Mississippi State basketball has experienced somewhat of a rough start to SEC play. The Bulldogs are 2-4 in conference games. State pulled a stunning upset over Tennessee that remains one of the best wins by any team so far this season, and they handled their business against a lowly Vanderbilt squad.
But they squandered a massive opportunity at a big win against Alabama, got dominated by Kentucky, and have a pair of uninspiring road efforts at South Carolina and Florida, both games that were very much winnable. Though none of these have been bad losses, Mississippi State is by no means playing to its potential. And the Bulldogs are putting themselves in a situation where they have little margin for error the rest of the way.
Last week, most projections had MSU as a 9-seed in the NCAA Tournament. After falling in Gainesville on Wednesday night, where do bracketologists now seed the Bulldogs?
Current Bracket Projections
ESPN: 10-seed, East Region
CBS Sports: 11-seed, Last Four In
Fox Sports: 12-seed, Last Four In
On3: 11-seed, Midwest Region
Bracketville: 11-seed, Last Four In
The Atheltic: 10-seed, Midwest Region
Making the Madness: First Four Out
Heat Check CBB: 11-seed, South Region
T3 Bracketology 10-seed
JBR Bracketology: 12-seed, Last Four In
Bracket Matrix Average: 9-seed*
*several brackets have yet to update, hence MSU's average being higher than the projections included
Predictably, Mississippi State's early struggles in SEC play are beginning to be reflected in updated bracket projections. Though their league losses have not really hurt their resume (all four are Quad 1 losses), they've done nothing to improve their resume as the season has progressed. They've merely treaded water while other teams have helped their own cases, moving ahead of the Bulldogs.
With Washington State moving back into the top-50 of the NET, State now owns two Q1 wins. They're record against the top two quadrants is a respectable 5-5. But elsewhere, their resume is looking less impressive. They're 42nd in the NET, which is merely decent. With their recent lack-luster play, their predictive metric average has dropped to 36th. That, again, is still decent, but previously the Bulldogs had been inside the top-30, giving them a much stronger case as an at-large selection.
Where MSU has seen the steepest drop-off is in their resume metric average. That rank is at 51.5, merely average. According to those metrics, MSU has done little vs the schedule it's faced to make it stand out above other teams vying for at-large selection. The win over Tennessee is fantastic, but the fact that the Bulldogs do not have a single true road win, despite playing beatable competition on the road, and own a dreadful loss to Southern is greatly capping the strength of the resume.
The good news for Mississippi State is they still have plenty of great opportunities to solidify that resume and lock themselves up a spot in the Big Dance. But in order to do that, they're going to have to play much better basketball than what they've shown in recent weeks. State must somehow find a way to improve their offense from being a total liability to merely being below average. And they need to recapture whatever dominance they lost from last year's elite defense.
They get a golden opportunity on Saturday when Auburn comes to Starkville. A win over the Tigers would right the ship and likely move Mississippi State basketball back to being safely in the projected field of 68. But with a loss, the Bulldogs will have dug an even deeper hole to climb out of in February.