Interior depth an issue for Bulldogs

By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

STARKVILLE – As much as Mississippi State would love to have Renardo Sidney on the court, the absence of Elgin Bailey has been hurting the Bulldogs, too.
While Sidney’s been kept out due to an NCAA amateurism evaluation, the 6-foot-8, 265-pound Bailey, a junior, has been shut down for the season by an ankle injury that’s been slow to heal. He would’ve played a key role off the bench in relief of starting center Jarvis Varnado.
Varnado is doing just fine, averaging 14.1 points, 11.2 rebounds and 5.3 blocks per game. But freshmen Wendell Lewis and John Riek are his backups, and they don’t yet have what Bailey brings to the table: relentless hustle, rebounding and a strong defensive presence.
“He brought intensity to the game, and then his experience,” Varnado said. “Wendell and John are just not that experienced. We’ve just got make what we do, keep developing Wendell and John in practice every day, and we’ll be fine.”
Bailey suffered a severely dislocated ankle late last season, but he’s yet to fully recover and played in only four games this year before being put on ice. Last season, he averaged 3.9 points and 2.4 rebounds per game.
So it’s basically been up 6-8 junior starter Kodi Augustus and reserves Romero Osby and Phil Turner to add some meat to the frontcourt. Augustus is averaging 9.3 points and 5.8 rebounds per game, while the 6-8 Osby and the 6-3 Turner – who often plays the four spot – are averaging a combined 11.3 points and 7.5 rebounds.
“A guy that can come in and change the flow from an emotional standpoint, make an effort play, make an energy play – that’s why we don’t have it right now,” MSU head coach Rick Stansbury said.

Sidney update
- Will the Bulldogs ever get Sidney on the court? Well, certainly not for Saturday’s game at Alabama (11 a.m., CBS).
While Stansbury said on Monday that he was hopeful of hearing something about Sidney’s fate by week’s end, it’s apparent that whatever news might come won’t be a final resolution to the NCAA’s amateurism evaluation of the 6-10 freshman.
NCAA spokesman Bob Williams told the Daily Journal on Wednesday that the Eligibility Center had not yet completed its response to what MSU filed on Friday, which was a response to the NCAA’s statement of facts regarding its eight-month-long investigation of Sidney and his family.
Williams said the NCAA’s Amateurism Fact-Finding Committee will meet Monday to begin reviewing the statement of facts as well as what each side has filed regarding it. He did not offer a timetable on when the committee might reach a decision on Sidney’s eligibility.
“There were a number of factual issues with which I have considerable disagreements,” said Don Jackson, the Sidneys’ attorney. “Those disagreements were addressed in the recent filing.”

Ranking matters little
- Last time MSU was ranked in the Associated Press poll, at No. 18 in the preseason, it promptly went out and dropped its season opener to Rider. This week, the Bulldogs finally made it back in, at No. 23.
The players aren’t especially excited about it, though.
“I kind of wish we wasn’t ranked, because every time we get ranked, we always lose,” Varnado said.
Point guard Dee Bost, a sophomore, said the team has talked about the ranking and wants to prove it belongs in the top 25, “try to stay ranked and be one of the premier teams in the country.”

Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or brad.locke@djournal.com.