The day is here. Today is the day the Mississippi State Bulldogs Men’s Basketball team will run into The Hump to take on Austin Peay State University. After the Bulldogs play the Governors, they turn around and play Hartford University two days later. Then a week after Austin Peay, the Bulldogs play Long Beach State University. The Bulldogs should win each of these matchups, but how easy will each of those wins be to achieve?
Austin Peay finished the 2017-2018 season with 19-15 record. Their best wins were against UT Martin, Southeast Missouri, and Eastern Kentucky. Austin Peay returns 8 players, adds a grad transfer, and brings in a 7’0” 240 pound freshman to go along with another 7’0” 240 pound sophomore. I expect Mississippi State to get a lead established early, then bring in the freshman to get acquainted to the college atmosphere. Their size down low will provide good competition and experience for our “big” men.
The Hartford Hawks come to The Hump bringing a group of young players with a core of veterans. Of their 17 man roster, 9 are freshman or sophomores. Like Austin Peay, Hartford does not have an impressive résumé from last year. Their most impressive win was against Rutgers. The Hawks played UMBC (who was the first 16 seed to beat a 1 seed) three times and lost all three, but they gave them a tough win in their second contest. The Hawks’ 3 main scorers, John Carroll, Jason Dunne, and J.R. Lynch, are all seniors and the leaders for this team. Expect the focus to be to stop Dunne and Lynch from shooting the 3. Both finished with a shooting percentage higher than 35%.
Last, but not least, Mississippi State goes head to head with Long Beach State. Long Beach State’s basketball team lost their leader, Gabe Levin, who scored 18.5 points per game for them last year. That’s a huge loss for anyone, especially a smaller school like Long Beach State. Levin started all 32 of their games, shot .455 from the field and .377 from deep. Senior Mason Riggins should come in and help fill the hole Levin left on their team. Long Beach State likes to take high percentage shots, and then kick it out for the open 3. As a team, they shot .351 from deep. I believe Coach Ben Howland will test to see if Long Beach State has a scorer on their team to keep up with the Bulldogs’ arsenal of weapons from the outside and down low.
After Long Beach State, Mississippi State takes on Arizona State in the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The Sundevils can provide a push for the Bulldogs as they prepare to take on Dayton and Top-25 ranked Clemson a few weeks after. Mississippi State starts out this season ranked for the first time in years; these games are a chance to prove why they should be one of the top teams in the country.