October 29, 2015

Mississippi State

Last season: 13-19, failed to make the postseason.

Nickname: Bulldogs. Coach: Ben Howland.

Conference: Southeastern.

Key returners: A group of experienced seniors includes Craig Sword, Fred Thomas and Gavin Ware. Sword struggled at the beginning of last season because of a back injury, but was very good down the stretch, averaging a team-high 14.4 points per game in conference play. The 6-foot-9 Ware is the team's best returning post player - he averaged 10 points and a team-high 7.1 rebounds last year. Junior point guard I.J. Ready is also back after leading the team with 71 assists last year.

Who left: The Bulldogs will miss the rebounding and toughness of Roquez Johnson, who averaged 9.1 points and 5.8 rebounds last season.

The Skinny: Mississippi State hopes for a quick return to relevance in the SEC under veteran coach Ben Howland. The 58-year-old Howland was hired in March after a difficult three-year stretch under Rick Ray, which included a 37-60 record. The Bulldogs will pair several veterans with prized recruits Malik Newman and Quinndary Weatherspoon. Newman, a 6-foot-3 guard, is expected to be a star immediately. If he can quickly adjust to the college game and mesh with the team's veterans the Bulldogs might be in the mix for a return to the postseason.

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