Charles Rhodes scored 34 points to lead Mississippi State's dominant post play past Oregon in the first round.
What was noticeable, though, was the lack of offensive production from most other members of the Bulldog team. This will have to change if the Bulldogs hope to beat 1-seed Memphis on Sunday.
The Bulldogs face an opponent who has only lost one game, being to SEC foe Tennessee. However, they also face an opponent whose only real competition in the last three months was that one team that they lost to.
So let's break down the key matchups, shall we?
The Big Men: Memphis boasts some very athletic big men in Robert Dozier and Joey Dorsey. Dorsey also has a large 265 pound frame, but he doesn't exactly do much in terms of offense. Dozier is the third leading scorer on the team, but he only averages 9.4 points a game.
Mississippi State will match that by putting Jarvis Varnado on Dozier. Varnado, of course, is the nation's leading shot blocker, and will most likely cause Dozier fits. Charles Rhodes (who is about 35 pounds heavier than the lanky Varnado) is now the team's leading scorer, and with 17.5 ppg and a great deal of versatility, he will give the larger Dorsey quite a difficult defensive task. Rhodes can, after all, take it from anywhere within the arc, so don't be surprised if you see him bust out a few rare crossovers to blow right past the defender.
Also, don't forget that Rhodes isn't all offense. I wouldn't be alarmed if I see him frustrating Dozier or even covering Chris Douglas-Roberts.
Rose and Gordon: Obviously, this is the premiere match-up. You see the freshman phenom going up against the All-SEC 1st teamer. Rose averages 14 a game, Gordon 17. Neither of them really focus much on the three pointer, either, so that makes them fairly even. However, Gordon does out-weigh Rose by about 20 pounds (of muscle) and he will use that to his advantage. I don't really see these guys doing too much besides canceling each other out, though.
The X-Factor: The obvious key to victory will be whether or not State can stop Chris Douglas-Roberts. Roberts is an interesting person to have the a team like Memphis because he is a very solid basketball player, and not just a great athlete.
The thing is, though, that he will probably be matched up against Ben Hansbrough. Hansbrough has the ability to score 20 points, but doesn't do that often, so Roberts won't have to worry about guarding him too much. However, Ben is the most tenacious defender on the Mississippi State team, even more constantly active than Varnado. He may be shorter than Roberts, but look to him to challenge every shot and come up with several defensive stops and steals.
The Bottom Line: Rhodes will more likely than not continue his beastly scoring streak, and I see him outscoring Dozier and Dorsey if he has the chance. Gordon and Rose will be going at each other and most likely trying too hard all night. Hansbrough will try as hard as he can to stop Roberts, and the Memphis bench will have to really pick up the slack on offense, which they are more than capable of doing.
If Barry Stewart and Ben Hansbrough find their shot, however, I think you'll see Mississippi State shocking the nation. Just watch those two and three guard matchups to be the deciding point.
Memphis hasn't faced but one strong opponent in several months. I think they're just a little too out of practice and a little too overrated to pull one out against a highly motivated Mississippi State ball club.
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