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Monday, April 9, 2012
So, about Mississippi State

By Eamonn Brennan

There are rebuilding programs, and then there's this.

That's the immediate and obvious reaction I had when reading the latest out of Starkville, Miss. Sunday night, just after whatever it was that happened on "Mad Men." (To be honest, I'm not really sure. I'm a couple of episodes behind, and I spent most of the night ducking Twitter's all-hours spoiler routine.) Indeed, it went from bad to worse at Mississippi State: Freshman guard Rodney Hood is transferring out of the program, newly appointed head coach Rick Ray announced in a statement:
"Obviously, we are disappointed in Rodney's decision," Ray said. "I was looking forward to getting a chance to develop and coach him. This decision, unfortunately, was made before my hire. The Hoods were forthright and honest about where they were when I met with them, and I appreciate their honesty.

"I look forward to putting together a team with the current members, rolling up our sleeves and recruiting new Bulldogs."
At least Ray isn't sugar-coating it. Because right now, there aren't many Bulldogs to speak of.

That's meant as no offense to Jalen Steele and Wendell Lewis -- who immediately become the Bulldogs' leading returners in points (12.5, combined) and minutes (44.8, again combined) per game. Both Steele and Lewis proved themselves in 2012 as completely competent Division-I men's basketball players. And there are a couple of freshman, most notably DeVille Smith, in the program right now. So, you know, there's that. (Update: DeVille Smith left the program in late March, so nevermind that part.)

But the exodus of talent has been breathtaking to behold. Arnett Moultrie, gone. Dee Bost, gone. Renardo Sidney, gone in a blaze of glory:
"So, I was thinking, he’s going to sit me out until about four or five minutes left in the second half. I still didn’t get in the game. There were two overtimes. He turned his back on me, so after the game I just left. I said I was out, meaning I was not going back to the school or playing for Mississippi State."

Anyway, now Hood, a 6-foot-8 SEC all-freshman team member and a top-40 player in his ESPNU recruiting class, who managed to average 10.3 points and 4.8 rebounds despite playing in the vortex of bad vibes that was Starkville last season, has wisely seen that the program is in a relative shambles and has decided to ply his trade somewhere less bombed out and depleted. And can you blame him? Of course not. This is, unfortunately, where Mississippi State is. Rick Stansbury is gone, the players who formed the backbone (ahem) of what could have been an excellent team in 2011-12 have fallen away, and what is left is Rick Ray's elbow grease and pluck.

Really, let's wish him the best of luck. It's going to be a long offseason -- and, barring a relative miracle, an even longer 2012-13.

(Oh, and hi there. My mini post-Final Four blog siesta is over. Welcome to the offseason, everyone. Let's see if we can't keep ourselves entertained over the next few months, huh?)