Feb 5, 2014; College Station, TX, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Rick Ray (center) watches from the bench during the second half against the Texas A&M Aggies at Reed Arena. The Aggies won 72-52. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

MSU Basketball: Any Hope for the Future?


Mississippi State is 24-41 under Rick Ray. The rebuilding process has been painful to say the least. Year 2 equaled year 1 with a 13-game losing streak.

So is there any hope of things getting better?

Yes – simply because having a full roster will make MSU a better team next year. Well, if it actually comes to fruition. Injuries and attrition have decimated this team over the last two years leaving Coach Ray with eight or less scholarship guys the entirety of both years.

Don’t get me wrong, we weren’t good. But instead of being bad we could’ve been mediocre with a full compliment of players. A C- instead of a D- team.

In 2013 Andre Applewhite, Jacoby Davis, and Wendell Lewis were lost for the year while Shaun Smith and Kristers Zeidaks were kicked off the team a couple of months before the season started.

In 2014 Jalen Steele and Wendell Lewis left/removed from the team, Andre Applewhite transferred mid-season then Fallou Ndoye was declared ineligible. Juco transfer Travis Daniels was academically ineligible to play in the fall and Ray didn’t want to play him in the spring to only give him 1.5 years (which I agree with).

That’s five scholarship players both years that were expected to contribute but did not. Will that happen again? I sure hope not.

Going into the 2014-15 season Trivante Bloodman, Jacoby Davis, Craig Sword, Fred Thomas, I. J. Ready, Gavin Ware and Rocquez Johnson are all expected back. That’s seven guys as Colin Borchert is the only scholarship player to graduate. Ndoye and Daniels will be ready to go making nine players. Add in the three guys with signed LOIs (Oliver Black, Demetrius Houston, Maurice Dunlap – all three stars) and we’ve got 12. We can add another guy in the spring signing period to get up to 13. Plus Elijah Staley will play and D’Runnya Wilson if he decides to come back. Walk-on Tevin Moore also gained experience this year.

Is this roster going to the NCAA Tournament next year? Doubtful. But they can do much better than 14-19….maybe flip those numbers around.

The 2014 season was a disappointment in my opinion. Even with the attrition and lack of depth I thought we could have squeezed out a couple more games to get to 16 or 17 wins. We played a softer schedule that last year’s team, so while the win total improved by four there really isn’t much difference from year one to two. And you can see that in SEC play where MSU was a game better last year including the SEC Tournament.

Obviously the big name is Malik Newman. He is a junior in high school now so if somehow Ray could get his signature that would bring him in for the 2015 team. If that happened, and the nucleus of seniors this program would have, that team could be a NCAA Tournament team.

But if we don’t get Malik Newman it’s going to be tough. A lot of Ray’s future will depend on what he can do in year 3 with a full roster. Roquez Johnson is the only Stansbury player left – this is Ray’s team. How will he do with 12-13 scholarship guys?

I would like to see next year’s team go to the NIT. That was a goal this year but I think it was also a lofty one. We underachieved still in 2014, but I’m not sure we were ready for a run at a postseason tournament. Next year we should be. There needs to be some sign of hope.

Rick Ray is a good x’s and o’s coach, but can he recruit and can he build this program? That question is still out there and has not been answered. I believe he can do it, but we need to see some progress going forward.

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  • Jacquelyn Odom

    I was very impressed that the dawgs won against Vandy in the opening round of the SEC Tournament. They had Ole Miss beaten in the first half of the second round game, shooting at 58%. Coming out in the 2nd half, they played conservatively, hardly shot any baskets, and only shot 17%. They played not to lose, and I am guessing this was the coaches decision. I like Coach Ray, but I hope he will not use this strategy for the future. Let the guys play aggressively, and great things will happen.