Mississippi State (0-0) at Troy (0-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, Nov. 9, 8 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Trojan Arena (5,500) -- Troy, Alabama. Television: None. Home Record: MSU 0-0, Troy 0-0. Away Record: MSU 0-0, Troy 0-0. Neutral Record: MSU 0-0, Troy 0-0. Conference Record: MSU 0-0, Troy 0-0. Series Record: Mississippi State leads, 9-0.
GAME NOTES: The Troy Trojans attempt to start fresh after a disappointing season in 2011-12 by opening up the new campaign at Trojan Arena against the visiting Mississippi State Bulldogs.
After a down year in 2010-11 (17-14), Mississippi State returned to form last season as one of the SEC's best, going 21-12 overall and 8-8 in conference, culminating in a berth in the NIT. The Bulldogs have moved on from retired head coach Rick Stansbury and are now under the tutelage of Rick Ray. This marks the first time MSU has opened a season on the road since 2004.
Troy head coach Don Maestri has seen his team through plenty of changes in his 30 years, rising from a Division II squad at beginning of his tenure all the way to becoming a 20-win team in the Sun Belt Conference just a few seasons ago. The Trojans experienced some hard times last year however, winning just five conference games and going 10-18 overall.
The Bulldogs have dominated the Trojans in the all-time series between the two, winning all nine previous matchups, including a 106-68 blowout on Dec. 10, 2011.
Mississippi State's impressive season in 2011-12 came behind a veteran squad, and the new season brings a lot of fresh faces to the team. It will need to replace nearly all of the 72 ppg it scored a year ago, as its four best players are no longer on the roster. Arnett Moultrie (16.4 ppg, 10.5 rpg) and Renardo Signey (9.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg) declared for the NBA Draft. Dee Bost (15.8 ppg, 5.5 apg) has graduated, and last year's prized recruit Rodney Hood (10.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg) has transferred to Duke. With all the departures, only Jalen Steele (8.7 ppg) and Wendell Lewis (3.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg) remain who logged significant minutes last season, and their production will need to increase as they are inserted into the starting lineup. We got a taste of what the new era in Starkville might look like in the Bulldogs' exhibition match against William Carey. Freshman Fred Thomas (6-5, 180) got the start at guard and scored 15 points in 28 minutes, albeit on just 5-of-14 shooting from the field. Junior college transfer Colin Borchert (6-8, 231) also figures to see plenty of playing time as a sharp-shooting forward.
Last season, Troy put up 71.3 ppg and was one of the most active three-point shooting teams in the nation, making 250 treys on an astounding 724 attempts, but its downfall was the fact that it couldn't stop anyone as it allowed four and a half more points than it scored (75.8 ppg). The Trojans have moved on from top scorers Will Weathers (12.2 ppg), who graduated, and Alan Jones (10.4 ppg), who won't return for his senior season, but they still have plenty of scoring experience left. Both Justin Wright (10.3 ppg) and R.J. Scott (8.9 ppg) were rotated in and out of the starting lineup last year but should be mainstays this season. The two combined to hit 101 three-pointers in 2011-12, and that number should only increase with expanded roles. Despite being just 6-3, Emil Jones (9.6 ppg) was the team's top rebounder with nearly six boards per game. Hunter Williams (6-0, 175), a junior college transfer, is also expected to be a factor in the backcourt rotation.
It appears to be a rebuilding season for Mississippi State as it will undoubtedly spend the first few weeks getting used to a slew of new faces. Troy is far from a model of consistency, but it should do enough on opening night to please the home fans.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Troy 70, Mississippi State 67
11/09 10:34:04 ET