No. 8 Alabama set to face No. 21 Mississippi State in Starkville

Mathey Gibson, Staff Reporter

After an eight-day break, Nate Oats’ squad is back on the hardwood.  

On Wednesday, No. 8 Alabama will hit the road and prepare for a matchup with Chris Jans’ No. 21 Mississippi State Bulldogs for the Crimson Tide’s (10-2) opener to SEC play.  

The Bulldogs (11-1) suffered their first loss of the season last time out, falling to Drake, 58-52.  

Leading the way for Mississippi State is Tolu Smith, an imposing 6-foot-10, 245-pound forward averaging 15.6 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game to kick off his senior campaign on the pasture.  

Following Smith in the frontcourt are D.J. Jeffries and Cameron Matthews, a pair of bruising, yet nimble 6-foot-7 wings with lockdown ability on the perimeter.  

After 12 games, the Bulldogs are scoring 68.3 points per game, shooting 42.7% from the field, and assisting on 15.6 made shots, but the offensive side of the ball is not where Jans’ team has found its niche. 

Heading into Wednesday’s contest, Mississippi State ranks 5th nationally in adjusted defense, 9th in effective field goal percentage, 6th in two-point percentage, 4th in steal percentage and 23rd in block percentage. 

While the Bulldogs are among the nation’s best defensively, they’ll have their hands full with an Alabama team that looks destined for a deep run in March. 

“I watched them over the break and it took away some of my Christmas spirit at times,” Jans said. “They’ve got so many positives. They’ve got so much length, so much skill and depth. They’re well-coached, they’re confident and they’re battle-tested. They’ve been exposed to the best and the brightest coaches, players, and schemes.”  

The Crimson Tide will be eager to get back one of their key cogs in freshman forward Noah Clowney, who missed the Jackson State game with an illness. 

“We just, myself included, haven’t been feeling great,” Oats said prior to their 84-64 victory over the Tigers. “There’s just a lot of different stuff going around. … I’m not a doctor, so I’m not going to speak to the immune systems. It seems like there’s just a lot more going around this year.” 

As of Tuesday, the analytics service KenPom projects an 68-67 win for Alabama — a 54% chance at victory. ESPN’s matchup predictor sees it as a 50-50 split.  

In any scenario, the Crimson Tide will likely have their hands full at Humphrey Coliseum in what should be a terrific top-25 matchup. 

Tipoff for No. 8 Alabama and No. 21 Mississippi State in Starkville, Mississippi, is set for Wednesday, Dec. 28th, at 8:00 p.m. CT on SEC Network.   

Questions or comments? Email Blake Byler (Sports Editor) at [email protected]