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Opponent Preview: South Carolina

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Mississippi State starts SEC play with a trip to Columbia, South Carolina to face the Gamecocks

NCAA Basketball: Virginia at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

After closing the non-conference schedule with a 9-game winning streak, the Mississippi State Bulldogs look to continue their hot streak with a trip to Columbia, South Carolina to take on the Gamecocks. After the 2017 season, South Carolina make an incredible run in the NCAA Tournament to make it to the Final Four while beating Duke, Baylor, and Florida along the way before losing to Gonzaga. Two years later, the Gamecocks have substantially regressed. After going 26-11 in 2017, the Gamecocks fell to 17-16 last year, and have started this season with a 6-7 record.

Mississippi State’s (11-1) lone defeat came against Arizona State. In that game, the Bulldogs got behind early and couldn’t dig themselves out of the 15-point hole they fell in to. Since then, the Dawgs have reeled off 9 straight wins against quality opponents such as Saint Mary’s, Dayton, Clemson, Cincinnati, and Wofford. South Carolina (6-7) has not been as good, as shown by their record. The Gamecocks started the first 8 games alternating between wins and losses. After that, they lost the next three to very quality opponents (Michigan, Virginia, and Clemson), but also lost to Wyoming in their 4-game losing streak. South Carolina beat North Greenville to close non-conference play with a win, but that didn’t make up for their lackluster performance prior to that game.

Mississippi State traveled to South Carolina last year and won 81-76 after Quinndary Weatherspoon led the team with 18 points. Nick Weatherspoon and Abdul Ado were right behind him with 17 and 16 points. This was a pivotal point in the Bulldogs’ season where they started to make a run to try to sneak into the NCAA Tournament. MSU didn’t make the cut, but they did make a lot of noise in the NIT Tournament.

If Mississippi State wants to win their first SEC game, they have to be able to shoot the ball from deep. In the last 5 games, the Bulldogs have been phenomenal shooting the 3, but if they can’t hit those shots, they could find themselves behind at the beginning of the ball game. I do not think that MSU has cooled off just yet from deep. I expect them to make 8-11 3’s when it’s all said and done.

South Carolina gave Mississippi State a lot of trouble last year, and most of that was because of Chris Silva. Silva made a miracle play to get the victory over Florida Saturday night. Abdul Ado will be working against Silva all night and that’s a matchup I'm looking forward to seeing again.

The Gamecocks are averaging 14 turnovers per game which feeds directly into one of the Bulldogs’ greatest strength, scoring in transition. If the Bulldogs can get the turnovers started early, they can quickly put this game away and out of reach for South Carolina. Mississippi State should handle business with the Gamecocks and then turn around to get prepared for Ole Miss coming to The Hump on January 12.