January 8, 2011

Alabama preview

The last time Mississippi State and Alabama met on the hardwood a capacity crowd was on hand to watch Jarvis Varnado break the NCAA all-time record for blocked shots.

Another packed house at Humphrey Coliseum is expected today as Bulldog fans anticipate the return of junior point guard Dee Bost and the home debut of former blue chip prospect Renardo Sidney at 3 p.m.

Bost missed MSU's first 14 games this season after failing to withdraw his name from the NBA Draft by the deadline. Also last spring he did not meet the universities academic standards so he was ruled ineligible to play during the fall semester. His NCAA mandated nine-game suspension did not begin until Dec. 11.

Sidney missed the first 45 games of his career after it was ruled that he and his family received extra benefits while in high school. When he was finally eligible to play Sidney has been the center of much controversy for the Bulldogs appearing in only two games while being suspended for two others. The former McDonald's All-American was benched one game for an outburst at practice and the past two for a brawl in the bleachers in Hawaii with then teammate Elgin Bailey.

State has struggled during the non-conference slate without those two stars. The Bulldogs are 8-6 overall having lost four of their last five contests by an average of 22.5 points.

Alabama leads the all-time series between the twin state rivals 112-72 but has not won in Starkville since 2005. The Bulldogs have also won seven of the last 10 matchups in the series. The two teams split last season with the Crimson Tide taking a 62-57 victory in Tuscaloosa before Mississippi State won 74-66 at home.

The Bulldogs have had success of late in conference openers. MSU is 10-2 under Rick Stansbury when debuting in league play and is 18-2 in the last 20 years including a 56-52 win over the Tide in 1998.

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