January 7, 2012 6:28:00 PM
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark.-- Mississippi State (13-2) at Arkansas (11-3), 8 p.m., Site: Bud Walton Arena; TV: CSS/ESPN3.com
Current Line: Mississippi State by 1.5
Since we're a few hours away from tipoff let's count down the early subplots of tonight's contest before The Dispatch MSU Sports Blog arrives Saturday.
- State will be tested by Arkansas' 94-feet pressure defense
MSU (13-2) has won two of the last three in Bud Walton Arena and six of its last seven against the Razorbacks. The difference is Anderson's '94-feet of hell' that he has incorporated at the University of Alabama-Birmingham and Missouri that forces the opponent to speed up the tempo that causes turnovers.
"I don't think they can press at the front of the press with Sanchez at the 4 like they want a 4 who can really move really good," Stansbury said. "They're going to try. They're going to try to speed you up and turn it over and make mistakes because they're so quick with a bunch of guards. But in the halfcourt they're going to play that 1-1-3 a bunch and stick to that basketball, keep you out of the paint and make you shoot 3s."
The problem with that system for Anderson's first year in Fayetteville is he only has nine scholarship players on the active roster to operate the gameplan with. Therefore, the 15th-ranked Bulldogs may actually be able to dictate the tempo more than normal but has the ball handlers to deal with a full-court defense and the combination of juniors Arnett Moultrie and Renardo Sidney to dominate the block for easy baskets.
"One of the critical matchups to this Southeastern Conference opener that MSU must win is how Moultrie (16.8 ppg, 11.4 rpg) will potentially match up with Arkansas' inexperienced and outmanned frontcourt with the loss of Marshawn Powell for the rest of the season due to injury.
"Missing Powell is bad and good for them," Stansbury said. "You take away a guy that can score and is powerful around that paint. At the same time when you take him out they play with another skill guy a lot more. The way they play they can go on rolls because they are skilled and they can put those four guards out there together and sometimes there are three point guards or guys that played point guard, guys that can pass it and shoot it."
- Scouting Arkansas
For lack of a better term, this is the moment for the Razorbacks (10-3) to gain so momentum on a season that has been defined by two frustrating items so far - the transition to Mike Anderson 40 minutes of hell style that got UAB to a Sweet Sixteen appearance and Missouri to an Elite Eight trip before coming back home to Fayetteville and the season-ending injury to forward and leading post player Marshawn Powell.
The Razorbacks have played three games against high-level competition and lost all three (vs. Houston in Little Rock, at Connecticut and at Oklahoma) so that's why their record seems impressive while still having an Ratings Percentage Index of 109.
The key matchup, like it has been in the last few years when these two teams get together, will be at point guard when Razorbacks freshman BJ Young gets to go one-on-one with MSU's Wooden Award winner Dee Bost. Young, a five-star prospect from St. Louis, Mo., is a 6-foot-2 guard that is terrific at attacking the basket and just as good finishing once he's at the rim. Young's speed and impressive scoring ability will be challenged by Bost, who is known as an excellent on-ball defender despite being victimized for layups against both No. 5 Baylor and Utah State. Bost was named a finalist for the 2012 Bob Cousy Award, which is presented annually to the nation's top point guard by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Bost is fifth in the SEC with his 15.9 scoring clip, second in steals (2.3) and fourth in assists (4.4), while his minutes played (34.1) are tops.
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
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