Rick Ray at a Crossroads?

USA TODAY Sports

Has the number of suspension around the Mississippi State basketball program reached an alarming level? Who is at fault in this situation?

Shaun Smith. Kristers Zeidaks. Colin Borchert. Jalen Steele. Roquez Johnson. Who's next to join the suspension train? Craig Sword? Fred Thomas? It seems like the only person who may be safe is Baxter Price.

What are these kids doing to get suspended? They are out violating team rules. What are those rules? It's hard to say. Smith and Zeidaks violated them so much they were permanently removed from the team. Of course, when it was just Smith, a bit player, and Zeidaks, an already NCAA-suspended player, fans reacted with the praise that this was the discipline that was needed for the team after Rick Stansbury.

Then came the Borchert suspension right before a trip to Maui. That suspension, leaving the Bulldogs with only six scholarship players to take on top teams from around the country, raised a few eyebrows, but Rick Ray said it was not done to send a message. Again, fans took a tough swallow, but they said this was for the long term good of the team.

Then came Jalen Steele, the one star that did not leave the Mississippi State basketball program. Even though he was rumored to have offers to leave, he stayed in Starkville, but he has now found himself suspended for a "selfish act." Just a week or so later, Johnson found himself on the list of suspended players for, you guessed it, a violation of team rules.

At this point, it is fair to ask what these team rules are. Ray said there is no backtalk or disrespect at practice or in the locker room. Is it skipping class? Is it smoking pot? Is it showing up late to practice? Is it kicking a puppy? Who knows? Certainly not most of us.

Here is an unpopular truth: Rick Ray has a discipline problem at Mississippi State.

No one should have to suspend as many players for a violation of team rules as Rick Ray has done. In my estimation, one of three factors is at play with these suspensions: Rick Ray has made unfair rules, Rick Ray is too sensitive about the actions of his players, or Rick Ray has not adequately communicated his expectations to his team.

I'm a firm believer in giving a coach time to get his team together, but it is hard to not start thinking that Rick Ray is already reaching a crossroads in his Mississippi State career.

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