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Mississippi State Basketball Coach Ben Howland Should Consider a Four-Guard Lineup

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It's time for MSU basketball to go small and outscore opponents.

Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

Gavin Ware has put together an outstanding senior season for Mississippi State basketball. He's averaging 17.5 points a game and shooting just south of 70 percent. The problem? Ware has been the only productive player in the post for the Dogs.

The team's four leading scorers after Ware are all guards, including two true freshmen in Malik Newman and Quinndary Weatherspoon. Weatherspoon is the player rounding out that group, with 8.5 points a game, and that's coming off the bench.

It was no secret that MSU's depth in the post would lead to difficulties on the boards. That was evident in Wednesday's loss to Texas A&M when the Aggies owned a 20-10 offensive rebounding advantage. MSU was outrebounded for the game 41-34. Ware collected 13 of those 34 rebounds, as part of his double-double.

What has proved even more worrisome than the rebounding inefficiencies is the lack of offensive production to complement Ware down low. Travis Daniels, Johnny Zuppardo, and Fallou Ndoye are decent role players but let's be honest, they're not SEC-caliber post men.

Daniels and Zuppardo have to play out of position. They contribute more by shooting jumpers than getting dirty under the basket. Ndoye has the size, but he's still raw and learning how to play division 1 basketball.

Ben Howland would be smart to consider putting four guards on the floor more often. That may sound crazy to make the rebounding problem even worse than it already is. But if you're going to get outrebounded anyway, why not get your best offensive players on the floor at the same time and beat teams with your speed?

Malik Newman, Craig Sword, I.J. Ready, and Quinndary Weatherspoon on the floor at the same time with Gavin Ware gives MSU the best chance to win games.

The odd man out here in the starting lineup would be Travis Daniels. While he hasn't done anything to warrant losing his starting spot, Weatherspoon has done more to prove he deserves more minutes than he's been playing.

Q scored 12 points in 26 minutes in MSU's loss to A&M. He's playing around 21 minutes a game for the season, and those minutes on the floor need to increase to around 28 or 29 like the rest of the starters. He's earned it. He plays with effort, shoots the ball well, and isn't a liability on defense like most freshmen are.

MSU's scoring in the post should increase when 6-foot-10 freshman Aric Holman fully recovers from his knee injury. But until then, switching to a guard-heavy lineup with Weatherspoon playing more minutes is what will lead to more wins for the Bulldogs.