second year of a massive rebuilding project and Texas A&M lost Elston Turner and Ray Turner (no relation). Those three being called out for their respective non-conference schedules is countered by Kentucky and Florida ranking among the nation’s best, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.

The SEC’s scheduling issue isn’t about all 14 members putting together brutally difficult schedules, but rather understanding the impact of their non-conference slates on the entire conference and scheduling accordingly. Accomplish that task and the SEC shouldn’t have to worry about going through seasons like the 2012-13 campaign in the future.

Mississippi State’s Jalen Steele suspended indefinitely

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An already thin Mississippi State roster has gotten thinner as junior Jalen Steele was suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules, the school announced Saturday.

Steele, a native of Knoxville, Tenn., has been a constant amidst all of the changes in Starkville, but now must sit on the sidelines for an indeterminate amount of time. He has seen action in 13 games this season, 11 of them starts, after retuning from a wrist fracture that kept him out of eight games early in the year.

In those 13 games, Steele averaged 9.3 points and 2.9 rebounds per game. His best game of the season came Jan. 12 in a road win over Georgia when he scored 21 points and grabbed seven rebounds.

Without Steele available, Mississippi State now has only six scholarship players available and two eligible walk-ons. Coach Rick Ray inherited a difficult situation with the Bulldogs, and it has been made no easier with this news Saturday. They take on No. 2 Florida at 4:00 p.m. ET and the host Gators are favored by 29 points.

Steele reportedly did not make the trip to Gainesville with the team.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_