This game took a little time before it became a top 15 matchup. Baylor started the season ranked 12th in the nation and without prospect Perry Jones III for five games. They went through that part undefeated including a win against San Diego State (#25 AP). Jones III returned and this team took off, registering wins at BYU and West Virginia on a neutral court.
Mississippi State (#15 AP/#14 USA Today) got to a bit of a rocky start. After winning the opener, they fell to Akron at home. I was one who thought losses like that would be commonplace this season, but the Bulldogs have won eleven in a row, including their own win against West Virginia as well as Texas A&M and Arizona.
So here they are: two teams littered with NBA talent meet in The Showcase in Dallas. The preview continues on after the jump.Not enough can be said about the job coach Rick Stansbury has done for Mississippi State (12-1) this year. The newcomers he's brought in have been the biggest difference. In 2009, forward Arnett Moultrie played on a tournament team with 2010 draft pick Derrick Caracter. Now Moultrie's a NBA prospect himself on a squad that could even deeper in March, posting 17 points and about 12 rebounds a contest.
Stansbury is still proving his dominance on the recruiting trail in state too. Freshman Rodney Hood is already third on the team in points and is using that 6-8 frame of his to grab five boards a game. Senior Dee Bost has been one of the more consistent players in the SEC and is just decimal points behind Moultrie for the team lead in scoring.
But the biggest question mark remains Renardo Sidney. He's talented but he still has conditioning issues. He could be so much more of a force if he played more than 20 minutes in a game. But this Bulldogs are at the point where Sidney could have an off game or two and still rack up wins.
In October our site did preseason previews on the Baylor Bears (12-0), Evan Pfaff went ahead and said they would make it to the Final Four. Although I thought they had the talent to go that far, I said they would fall in the Sweet Sixteen because weird things can occur in a tournament format and the Bears would be victims of that pretense. As each game has passed, my opinion is starting to reflect that of Evan's. Scott Drew plays pretty much everyone. That means any given guy could be hot enough to lift them to victory on any given night.
When you're winning, crazy stuff happens. Remember the end of the BYU game? 6-8 forward Brandon Davies of the Cougars launched a last-second three for the win but it was 5-10 guard Pierre Jackson who blocked the shot and gave Baylor (#6 AP/#7 USA Today) the W. The season is still young and there could be plenty more of where that came from. Conference play will have its share of moments.
Today will mark the third meeting all-time between Baylor and Mississippi State and the Bulldogs have won the two previous meetings. You can watch Baylor-Mississippi State tonight at 8pm central on ESPN2.