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Preview and Thread: Hogs Take On Miss State

Arkansas will try to ride their momentum into Starkville.

NCAA Basketball: Tennessee at Arkansas Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

After a thrilling win in Bud Walton over Tennessee, Arkansas will have a completely different challenge tonight against Mississippi State. They will want to carry some positive momentum to the road in an atmosphere that won’t be near what was in Bud Walton. It’s a chance to look at how much this team has grown because the first road game went very poorly for the Hogs. Can they come out with the energy needed to win on the road?

More On The Bulldogs

Mississippi State has a very good record on paper but hasn’t played anyone with a pulse outside of Cincinnati (more on that soon). The Weatherspoon brothers, Nick and Quindarry lead the team. Nick is a freshman who starts and gets over 10 points per game. Quindarry has been a problem for the Hogs in his career. Last year when Miss State came into Bud Walton and won he dropped 25 while going 6/7 from deep. In three games against the Hogs he’s averaging 17 points per game and over seven rebound per game.

Projected Starters

Because Dustin Thomas fouled out against Tennessee, Arlando Cook got the crunch time minutes in that game, and the offense ran really well. For that reason there’s a possibility that line up comes out to start things at some point, but I’d still put my money on the usual starters.

For Mississippi State, they have some real size in addition to the Weatherspoons. Aric Holman and Abdul Ado are both over 6’10” and will block shots and rebound. Gafford will likely draw Holman on defense because of his offensive abilities, which means Thomas or Cook will be giving up a little size to Ado and will need to be positioned well throughout the game.

3 Key Stats

Remember what we said about Mississippi State’s schedule? It’s real bad. Like darn near the worst in the country. It’s 347th out of 351 D1 teams bad. That game against Cincinnati, a top-10 Ken Pom team, is probably all that’s keeping them out of the cellar (They lost 65-50). Outside of that their best wins are, uh, Dayton? Jacksonville State? Over half their wins are against teams ranked worse than 250th in KenPom, so while their record looks good, we can’t really take a lot of stock in that.

One thing they have done well is having a strong defense. Having superior athletic ability than your opponents and a shot blocker like Ado will do that. It will be interesting to see how they do against more athletic players like Arkansas’. They’ve also been winning despite turning the ball over a lot, and you don’t need to be told how big of a problem that is against Arkansas. Especially when seeing how elite Arkansas has been with protecting the ball on the offensive end.

So the stats point to Arkansas being favorites, and they should be. But in the SEC weird things can happen on the road. Arkansas has shown they can play well in neutral environments but their one true road game was the worst performance of the year. This game could get frustrating, or the Hogs could prove doubts of struggling on the road wrong.