Ben Howland’s Mississippi State basketball team is receiving plenty of attention from an ESPN analyst as the Bulldogs work to prepare for the 2021-2022 season.
Dick Vitale hurled a heap of praise towards the Mississippi State men’s basketball team on Twitter, saying that the Bulldogs are set “to be a real threat” in the Southeastern Conference this coming season.
The respect from Vitale comes after Howland and the Bulldogs bulked up their roster thanks to the transfer portal. As Vitale put it, “Ben Howland is working the transfer portal big time,” and that will hopefully pay off for the Bulldogs this coming Mississippi State basketball season.
Vitale saying that the Bulldogs were “going to be a real threat” came after D.J. Jeffries and Garrison Brooks each made the decision to move to Starkville.
Brooks arrives at Mississippi State after playing for four seasons at the University of North Carolina, where he averaged 9.6 points and 6 rebounds per game. During his junior season, Brooks was a significant contributor for the Tar Heels, averaging 16.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.
Meanwhile, during his two seasons with the Memphis Tigers, Jeffries averaged 10.3 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.
Howland and his Bulldogs could really use another sort of breakthrough season that elevates the program to the next level. Prior to this past season, Mississippi State was on a three-year streak of winning at least 20 games a season.
During the 2017-2018 season, MSU was able to make it to the NIT Semifinals and then followed that up with a trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2018-2019. But that time in the NCAA tourney ended in the round of 64. It seemed like MSU was going to have a truly special season in 2019-2020, but then COVID-19 came along and everything came to a halt with Mississippi State having won 20 games.
But, in his sixth season in Starkville, Howland was only able to guide Mississippi State to 18 wins and a trip to the National Invitation Tournament, the Bulldogs’ second trip to the NIT in the past four seasons. This time, MSU made a run to the NIT championship game, but the Bulldogs fell short, losing to the Memphis Tigers.
Howland and MSU must be looking toward this upcoming season as an opportunity to move the program forward. The Bulldogs have been elevated to a level where they consistently succeed and win a good bit more than they don’t, but they haven’t seen much postseason success with Howland at the helm just yet.