The Arizona Wildcats and Mississippi State Bulldogs will square off in Madison Square Garden on Friday evening to play for the 2K Sports Classic championship game. UA battled and made the finale by knocking off St. John's, while Mississippi State dominated Texas A&M.
We'll get to the breakdown of the players and matchups in a moment, but there is one aspect of the game that has to be very concerning for both coaches: conditioning. Each side will be less then 24 hours removed from their last game and fatigue could become an issue.
While both programs like to use depth to their advantage, the season is still very young and none of the players are in shape like they will be once conference play rolls around. If it's a closely contested slugfest throughout the game, expect sloppy play and a lot of turnovers.
The Bulldogs' leading scorer is Dee Bost. The senior guard has reached double-digits in points in each of their first four games and has eclipsed the 20-point mark twice. For being undersized, he has done a solid job rebounding the ball and pushing tempo for MSST. In addition, freshman point-forward Rodney Hood has played very well thus far and could create matchup problems for Arizona.
Mississippi State's biggest advantage on Friday evening will be their size. The Wildcats lack a true presence in the paint and MSST features two of the better post players in the SEC. 6'11, 230 pound power forward Arnett Moultrie is averaging a double-double and is one of the more athletic big men in the nation. His play has been inconsistent at times, but he could dominate UA.
Rinardo Sidney is the other big man for the Bulldogs. Despite dropping 30 pounds in the offseason, Sidney still clocks in at an intimidating 275 pounds. He's a big boy, folks. Because of his level on conditioning he has been unable to put up any eye-popping stats, though he can be a load in the paint.
With the potential matchup problems looming for Arizona, expect to see a lot of Kyryl Natyazhko, Angelo Chol and Sidiki Johnson this evening. After seldom playing against St. John's, these three will play a big role if the Wildcats hope to win.
Matchup To Watch: Kyle Fogg vs. Dee Bost
TV Coverage: The game is set for tipoff at 6:30 in Madison Square Garden, which is 4:30 in Tucson. ESPN2 will carry the game live.
Starting Lineup: Arizona will likely start the way they have started their past three games: Jordin Mayes, Kyle Fogg, Solomon Hill, Jesse Perry and Kyryl Natyazhko.
Final Predictions: I think the Wildcats fall for the first time today. The Bulldogs have an intimidating post presence and they will dominate the rebounding game with their size and athleticism. Arizona will hang in throughout most of the game, but in the end, our lack of quality big men do us in. Mississippi State wins 68-62.