Ben Howland has plans to return himself and the Mississippi State basketball program to the Big Dance. One way to help those chances is by beefing up the schedule to improve the RPI.
Per college basketball insider Jon Rothstein, Mississippi State has agreed to a home-and-home series with Cincinnati beginning in the 2017-2018 season. Rothstein reports that the first of two games “will be played on December 12 at Northern Kentucky University due to renovations at Fifth Third Arena — the Bearcats’ home court.” The second game will be played in The Hump during the following season.
Cincinnati went 30-6 last season, finishing second in the American Athletic Conference behind SMU. The Bearcats earned a 6th-seed in the 2017 NCAA Basketball tournament before falling to Lonzo Ball and UCLA in the Round of 32. Mike Cronin brings a core of guard Jacob Evans (13.5 PPG, 4.2 RPG), forward Gary Clark (10.8 PPG, 7.9 RPG), and wing Kyle Washington (12.9 PPG, 6.8 RPG) back to the fold. This will obviously be a big test for a team looking to take the next step.
Ben Howland understands that playing a competitive schedule will not only help his team with big game experience, but will also improve the RPI as the team looks to push for a postseason bid. Mississippi State was one of the youngest teams in all of college basketball last season, finishing with a 16-16 record and an RPI of 151. Cincy finished the regular season with the 13th best RPI in the country.
The Bulldogs return leading scorer Quinndary Weatherspoon (16.5 PPG, 5.1 RPG), All-SEC Freshman point guard Lamar Peters (10.7 PPG, 3.4 APG), and all but one player to next year’s squad. 5-star guard Nick Weatherspoon will also wear a Maroon and White uniform in the upcoming season.