It has been a long time coming for Mississippi State, as the Bulldogs have been away from the NCAA Tournament since 2009. Now finding themselves ranked in all preseason polls, it seems Ben Howland and his team are poised to rejoin the Big Dance. Speaking to Howland on Tuesday afternoon, the fourth year coach appears confident in his team’s ability to be a more consistent offensive threat than they were a year ago.
Howland talked specifically about shooting, which was a huge issue for the Bulldogs a season ago, as the team struggled mightily from behind the arc. One of the main perpetrators of that problem was point guard Lamar Peters, whose issues both on and off the court contributed to Mississippi State’s slow start in SEC play, which was a huge part of why the Bulldogs missed the tournament despite 21 regular season wins. Talking with Peters today, you hear a different player, one is ready to be a leader on this team and play the role of distributor as the one position.
This team finally has the kind of roster you want, loaded with plenty of experience and talent, with some high ceiling guys who haven’t topped out their potential yet. It’s the first time any of these players have faced high expectations, so a veteran coach like Howland who has put so many teams into postseason play will have to keep the focus game to game. Mississippi State will take on Georgia Southwestern State on Sunday in an exhibition game before starting the regular season Friday, November 9 against Austin Peay.