Mississippi State basketball wrapped up the majority of its non-conference slate in Tuesday’s loss to Drake. Despite the loss, an 11-1 start has Bulldog fans rightfully excited about Chris Jans’ debut season. With SEC play beginning next week, let’s take a look at how the Bulldogs’ resume shapes up to this point.
Mississippi State Basketball’s NET Ranking and Quad Wins
MSU went into their game with Drake ranked #14 in the NET. Following the loss, they saw a fairly sharp drop down to #29, and as of Thursday, they sit at #27. While no longer in “high seed” territory, a top-30 NET rank would still have MSU comfortably in the field as an at-large bid were the tournament to start today. Here’s how their record breaks down into NET quadrants:
Quad 1: 2-0
Quad 2: 0-1
Quad 3: 1-0
Quad 4: 8-0
MSU still owns a pair of Q1 victories over Marquette and Utah, ranking #35 and #41 in the NET, respectively. As neutral-site opponents, they will need to remain within the top 50 of the NET to continue counting as Q1 wins. Drake’s NET rank is #83, making that a Q2 loss for MSU. While that’s a bit too low to consider a “quality loss”, it’s by no means a black eye on the resume. Also a neutral-site opponent, Drake will need to remain in the top 100 of the NET to stay in the Q2 category.
MSU’s NET Strength of Schedule isn’t a positive at the time being, ranking #290. This is due to a largely weak non-conference slate. Their NET Out of Conference Strength of Schedule ranks #284. That OOC SOS should improve some at the end of January when MSU hosts its final non-conference opponent, TCU, in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge. The Horned Frogs are currently #63 in the NET and could easily rank higher by the time the Bulldogs face them, assuming they’ve added more quality wins in Big 12 play. Playing in the SEC will of course go a long way towards improving MSU’s overall SOS, with 14 games upcoming against teams currently within the top 100 of the NET.
Other Metric Ranks
While NET is heavily factored into tournament selection, and is certainly the most frequently-discussed evaluation tool, it isn’t the only metric used by the selection committee to field the tournament. Here’s where MSU ranks in the other metrics:
As you can see, other metrics aren’t quite as high on the Bulldogs as the NET is. However, none of these ranks are serious negatives for MSU. They still suggest a team worthy of an at-large berth, at least as things stand through 12 games.
After an 11-0 start, falling in what was easily a winnable game against Drake was definitely a disappointment for the Bulldogs. You would certainly prefer to have more momentum heading into SEC play, especially with Alabama on deck. Regardless, MSU having just 1 loss to this point is far better than most fans expected in the preseason.
To enter SEC play with a competitive NET ranking, a pair of Q1 wins, no bad losses, and solid metric ranks all around is about as good as you could realistically have asked for. SEC play will absolutely be a major challenge. But if the Bulldogs can make it through their conference slate avoiding any bad losses and adding a few more quality wins to the resume, they should find themselves in a position to reach the NCAA Tournament in Chris Jans’ first season.