Sources have mentioned some new names leaking out of the Mississippi State men’s basketball coaching search. One I find intriguing is the name Mike Davis. The Mike Davis that was crazy enough to follow Bobby Knight at Indiana you ask? Yes. The same Mike Davis that was just fired at UAB? Yep, that’s him. Once you scratch the surface and look at this coach a little more closely, you will see that he could really be a good hire for the Bulldogs.
Davis has some SEC ties- playing at Alabama from 1979-1983, and served as an assistant there from 1995-1997. He left Bama to be an assistant at Indiana under Coach Bobby Knight from 1997-2000. When Knight was forced out in 2000- Davis was given the reigns to the program- serving as head coach from 2000-2006. In his 6 seasons as head coach at Indiana, Davis went to 4 NCAA Tourneys. He made the NCAA Tourney Finals once, and the round of 32 two other times. In fact, he was forced to resign in 2006 after leading his team to the round of 32. He was never really accepted at Indiana- simply because he wasn’t Bobby Knight. Indiana basketball hasn’t been the same since he stepped foot off their campus.
After leaving Indiana, he landed at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. He has been there the last six seasons- compiling a record of 122-72, 62-34 in conference. Four seasons of 20+ wins wasn’t enough to remain coach after this past seasons rebuilding year, and UAB let Davis go.
Now then, lets dive into the reasons I think he would make a good hire for Mississippi State University. First of all, he has won 20 or more games in 7 of the 12 seasons he has been a head coach. Twenty win seasons seem to be a big factor among the Bulldog faithful. He has qualified for the NCAA Tourney 5 times in his 12 seasons- State’s own Rick Stansbury went to 6 Tourneys in 14 seasons. Davis has led a team of his to the championship game- whereas State’s last coach was unable to advance past the round of 32. Davis, like Stansbury, has a solid reputation as a solid recruiter- a must at a school like State. So let’s hear it Bulldog fans- what say ye?
As of 5:00 PM, no one knows what is going on. Scott Stricklin did say this earlier today:
Like all Bulldog fans, I eagerly anticipate the hiring of our next men’s basketball coach. However, from the beginning of this process ….. no deadline has been imposed on the search. It’s important we hire the right candidate to lead our program, a person of integrity …… who will instill discipline, character and accountability into our men’s basketball program. Thanks for your patience. #HailState!.
It’s been a bad week for MSU basketball. Deville Smith left the program, Renardo Sidney signed with an agent, Steve Prohm signed an extension with Murray State, Frank Martin signed with South Carolina, Arnett Moultrie declared for the NBA draft, Bryce Drew takes his name out of consideration for MSU, it appears as though John Groce will be the next coach at Illinois, and then 5-star forward Devonta Pollard says he’s not interested in Mississippi State anymore.
We really need Stricklin to bring us some good news. But as for now, there is none. We’re wondering in the dark.
For this installment, I’m going to answer some general questions about Ben Bracewell, Luis Pollorena, and give an update on a future MSU Bulldog among other things….
What happens to the rotation when Ben Bracewell returns? I think one of two things will happen with Ben when he returns- he will either go to the bullpen, which is the most likely spot for him, or he will start midweek. The bullpen makes the most sense to me because MSU doesn’t have Taylor Stark that can serve as another closer for Caleb Reed, and I also believe that closer is Ben’s best role as a pitcher. On top of that, Chris Stratton has done nothing to warrant losing his spot in the rotation to say the least. Nick Routt and Evan Mitchell have been a good tandem for the most part, although they don’t get a lot of run support, and Kendall Graveman has also pitched well on Sunday.
Midweek as a starter makes sense to me as well because as of now, the midweek starter appears to be Will Cox who is a freshman and has struggled a little bit with non-SWAC teams at times. MSU still has USM and Ole Miss as well as a typically solid Sun Belt team in South Alabama on the schedule as well as Central Arkansas coming up as non-SWAC teams. Needless to say, those are important games that are coming up and MSU needs strong performances to win those games. Ben may be a very good option especially when you consider that the bullpen will be fresh and ready for all of those games. Ben could give us three innings, and then perhaps MSU turns to someone like Jonathan Holder for an inning or two and then go with Reed and finish it off with a hopefully by that time healthy Taylor Stark.
Why isn’t Luis Pollorena pitching? This is a pretty easy question to answer- Pollorena had been struggling with his control in the bullpen. That was until last night- Pollorena came into last nights game with Alcorn State with two runners on and nobody out- the first batter sacrifices for the first out, and with runners on second and third, Pollorena gets the next batter to pop out to first base and then finishes off the inning with a strike out. And then, Pollorena pitched the next inning only facing four batters- the only batter that reached was via a hit by pitch. To me, his performance was the most positive thing about last nights game with Alcorn State.
Baseball players are human, and because of that, sometimes they get into funks. There’s no way to explain it- and it happens to pretty much anyone in the game. And the really odd thing about funks is usually it’s one little thing that the player isn’t doing right. But that’s where the coaches come in- I’m not sure if Butch saw something or if it was another teammate, or sometimes it can be a players parent- but once that flaw is discovered and corrected, it can make a huge difference. I think that’s the case with Pollorena. Every MSU fan knows what kind of pitcher Luis can be, and if he can get back to that, it would be huge because of Bracewell and Stark being down for the time being. After last nights performance, I’m eager to see if he turns it around now.
Reid Humphries update: Reid Humphries is the top junior in the state of Mississippi for baseball, and is a shortstop and pitcher for the Northwest Rankin Cougars. Last night, he faced Madison Central and Ole Miss signee Zach Irwin and struck out four times- however in the fifth at bat against Irwin, he hit the game winning single in extra innings to lead the Cougars to a 5-4 win over the Jaguars in Flowood, MS. Humphries is a verbal commitment to MSU for the class of 2013.
How do you work on situational hitting and why has MSU struggled this season with it? I think it goes back to being young and inexperienced more than anything. You have to remember- these players were stars in high school, which meant that they were more often than not the clean up hitter in high school. The job of the clean up hitter- and I’m sure that these players were taught this in high school, and this is the correct way of teaching them- that as the clean up hitter, their job is to drive in runs. So, for a lot of coaches, if their clean up hitter pulls a ball when they maybe should have gone to the opposite field, they usually don’t raise a big stink about it because they know that their hitter that is going to play SEC ball and maybe be drafted has a pretty darn good chance of knocking the ball out of the yard. So, a lot of young SEC hitters are not used to thinking- “I need to hit this ball to the opposite field to move the runner over” and things like that.
Our players are learning that the playing field is a lot more level than it was in high school. But the good news is with experience, our players will learn that there is value in being a good situational hitter and that it’s OK to not hit a three run bomb every time up. They’re also trying to impress scouts and the coaches by getting a big hit, but again, with time they will learn that doing little things will impress the coaching staff and scouts just as much as hitting with a ton of power.
Now, how do you work on it? There’s several ways to do it- and coaches do all kinds of things. In practice, they may simulate situations and then give points for a player doing what they are supposed to. A lot of teams work on it during batting practice and they have a routine where on the first pitch of BP, they bunt it to first, and then bunt it to third, and etc. Here’s a video to show you what I am talking about.
As a Mississippi State fan, I’ve always looked at South Carolina as a similar school. In the SEC, competing, but usually coming up short. But lately, the Gamecocks have pulled away from State in all sports.
Both schools found moderate football success with formerly great coaches – Jackie Sherrill for MSU and Lou Holtz for USC. But State hired Sly Croom after Sherrill, Carolina hired Steve Spurrier after Holtz. Spurrier has made them a perennial bowl team; and even has a SEC East Championship and 11 win season in the last two years. They are poised for another excellent season in 2012.
Before 2010, South Carolina was in the same pool as MSU – no national championships in a team sport. But they were able to cross their name off that list after winning the College World Series. In 2011, they did it again – back-to-back national championships. State is known for baseball success, but eight trips to Omaha haven’t produced a championship yet.
And now this week, with both South Carolina and Mississippi State looking for a new head basketball coach, they hire Kansas State coach Frank Martin…paying him $2 million per year. Martin took KSU to four NCAA Tournaments in five years (including a trip to the Elite 8), but he leaves for South Carolina? It’s the $$$.
South Carolina is passing MSU by in football (they’ve won 6 straight in the series). They’ve passed State in baseball. Now it appears they are very committed to passing us by in basketball as well. I know Scott Stricklin has said money won’t be an issue in finding a new basketball coach, but we’ll see if he can match the kind of fire power USC is bringing in.
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When you’re a student at MSU (and a sports nut), you always want to catch as many sporting events as possible on campus. One of the rare gems most students don’t catch is mid-week baseball at Dudy-Noble.
The thing about these games is this: there aren’t many folks there. The grills that have been fired up in the left field lounge are pretty sparse. You can sit in the chair-backs and everyone can prop their feet up on the seat in front of you. It’s nice.
When we were in school, they sold hot dogs for 25 cents a piece on Tuesday nights. It wasn’t so much delicious as cheap. One time, I ate 12 hot dogs during the game. That was $3, the coke I washed it all down with was $2.50. If the candy man is there, he’ll give you a peppermint for dessert.
Like I said, there aren’t many people there, so you can hear anyone who decides they want to belt out a good yell. That includes all six old guys who engage in the “baaaaaaaaallllllllllllll foooooooouuuuuuurrrrrr” rally cry. Then there’s that one guy, who I came to the game with, who’s yelling it at the top of his lungs for as long as he can hold it.
And then my favorite, ducks on the pond. You get a couple men on base for the Bulldogs and little ducks trot out on the scoreboard. Classic.
Monday’s events included the announcement that Deville Smith had withdrawn from school and Renardo Sidney had signed with an agent. Of course, both of those things mean neither player will be playing for State next year.
Arnett Moultrie was expected to make an announcement about whether or not he would enter the NBA Draft today, but he hasn’t said anything yet. However, he is likely to move on.
Add Dee Bost and Brian Bryant to the above three as they are graduating. All five of these players accounted for a combined 53.5 points per game.
Rodney Hood will clearly be the team leader as a sophomore next year. Jalen Steele will be a junior, and he should be back as well. Those two give State a pretty good shooting guard and guard/small forward who accounted for 19 PPG and 6.6 RPG combined.
After that, it’s pretty thin. Wendell Lewis will be a senior, and likely to be a starter. He averaged 3.8 PPG and 4 RPG. Shaun Smith will be a junior….he had less than a point per game, and only played 40 minutes all year. Kristers Zeidaks should be ready to go next year, and we’ll most likely need him to start at the four.
Gavin Ware, out of Starkville, has signed his letter of intent to MSU. He’s a 6′-8″ 230 PF/C….basically the same size as Zeidaks. Maybe both of them can work together to hold down one position, hopefully.
Who will play point guard? Bost is gone, and now Deville Smith. If Josh Grey remains with MSU he will be the likely choice – a 3-star freshman from Houston, TX.
Probable Starting 5:
PG – Josh Grey, Fr.
SG – Jalen Steele, Jr.
SF – Rodney Hood, So.
PF – Kristers Zeidaks, Jr.
C – Wendell Lewis, Sr.
Mississippi State took 1 of 3 against Arkansas this weekend in Starkville. MSU won Friday night’s matchup 11-2, Arkansas came back on Saturday and won 8-0.
Then on Sunday, a game completely different from the previous two. State got out to a 2-0 lead, only to give it up and the Hogs led 3-2 going to the bottom of the 9th. A two-out rally ensued and State tied it on a mental error by the Arkansas shortstop. Things came unraveled in the Top of the 11th and the Hogs got up 8-3, then MSU made it interesting scoring two runs and leaving the bases loaded to end it. State left a ton of men on base, DeMarcus Henderson must have come up at least three times with a chance to win the game.
This brings the Dawg’s record to 16-9 (2-4). Here’s a look at the SEC standings:
Just like everyone else outside of Scott Stricklin’s circle, I’m not really sure who is at the top of his list. But, I’ll take all the information I’ve gathered + what I think and try my best to put some odds on this coaching search as we sit here on Saturday afternoon.
VCU head coach Shaka Smart – 200/1
XM radio host Bruce Pearl – 150/1
Butler head coach Brad Stevens – 125/1
Oral Roberts head coach Scott Sutton – 100/1
Georgetown assistant coach Robert Kirby – 80/1
Duke assistant coach Chris Collins – 75/1
Florida State assistant coach Stan Jones – 60/1
MSU assistant coach Phil Cunningham – 50/1
Southern Miss head coach Larry Eustachy – 40/1
Illinois State head coach Tim Jankovich – 35/1
Richmond head coach Chris Mooney – 30/1
Middle Tennessee State head coach Kermit Davis, Jr. – 25/1
Kansas State head coach Frank Martin – 20/1
Kansas assistant coach Joe Dooley – 12/1
Ohio head coach John Groce – 10/1
Kentucky assistant coach Kenny Payne – 5/1
Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall – 4/1
Murray State head coach Steve Prohm – 3/1
Mississippi Valley State head coach Sean Woods – 3/1
Tonight at 6:47 CST (on tbs) you can watch a potential MSU coaching candidate in the Sweet 16. Ohio coach John Groce could indeed be on Stricklin’s short list.
We’ve seen it before – remember Bruce Pearl taking Wisconsin-Milwaukee to the Sweet 16 and parleying it into the head coaching job at Tennessee? A mid-major’s run in the big dance is something that puts its coach’s name front and center for a bigger school’s job opening.
Groce is in his 4th year at Ohio, where he has a 85-55 record. This is his second trip to the NCAA Tourney (2010). He is a Indiana/Ohio guy having grown up, gone to college, and coached in Indiana; then he coached at Xavier and Ohio State before taking the Ohio head coaching job in 2008.
There’s a precedence for bald-headed, middle-aged white guys coming to coach basketball in Mississippi from Ohio – Andy Kennedy. Eh, I’m not up for that, ha.
Chances are Groce would like the Illinois job, or to hold out for one in the midwest, but still, there’s a good chance Stricklin’s got an eye on him. So you might want to take a peak tonight when Ohio plays North Carolina.
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