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MSU hoops trying beef up non-conference schedule with home-and-home deal with Oregon State


Mississippi State and Oregon State have signed a home-and-home basketball contract that will start with the Bulldogs going to Corvallis, Ore., this coming season on Dec. 15.

Mississippi State and Oregon State have signed a home-and-home basketball contract that will start with the Bulldogs going to Corvallis, Ore., this coming season on Dec. 15.


Oregon State coach Craig Robinson was fired Monday after six seasons with the Beavers program.


Matt Stevens


STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State already has a distinct advantage over one of their premier men's basketball non-conference opponents for next year by actually having a head coach.  


MSU officials announced Monday they have completed a home-and-home contract with Oregon State to play a road game at Corvallis, Ore., in the upcoming 2014-15 season on Dec. 15. The following season the Beavers will travel to Starkville for a non-conference game at Humphrey Coliseum with the official date still to be determined.  


The two schools have faced off only previous time and MSU took home a 76-62 victory in Portland, Ore., on Dec. 29, 1995. In that 1995-96 season, MSU went 26-8 and achieved the school's only Final Four appearance.  


MSU coach Rick Ray confirmed the matchup on his Twitter page Tuesday morning while he was participating in the school's promotional Road Dawgs bus tour of state sites with MSU football coach Dan Mullen.  


MSU announced this contract on the same day Oregon State was busy announcing the termination of its men's basketball coach Craig Robinson. Robinson, who is the brother-in-law of President Barack Obama, went 93-104 without making an NCAA Tournament in six seasons at Oregon State. The timing of the firing, six weeks after OSU's final game, is the most strange of the ordeal considering multiple news outlets reported Robinson was given a vote of confidence last month after he met with Oregon State athletic director Bob De Carolis.  


"I want to thank Coach Robinson and his family for their contributions to Oregon State University," said athletic director Bob De Carolis in a statement released by the school. "This was a difficult decision, but after further evaluation, I believe it is in the best interests of our student-athletes, our basketball program and our University." 


Robinson will receive a buyout of $4 million. More importantly to MSU, the OSU team the Bulldogs were prepared to face when the home-and-home contract was agreed upon might have gotten significantly worse since. OSU was 16-16 overall last season including 8-10 in the Pac-12 Conference but the program is now preparing to lose its top six players from that team. The top three scorers from the 2013-14 season (Roberto Nelson, Devon Collier and Angus Brandt) all graduated but Eric Moreland declared early for the NBA draft, and Hallice Cooke decided to transfer. Starting point guard Challe Barton, who hails from Sweden, has also decided to play professionally overseas instead of returning to the Beavers program. 


According to several national reports, former UCLA and Pittsburgh coach Ben Howland tops the list of available candidates to fill the vacancy. Howland's name has been brought into the conversation for the openings at Marquette, Tennessee and Missouri but was ultimately passed over. Howland, 57, has a career record of 399-208 and took UCLA to three consecutive Final Four appearances from 2006-2008. 


The matchup with OSU is seen as the Bulldogs trying to beef up its non-conference schedule after rolling out the easiest non-conference strength of schedule in the country last season. The Southeastern Conference has been determined to not let its 14 schools play schedules filled with perceived easy wins and even hired consultant Greg Shaheen in 2013 to assist schools with their scheduling issues. According to Associated Press reports, immediately after being hired Shaheen handed each SEC coach "a 20-page report that broke down the league's non-conference schedules from last year, with details that included how every game -- win or lose -- affected conference power ratings" 


"We're going to make sure we're playing the kind of schedules that will position us to put the number of teams in the (NCAA) Tournament that we have traditionally over the years," SEC commissioner Mike Slive said when Shaheen was hired.  


During the announcement of the Oregon State home-and-home series, MSU officials said this game would be part of more news on the non-conference schedule to be released in the summer months ahead.  




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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