I've Never Seen Anything Quite Like the "Miss" State Offense

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First and foremost, congratulations to the Pitt Panthers on a gritty win last night against the Mississippi State Bulldogs to advance to the Round of 64.  Their first NCAA Tournament win since 2014.  

The players gutted out an incredible defensive effort, and overcame an injury that kept Fede Federiko out of the game, and early foul trouble for Jamarius Burton that kept him out for a majority of the game.  It truly feels like the trajectory of the program has changed in a great way.  I couldn't be prouder waking up a Pitt fan.

It was a close 60-59 win, but that doesn't really tell the full story.  Guillermo Diaz-Graham was giving up 50 pounds to his opponents underneath, but still played great defensively.  He just couldn't get any position underneath, leading to very few rebounds and layups for the big man.  It was also the most minutes he's every played.  Had Federiko played, or Burton played more than 19 minutes, the 1-point deficit would have instead been double digits in Pitt's favor.  

That being said, I have never seen anything like what Mississippi State calls an offense.  My wife and I are huge college basketball fans.  Once the calendar flips to January, there aren't many nights we aren't falling asleep to a college basketball game on the TV.  Whatever the best game on any of the major networks is for the evening, we pop it on after dinner.  Therefore, I feel like I can speak on several different styles of offense in college basketball.  Mississippi State's is the worst I have seen all season, and potentially the worst I've ever seen out of a tournament team.

I'm truly not sure how Mississippi St beat any team that had a single capable rebounder.  Pitt, without Federiko, was beaten badly on the boards.  They outrebounded Pitt 42-25, and five of those rebounds came in the last five minutes of the game.  It was a bloodbath under the rim.  Any other team given that many second, third, and sometimes even fourth, chances would have scored 120 points.  Instead, the Bulldogs scored 59 points because they were 24 of 63 from the field and 6 of 23 from three point range.  I mean they really put the "Miss" in Miss St.  See what I did there? 

And this wasn't just an off night for Mississippi State.  They've been known to be a bad shooting team.  However, when I think of bad shooting, I think of a lot of front rims being hit or a few in-and-outs.  No.  That wasn't the case last night.  

Most of Mississippi St's shots weren't particularly close to going in.  You know those shots that big men take from 3, like once per game, that clang midway up the backboard and they don't take another three pointer the rest of the night?  Mississippi State had about six of those shots.  I've never seen shots hit the back board and miss the rim on jumpers as much as I did last night when Mississippi St was on offense.

Plus, it wasn't just shooting.  The Bulldogs had a 14-1 turnover to steal ratio.  Meaning Mississippi State turned the ball over 14 times, but only actively had a hand in one of Pitt's six total turnovers.  These turnovers were also foolish looking.  Passes from the Bulldogs were either directly to the Panthers or out of bounds.  They had travels and double dribbles and silly offensive fouls.  Again, if anyone other than the 200 lb Diaz-Graham (and that's what he's listed at which is generous) was underneath the basket, Pitt wins by 10 or more.  

Even on the last play, Pitt was willing to give Shakeel Moore of Mississippi State a wide open 3-pointer from the corner because they knew it wouldn't drop.  Then D.J. Jeffries had a put back that probably should have went in as well.  It didn't.

By every conceivable measure Pitt should have lost that game last night.  They were heavily outmanned with Federiko out and Burton on the bench for 21 of the 40 minutes.  They were heavily outrebounded, giving Mississippi St many second (and third and fourth) chance opportunities, and Blake Hinson didn't get an open look all game.  His two 3-pointers were from the logo in the middle of the court.  

Pitt should have lost.  Not because of effort or talent, but because of the circumstances of who was out for Pitt.  But they played outstanding defensively on top of the worst offensive effort I've seen in a very long time from Mississippi St.  It made me rethink the entire way I judged the SEC in my bracket.  

However, I would like to end this blog with again congratulating the Panthers on what felt like a boxing match.  They battled incredibly hard and I really look forward to their game against Iowa State on Friday.