Mississippi State is now 12-1, winning 11 straight games. That has earned them a #14 ranking, as they are one of only eleven teams (out of 345) in Division 1 with 12 wins. This is the best start since the legendary 2004 team went 13-0. Could this team be on par with that great team that went 25-2 in the regular season and reached as high as #4 in the country?
In 2003-04, State played 11 non-conference games, with Xavier (the team that did body swaps with Reggie Miller and Larry Bird before the game to beat MSU in the NCAA Tournament that year) being the only team of significance. The next two games, which brought the Dawgs to 13-0, were Ole Miss and Arkansas. And then the first loss came to Kentucky in a heartbreaking buzzer-beater at one of the first “white-outs” on the MSU campus.
So far this season MSU has beaten Texas A&M, Arizona, and West Virginia. All of whom are projected to be in the field of 68. Throw in the loss to Akron and perhaps this season and the ’04 team are equal. And that close victory at Detroit on Saturday…the ’04 squad went to Santa Clara and it took overtime and a buzzer-beater to win. We’ll find out on Wednesday whether or not this team will be able to match Lawrence Roberts and Co. when they play #7 Baylor (some irony there) in Dallas.
The two teams are both pretty similar. The ’04 team was lead by a very good, and experienced senior point guard in Timmy Bowers. This team has senior Dee Bost. Arnett Moultrie is playing great, reminiscent of the aforementioned Lawrence Roberts, who was a 1st team All-American that year. From there, there are some differences. Shane Power was a great defensive player, and this team relies more on offensive production from the small forward position with Rodney Hood. Jalen Steele or Brian Bryant have a ways to go to equal what Winsome Frazier brought, and Renardo Sidney will have to step up his game to equal the level of Brandon Vincent.
If this does turn into a great run, hopefully the students are prepared to enjoy the ride. We were in school for the 2004 team, getting to the Hump extra early, traveling to road games (Road Warriors, 8-0), waiting with anticipation for the 5pm SportCenter to reveal the latest national rankings….it was a lot of fun. Of course, that was back when the football team was horrible and all our hopes and dreams rested on Rick Stansbury’s shoulders. The Hump is a great place for college basketball when everyone is loud and excited about the team. Hopefully, this team can make a run.