TCU plays Mississippi State tonight in the Big 12/SEC Challenge, so I caught up with Justin Sutton, manager of the Mississippi State SB Nation blog For Whom the Cowbell Tolls, and host of Bulldog Sports Radio, to get a little insight into Bulldogs basketball. I also answered five questions for them, and in the process we found out that TCU and MSU are shockingly similar teams.
1) From 2010-2012 Mississippi State made the NIT twice, and had a wining record all three seasons, but last year the Bulldogs wound up 10-22. What was the cause of the decline?
A few bad apples started to spoil the bunch in Starkville. Rick Stansbury took a few chances on some character issues that did not pay off. After Stansbury "retired" most of the roster either graduated, transferred, or were dismissed. A few of the recruits did not stay committed.
Rick Ray was left with a young and inexperienced roster against a fairly tough schedule. The team took their lumps and grew a bit in the process, and they even won an SEC tournament game.
2) With such a young team, what are the general expectations for this season?
I think most fans just want to see continued improvement from a team that does not cause trouble. It will take Ray a few years to make post-season play a fair expectation. As long as there is improvement, fans will be fine.
3) Statistically, it looks like Gavin Ware is the key cog for the Bulldogs, averaging close to a double double per game and shooting close to 60% from the floor. What makes him such a threat?
4) Besides Ware, who else should TCU fans watch out for?
Fred Thomas can hit a bunch of shots if he gets hot. Colin Borchert is a big man that can shoot outside. Craig Sword is another scoring threat for the Bulldogs.
5) Similar to Trent Johnson, Rick Ray is also in his second year coaching the Bulldogs, taking over after Rick Stansbury retired. What will it take for Ray to get this team back to the NCAA tourney?
Ray is just going to need time to build his program. He lost about everyone who was on the team when he was hired. The players that stayed through his first two years have become better players. If Ray can get a solid recruiting class the next two years, and if his players continue to develop, he could get the Bulldogs back into the Big Dance.