Though I asked earlier in the week whether, and to what extent, tonight’s SEC Tournament game mattered, I agree with tankertoad that we should all want the Fox Hounds to succeed. Consequently, when I was asked by our SEC sister site, For Whom the Cowbell Tolls, if I would like to exchange questions and answers prior to this evening’s men’s basketball showdown between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Mississippi St. Bulldogs, I happily agreed.
My answers will be posted at For Whom the Cowbell Tolls between now and tip-off. Here are the responses I received to my questions:
Dawg Sports: First things first: How mission-critical is a victory Thursday night to Mississippi State’s NCAA Tournament chances? With apologies for ending a sentence with a preposition, does State have to win to get in?
For Whom the Cowbell Tolls: Simply put: a win for State tonight vs. Georgia is a MUST. Some "bracketologies" have State in easily as a 10 seed, some have them as one of the dreaded/coveted "last 4 in" teams. But for those State fans like me that enjoy avoiding heartburn and sweating out selection Sunday, then a win against Georgia goes a long way. I would feel even better if the Dogs (maroon and white) could get at least 2 wins this weekend, but we'll worry about one at a time.
For Whom the Cowbell Tolls: I think Mississippi State's success in this tournament is going to be directly linked to the play of 2 role players: Jalen Steele and Brian Bryant. Don't get me wrong, State needs good games from Bost and Moultrie as well to be successful, but to truly have a chance to play until Sunday the dogs need good guard play from Steele and Bryant. Steele can be absolutely lethal from 3 if he's on, and that was a huge factor in our win earlier in Nashville against Vanderbilt. Brian Bryant is more of a "slasher" type player, not much of a spot up shooter like Steele. Bryant has been a bit quiet offensively in his 2 years here, but all of a sudden on senior day last Saturday he played the best game of his career arguably with 15 points on 7-8 shooting and 0 turnovers. If Steele and Bryant are both on starting tonight then I expect State to have a good chance at winning any game it plays in this tourney (except maybe against those blue cats).
Dawg Sports: Both sets of Bulldogs boast stellar freshmen in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Rodney Hood, both of whom made the league’s all-freshman team. Make the case that Hood is a better player than Caldwell-Pope.
For Whom the Cowbell Tolls: Man, that's a tough one with both being such great young players. I would go with how much our team needs Rodney Hood, but Georgia needs Caldwell-Pope just as much if not more. I would go with how many minutes Hood contributes each game on average, 32.8, but Kentavious is literally right behind him with a 32.2 minutes per game average. Obviously those two further the fact that each team needs their respective player very much. And you can't really give an edge to either one of the guys in the points category, as both average double digits with Kentavious edging out Rodney by one 3-pointer.
I think the difference in my eyes is Rodney Hood's character. Now, I'm not speaking against KCP's character at all, I know little about him, I am simply saying I wouldn't trade Rodney for any other blue chip recruit in the NCAA's this season. He is the rare combination of talent, dedication and character that you see so rarely this day in the sport. I know that doesn't really "make the case" for him versus Kentavious, but I tried my best!
Dawg Sports: On February 11, Georgia beat Mississippi State in Starkville, marking almost certainly the only noteworthy road win in men’s basketball for the Red and Black that still counts in the NCAA record books since Stegeman Coliseum was nicknamed “The Tub.” How important will the revenge factor be for State in determining the outcome of Thursday’s game?
For Whom the Cowbell Tolls: I think there will be an element of revenge in State's eyes. I think more than anything State will be looking to correct on all of the mistakes it made and the lackadaisical play it put forth against Georgia at The Hump on that day. There may be more of a revenge factor there though than I know though, as Georgia did begin our 5 game slide, which almost completely shipwrecked this season for us.
Dawg Sports: If Rick Stansbury were a Kevin Smith film, which one would he be, and why?
For Whom the Cowbell Tolls: Oh definitely Mallrats, and Stansbury is William, except instead of a sailboat that he can't see it's the "Sweet 16"! (hits drum, hits high hat)
My thanks go out to For Whom the Cowbell Tolls for participating in this exchange.