Basketball

Has youth, inexperience caught up to Mississippi State?

Photo: Gabby Zgunda/Mississippi State Athletics

Vic Schaefer’s Mississippi State basketball teams over the past few years have been defined by a smothering defense, clean execution. But the Bulldogs have found themselves struggling as of late. Despite clearly being one of the most talented teams in the Southeastern Conference, the Mississippi State Bulldogs seem to be floundering against inferior foes.

MSU’s heartbreaking home loss to Alabama (16-11 overall, 6-8 SEC) is the latest example of this team struggling against weaker competition.

The Bulldogs have twice found themselves in uncomfortably close contests with an awful Auburn Tigers team (9-16 overall, 3-11 SEC) and have an early season loss to the less than stellar West Virginia (16-10 overall, 6-9 Big 12).

In a season when Mississippi State has as many freshmen as it does juniors, and there’s not a single “senior” listed on the roster, it would seem plausible that most of Mississippi State’s issues at this moment seems to come down to one thing: youth. But is that youth actually hurting MSU?

In terms of minutes, nobody gets more playing time than freshman Rickea Jackson, leading the team with an average of 30.1 minutes per game. Sophomore Jessika Carter comes in at No. 2 in the stat with 29.2. In SEC play, those totals are higher sitting at 33.1 and 29.5 minutes per game respectively.

While 5th year senior Jordan Danberry, junior Chloe Bibby, and redshirt sophomore Myah Taylor are all averaging at least 23 minutes per game, it’s clear that young players are leading the way for the Bulldogs.

Jackson and Carter as MSU’s two leading scorers with 15 and 13.8 points per game respectively. In conference play, Jackson is averaging 17.7 points per game while Carter maintains that 13.8 average.

This talented duo is young and the Bulldogs are certainly relying on this duo to succeed.

That’s a bit of a gamble, but it’s actually paying off so far. With a 23-5 overall record and currently the No. 2 spot in the SEC standings, this team is doing well for a relatively young one.

Of this team’s five losses so far this season, two come against teams that were ranked amongst the top three teams nationally by a combined seven points. In total, Mississippi State is outscoring its foes by an average of 19.5 points per game.

Mississippi State can still be a contender in the SEC Tournament and has the talent to make a run in the NCAA Tournament.

Schaefer’s team will simply have to perform to the top of its ability to really make a run though. Mississippi State might be relying on young players, but these young players are proving they can play at a high level.

All stats via HailState.com

For more independent Mississippi State news and commentary, follow The Underdog Tribune on Facebook and Twitter. Follow Ethan Lee on Facebook and Twitter.

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