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Points of Emphasis: Louisville vs. Mississippi State

Here are the more significant storylines to follow ahead of Louisville's men's basketball's matchup with Mississippi State:

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Following their close win over Detroit Mercy, the Louisville men's basketball program is heading to Nassau for the Baha Mar Hoops Bahamas Championship, and Mississippi State is up first. Tip-off is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 27 at 9:30 p.m. EST.

Here are a few of the more significant storylines to follow ahead of the Cardinals' matchup against the Bulldogs:

Hot Start

While Mississippi State might not have had the most daunting schedule to open up their season, they did what many people wanted Louisville to do: they took care of business and left no doubt.

The Bulldogs currently sit at a perfect 4-0 on the season, one of 46 remaining teams in Division I with a spotless record. Of course, the caveat here is that none of the teams Mississippi State has played so far rank inside KenPom's top 150: North Alabama, Montana, Detroit Mercy and Morehead State.

But in those games, the Bulldogs made sure they would be no late game drama. They have won those four games by an average of 24.0 points, the 17th-highest mark in D1. This included a 13-point win over Detroit Mercy - a team which Louisville only beat by six, and was tied with in the final two minutes.

Working the Portal

In this day and age, recruiting the transfer portal has become just as important as recruiting out of high school. This past offseason, Mississippi State absolutely nailed it.

The Bulldogs welcomed a four-member transfer class: North Carolina's Garrison Brooks, Memphis' D.J. Jeffries, NC State's Shakeel Moore and Michigan State's Rocket Watts. Those four alone comprised of 2,388 combined points before arriving at Mississippi State, so it's no surprise that the bulk of the Bulldogs' scoring is coming from them.

Returning guard Iverson Molinar is the leading scorer at 15.8 points per game; but Moore, Brooks and Jeffries are right behind him. That trio averages 36.6 of Mississippi State's 76.0 points per game, with every one of them reaching double figures. Watts has been limited so far this season due to injury.

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Moore and Jeffries lead the team in three-point shooting, at 46.7 and 52.4 percent, respectively, while Brooks' 7.3 rebounds is a team-best as well. The only major category in which this trio does not lead Mississippi State is in assists, as Molinar sports 5.2 per game.

The Ben Howland Special

Early on, Mississippi State has a solid offense. Despite only scoring 76.0 points per game, their field goal percentage of 52.0 is 14th in the nation, the three-point percentage of 45.7 is second to San Diego's 48.1.

But like any other team under the guidance of head coach Ben Howland, the Bulldogs have a slow-paced, gritty defense that is tough to score on. Through the first four games of the season, that has certainly materialized.

Mississippi State is holding teams to just 34.2 percent from the floor, good for 14th in D1, and are averaging 10.5 steals per game - which is 27th. True to form, the Bulldogs' defensive tempo ranks 341st in the nation, according to KenPom.

It's not the Virginia pack-line defense, as Howland normally goes with man-to-man, but it's just as effective. Mississippi State is allowing only 37.6 percent on two-point attempts, and their opponents have been forced to take looks on the perimeter more often than not. 50.2 of the total field goal attempts taken against the Bulldogs are three-pointers.

(Photo of Samuell Williamson: Sam Upshaw Jr. - Courier Journal via Imagn Content Services, LLC)

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