Mississippi State Basketball: SEC Tournament Preview
This season has been quite the rollercoaster for Ben Howland and Mississippi State (14-13, 8-10 SEC). For example, a 15-point drubbing of No. 13 Missouri followed up a home loss to struggling Kentucky. The Bulldogs knocked off tournament-bound Florida right after a frustrating loss to Texas A&M.
At the end of the day, Mississippi State finished ninth in the Southeastern Conference, three ahead of its predicted finish at the beginning of the season. However, the lows seemed to outweigh the highs all season long. Howland’s young club showed promise at points throughout the season but couldn’t get over the hump.
With the regular season in the rearview mirror, Mississippi State now turns its attention to the SEC Tournament. The Bulldogs grabbed the 9-seed, which sets up a rematch with 8th-seeded Kentucky on Thursday. If State can avenge the double-overtime loss and beat the Wildcats this time around, a matchup with top-seeded Alabama on Friday awaits.
There’s no debate. Mississippi State will have to run the table this weekend to find a spot in the NCAA Tournament this year. Running the table means winning four games in four days. It may sound improbable, but crazier things have happened. CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein says it best…
There’s reason to believe that Mississippi State could make a run in this year’s SEC Tournament. After all, the Bulldogs led Kentucky for a majority of the game back in early January. MSU also gave Alabama all they could handle in both matchups this season.
If State can get by both Kentucky and Alabama, the semi-final opponent would likely be either 5-seed Florida or 4-seed Tennessee. MSU has already defeated Florida this year and showed that they could play with the Vols, losing by just three on the road.
A semi-final win would put the Bulldogs into Sunday’s championship game. Continuing on this hypothetical, the favorites to meet MSU in the championship would be Arkansas and LSU. Both teams beat State handily during the season, but Mississippi State played its worst defensive game against LSU and had its worst offensive game against Arkansas.
Both LSU and Arkansas are locks for the NCAA Tournament, and MSU would be more motivated with a tournament bid on the line. College basketball can also be extremely unpredictable, especially in March.
Conference tournament week is always full of surprises. Mississippi State could very well be one of those come Sunday.