#13 Florida vs. #16 Mississippi State: Saturday's Preview

    
January 28th, 2012
While Kentucky is the clear favorite to win the SEC, the battle beneath them should be a spirited one. #16 Mississippi State (17-4, 4-2), who has already won at Vanderbilt, could win the tiebreaker with #13 Florida (16-4, 4-1) with a win in Gainesville on Saturday afternoon. That's easier said than done as Billy Donovan's team is 10-0 at home this season, but the Bulldogs have won four of the last five meetings in this series. A big reason why Rick Stansbury's team can win at the O-Dome is UTEP transfer Arnett Moultrie (17.1 ppg, 11.2 rpg), who has to be considered one of the early favorites for SEC Player of the Year.

Moultrie is shooting 56.3% from the field and his arrival has allowed the Bulldogs to not have to rely on the enigmatic Renardo Sidney as much. Sidney has a great amount of potential, and to be fair he's played solid if not spectacular basketball of later, but he's essentially a bit player at this stage. They'll be faced with the task of slowing down Florida's Patric Young (11.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg), one of college basketball's most impressive physical specimens. But Young has been banged up recently, and when adding that to the fact that the Gators tend to forget about him in the paint Mississippi State should be able to guard him effectively.

Florida also has Erik Murphy (10.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg) and Will Yeguete (4.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg) to rely on inside, with Murphy being the just as comfortable if not more on the perimeter while Yeguete does a lot of the dirty work in the paint. What will ultimately decide the contest is the play of the guards, most notably a Florida group that's extremely talented but doesn't always make the best decisions. Erving Walker (12.8 ppg, 5.1 apg) and Kenny Boynton (18.0 ppg, 2.9 apg) are the primary ball-handlers for Florida, and while they've improved some when it comes to decision-making there are still strides to be made.

Florida's best guard? That could very well be freshman Bradley Beal (13.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg), who at this stage needs to be more assertive on the offensive end of the floor. The McDonald's All-America has the talent needed to take over games but he's almost deferential to a fault within their offense, and Rutgers transfer Mike Rosario (8.5 ppg) provides scoring off the bench. Mississippi State is solid on the perimeter as well with senior Dee Bost (16.0 ppg, 4.7 apg, 3.6 rpg) leading the way. Bost has been a steadying influence for the Bulldogs, something that didn't happen at times last season. His role is made important by the fact that outside of classmate Brian Bryant the Bulldogs rely on youngsters in their rotation.

Freshman Rodney Hood (11.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg) is one of the best jumpers in the SEC but don't let that overshadow his skill set. Hood's shooting 47.5% from the field and 39.7% from beyond the arc on the season and his assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.6 is the best on the team. Sophomore Jalen Steele and freshman Deville Smith are also important contributors for Rick Stansbury's team on the perimeter. Florida's been the better team in regards to efficiency numbers while Mississippi State's been slightly better on the glass, which should make for a good contest.

Also of note on Saturday is a big matchup in the WCC between first-place Saint Mary's and BYU in Provo, with the Cougars needing to hold serve at home in order to remain in the race. Matthew Dellavedova and Rob Jones were difference-makers in their first meeting, a 98-82 SMC win in Moraga, and the play of redshirt freshman Brad Waldow of late has been a solid boost for the Gaels. The key for BYU: run more of their offense through forwards Brandon Davies and Noah Hartsock. Matt Carlino has been ice cold of late and the same could be said of Charles Abouo, and frankly it isn't realistic to expect this perimeter group to do what Jimmer Fredette did last season in his role.

Kansas visits Iowa State in what could be a dangerous game for the Jayhawks given how tough it is to win in Ames. Two of the best forwards in the Big 12 will be on display as well, and the fact that they get the job done in different ways will make for a fun matchup. Thomas Robinson is an elite finisher and Kansas calls on him for interior offense while also being able to step out and knock down the occasional jumper. Iowa State features Royce White, who they use in a point guard role and he's done a very good job in his first season of eligibility for the Cyclones. If Fred Hoiberg's team is to make a run at an NCAA bid they'll need a win like this for their resume.

Middle Tennessee visits Vanderbilt in a critical contest for the Blue Raiders when it comes to possibly earning an at-large bid because their gaudy record the resume lacks a marquee victory. LaRon Dendy is the ring leader for Kermit Davis' squad, which leads the Sun Belt in scoring and field goal percentage, and they're more than capable of knocking off the Commodores. In order to do so the Blue Raiders will need to keep John Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor in check while also holding their own on the glass against Festus Ezeli and Lance Goulbourne.

Other games to keep an eye on include Saint Joseph's visiting Temple in a key matchup within both the Atlantic 10 and the Big 5, Georgetown visiting Pittsburgh in a game the Panthers could definitely use for their resume and West Virginia visiting Syracuse. Virginia/NC State should be a fun battle in the ACC with both teams hoping to further establish themselves as upper echelon squads, Cal State Fullerton has a chance to make a statement as they visit Long Beach State and in the NEC surprising St. Francis (NY) visits a Robert Morris team fresh off of their win over first-place LIU Brooklyn.

Top 25 Games
4:00 PM (1) Kentucky at LSU (ESPN3)
1:30 PM Texas Tech at (2) Missouri (ESPN3)
1:00 PM West Virginia at (4) Syracuse (ESPNU)
2:00 PM (5) Kansas at Iowa State (ESPN)
12:00 PM St. John's at (6) Duke (ESPN)
1:00 PM Texas at (7) Baylor (CBS)
8:00 PM Eastern Illinois at (9) Murray State (ESPN3)
4:00 PM (10) Georgetown at Pittsburgh (ESPN)
4:00 PM (12) San Diego State at Colorado State (NBC SN)
1:30 PM (16) Mississippi State at (13) Florida (ESPN3)
8:05 PM Bradley at (14) Creighton (ESPN3)
9:00 PM (15) UNLV at Air Force (The Mtn.)
12:00 PM (18) Marquette at Villanova (ESPN2)
9:00 PM (20) Saint Mary's at BYU (ESPNU)
8:00 PM (21) Virginia at NC State (ESPN2)
6:00 PM (23) Harvard at Brown
7:00 PM Oklahoma at (24) Kansas State (ESPN3)
8:00 PM (25) Louisville at Seton Hall (ESPN3)

NCAA Division I Games
11:00 AM Ball State at Ohio (ESPNU)
12:00 PM Hofstra at Northeastern (MSG+)
12:00 PM Wake Forest at Clemson (ESPN3)
1:00 PM Arkansas State at North Texas (ESPN3)
1:00 PM American at Lafayette
1:00 PM George Washington at Fordham (YES)
1:00 PM Buffalo at Northern Illinois
1:30 PM Arkansas at Alabama (ESPN3)
2:00 PM Saint Louis at Massachusetts (CBS SN Regional)
2:00 PM UNC Wilmington at Towson (ESPN3)
2:00 PM Middle Tennessee at Vanderbilt
2:00 PM Valparaiso at Milwaukee (ESPN3)
2:00 PM Binghamton at Maine
2:00 PM Elon at Appalachian State
2:00 PM Delaware at Drexel (CSN Philadelphia)
2:00 PM James Madison at George Mason (CSN)
2:00 PM Western Carolina at UNC Greensboro
2:00 PM Wagner at Quinnipiac
2:30 PM Virginia Tech at Maryland (ESPN3)
3:00 PM Chicago State at North Dakota
3:00 PM Wofford at Charleston (ESPN3)
3:00 PM Nicholls State at Lamar
3:00 PM Tennessee Tech at Morehead State (ESPNU)
3:00 PM Southeastern Louisiana at Northwestern State
3:00 PM Tulsa at SMU (FSN)
3:15 PM Mercer at Stetson
3:30 PM Wyoming at Boise State (The Mtn.)
3:30 PM Fairleigh Dickinson at Central Connecticut State (CPTV)
3:30 PM Mount St. Mary's at Sacred Heart
4:00 PM Colorado at UCLA (FCS)
4:00 PM Albany at Hartford
4:00 PM Purdue at Northwestern (ESPN2)
4:00 PM Saint Joseph's at Temple (CSN Philadelphia)
4:00 PM Oklahoma State at Texas A&M (ESPN3)
4:00 PM William & Mary at Old Dominion (CSN)
4:00 PM VCU at Georgia State (CSS)
4:00 PM Delaware State at North Carolina Central
4:00 PM Maryland-Eastern Shore at North Carolina A&T
4:00 PM Liberty at Radford (ESPN3)
4:00 PM Howard at Savannah State
4:00 PM Miami (OH) at Western Michigan
4:00 PM High Point at Winthrop
4:00 PM Monmouth at Bryant University
4:05 PM Southern Illinois at Illinois State (ESPN3)
4:30 PM Campbell at UNC-Asheville
5:00 PM Washington State at Arizona State (ROOT)
5:00 PM Colgate at Holy Cross (CBS SN)
5:00 PM Texas-Arlington at Texas State
5:00 PM Louisiana-Lafayette at Louisiana-Monroe
5:00 PM Davidson at Samford
5:00 PM Alcorn State at Southern
5:00 PM Northern Iowa at Missouri State (ESPNU)
5:00 PM Sam Houston State at UTSA
5:15 PM Kennesaw State at Florida Gulf Coast
5:30 PM SIU-Edwardsville at Jacksonville State
5:30 PM Jackson State at Mississippi Valley State
6:00 PM Bethune-Cookman at Florida A&M
6:00 PM Cincinnati at Rutgers (ESPN3)
6:00 PM TCU at New Mexico (The Mtn.)
6:00 PM Texas Southern at Alabama A&M
6:00 PM Prairie View A&M at Alabama State
6:00 PM Bowling Green at Eastern Michigan (ESPN3)
6:00 PM Coppin State at Hampton
6:00 PM Morgan State at Norfolk State
6:00 PM North Dakota State at Oakland
6:00 PM Auburn at Tennessee (ESPN2)
7:00 PM Washington at Arizona (ESPN)
7:00 PM Dartmouth at Yale
7:00 PM South Carolina at Ole Miss (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Columbia at Cornell
7:00 PM Richmond at St. Bonaventure
7:00 PM Southern Miss at UCF (BHSN)
7:00 PM Akron at Central Michigan
7:00 PM Rhode Island at Dayton
7:00 PM La Salle at Duquesne
7:00 PM Coastal Carolina at Gardner-Webb
7:00 PM Bucknell at Navy
7:00 PM Xavier at Charlotte (FSN Ohio)
7:00 PM St. Francis (NY) at Robert Morris
7:00 PM LIU Brooklyn at St. Francis (PA)
7:00 PM Kent State at Toledo
7:00 PM Butler at Green Bay (ESPNU)
7:00 PM South Dakota State at IPFW
7:05 PM Furman at Citadel
7:05 PM Cleveland State at Youngstown State
7:30 PM Georgia Southern at Chattanooga
7:30 PM North Florida at Lipscomb
7:30 PM Western Kentucky at Florida International (FCS)
7:30 PM Charleston Southern at Presbyterian
8:00 PM East Carolina at UAB
8:00 PM Illinois at Minnesota (BTN)
8:00 PM Tulane at Rice
8:00 PM UTEP at Houston
8:00 PM UC Santa Barbara at Pacific
8:00 PM Houston Baptist at Texas-Pan American
8:00 PM UC Riverside at UC Irvine (FSN PT)
8:00 PM Stephen F. Austin at Texas A&M-CC
8:00 PM Grambling State at Arkansas-Pine Bluff
8:00 PM Denver at Arkansas-Little Rock
8:00 PM Nevada at Louisiana Tech
8:00 PM Eastern Kentucky at Tennessee State
8:00 PM IUPUI at Western Illinois
8:05 PM UMKC at Oral Roberts (FCS)
8:15 PM Jacksonville at Belmont
8:30 PM Tennessee-Martin at Austin Peay
9:00 PM Marshall at Memphis (CSS)
9:00 PM Wichita State at Drake (ESPN3)
9:05 PM Weber State at Idaho State
9:05 PM San Jose State at Utah State (ESPN3)
9:05 PM Montana State at Eastern Washington
9:05 PM N.J.I.T. at Utah Valley
9:30 PM Fresno State at New Mexico State (ESPN3)
9:30 PM South Dakota at Southern Utah
10:00 PM Cal Poly at UC Davis
10:00 PM Portland at Loyola Marymount (FSN West)
10:00 PM Santa Clara at Pepperdine
10:00 PM San Diego at San Francisco (CSN Bay Area)
10:00 PM Cal State Northridge at Cal State Bakersfield
10:05 PM Northern Arizona at Sacramento State
11:00 PM Utah at USC (FCS)
11:00 PM Cal State Fullerton at Long Beach State (ESPNU)
11:05 PM Hawaii at Idaho (ESPN3)