Mississippi State Preview

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Who: Virginia Tech Hokies (5-4, 2-1 neutral) vs Mississippi State Bulldogs (7-2, 0-0 neutral)

When: Saturday, December 18 @ 8:00 p.m.

TV: None

Where: Atlantis Resort, Paradise Island, Bahamas

The Opponent: Mississippi State leaves the friendly confines of Humphrey Coliseum for the first time this year as the travel to the Bahamas to take on the Hokies. The Bulldogs are 7-2, with no victories over power conference opponents and two losses coming against Florida Atlantic (61-59) and East Tennessee State (63-62).

The buzz around this game is the debut of freshman Renardo Sidney (6-10, 275 lbs). Sidney was suspended all of last year and the first nine games of this year for taking improper benefits from an agent. Wanting to get him eligible for this game, head coach Rick Stansbury scheduled four games in four nights (all wins) from Saturday to Tuesday for his team. In addition, MSU battled Bellhaven in an exhibition on Wednesday in the unofficial debut of Sidney. The big man scored 10 points and grabbed 6 boards, but only played 15 minutes due to cramps and fatigue. The potential NBA lottery pick seemed so out of shape on Wednesday it made Jeff Allen look like he was in shape during his freshman year. It's still a mystery of how much Sidney will play and how effective he will be when he's on the court.

As for the players on the court, Mississippi State is led by wing Ravern Johnson (6-7, 175 lbs). Johnson is the nation's leading seventh-highest scorer and currently leads the SEC with 23.8 points per game. The senior is a big threat from deep, nailing 47.2% (34-72) of his three-pointers, but isn't a physical specimen on the glass, recording just 3.8 rebounds per game.

Inside, the Hokies will have to keep Kodi Augustus (6-8, 224 lbs) and Elgin Bailey (6-8, 276 lbs) off the glass. Augustus is the team's second-leading scorer with 12.2 points per game while also leading the Bulldogs with 8.7 boards per contest. He doesn't shoot the ball particularly well, but crashes the offensive glass, something the Hokies will need to stop. Bailey is a physical threat at 276 pounds, but only averages 6.8 points per game. Tech can't afford to get their bigs in foul trouble or Bailey, Augustus, and Sidney could take over the game.

Brian Bryant (6-3, 160 lbs) and Riley Benock (6-4, 193 lbs) are the two guards for MSU. Benock, a senior, is in his first year of starting after averaging a little over 11 minutes off the bench the last two years. Bryant is projected to start his fifth straight game after coming off the bench in the team's first five contests.

My Thoughts: The victory over Penn State last Sunday allowed Hokie fans to breath a small sigh of relief. Despite PSU's inadequacies, the Hokies finally looked like a team committed to winning with motion on the offensive end and a determined effort on the defensive side of the ball.

One of the questions coming into Saturday night's tilt with a quality SEC team is whether or not Tech can build off its success and earn a quality out-of-conference win. It may not look like it now but the Bulldogs have the making of a top-half SEC team, which would be a nice boost to the resume in March. This is the last chance for the Hokies to build the resume before ACC play starts in January.

Dorenzo Hudson's status is still uncertain as of Friday night, but the Hokies' media guide lists him as a probable starter. Even if he is healthy, many fans have raised the question of whether he should start. The team seemed to have a better flow with Erick Green running the point and Malcolm Delaney playing off the ball. Personally, I wouldn't mind giving Green a chance to show his stuff against SEC competition. We shall figure out tomorrow night come 8 p.m.

Unfortunately, this game is not being televised, which will obviously make it difficult to see if the Hokies have the same flow as they did on Sunday against the Nittany Lions. With final exams behind them, the squad should be completely focused on righting the ship and playing basketball. We'll all just have to rely on Bill and Mike's description to find out whether Sunday's win was a fluke or a sign of things to come.