Frontcourt dominance highlights Mississippi State’s all-time starting 5
Editor’s note: SDS is selecting an all-time starting 5 for every SEC program, all part of our expanded coverage of March Madness.
The Mississippi State Bulldogs are on their way to New York City, where they’ll compete in the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden on March 27.
After a strong season under coach Ben Howland, winning the NIT would be a big boost to the Mississippi State program and provide plenty of momentum heading into the 2018-19 season.
The Bulldogs haven’t made it to the NCAA Tournament since 2009, though, so Howland will need to get his team to March Madness soon to keep the program moving forward. The Bulldogs have plenty of talented athletes on their roster, but none has become an all-time great just yet.
Mississippi State’s men’s basketball history isn’t the richest in the SEC, but there have been plenty of talented forwards and centers who have come through the program. And the Bulldogs have had some success in the NCAA Tournament as well, making it all the way to the Final Four in 1996 under Richard Williams.
Howland will try to find the next crop of players who can earn their way on this list, but for now, here’s a look at the Bulldogs’ all-time starting 5:
G: Dee Bost (2009-12)
Every good team needs a good point guard, and Bost was unquestionably the best in Mississippi State history. He did everything you could ask of a point guard, averaging 13.4 points, 5.2 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game during his four years in Starkville.
He ranks first on Mississippi State’s all-time assists list, sixth in points, fourth in 3-pointers and third in steals. Those are categories where you expect a star point guard to affect a game, and Bost filled that role perfectly.
Despite playing on four teams with winning records, he only made it to the NCAA Tournament as a freshman, where he lost in the first round.
G: Jeff Malone (1980-83)
Malone’s senior season at Mississippi State in 1982-83 was one of the best in SEC history, as he averaged a whopping 26.8 points per game while earning the SEC’s Player of the Year award.
For his career, he averaged 19.5 points per game and finished as the Bulldogs’ all-time leading scorer, with 2,142 points. Malone scored 777 points as a senior, and that ranks No. 1 on MSU’s single-season scoring list, too.
The Bulldogs didn’t have much success during Malone’s time in Starkville, finishing above .500 only once (1982-83) and never making it to the NCAA Tournament. Malone didn’t affect the game in many other ways, but man, could he score.
Malone played at a time when the SEC hadn’t yet implemented a 3-point line, so it would have been interesting to see how many more points the star guard could have scored in his career.
F: Jarvis Varnado (2007-2010)
Varnado may have only been 6-9, but he could block shots with the best of them. He swatted 564 shots, more than twice the amount of blocks the second player on the Bulldogs’ all-time list had (Erick Dampier with 249).
He also managed to grab his fair share of rebounds, finishing second on MSU’s all-time list with 1,096. He wasn’t as much of a scorer as some other players on this list, placing only 16th with 1,403 points, but he could impact the game in so many other ways.
As a senior during the 2009-10 season, Varnado averaged a double-double, scoring 13.8 points and grabbing 10.3 boards per game (while also averaging 4.7 blocks). He was a strong two-way player and no one enjoyed driving the lane when he was on defense.
His teams made two NCAA Tournaments, winning their first-round game in 2007-08 before falling in the second round.
F: Bailey Howell (1957-59)
Howell was, without a doubt, the most dominant player in Mississippi State history, and he did all of his damage in only three varsity seasons. He utterly dominated the SEC, scoring 27.1 points and grabbing 17 rebounds per game during his 75 games.
The Bulldogs their best season when Howell was a senior, going 24-1. The Bulldogs didn’t participate in the 23-team NCAA Tournament that year, but it doesn’t take away from Howell’s huge numbers. That year alone, he averaged 27.5 points and 15.2 rebounds per game.
Even though he played 60 years ago, he still ranks No. 2 on Mississippi State’s all-time scoring list, with 2,030 points. He also ranks No. 1 on the rebounding list, with 1,277 over his illustrious career.
C: Rickey Brown (1977-80)
Interestingly, Brown’s best seasons came as a freshman and as a senior, with slight dips in production as a sophomore and junior. In his first year in Starkville, he averaged 19.3 points and 10.8 rebounds. He then bookended that with an impressive senior year, scoring 20.5 points and grabbing 14.4 boards a night.
The Bulldogs finished below .500 (13-14) during Brown’s senior year, but that doesn’t diminish his solid career. He still ranks No. 3 on the Bulldogs’ all-time rebounding list with 1,092 boards and No. 4 on the all-time scoring list with 1,838 points.
With Brown providing even more scoring and rebounding to this hypothetical all-time starting five, the Bulldogs can put a formidable unit out on the court. It may have taken them seven decades to do it, but they can trot out a starting lineup that can more than hold its own against the rest of the SEC.