Man. That loss to Texas A&M (63-58) sure was deflating. Not only did the Vols lose at TBA, which isn’t something we have seen all that much of over the past couple of seasons, but they were beaten by a very bad team. The way we were out-rebounded is unacceptable, and a couple of times I was just shocked at the Vols’ typical “hustle” mindset being overtly absent. Anyhow, that was Tuesday, this is Saturday. Let’s take a look at our next opponent, the Bulldogs of Mississippi State.
Will Mike Leach Be in Attendance?
School: Mississippi State University for Agriculture and Applied Science (bet ya didn’t know that one- I sure didn’t.)
- Location: Starkville, Mississippi/Mississippi State, Mississippi (man everything here is weird)
- Mascot: Bulldogs
- Conference: SEC
- Coach: Ben Howland (5th season)
- 2019-2020 Record: (13-7, 4-3 SEC)
- Current Post-Season Projection (Lunardi): First Four Out
- Last Game Against Tennessee: 3/15/2019 Vols took down the Bulldogs during the quarterfinals of the SEC tournament behind 20 points from Admiral Schofield
- Notable Former Basketball Player: Rodney Hood- Yes, the man made his splash and finished his career at Duke, but the Meridian, Mississippi native started that career at MSU. He started 29 of 32 games as a Freshman and was named to the SEC All-Freshman team with 10.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game. Hood had a strong start to his NBA career as a rookie in 2014, and had 3.5 good seasons in Utah before being traded to the Cavaliers. He now is a Portland Trailblazer and is out for the remainder of the 2019-2020 season with a torn Achilles.
The Alpha (Bull)Dog
It seems like any time I turn on the television and flip over to a basketball game, Mississippi State is involved. That being said, I’ve gotten to watch them (and Kentucky) more than any other squads not wearing Pantone 151 (that’s Tennessee’s Orange, by the way). The Bulldogs have a few talented players, namely Tyson Carter, Nick Weatherspoon, and Robert Woodard II, all of which will likely be in the NBA in the near future. But one thing is for certain, Reggie Perry is the biggest threat to Tennessee, and probably to any team the Bulldogs face.
The 6’10”, 250 lb. sophomore center is, in my opinion, the best player in the SEC. Tennessee’s undersized frontcourt is where opposing teams typically look to attack. While I have recently bought into the notion that we are getting the most possible out of our big men, sometimes their best is going to come up short, and this is likely the case in a game against Perry.
Perry is currently averaging 16.9 points, 10.0 boards and 1.0 block per game. Unlike most of the dominant big men we have seen this season such as Udoka Azubuike from Kansas, Perry has shot 32% from behind the 3-point line this season, and 74% from the charity stripe. It’s my opinion, but I believe Perry to be the best big man the Vols will go up against all season. Many mocks have Perry as a first round pick in the upcoming NBA draft, and I tend to agree. Be sure to keep an eye on how he performs against U.T. as I’m sure he’s champing at the bit for this game, especially given the recent thrumming by A&M.
The Eye Opening Loss
The Vols loss to A&M really changed my perspective on how this season may end up. It’s not that I put all the stock into one game, it’s just that U.T. couldn’t afford another bad loss on the resume after the ones Cincinnati and Wisconsin. The lack of effort showed by the Vols was very disheartening, and the Aggies had more offensive rebounds than our guys had rebounds in total. There were also a couple of individual performances that struck me as ominous.
Jordan Bowden is scoring the basketball again, but he is still not hitting from deep on a level that warrants him shooting from outside many times in a game. When he attacked against A&M he got to the rim, but he missed a couple of gimmes, as well as missed an unusual amount of free throws. I have no idea what Barnes needs to do though. Bowden’s complete drop off from last year is frustrating, but at this point I think the Vols have to throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks.
Another individual performance that I was unimpressed with was that of Josiah-Jordan James. He started off the first 4 minutes playing very well. But that was all. Without going back and checking the box score and play-by-play, I don’t think he contributed another positive statistic after the first TV timeout. Before the A&M game, I mentioned that I thought JJJ would have a big game against the inferior Aggies. I was very wrong. I worry he has hit the “Freshman Wall”, but am hoping he can snap out of it. It pains me to see so much talent not be taken advantage of.
If you have made it this far in my article, I believe you can tell how I think this game will go. Mississippi State is a weird team in that they don’t always play up to their potential, but they match up well against the Vols. My prediction is Mississippi State 72 Vols 60. As I always say when I pick against my beloved Big Orange, I sincerely hope I am wrong. If Bowden and James can just play solid all-around basketball and our big men can keep Perry from having a Ewing-like performance, I can see us coming out on top. The Hump is a tough environment, too. It seems to me like a perfect storm for the Vols to lose in.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Tennessee may not have the best chance at making the NCAA Tournament now, but I still will be rooting them on. While I am still frustrated at the lack of effort on Tuesday, there are still some bright spots on this team. There are a lot of big games on the horizon for the Vols, and we as fans will just have to take it one game at a time.
For minute to minute news concerning all aspects of all Volunteer sports, be sure to check out MoreImportantIssues on Twitter (@More_Issues), as well as listening to the podcast on any of the various podcast platforms! Trust me, Landon and Caleb won’t let you down If you’re looking for quality Big Orange talk with a laid-back attitude. Until we meet again, this is Dakota Robertson saying see ya later and Go Vols!
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