2018 Mississippi State Bulldogs Basketball Predictions with Odds and Expert Picks
Remember back when coach Ben Howland used to be a genius? After a good run at Pitt, he took UCLA to three straight Final Fours and was widely viewed as one of the top coaches in the game. But he won just two tournament games in his next five years at UCLA before getting fired to crash to earth. And while he has recruited far better at Mississippi State than he has any right to be doing, it certainly hasn't turned into results. Last year was his third year at the school and his best, and all he had to show for it was a run to the NIT semis. It makes sense that people are expecting more from the team this year. But I won't apologize at all for being highly skeptical that Howland is the guy to get it done.
Mississippi State Bulldogs Additions/Losses
There were a lot of departures, but none that amount to too much. Two players graduated, two transferred - one in January - and one left the team for personal reasons. None of the five are difference-makers, though - the most impactful, Xavian Stapleton, played 20 minutes a game but averaged only 6.4 points and 2.6 boards.
The team added one transfer who is eligible this year. Jethro Tshisumpa was a four-star center in the class of 2016 who didn't work out at Arizona State, and he comes here after a stint in JuCo. He provides solid depth but is unlikely to move the needle.
Howland again added a strong recruiting class. The headliner is five-star power forward Reggie Perry, who will be looking to avoid joining the long list of five-star studs that have underperformed for the coach. He's big, strong with the ball, and versatile. The upside is big. The team also added two four wing types - Robert Woodard and D.J. Perry. Both will play, but Woodard is a more developed scorer at this point and is likely to play a bigger role in the short term.
Mississippi State Bulldogs Outlook
It's a brother show for Mississippi State. Senior Quinndary Weatherspoon is the team's top scorer, and at this point is the best player - though if all goes well he will be caught and passed this year. His brother, sophomore Nick, started every game last year as a highly-rated recruit, but it took a long time for him to look comfortable. He was third in scoring last year and should be poised for a serious breakthrough. Those two are joined in the backcourt by two guys who traded starts last year - juniors Lamar Peters and Tyson Carter. Both guys have their strength, but ideally one would grab the starting job and move the other into a bench role. At the four is senior Aric Holman, who puts up solid numbers and still has some upside he could reach - though, not to be a broken record, Howland doesn't have the track record for helping guys reach it over the last decade. And center Abdul Ado, who is a big dude, started all the way as a freshman last year and has upside. It is a solid starting five - especially if the point situation becomes clear. And Perry could likely be more talented than all of them, so there is potential there. The team doesn't lack for talent.
While there is talent, there is an issue that stands out. We live in a three-point world these days, and this team just doesn't measure up on that front. The Weatherspoons and Peters are all substandard shooters from deep. It's not like they don't have the potential to be better, but they are going to have to find a way to be more dangerous out there to spread defenses out and really do something.
Mississippi State Bulldogs Schedule
The team's preseason tournament is one that I will admit I have never heard of - the MGM Resorts Main Event. There they will face Arizona State, and either Utah State or Saint Mary's. That is a manageable stretch of games. Arizona State is the toughest test, but I would be disappointed if the Bulldogs didn't win the tournament. Later they play Dayton, Clemson and Cincinnati - teams that are beatable but which will be a good test of where this team is at.
The SEC is deeper than it is in some years, but it still isn't terrifying. Their conference slate is reasonably balanced, so if the team struggles in the new year they won't really have the schedule to blame.
Mississippi State Bulldogs Futures Odds
Ranked 18th in the AP poll, Mississippi State is the 22nd team in the national title futures odds at +7500. Oddsmakers like the team but are a little skeptical.
Mississippi State Bulldogs Predictions
The talent here is strong. They have a good starting five, a potential one-and-done kid off the bench, and reasonable depth behind them. They aren't going to scare Kentucky if the Wildcats are dialed in, but they could easily contend for a top four finish in the SEC. But man, do I have a problem with Ben Howland right now. He just doesn't seem fully committed, and he has lost his mojo. The team won't find their top end with him in charge, and that makes me lukewarm - at best - about the team.
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