We lost to a better team.
That sounds like an oversimplification at best and a cop out at worst, but that concept really does explain the entirety of our SEC slate this season.
Texas A&M Basketball was 6-3 against the bottom half of the conference, and 0-9 against the top half. We could hold our own against the teams in our tier, and we were comfortably better than the dregs… but against the good teams in this conference, it just wasn’t there.
This was more of the same.
Is It You Or Is It Me?
Yet again, our opposition came out of the blocks shooting extraordinarily well from beyond the arc, this time dropping 9/17 in the first half. Are we the unluckiest team of all time? Or is it easy to exploit our defense on tape and attack it relentlessly until the halftime adjustments kick in. I’ll let you decide.
Mitchell and Chandler were up for the fight early, which is why we were able to keep this thing relatively close until a late 9-2 run kicked the deficit up to a dozen.
Halftime Score: Mississippi State 46, Texas A&M 34
Playing Out The String
We cut it to nine a couple of times, but we never really made a run to get back in it. Mitchell eventually cooled off / got in some foul trouble, and our offense never recovered. State had no such problems on their offensive end, and it didn’t take them long to bump the lead to twenty. That’s about where it hovered for the final eight minutes of the game, with only some meaningless garbage time buckets left to cut the final deficit to eleven.
Final Score: Mississippi State 91, Texas A&M 80
- The Bulldogs were 16-34 from beyond the arc, which is the fourth time this year someone has hit 16+. To answer my earlier question, at some point you stop being unlucky, and you start becoming a bad defensive team.
- Flagg actually got a break! The poor guy played all 40 minutes against South Carolina and Vanderbilt, but we did let him rest with a paltry 38 minutes in Starkville. He played well, with 23 points on 8-15 shooting, and it was yet another loss where there was no blood on his hands.
- Jay Jay Chandler has very quietly shot well from downtown in his last four games, dropping 7-12 to close the season. This is something to file away for next year, as another consistent outside shooter would do wonders for this team.
- Mark French! The recently-scholarshipped 5-8 sparkplug had 10 points on the evening, which is by far his career high. He has played hard all season, and I’m glad he found some offensive success.
I’m calling my shot: Billy Kennedy will not be retained for the 2019-2020 season. I want to get my prediction on the record, and I want to explain how I came to this conclusion.
Namely, it’s the business, not the basketball, that’s going to finally do him in.
Consider our final two home games to close the season - an ugly victory against 0-18 Vanderbilt, and a 17-point loss (our sixth home beating by 15+ of the season) to middling South Carolina. Both games were played in a cavernously empty and lifeless Reed Arena, and both games barely moved the needle for anyone but the most diehard hoops fans. We cannot have that as our jumping off point for the 2019-2020 season. Hell, if we do that, we might draw 500 fans to our home opener.
But it gets worse - Billy Kennedy has two years left on his contract. If we retain him, we have to extend him, as it would be program suicide to send someone on the recruiting trail with only one year left on their deal. Do that, and you risk doing legitimate, long-term damage to your program. As such, we only have two choices: terminate or extend.
Scott Woodward is a smart guy, and he knows what the Men’s Basketball finances can look like when the program is rolling. When we meet our end in Nashville, something will be announced quickly. My guess is that we won’t call it a firing, rather something like “stepping down for health reasons” or a “reassignment to an administrative position.” And just like that, the coaching search will be on.
There’s my two cents. No matter what happens, I’ll be here to help us work through the aftermath.
Next up is Vanderbilt in the opening round of the SEC Tournament on Wednesday night