Mississippi State Basketball did What it had to in the SEC Tournament

Mississippi State basketball's time in the SEC Tournament came to an end in the semifinals, but the Bulldogs did what they had to in Nashville.

SEC Basketball Tournament - Quarterfinals
SEC Basketball Tournament - Quarterfinals / Andy Lyons/GettyImages

Mississippi State basketball wrapped up it's time in the 2024 SEC Men's Basketball Tournament with a semifinal loss to the Auburn Tigers, 73-66. The Bulldogs fought hard against the Tigers and easily could've come out on top, but they couldn't quite get it done. Still, State's time in Nashville was highly productive.

Mississippi State entered the SEC Tournament in a difficult spot. They closed out the regular season with four-straight losses, and as a result, they found themselves in serious danger of missing the NCAA Tournament despite looking like a lock entering March.

The Bulldogs were firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble heading to Nashville. Still, many believed that by beating LSU, State would have done enough to go dancing. MSU sleep-walked through the first half with the Tigers, but with their season the line, they flipped a switch for a 10-point victory. But as we now know, that win wasn't going to be enough to get State into March Madness.

It's been a unusually strong year for the bubble. As many of 10 teams, if not more, entered Champ Week fighting for the last few spots in the field, and all of them had legitimate cases to go dancing. Normally, several of those teams falter late, and the bubble picture becomes clear. But the first few days of conference tournament action only made things more cloudy.

Bubble teams everywhere, including Mississippi State, won their "must-win" games, and the only thing that did become clear was that multiple teams that seemingly would be NCAA Tournament locks in prior season were going to be left out in 2024. And what that meant was that if MSU was truly going to feel safe about returning to the Big Dance, they were going to have to do something to set themselves apart - beat SEC regular season champion and projected 1-seed Tennessee.

And that's exactly what the Bulldogs did. They put together their most impressive performance of the year to dominate a Volunteers squad that was favored in the matchup by more than 10 points, State's second win over Tennessee this season.

That win left no doubt. A win over a then top-5 NET team on a neutral court to go along with MSU's other resume-strengthening wins vaulted them ahead of the rest of the bubble and safely into the field. And for good measure, other bubble teams that got chances to add wins of similar value fell short of doing so. The Bulldogs went into Saturday locked-in to the NCAA Tournament.

Sure, it would have been awesome to see Mississippi State take down Auburn, advance to the SEC Championship Game, and play for the SEC Tournament crown. But, ultimately, with their backs against the wall, Mississippi State basketball did what it had to do in the SEC Tournament.

State is going to return to the NCAA Tournament for the second-straight season for the first time since 2009. And now, they've got momentum on their side. If the team that showed up in Nashville shows up in March Madness, the Bulldogs are fully capable of going on a run. They're going to be a ton of fun to watch in the Dance.

But first, we wait for Selection Sunday and State's tournament destination.