Mississippi State’s Rick Ray joined the rest of the league’s coaches on the SEC Coaches’ Teleconference on Monday. Ray recapped the Bulldogs’ win over Florida State on Friday and previewed their upcoming game against Tennessee.
Here’s a transcript of Ray’s time on the call…
Ray: “Coming off our best non-conference win when we beat Florida State in our last game, I hope that gives us the momentum of going into the SEC season. I think this team right now is on an upward motion. We’ve had a lot of various injuries. We’ve only been able to practice as a team for only two practices where we’ve had everybody as a full roster.
“Going up against a Tennessee team that really does a good job of attacking our weaknesses. We don’t’ shoot the ball really well, and they play 100 percent zone. They’re always in that 2-2-1 press and we’re in the bottom of the conference as far as assist to turnover ratio. We’ve got to make sure we shore up our weaknesses if we’re going to have success against Tennessee.”
How have Craig Sword and Gavin Ware played to date?
Ray: “Craig Sword hasn’t had a great season thus far. I think that’s really due to him coming off of back surgery. He still doesn’t have the explosiveness and athleticism that he possesses. I think that’s his biggest strength as a basketball player. But it’s slowly starting to come back. He’s starting to get some of those fast twitch fibers coming through and getting to the rim and make some plays.
“The biggest thing he’s still struggling with right now is getting into basketball shape where he can be out there long periods of time and still be an affective basketball player.
“Gavin Ware is coming off a sprained ankle that kept him out for about 15 days. He still doesn’t have his wind back yet. He wasn’t at 100-percent during our last game against Florida State but with the foul trouble that Fallou Ndoye had, if we didn’t have Gavin Ware we simply don’t win that basketball game.
“Hopefully those guys will continue to take steps because we need them. They are our best two offensive players. Gavin’s a back to the basket guy that can score and Craig Sword is a guy that can attack off the bounce.”
Kentucky seems to be the favorite this year and everybody else is playing for second. What do you make of that?
Ray: “I haven’t had a chance to see a lot because you’re so wrapped up in your own team, scouting and getting ready for the next opponent. I’ve seen some games casually. My take is that Arkansas is a pretty good team from what I’ve seen so far with the way they play and the pressure they apply. They’re going to be a hard team to play against.
“I think LSU is a really, really talented ball club. They’ve got some new components there and they’re trying to figure out a way to play together. But I think those guys are really talented.
“I’ve seen a little bit of Ole Miss and they way they change defenses and they can give you problems with that zone. I know Florida is going to be a quality ball club. I know they are having their struggles with injuries right now.
“I think you can see that Kentucky is not just ahead of everybody else in the SEC but ahead of everybody else in the country. You’ve got three or four teams that could be vying for that second place in the SEC and a jumble that could end up being sixth or 14th. I think it’s that close.”