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SEC Tournament Game 1 Preview: Mississippi State vs LSU

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Round 1 of the SEC Tournament features a third game between Mississippi State and LSU.

NCAA Basketball: Mississippi State at Louisiana State Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The week of the 2017 SEC Tournament is here.

The 12th-seeded Mississippi State Bulldogs (15-15, 6-13) are set to take on the 13th-seeded LSU Tigers (10-20, 2-16) for the third time this season in Game 1 of the SEC Tournament Wednesday evening.

As Ben Howland said in his Tuesday press conference, “It is a new season.”

Game Preview

NCAA Basketball: Mississippi State at Vanderbilt Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Mississippi State hosted LSU this past Saturday evening on I.J. Ready’s Senior Night.

The Bulldogs completely dominated from start to finish.

Much like their first meeting at the beginning of conference play, Mississippi State completely outplayed the Tigers for the entire 40 minutes. I.J. Ready set a career high in assists, Quinndary Weatherspoon returned to form by dropping 18 points on just 11 shots with 72% shooting, and Xavian Stapleton added a nice spark off the bench.

While some may say beating this year’s LSU squad is nothing to be excited about (which is definitely a rightful argument), the Bulldogs finally performed like the team they were in January, where they won three of their first four conference games and challenged a supremely talented Kentucky team in The Hump. The shots were falling, the team was having fun, and perhaps most importantly, the dominating victory gave confidence to a young, struggling team going into tournament play.

Mississippi State has beaten LSU by a combined 29 points in their two meeting this season. The Bulldogs and Tigers are set to battle again on Wednesday, the first of the two tournament games played that evening.

How and Where to Watch

  • SEC Network
  • 6:00 P.M. Central Time
  • Bridgestone Arena
  • Nashville, TN

Keys to the Game

NCAA Basketball: Mississippi State at Louisiana State Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Rebounding

Recovering loose balls, limiting opposing second chance opportunities, and holding their own in the paint will be key in advancing in the tournament.

Limiting turnovers

Smart decision making, smooth ball movement, and getting everyone involved is important for the Bulldogs to get to Thursday night.

Make open shots

For too long during this difficult season, Mississippi State has had stretches of scoring droughts that either prevents them from getting back into the game or stretching the lead out. Maintaining an offense flow is vital for the Maroon and White in Nashville.

Players to Watch

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Mississippi State Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

F Mario Kegler, Mississippi State

It took some time, but the star freshman has burst onto the scene. Considered a tweener for his position due to his size, Mario Kegler has the ability to battle on the boards in the paint and also add an element of shooting beyond the arc to spread the floor. Kegler is arguably Mississippi State’s most talented player, so getting him into a groove is important if the Bulldogs want to advance in the tournament. In his two games against LSU this season, Kegler is averaging 9.5 points and 6.5 rebounds.

G I.J. Ready, Mississippi State

The senior floor general runs the engine that is the Mississippi State offense. When Ready gets others involved and makes the smart court decisions, the Bulldogs have the ability to put up lots of points. If Mississippi State wants to stay in Nashville past Wednesday night, the lone upperclassmen needs to build on his career day that he had in the previous match up against LSU.

G Antonio Blakeney, LSU

The big time scoring guard was limited to 15 points on 6/13 shooting Saturday night. As I mentioned in Saturday’s game preview, I.J. Ready and Lamar Peters are faced with a tall task in containing the conference’s fifth leading scorer. Like last game, preventing a Blakeney outburst very well could be a deciding factor in who advances.

Mississippi State’s Big Men

Winning the boards, or at least holding their own, is always a key for Mississippi State. Getting rebounds and extra possessions for the offense to operate is a big element of how far Mississippi State can go in Nashville. The Bulldogs need to set a tone of rebounding and scoring in the paint Tuesday night in order to keep their season going.

Prediction

Mississippi State 85 - LSU 71

Mississippi State is 2-0 this season against the Tigers, winning both contests rather handily.

The Bulldogs will improve to 3-0 against the purple and gold on Tuesday night.

I.J. Ready picks up where he left off, getting others involved and running the offense through ball movement. Mario Kegler finds his deep shot to provide some floor spacing for the guards and Schnider Herard to operate in. Second Team All-SEC performer Quinndary Weatherspoon has another big game to lead Mississippi State into a challenging Thursday afternoon match up with 5th-seeded Alabama.