It was another 1-1 week for Mississippi State basketball. Last Saturday, the Bulldogs pulled off their second top-10 of the season at Humphrey Coliseum, taking down the Auburn Tigers. It was another massive win for State's resume with Auburn rated as the nation's 8th best team per the NET rankings.
Unfortunately, Chris Jans' squad couldn't keep the momentum going following that victory. MSU traveled up the road to Oxford to face their rivals in Ole Miss. It was a thrilling game, but despite one of their best offensive performances of the last two seasons, the Bulldogs fell short, losing 86-82 in front of a record Pavilion crowd.
Though there's no shame in losing a road game against a quality opponent, even when it's a rival, it was another frustrating result on the road for a Mississippi State team that has yet to win a true road game this season. 15 Bulldog turnovers directly led to 18 points for the Rebels. Those costly mistakes were the difference in the game. And with realistic opportunities to add quality road wins running thin, one must hope those mistakes don't have greater consequences.
Not to sound too ominous, of course. State is still in a good position overall with plenty of quality opponents left on the schedule to solidify their resume against. As we begin the month of February, where do bracketologists have Mississippi State basketball?
Current Bracket Projections
ESPN: 9-seed, West Region
CBS Sports: 8-seed, East Region
Fox Sports: 9-seed, South Region
On3: 10-seed, East Region
Bracketville: 8-seed, West Region
The Athletic: 8-seed, West Region
Making the Madness: 9-seed, East Region
Heat Check CBB: 9-seed, West Region
T3 Bracketology: 10-seed
JBR Bracketology: 10-seed
Bracket Matrix Average: 9-seed
The overwhelming majority of bracketologists currently have Mississippi State basketball safely in the projected tournament field. Of the 84 bracketologists used to compile the Bracket Matrix average, only one currently has the Bulldogs out, and he hasn't updated his projections since before State's win over Auburn.
From a resume standpoint, a 1-1 week was perfectly acceptable for MSU. The win over Auburn greatly improved their resume, and the road loss to Ole Miss didn't hurt it. Their metrics, quality wins, and overall strength of schedule easily give the Bulldogs the profile of a tournament team.
As we've discussed many times, the Quad 4 loss to Southern is hurting the Bulldogs in terms of seeding, as is their non-conference strength of schedule. But the factor that's most glaring right now for State is their 0-5 road record. MSU is the only team under at-large consideration that has yet to win on the road. Now, they are being helped by their perfect record in neutral site games. They own impressive wins over Washington State and Northwestern on neutral courts. Those are still good wins away from home.
Still, road wins carry more weight, and Mississippi State desperately needs to add a few over the next month if they want to truly feel safe come Selection Sunday. Five such chances remain with three, at Alabama, at Auburn, and at Texas A&M, being games that would move the needle were the Bulldogs to pull off a win. For that to happen, State will need much more complete efforts than they've given thus far in road games.
Saturday presents them with a huge opportunity. Alabama is the #7 team in the NET rankings. The Bulldogs narrowly missed out on rolling the Tide earlier this year in Starkville. If they can find a way to get revenge in Tuscaloosa, where they last won in 2016, Mississippi State would suddenly have a resume amongst the SEC's best.
Next week, we'll take a closer look at what's left for Mississippi State basketball to assure they reach the Big Dance.