Mississippi State basketball begins conference play this Saturday against South Carolina. The Bulldogs are off to an 11-2 start in their second season under Chris Jans, wrapping up the non-conference slate with a 85-62 victory over Bethune-Cookman last Sunday.
State has delivered mostly impressive results thus far.
They've picked up wins away from home over Northwestern and Rutgers to begin building out a resume worthy of reaching the NCAA Tournament for the second-straight year. Despite a poor loss at home to Southern that will unfortunately be a black mark on that resume the rest of the way, the Bulldogs overall profile so far matches that of an at-large team.
And they had to navigate those first 12 games without All-SEC center Tolu Smith.
Now is when Mississippi State's schedule really begins ramping up. The SEC has transformed itself into being arguably the best top-to-bottom conference in college basketball in recent seasons. The league has become loaded with high-level coaches and tournament-caliber teams, things it lacked not too long ago. The Bulldogs themselves have moved into that group under Chris Jans, and with Tolu Smith back in the lineup, there's optimism for State to be a contender within the league.
Whether or not MSU finds itself competing for the conference title, the SEC provides them with numerous chances to build out a strong at-large resume. After being one of the last four teams in the field and playing in Dayton in the 2023 NCAA Tournament, the expectation is for the Bulldogs to safely reach this season's Big Dance. So what will that take?
Let's examine where Mississippi State's resume currently stands and what work is left to be done in conference play.