[Editor's Note: This piece was written by One Man To Beat. I simply posted it for him.]
Ole Miss and Mississippi State enter tonight's basketball game in Starkville with a lot at stake.
State could sweep the Ole Miss series and have dominant positioning for at least second in the SEC West.
Ole Miss could climb into a good shot at challenging Arkansas for first in the west with a win in Starkville and avenge a five-point loss in the process.
State would tumble to 4-5 in SEC play, losing five out of their last six conference games. With the 'Dawgs next couple games at home, a win against Ole Miss could get them back onto the bubble for a chance at the Big Dance.
The Rebels need to improve their resume for March and another SEC road win plus home victories down the road would pretty much wrap up a spot in the tournament.
More than a month ago in Oxford, Ole Miss had a great opportunity to beat Mississippi State. A half-time lead was erased as Dee Bost used his quickness to drive the lane and draw foul after foul to get points at the charity stripe. Jarvis Varnado used his absurd arm length to block and alter shots when the Rebels played more aggressively in the lane.
Still, the Rebels put up 75 points against State. The defensive effort has to be much greater this evening for Ole Miss to win.
The loss of Reginald Buckner to a sprained ankle could spell serious trouble to the Rebel front court. Varnado is not a huge scoring threat, but the speed of the MSU guards could cause issues for the Rebels.
We saw against 'Bama how the full court press and tough man-to-man defense can benefit Ole Miss. Large deficits can be erased in a matter of minutes. With our length and height at the guard position, it would be to our benefit to play man rather than zone tonight.
State's shooting has gone cold from behind the arc over their two game losing streak. I would hate to see them find their touch against our soft 2-3 zone. And they would...because they do that kind of thing.
Terrico White can't seem to shoulder the load offensively. Chris Warren is going to have to distribute the ball well and take over the scoring when necessary. Terrance Henry showed he's a viable offensive threat when needed, and I think his contributions, whether off the bench or starting, can be essential to a win.
Henry can get out in the open floor and in transition and make plays. He's not the typical forward who's going to bang around for 35 minutes, grab double digit rebounds and get a lot of put backs. He can do it, but we shouldn't expect it.
The key to victory tonight will be getting into transition with Henry, Holloway and White. State turns the ball over more than 10 times per game, and the Rebels have to take every opportunity there to convert into points and get the home crowd sitting down.
The good news is that this team has been battle tested on the road and come out victorious. A close loss in Knoxville and a marginal loss in Lexington should have them expectant for a loud crowd in Starkville tonight. Relatively easy wins in Baton Rouge and Auburn should have confidence high on the road. The recent comeback at home to 'Bama should have the players loose and ready to make a statement.
Andy Kennedy has not had great success against our in-state rival. He has split the series every year, including a win in Starkville last year, so he knows what it takes to come out of the Hump with a victory.
I think State's players have a higher basketball IQ than our own. They're pretty well coached, and they play well at home(only one loss to Rider earlier this year).
But I hate State and I sure as hell am not going to pick them to win.
Ole Miss 79