The Mississippi State Alabama Rivalry was at its peak in the early 2000’s. Mark Gottfried, Rick Stansbury, Lawrence Roberts, and the list goes on and on. One of my favorite moments in Mississippi State Men’s Basketball Period is this 2004 Basketball win at Coleman Coliseum:
But for as much fun as the rivalry was then, it has simply lost its luster since Rick Stansbury left. Alabama has won 8 of the last 9 meetings including all 3 meetings last season, the final ending Mississippi State’s Basketball season. The interesting thing about the modern series is that Avery Johnson, the Head Coach of the Crimson Tide, and Ben Howland were hired the exact same year in 2015. Now I do believe Howland took over a situation worse than Johnson did, but the recruiting over the past 3 years is very comparable. Which makes you wonder why Alabama won decisively in all 3 contests last season.
The reality of the situation is this, Alabama is currently ranked 51st in the latest Ken Pom Rankings. These are analytics that measure a wide range of data including offense, defense, sos, etc. Mississippi State is ranked 70th in these same rankings and 71st in RPI. Their next two games are road games against Alabama and Kentucky who is 29th in these same rankings. Alabama and Kentucky are both top 40 RPI teams. Splitting these two road games would be huge for NIT hopes. Asking Mississippi State to win on the road at Alabama might be too much to ask considering the fact that MSU failed to beat the 81st team, UMiss, on the road. But if Mississippi State wants to be a NIT team, they have to win road games. These are becoming few and far between, and Alabama is going to be one of your best chances to do it. Mississippi State will need some highlights like this to have a chance to win.
I am not high on Mississippi State Basketball on the road. They are only averaging 54 points on the road and haven’t scored over 60. You are not winning any SEC Game on the road scoring under 60 points. So it should not be surprising that State has not won a road game period. State in contrast at home is averaging 79.4 PPG. That is a 25 point difference that you lose when you go one the road. MSU cannot afford to lose 25 points when they go to Tuscaloosa on Saturday. Now interestingly enough you are not losing much defensively as you are giving up 67 PPG on the road and 64 PPG at home. Defense has not been a major issue for State this season. It has just been scoring when it matters most. And if State can fix its offense, then they will come out of Tuscaloosa with a win.