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Previewi... CLANGA CLANGA CLANGA CLANGA CLANGA CLANGA CLANGA

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I know Coach, I can't believe we write this crap either. The game must be played though, and we must forge on!

Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

Well, here we are, sitting on a 10 game losing streak, every player is suspended or hurt or in a free throw slump and Mississippi State is coming to town looking half way competent. But the game's at home and no one from Mizzou has to get on a plane so it's not all bad! If we're going to win a game before March (looking at you Auburn) it's going to be today, so let's get after the Bulldogs shall we?

Presenting the Mississippi State Bulldogs

location: Starkvegas, Mizzusippah

By HHKB Chris: After a short break of playing teams with dog mascots, we’re back to it! Mississippi State has a bulldog for a mascot and his name is Bully. Like every other school with a more or less controllable animal mascot (one day LSU, one day…) State has a real bulldog and a humanoid one. The real living breathing animal is named Bully and he is an English Bulldog, so it’s pretty clear that State and their administrators hate America. I mean, what, are American Bulldogs not good enough for you?!

I bet you guys just love Danny Boy Smith don’t you? Where’s your patriotism!

MSU I LOVE STATE

In a scary bit of news, the human version of Bully was once run down by a stray golf cart that was owned by ESPN. Mascoticide is not ok World Wide Leader, not now, not ever! Haven’t we all been tormented enough by wild out of control golf carts? Someone’s got to put a stop to this.

Bully also has hideous, terrible taste in beer. Here’s a pic of him back in the day enjoying some Coors Light, I mean, COORS LIGHT?! Gross.

Now you would think that would be enough wouldn't you? A dog, a man dog (and they do have the lady dog mascot thing that I don't like) but State has just one more thing that makes them, them. A horribly annoying cowbell that goes CLANGA CLANGA all the live long day. It's almost as if parents just hate themselves, why give your child something that makes that kind of a racket? And then to give an entire arena the same thing, or worse a stadium? Clearly no one thought this through at the time.

MSU Gene Frenkle

I just don't think I could handle all that noise...but you know who could? All these famous alumni, that's who! Nice segue huh?

State's most famous alum is John Grisham, he's the guy who writes lawyer books that I imagine every lawyer loves to pick apart and point out where things aren't correct and how none of this could ever happen. They all seem to take place in the south and everyone is always sweating in the movie adaptations of said books. Yes they deserved to die and I hope they burn in hell!!! Anyway, he writes book and he went to State, a book is something that predated your kindle you whippersnapper.

In a weird twist, almost the entire section dedicated to famous alumni that I found were weather women/meteorologists. Seriously, almost the entire page! So I assume State has a weather program at their school, and if these weather women are anything like the weather people I've seen on TV they're only right HALF THE DAMNED TIME! Is there any profession where you can screw up SO CONSTANTLY and not get fired? Seriously. Well weather people of State, I hope you're better at your jobs than everyone else, ‘cause I'm freezing and I'm sick and tired of it!

The most famous weather person I found was Betty Davis and she has a message for you:

MSU Forecast CLANGA

Now I have no idea what the weather will be in Columbia MO (ask Ms Davis if you must know) but if you're going to Columbia to support our Tigers (PLEASE GO, THEY NEED YOUR SUPPORT) and can you think of a better Valentine's Day gift? I can't! Take that special someone to Flatbranch for some delicious beer and food. I'll be honest I haven't been there since 2000 when I went on the worst date of my life, but don't let that stop you! If you can't make it to the game, it's on ESPNU so get comfortable, grab a drink and sit back and hope that Mizzou turns it around and we actually have some players to play in this game.

About Their Basketball Team

By Sam Snelling: It's been a rough three year stretch for head coach Rick Ray. He took over a team with a decimated roster, won their first two games of conference play, then lost 13 straight including a 78-36 drubbing by our Tigers (you might remember that one). They would finish the year 10-22. Last year was a little better, but they were worse in conference as they lost another 13 straight games and finished 14-19 with a terrible non-conference schedule to help.

Things looked semi-promising for State this year, they had a full roster, experience and some talent, they won their first five games and then just tanked. They've lost to McNeese State at home (by 19) and Arkansas State at home (by 14). Then they turned around and beat Florida State, who had just beaten Duke. State opened with 3 losses and many thought it was just going to be that kind of season, then they won 4 of 6 games and then maybe not. As it stands, they're better than Missouri, but slightly. They're 11-13 and ranked 167th by KenPom, they're pretty solid on D (100th in Adj Eff) but not very good at scoring the ball (259th in the same category).

It's been rough as Craig Sword (8.5 ppg), the Bulldogs best player, was dealing with a preseason back injury and still hasn't quite gotten on the track that many imagined for him. He's played well and shot well in some games, and was one of the main reasons they pulled off the upset vs. UT, but too often is prone to shooting slumps that kill the offense for the Dogs. The other guy to keep an eye on is Gavin Ware who chips in around 10 points a game on the inside and also about 7 rebounds. Roquez Johnson, a senior forward, can be stout on the interior as well, and I.J. Ready (8.3 pps) and Fred Thomas (10.3) are some of the more consistent performers.

Now for a closer look at their basketball team, let's chat with somebody who knows them best...

Q&A With FOR WHOM THE COWBELL TOLLS

Thanks to Moaleck, a FWTCT writer and a good one at that, for taking some time to answer our questions. You can also hear Me and Jack talk to Charlie Burris, Editor-in-Chief at FWTCT, about Mississippi State and our mutual love for things Ole Miss on our most recent Podcast of Rock M Radio. Follow those guys, blah blah.

RockMNation: After a rough start to the SEC season, State has really seemed to turn it around, what do you account for the sudden 180 to the team's play?

moaleck: It was definitely a rough start to the season for the Bulldogs but it was also the start that many MSU fans have become accustomed to over the past few seasons. The five game losing streak in December and the losses to McNeese St and Arkansas St stick out the most in my mind but even in the losses to mediocre teams there were always signs that MSU could be better than their record suggested. The start of SEC play didn't change too many opinions as MSU was blown out by Tennessee and Florida. The loss to A&M gave Mississippi State 16 straight road losses in a row under Rick Ray and it seemed likely this would be his last season in Starkville. If there was one game that signified a "180" in State's season it was the road win at Auburn. The win snapped two horrible losing streaks and gave MSU fans hope that the Bulldogs wouldn't finish last in the SEC. Craig Sword's return from injury hasn't hurt either.

RMN: At the start of this season, Coach Ray's seat was certainly warm, then it got blazingly hot at the start of January, and seems to have cooled of late. Has he done enough to keep his job, and what are your feelings on whether he should or not?

moaleck: The wins over LSU and Tennessee, some of the "better" teams in the SEC, certainly may give the administration and some fans hope for the future but I personally have a tough time seeing him at MSU next season. After three years Coach Ray has won only 11 SEC games and 35 games overall while losing 54. It would be different in my opinion if the Bulldogs played tough competition week in and week out but the losses to teams like McNeese St throughout his tenure damage his credibility in my opinion. On the other hand the argument can be made that Rick Ray has done a great job turning around the mess he inherited. Even if Rick Ray was fired at the end of the season, who is Mississippi State going to hire? Starkville is a hard sell for any big name coach and no matter who Mississippi State hires it is going to take some time to build a program. I think Ray is gone at the end of the season but I have a hard time seeing Mississippi State rising to top right away no matter the coach.

RMN: Roquez Johnson has really come on this season, is this a case of a senior making the most of his final year in college, and what's up with Craig Sword, he seems to be having an off year?

moaleck: Roquez Johnson has had a very nice year and has kept Mississippi State in a lot of games but he has been far too inconsistent for the Bulldogs to be a good team. It was nice to see the young man explode against Georgia for a double-double of 25 points and 10 rebounds but in the next game against Ole Miss he scored only four points. If MSU had a consistent Roquez Johnson the Bulldogs would have a winning record. I actually believe Craig Sword has had a fantastic year. He began the season having to sit out the first couple of games due to an injury but has rebounded nicely to score in double figures in six of the last seven games. That is the type of consistency that Mississippi State needs to be competitive and his return has definitely contributed to State's recent turn around. Fans are certainly glad to have him back on the court.

RMN: What should Mizzou fans expect to see from the Dogs this Saturday, and where are they most vulnerable, what advantages can Mizzou attempt to exploit?

moaleck: Offensively, Missouri and Mississippi State both suck, plain and simple. Mizzou is 315th in points per game and MSU is 311th.....out of 346 teams. That's not good. Both teams rank in the 200s in field goal percentage and even worse in assists per game. So if you watch this game don't expect a pretty offensive performance from either squad. If Missouri wants to win this game all the Tigers have to do is turn Mississippi State over. The Bulldogs panic when they get down and get conservative when they go ahead. If you can turn the Bulldogs over and rattle their nerves the Tigers can go on a quick scoring run and never look back. Defensively, the Tigers want to try and take out Craig Sword and Roquez Johnson, both can get hot quickly and can put a hurting on any team if they get into a rhythm. Ask Tennessee about Craig Sword. The Volunteers are still shaking from the 26 points he put up in Knoxville last week.

RMN: How do you see this game going, and what is your predicted final score?

moaleck: I think the Missouri players and probably even the coaches have probably quit on the season but the road has been so unkind to Mississippi State that I have a hard time automatically picking the Bulldogs. Can either team hold on to the ball? Both squads tally well over 300 turnovers a piece this season and if one team can get points off those turnovers it could be a blowout. I think Mississippi State is just a little bit better than Missouri, no matter where the game is played, and the Bulldogs get the win this weekend. I'm gonna say fans are going to see a low scoring and at times unwatchable game with Mississippi State winning 55-43.

OH MY GOD YOU GUYS, Missouri is projected to WIN this game! I am curious how those projections change without Wes Clark as the lead guard, and whether or not we have Namon Wright and Montaque Gill-Caesar to contribute also. Needless to say, this isn't going to be an easy game for Missouri to win, even if they get the three keys below to all go their way. So  quick 3-keys rundown.

1) Who Scores?

As much as Mizzou's season has come down to "can they make enough baskets to win", that's been the story with Mississippi State as well. They've suffered some pretty miserable losses, and when they do it's typically due to a pretty abysmal shooting performance. So, this could be the one and only key to be quiet honest. Which team is going to make more baskets? If one team shoots well, the other might not, and this could be a 10-15 point game. That's how bad these two teams are at scoring.

2) Limit Free/Easy Points

The Bulldogs are not a good offensive team. But they are pretty good at crashing the glass on offense, and getting to the free throw line. Free and easy points are one of the ways the Bulldogs have been able to muddy up enough games in league play to win and even scare some decent teams. So Mizzou needs to focus on playing good clean tough defense and keeping them off the offensive glass at the rate that the Bulldogs are used to.

3) Get Valuable Possessions

MSU will play tough Defense, Missouri has sporadically taken care of the basketball, if they have a good day with the ball and take more shots than turn the ball over, they'll be able to command the tempo of the game. But the Tigers, without one of the better ball handlers, simply cannot cough up the ball with regularity and expect to win.

It's not going to be easy for them, not having Wes Clark is going to be a big deal. We still don't know if Wright or Gill-Caesar are playing, and even if they are, they aren't exactly the strongest players with the ball, leaving Mizzou with just one natural point guard, assuming that Tramaine Isabell is still going to be sitting out. There are so many reasons why Mizzou could probably pack it in and most people would barely notice. If you're still paying attention, at this point, is there a game you really expect Mizzou to win?

If you said yes to that question, I might want to ask what you've been drinking? There are games left that Mizzou can win, specifically this game, the other game at Mississippi State and then hosting Auburn area all games they should be able to compete in and have a chance to win. Vanderbilt isn't very good, but much better than Mizzou is on offense, so that should give them the edge. Arkansas shouldn't be competitive, Florida and Georgia should handle their business too. At this point, all Mizzou should be expecting to do is just be competitive. Keep competing and then hope something good happens. There are 3 potential wins left on the schedule, win a couple of them and you can head into the offseason not feeling completely awful about the direction of the program, win none of them and it's going to be tough to get excited about next season.

So do they win today? If Namon and Teki play, I'll say yet. The week off energizes those guys and they come out fired up and ready to go. Maybe they've saved up a couple jumpers along the way and help the offense get started and the Tigers can find a way to score more than 60 points, which depressingly enough, should be enough to win. If they don't play, I have a hard time seeing a win happen. Maybe D'Angelo continues his hot shooting from deep, Jakeenan does some good things and MSU misses enough for Mizzou to pull out the win. With that said, I'll say that Namon and Teki play, we score more than 60 and beat the cold-shooting Bulldogs something like: Missouri 64, MSU 56.

MSU Predictions 1

Now's your chance, predictions/trifecta. For the Trifecta, I'll take JW3, Shamburger and Wright.