October 30, 2009 9:15:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State''s men''s basketball players and coaches say their focus is between the white lines.
The program has received a lot of attention in the preseason for things that have happened outside those lines.
The Bulldogs learned Thursday they are ranked in the top 20 of both preseason polls (18th by The Associated Press, 19th by the ESPN/USA Today Coaches).
MSU, which won the Southeastern Conference tournament and finished 23-13 last season, was picked by the media to finish first in the SEC Western Division.
The anticipation for the season will continue to build as the Bulldogs prepare for a 2 p.m. exhibition game Saturday against Oklahoma City.
"The expectancy makes it exciting," MSU junior guard Phil Turner said. "A lot of good things should happy for us this year."
Along with the rankings, senior center Jarvis Varnado was one of 50 players named to the Naismith Award watch list, which recognizes the nation''s top players.
Varnado, who also made the preseason All-SEC first-team, knows the Bulldogs have gone from the hunter to the hunted.
"In the past, we were always a team having something to prove by chasing teams like Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama, but now, we are a team that they are all gunning for," Varnado said. "It''s a different feeling, but I like being the team everyone wants to beat."
n Jackson to hold meeting: Donald Jackson, the attorney for MSU freshman forward Renardo Sidney, is hosting a meeting in his Montgomery, Ala., office today with NCAA and MSU representatives to review additional records of his client and family.
The NCAA is investigating Sidney''s status as an amateur athlete.
Sidney has been practicing with the Bulldogs, but won''t be able to play in games until he''s cleared.