Each season there's a game circled on the schedule that tells a program where they stand in regards to the landscape of college basketball.
For the sixth-ranked Baylor Bears and the 15th-ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs that game takes place tonight.
The Bulldogs are riding an 11-game win streak and look for their first 12-game streak since the 2003-04 season.
The Bears are perfect this season at 12-0 and will face their first ranked opponent in the game slated for an 8 p.m. tip.
Both programs know how important this game is and both know how difficult the match will be.
“There is no question this will be our most difficult challenge of the year so far,” said MSU head coach Rick Stansbury. “Scott (Drew) has done a terrific job with them and has them playing at a very high level. This will be, no question, our most difficult challenge, task, of the season.”
Drew said there's a reason the matchup can be considered great.
“Both are athletic," Drew said. "Both are very long and talented. I think you are going to see a lot of great plays.”
Arnett Moultrie continues to shoulder the load for the Bulldogs as he is averaging a double-double this season with 17.8 points per game and 11.7 rebounds. He is simply the spark that ignites an offense that is averaging over 77 points per outing.
“I knew coming out of UTEP he was an outstanding player,” Drew said. “I think he’s gone to another level.”
The importance of Moultrie’s play could easily be magnified due to the status of fellow big man Renardo Sidney, who is questionable for the contest.
Sidney has been on a tear over his last four outings shooting over 68 percent while scoring 13 points per game.
In State’s win over Northwestern State, Sidney strained his patella tendon in his left knee and the swelling could limit his availability, which would present a problem for the Bulldogs as they attempt to slow down the talented Perry Jones.
“I don’t know if anybody has had a good matchup against (Perry) Jones,” mentioned Stansbury. “He scores a lot of different ways and has great athleticism. He’s just a challenge, but I guess if you want to have a guy that has a chance to match up, Moultrie is as good as we could hope for.”
Jones, the 6-foot-11 sophomore, is averaging 14.1 point and 6.9 rebounds per contest and will be joined by junior college transfer Pierre Jackson who is adding 13.8 points off the bench.
"Pierre is so quick," Drew said. "Pierre has a winner's heart. He will not shy away from taking a big shot. What's most (important) about that is that he makes them."
Jackson, a junior college transfer, paces the Bears off the bench scoring 13.8 points over the last eight games.
“They score a lot of different ways,” said Stansbury. “As their season has gone along, their guards have really stepped up and played different roles for them. There’s not one thing you can take away from them. They have enough weapons on the inside and weapons on the outside that can score. In the half court, transition, or off the bounce, they just don’t have many weaknesses right now.”
After today, the Bulldogs are back in action at 2 p.m. on Saturday against Utah State at Humphrey Coliseum. Tickets are being offered at a discounted rate of $5.