Bulldogs open basketball season against Hornets

Xavian Stapleton
Staff Writer

There’s a quiet confidence amongst the Mississippi State men’s basketball team as the squad tips off the 2017-18 season Friday at 5:30 p.m. against Alabama State.

It doesn't matter to the Bulldogs that Southeastern Conference media members predicted them to finish 12th in the league when all is said and done this year. It's also not a factor that MSU hasn’t finished with a record over the .500 mark the last five seasons.

It’s a new day, and the Bulldogs are a confident bunch.

“I never did get into the preseason rankings and predictions,” Mississippi State head coach Ben Howland said. “We are very excited about the coming season and look forward to putting our best foot forward each day.”

The basis for the Bulldogs’ belief in themselves is a unity that has permeated the club. Howland has praised his team’s chemistry in the preseason. Players have echoed their coach’s sentiments.

“This year, everybody is for the team,” MSU junior guard Xavian Stapleton said. “No one is playing for themselves and everyone is for the team. I feel like, once we bite into what our coaches tell us, there won’t be too many teams who can play with us.”

The Bulldogs get to put its chemistry to the test in a game that counts for the first time this season Friday. It comes against an Alabama State squad that struggled mightily a year ago.

The Hornets finished with an 8-23 overall record last season. Alabama State was the eighth-place team out of the 10-team Southwestern Athletic Conference.

A total of six letterwinners and two starters are back from last year’s Hornets team and the group has 10 newcomers.

“They have a lot of new guys, but they are very well-coached,” Howland said of Alabama State. “They have (guard Reginald Gee) back who is a really good player. They have a lot of older, junior college guys that have joined the program. Everybody has redshirted for a year or come from somewhere else. They won both of their exhibition games. They are skilled and athletic.”

MSU will almost certainly be a bit shorthanded as it faces the Hornets today. Freshman forward Abdul Ado, expected to be a key post presence for State this season, will likely miss today’s game as he continues to recover from a quad injury suffered running sprints in practice last month.

Howland insists the Bulldogs will be cautious with Ado so he won’t be injured further and have to miss a significant amount of time.

However, the rest of the MSU roster is chomping at the bit to put its chemistry to the test. The grind that is the college basketball season is here, and the Bulldogs feel they ares prepared to make the most of it.

“Last year, we were 16-16 and didn’t make the NCAA Tournament,” MSU sophomore guard Lamar Peters said. “That’s our goal – to make it there. In order to make it there, we have to have good team chemistry, work together and work hard.
“Last year, we didn’t have that much team chemistry. Everybody was kind of distant. We’ve worked on that and gotten better.”