This Team Ain't Like 2004

Earlier in the year I thought to myself, this year's basketball team sure does remind me of the great '04 team. You had a good point guard who could score (Bost/Bowers), two power forwards in the starting rotation with one of them being All-American worthy (Moultrie/Roberts), a solid small forward who could shoot the 3 (Hood/Power), and a short bench. Although I'm not about to say Brian Bryant/Jalen Steele are on Winsome Frazier's level.

After MSU dominated Ole Miss on February 9th, some people started drawing even more comparisons to the 2004 team...asking Stansbury if this team was the best he's had since then. But two games later and folks are searching the drawers of Scott Stricklin's desk for pink slips.

One thing's for sure: this team is not like 2004's SEC Championship team. They actually look more like 2008 to me. Not because of the personnel, but the underachieving talent on the team.

I will give the '08 team a little more of a pass because they were so young. Charles Rhodes was the only senior on the team, and after Jamont Gordon and Brian Johnson everyone else was a freshman or sophomore. But they were loaded with talent: Jarvis Varnardo, Barry Stewert, Phil Turner, Ben Hansbrough, Kodi Augustus, Elgin Bailey, and the aforementioned Rhodes, Gordon & Johnson.

After losing the Delk twins via transfer in the offseason, Mississippi State struggled through the non-conference with a 10-5 record. But the team came together in SEC play, winning the West at 12-4. The resulting seed in the big dance was an '8', but they were undoubtedly more talented than that; which #1 seed Memphis almost learned the hard way.

While the 2008 team seemed to get better as the year progressed, this team seems to be getting worse....or at least other teams are getting better while they are staying the same. 6-5 in the SEC with the talent on this team seems ridiculous. Arnett Moultrie is projected as a lottery pick next year, Sidney has first round talent, Hood could be a first rounder in a year or two, and Bost could be a NBA player if he somehow became a better jump shooter. Point is, this team is loaded with talent, and should be contending for a Top 4 seed.

Back to my comparison of how this team is like '08 - they are likely to get seeded in a way that doesn't reflect how good they are (or should be). Through fault of their own they are staring down the barrel of an 8-9 game. Of course, prisoner of the moment guy says we have no chance of making the Tourney anymore, but I have to think State will bounce back.

There's good and bad in being a lower-seeded team with high-seed talent. And by this I am assuming a 7, 8, 9 or 10 seed. The good news is, like in '08, you get to play the high seed two days after their first game...so not as much time to prepare. Now, you could argue that they have prepared anyway because a 15 or 16 seed didn't present any challenges, and to a degree that is right. But if they were already preparing for the 2nd round match-up, then they were looking at both possible opponents. Whereas, if State was a '4' seed, that #1 seed would have a week to prepare specifically for the Bulldogs in a Sweet 16 game.

The bad news with getting the lower seed is the decreased likelihood of making the Sweet 16. Which, for a lot of fans, is a big deal...Stans has never done that. But is it really that big of a deal? It is nice to have people talking about MSU all week leading up to the game, but how much better will you feel if the Dawgs lose in the Sweet 16 or the 2nd round? It would be nice to put that banner in the Hump, but will it make you remember this team for a long time?

Bottom line, State has five more games to right the ship and start playing well. They may have already blown their chances at a really good seed so it's time to focus on what they can do to go into the SEC and NCAA Tournament playing well, and preferably hot. They can do it, we just got to believe.

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