Virginia Tech Hokies (5-4, 0-1) vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs (7-2, 0-0)
Battle at Atlantis
Time: 8 p.m. EST
Date: Saturday, Dec. 18, 2010
Place: Atlantis Resort, Paradise Island, The Bahamas
Radio: VT ISP, XM 141, Sirius 121
Spread: Virginia Tech -6.5
Game Info: Live Stats, VT Notes, MSU Notes
The Setup: The Hokies will play Mississippi State as a part of a doubleheader at the Atlantis Resort in The Bahamas. Georgia Tech will play Richmond in the other game. Tech and MSU were two of the final teams left out of last year's NCAA Tournament and received No. 1 seeds in the NIT. The Hokies will be the most battle-tested team in this matchup. They've already faced five teams from power conferences and have played five games away from home. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, have not faced a team from a power conference or played a regular season game away from Humphrey Coliseum.
Statistically Speaking (According to Ken Pomeroy): Mississippi State ranks No. 99 in the Pomeroy Ratings, one spot ahead of Boise State and one spot behind Stephen F. Austin. Offensively, it is the 82nd most efficient team in the country, while it ranks No. 127 in defensive efficiency. The Hokies are No. 51 in the Pomeroy Ratings, No. 85 in offensive efficiency and No. 30 in defensive efficiency. Both of these teams prefer a slow pace with the Bulldogs coming in at No. 260 and the Hokies at No. 224 in tempo. The team that better executes its halfcourt offense will be the team that prevails.
Scouting Mississippi State: Part of the reason Mississippi State has played nothing but patsies so far is they were trying to get center Renardo Sidney. Sidney made his debut in an exhibition against Belhaven Wednesday night in Jackson, Miss. Sidney was limited to 15 minutes due to fatigue and cramping according to head coach Rick Stansbury. Sidney's imposing stature and McDonald's All-America pedigree are impressive, but I don't think he's going to be a factor in this game. Guard Dee Bost, who was suspended by the NCAA for failing to withdraw from the NBA draft by the deadline, also played against Belhaven, but will not play in regular season games until January. MSU's best player that will actually contribute against the Hokies is guard Ravern Johnson, who at 6-7 will also contribute some to MSU's rebounding.
What to Watch: The Bulldogs have relied a lot on 3-point shooting this year, with almost 35 percent of their points coming from behind the arc. That's 28th-most in the country according to Pomeroy. I think the Hokies' perimeter defense will give MSU trouble. On offense, the Hokies will need good games from Jeff Allen and Victor Davila. They need to score down low against Kodi Augustus and Elgin Bailey and keep themselves in the game. They were able to do this against Penn State and the Hokies were able to keep the Lions at arm's length in the second half. That's pretty much how I see this game going as well. MSU doesn't give up a lot of points off threes, but I wonder how much that has to do with its perimeter defense and how much it has to do with Augustus and Bailey's defensive abilities down low. If Tech can't take advantage of the Bulldogs in the paint, they're going to need Delaney to have the kind of shooting night he had against PSU.
While it's nice to look at scouting reports and stats and trends I really think this game's going to come down to which team is more focused. Last year against Seton Hall in Cancun it seemed like the Hokies were toast against a better team (on paper) and without Malcolm Delaney. With this game happening on a resort in The Bahamas, one of these teams is going to come out and not care. Hopefully that's not the Hokies.
Final Score: Virginia Tech 65, Mississippi State 55
Mississippi State Blogs: For Whom the Cowbell Tolls
Game Thread: This game isn't on TV, but if you feel like talking about the game while listening on the radio or watching a live box score somewhere, feel free.