For the first time in almost 50 years, the Texas A&M Aggies (2-0) will face the Mississippi State Bulldogs (2-1) — and get a taste of what they can expect in the SEC next year.
The two schools will meet up in New York at Madison Square Garden for the semifinals of the Coaches vs Cancer Classic. For a school that began the season under the specter of bad news, A&M has looked strong and confident. The Aggies haven't let the loss of star forward Khris Middleton (out for 3-4 weeks with a partially-torn meniscus) or the reduced role of Billy Kennedy bring them down, handily defeating Southern 83-58 on Sunday.
More on the Bulldogs — and what their chances of knocking off A&M are — after the Jump.
Junior forward Ray Turner in particular has stepped up to the plate for A&M in Middleton’s absence. He scored 20 points against Southern and had lots of support inside from David Loubeau and Kourtney Roberson. Junior transfer guard Elston Turner has also made a big impact in the last two games.
The Bulldogs are coming off an 80-65 win over South Alabama — and trying to forget their 68-58 loss to Akron. Senior guard Dee Bost, who averages 17.3 points per game, can be a dangerous scorer when he’s hot. Junior forward Renardo Sidney has struggled with various issues off the court, but has the potential to be a game-changer for the Bulldogs. Whether he’ll play — he sat out Saturday’s game with a groin injury — or be able to focus is uncertain. If he does, it could be a problem for the Aggies.
Barring stellar performances from Bost, Sidney, or junior transfer forward Arnett Moultrie, I have to give this one to A&M. The Aggies have more discipline, momentum, and the stronger lineup despite missing Middleton.
I do hope this non-conference tournament goes smoother for Mississippi State the one they played in last year, when Sidney got into a fight with a teammate while sitting in the stands (as a frequent attendee of the Coach vs Cancer Classic, I can tell you that this will probably happen again this year, but with drunk Garden patrons instead of players). It really is a fun tournament for a great cause. At halftime during the championship game, Dick Vitale comes out and speaks about Jim Valvano. They show Jimmy V’s 1993 ESPYs speech on the jumbotron and half the arena suddenly starts mumbling about having dust in their eyes.
The game tips off at 6:00 CST and is televised on ESPN2.