Is Mississippi State Basketball a Lock for the NCAA Tournament Entering March?

We've reached the month of March. As we enter into this most-pivotal month of the college basketball season, is Mississippi State basketball a lock to make the NCAA Tournament?

Feb 27, 2024; Starkville, Mississippi, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs guard Josh Hubbard (13)
Feb 27, 2024; Starkville, Mississippi, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs guard Josh Hubbard (13) / Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports
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In the words of Jon Rothstein, "this is March". It's officially the most wonderful time of year for college basketball fans. The regular season is coming to a close, conference tournaments are about to tipoff, and most importantly, the NCAA Tournament is just a few weeks away.

And with March Madness just around the corner, the biggest question many college basketball fans are asking is whether or not their team is a lock to make the tournament. Everyone is anxiously waiting for the latest bracketology updates to see where their team is projected and whether or not they're on the right side of the bubble. And if they are in the field, how safe are they? Have they reached "lock" status?

That's the question many Mississippi State basketball fans are wondering. Chris Jans has his squad in the midst of a strong season in his second year in Starkville. The Bulldogs are 19-9 overall with impressive victories over the likes of Tennessee, Auburn, Northwestern, and Washington State. Presently, State is a consensus tournament team, with most bracketologists projecting them as an 8-seed.

But are the Bulldogs a lock to go dancing? Let's take a look...

Mississippi State basketball's current resume

Mississippi State basketball owns a respectable resume to this point. The Bulldogs are #31 in the NET with four Quad 1 wins and a 7-7 record against Quads 1 and 2. Their predictive metric average is 29, and their resume metric average is 31.5. State has a pair of top-7 NET wins over Tennessee and Auburn, and they were an impressive 6-0 in neutral site games including strong wins over Washington State and Northwestern. That's all very positive.

On the negative, MSU has both a Quad 3 and Quad 4 loss. The Q4 loss in particular is a major knock on the resume. Their road record is a poor at 2-6 with neither win coming over a high level team. And a non-conference strength of schedule of 227 also slightly drags down their profile.

Still, Mississippi State's metrics and good collection of wins outweighs those negatives enough that, as of today, the Bulldogs would absolutely be a NCAA Tournament team.

Is Mississippi State basketball a lock for the NCAA Tournament?

Though State would undoubtedly be in the field (comfortably, I might add) if the tournament were held today, we cannot yet call them a lock for March Madness. Why is that? While the Bulldog's overall profile is strong enough to have them as a single-digit seed, the negatives on the resume are significant enough that if they stumbled down the stretch, falling out of the field would not be out of the question.

MSU's closing stretch of at Auburn, at Texas A&M, and South Carolina is very challenging. If they were to hypothetically lose all of those games, which while unlikely isn't impossible, they would find themselves back down on the NCAA Tournament bubble. Not so much because those would be bad losses, but more so that other teams would likely leapfrog State with more impressive finishes. And in that scenario, those negatives, such as the Q4 loss or poor road record, suddenly become more heavily scrutinized.

Mississippi State's profile would quickly turn quite mediocre in that unfortunate hypothetical, and at that point, they'd be leaving their selection up to chance. Would the Selection Committee still put enough stock in State's high-quality wins to take them? Potentially, but it's not a guarantee. Plus, if you find yourself on the bubble conference tournament week, you open the door for pesky bid-stealers to snatch away your spot in the field.

Again, that's not likely, but we have to consider the possibility. So while Mississippi State basketball will most likely make the NCAA Tournament, we can't yet lock them into the bracket.

What must Mississippi State basketball do to lock up a spot in the NCAA Tournament?

MSU still has some work left to do to be considered a tournament lock, but it's not much. In fact, it's very simple: win one more regular season game. That's it. If Mississippi State basketball can win one final regular season game between at Auburn, at Texas A&M, and South Carolina at home, the Bulldogs will, at that point, have done enough that you could guarantee their names would be called on Selection Sunday.

A win over any of those teams would be a nice final boost to the resume and assure MSU a spot in the field, likely as a single-digit seed. And if they could find a way to win two, suddenly you're discussing how high they could rise in the bracket. But win one, and Mississippi State basketball is completely safe.

The Bulldogs will get their first shot to lock themselves into the field Saturday afternoon at Auburn.