Asked by Mississippi State beat reporters on Monday whether the Bulldogs have the inner strength to bounce back, junior forward Arnett Moultrie responded bluntly, "Maybe not. Probably not."
The picture Moultrie paints of Mississippi State is that of a rudderless team full of talented players who don't work hard enough to maximize their potential and aren't willing to sacrifice individually to achieve collective success. Moultrie added that there isn't anyone on the roster he turns to for leadership because "everyone has their own agendas."
Senior point guard Dee Bost would seem to be the most likely candidate to lead Mississippi State, but he certainly didn't refute Moultrie's evaluation.
"I say what I say," Bost told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal. "It might go in one ear and out the other. We're grown men."
The in-fighting and finger pointing doesn't reflect well on Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury or a Bulldogs program that rarely seems to perform up to its talent level. Mississippi State has an all-conference senior point guard in Bost, a stud freshman in Rodney Hood and two pro prospects in the paint in Moultrie and Renardo Sidney, yet the Bulldogs are 6-8 in the SEC and in jeopardy of missing the NCAA tournament.
The reason Mississippi State is in this position is because of three straight losses to lower division SEC teams Georgia, LSU and Auburn earlier this month. The Bulldogs flashed their tantalizing potential again in pushing top-ranked Kentucky to the final two minutes before reverting back to their previous form on Saturday in a 67-50 loss to fellow bubble team Alabama.
At a time when players from losing teams are insisting they still have hope of making an unlikely conference tournament run, Moultrie's lack of faith in Mississippi State is very damning. Heck, many mock brackets still have the Bulldogs in the field and their two remaining regular season games against South Carolina and Arkansas aren't exactly daunting.
If Mississippi State wins those two games and maybe a game in the SEC tournament, it's hard to envision the selection committee leaving the Bulldogs out. On the other hand, given the fractured state of the program right now, that strong finish isn't something anybody should count on.
- Mississippi State