Who: Mississippi State Bulldogs (7-5, 0-0) at Texas A&M Aggies (11-2, 1-0)
Where to Watch: SEC Network
When to Watch: January 6- 7:30 PM CST
While Mississippi State looks to improve from a shaky non-conference performance, the Aggies of Texas A&M have their eyes set on a much bigger goal, the SEC Championship. Wins over Gonzaga and former Big 12 rivals Kansas State, Texas, and Baylor have propelled Texas A&M to 21st in the AP Poll and appear to be the Bulldogs toughest opponent since facing the Miami Hurricanes in Puerto Rico.
The last time the Bulldogs won their conference opener was in 2013 but with an improved offense and the coaching talents of Ben Howland on the court, Mississippi State hopes to improve their all-time record in conference openers to 46-37. Unfortunately, a win Wednesday night is far from guaranteed as the Bulldogs welcome a highly talented Texas A&M team to Starkville.
The talent of Malik Newman and Gavin Ware has wowed fans this season but the talent in the Aggies' backcourt can matchup with any team in the country. A&M's Jalen Jones averages more than 16 points per game and exploded for 28 points in the Aggies last game against Arkansas. The combination of Jones and the consistent scoring ability of Danuel House makes Howland's defensive gameplan even more important.
As the first ranked team the Bulldogs will play this season the Aggies have been tested and have proven their worth on the court but their lack of true road games could give the Bulldogs a real chance at an upset. Despite the lack of road tests, the Aggies have multiple players capable of running up the score against any team in the SEC. Jalen Jones and Danuel House have propelled the Aggies to multiple big wins this season and will likely dictate how far the team will go in March. Can Gavin Ware and Malik Newman score enough to combat A&M's offensive weapons?
Simply put, Texas A&M is a much better team than Mississippi State but this is college basketball and upsets do happen. Despite having three players routinely scoring in double figures, the Aggies do have their defensive issues and are prone to scoring droughts. If the Bulldogs can capitalize on early mistakes and get the crowd into the game then Mississippi State has a shot at upsetting the Aggies. However, if Texas A&M gets hot early and the Bulldogs get into their patented turnover offense then we could witness an unpleasant blowout at the Hump.
This will be only the eighth meeting all-time between Mississippi State and Texas A&M, with the Aggies currently holding the 4-3 advantage.
Prediction: A&M 84-72
Dawg Facts: The last time Mississippi State won their SEC opener was in 2013, a 56-54 win over South Carolina.