Insider knows you're hot for hoops during the summer, so we're bringing you a closer look at a few of the big-profile schools before most freshmen have even moved into their dorms. We continue with Mississippi State.
It's not an out and out rebuilding year, but there's definitely going to be some change in Starkville. Last year's tumultuous season of infighting and disciplinary action wasted the talent that permeated the Bulldogs roster. Even with all the drama, the team still made its usual push to the SEC tournament finals before a loss to Vanderbilt ended the season and burst the Bulldogs' bubble hopes.
It was the first time since 2006 that Mississippi State missed out on the postseason, the first time that Rick Stansbury had to enact a "no tweet" policy and the first time the head coach had to send home a player for fighting a teammate. The slate's not entirely clean (three starters return) but now with a top-25 freshman class on campus and an intriguing lineup of athletic players, the Bulldogs could regain some of the national respect lost to the soap opera that was 2010-11.
Irked by the selection committee's snub, Stansbury and AD Scott Stricklin are building a tough nonconference schedule that already includes an appearance in November's 2KSports Classic (Texas A&M, St. John's, Arizona), a December game against Baylor and an unreleased game against a Big East opponent. And the Bulldogs got a head start on setting up their rotation and rectifying personality clashes during an August barnstorming tour of Europe, where they played five games against club teams. The problem? Troubled junior forward Renardo Sidney (14.2 points per game, 7.6 rebounds per game) was notably absent from the trip, prompting a round of speculation that despite the turnover, team-building and scheduling, chemistry problems could thwart any planned program makeover.