By Brant Daughtry
Over The Hump
The Bulldogs of Starkville are led by Chris Jans, who is in just his first season as head coach at MSU. In fact, he’s the last hire that now-Auburn athletic director John Cohen made before departing for the Plains. Before heading to Starkville, Jans was a very successful coach at New Mexico State, leading the Aggies to three NCAA Tournament appearances. He also was an assistant at Wichita State in the mid-2000’s, a part of that dominant run the Shockers went on from 2015-2017.
This year’s Mississippi State team has a good overall record at 12-4, but has started rough in conference play, going 1-3 so far in the SEC. In the NET rankings, they sit at 49th, with losing records in both quad 1 and quad 2 matchups. Like Auburn, they are built on defense, holding opponents to less than 60 points per game on average. It should be noted though, that those numbers are more than a little inflated due to quality of competition. Playing against Alabama and Tennessee, as well as two teams near the bottom of the conference, they’ve averaged nearer to giving up 70 points. Offensively, they’re less intimidating. They don’t shoot particularly well from three, hovering around 30%. They haven’t shot super well at all honestly, as they hover at 40% shooting as a whole.
Players to Watch For:
Center Tolu Smith, #1- Smith is first or second in just about every major category for State, leading them in points and rebounds, with 13.6 and 7.6 respectively. The 6’11” 5th year senior will be matched up Johni Broome for most of this game, and Broome will need to continue the run he’s on to handle Smith.
Forward DJ Jeffries, #0- For everything Smith is first and second in, Jeffries is second or first. These two big guys are what make Mississippi State go, and Auburn will have to slow them down to win this game.
I was pretty harsh on this basketball team a few weeks ago. I think every talking head was. But since then, this team has really picked it up. Johni Broome, Allen Flanigan, and Wendell Green have become Auburn’s go-to players, while Jaylin Williams has become a very solid option. Zep Jasper is still a fantastic defensive specialist, while starting to contribute more on offense. Not only did Auburn show it can beat a good team in Arkansas, it showed it could go on the road against a middle-of-the-pack team in Ole Miss and take care of business. I haven’t raised my expectations for Auburn to the point of them winning the SEC, but a top-4 seed in the conference tournament is definitely in play. Auburn has shown it has the talent to hold serve at home and play well enough on the road to beat non-elite teams. Now all the team needs is a little consistency. This game on Saturday is a great opportunity to show it.