The Arizona State Sun Devils and Mississippi State Bulldogs tip off their respective seasons on Wednesday in Chicago and while most teams enter the season at full strength, that is not the case for Mississippi State.
Arizona State Sun Devils vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs (-4.5, 134.5)
Tolu Smith, who was the only player who averaged at least 10 points per game for the Bulldogs last season with 15.7 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, will not play on Wednesday and could potentially be out until the start of SEC play.
Smith was a key piece for Mississippi State’s defensive success as well last season, which ranked eighth overall in fewest points allowed on a per-possession basis and third in this same category when playing on the road.
The loss of Smith will likely lead to Mississippi State relying a bit more on a backcourt that ranked 363rd out of 363 Division I college basketball teams last season in 3-point shooting percentage.
The addition of Marshall guard Andrew Taylor should help the Bulldogs’ outside shooting after averaging 20.2 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game on 36.4% 3-point shooting one season ago.
As for Arizona State, it returns assist leader Frankie Collins, who logged 9.7 points and 4.3 assists per game for a unit that ranked 74th in turnovers per possession last season while Mississippi State ranked 227th.
The Sun Devils also were one of the best teams in denying opponents clean looks at the basket last season, ranking 12th in the nation in opponent field goal shooting percentage and second in opponent 2-point shooting percentage in away games.
There is also uncertainty at the free throw line for Mississippi State if it’s a close game — shooting just 62.9% at the free throw line in away games last season, which ranked 350th in the nation.
Even with the addition of Taylor, the Bulldogs’ 3-point shooting is suspect and with Tolu Smith out of the lineup, the Sun Devils will find a way to claw out a cover and possibly win outright in a gritty defensive battle.
The Play: Arizona State +4.5