The Mississippi State men’s basketball program essentially has its third season opener in its 2010-11 campaign.
The Bulldogs not only welcome Alabama into Humphrey Coliseum for its Southeastern Conference opener today (3 p.m., SEC Network) but MSU will have junior point guard Dee Bost back for his first regular season game.
The NCAA issued State’s floor leader a nine-game suspension after he became academically eligible in the spring semester. The suspension by the NCAA Student-Athlete Reinstatement Staff is specifically for Bost failing to properly withdraw by May 8 NBA draft deadline.
“I’m not nervous but just ready to play and get the first game over with,” Bost said. “There’s been two tough parts between not practicing the whole practice. The other part is watching them struggle while they were on the road knowing I should be out there helping.”
Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury confirmed this week Bost will be in the starting lineup against the Crimson Tide (8-6) today.
State’s all-SEC selection at point guard, had with 26 points along with nine assists on 10-for-20 shooting from the floor and 5-of-11 from beyond the three-point arc against NAIA Belhaven in a exhibition in Jackson on Dec. 15.
“I think that’s got to be one of my easier decisions I’ll have to make,” Stansbury said Wednesday. “If that’s my most difficult decision, I’ll be in good shape.”
With Bost returning, this will be the sixth different starting lineup used this season.
Mississippi State (8-6) lost four of its five games in its 11-day trip away from Starkville that included stops in The Bahamas, Hawaii and Las Vegas.
“There’s no question having Dee back alone makes your team better and the thing that’s been challenging in this trip is there’s been no practicing,” Stansbury said. "Practice has to be harder than the games and we’ve been able to get some good practice time in this week.”
The Bulldogs program also faced a major off-the-court issues after Renardo Sidney and Elgin Bailey were sent home from the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii for their part in a fight in the stands of the Stan Sheriff Center on the evening of Dec. 23.
“I’m going to try and change it in a lot of ways as far as telling them I’m going to give it my all when I’m out there to make sure this never happens again and we win the SEC,” said Bost, who was sitting at home during Christmas break.
The results of this altercation would be Sidney returning to action after the third suspension in his Mississippi State career today and Bailey choosing to transfer from the program.
“It’s time to move on and learn from these mistakes,” Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury said in a school release. “Hopefully, by sending Sid and Elgin home following the incident, a strong message was sent that this type of behavior is unacceptable.”
Sidney has already gone through last year’s NCAA suspension that took away his entire freshman season and nine games of this campaign and then was forced to sit out one game after an incident occurred during a practice Monday at the University of Hawaii when the 6-foot-10 forward had altercations with coaches and teammates while the team prepared for the holiday tournament.
In the two games Sidney has competed for Mississippi State (8-6), the Jackson native has put up 15.5 points and 4.5 boards after being a former McDonald’s All-American candidate in high school.
“I’m very embarrassed about what happened,” Sidney stated in the university release. “I know how bad it looked on TV and the embarrassment it caused for everyone associated with Mississippi State. I’ve had a lot of time to think about it, and I will learn from this mistake, move forward and become a better man.”
The Bulldogs’ 6-foot-10 sophomore has the task of handling Alabama’s star forward JaMychal Green as he comes to Starkville averaging 14.8 points and grabbing 7.2 rebounds in just under 25 minutes per contest.
“I’m just looking at the bigger picture and trying to get my team to a Western Division championship and a NCAA Tournament berth,” Green said.
Alabama comes into SEC play on a three-game winning streak but haven’t beaten MSU on the road since a 68-63 victory in 2005.
The Crimson Tide leads the SEC in both scoring defense (56.5 ppg) and field goal percentage defense by holding opponents to just 36 percent shooting from the floor every night.
“For us, it’s more about survival,” Alabama head coach Anthony Grant said. “We have to defend to have a chance. The ante gets upped here in SEC play because you’re probably dealing with one of the most explosive scoring teams in our conference in Mississippi State.”
Under Stansbury, Mississippi State is 11-1 in conference home openers and won 10 of 12 games to open up league play.