Previewing Mississippi State Basketball's Regular Season Finale vs South Carolina

Mississippi State basketball closes out the regular season Saturday in a rematch with South Carolina, and the Bulldogs are in need of a win.
Jan 6, 2024; Columbia, South Carolina, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks guard Meechie Johnson (5)
Jan 6, 2024; Columbia, South Carolina, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks guard Meechie Johnson (5) / Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Mississippi State basketball (19-11, 8-9 SEC) hosts the South Carolina Gamecocks (24-6, 12-5 SEC) Saturday afternoon in Starkville. The Bulldogs are making a final push towards earning a second-straight trip to the NCAA Tournament, but after three-straight losses, they're in desperate need of a win.

Here's everything you need to know about Saturday's regular season finale...

A look at South Carolina Gamecocks basketball

South Carolina basketball is in the midst of a breakout season under second-year coach Lamont Paris. After being picked dead last in the SEC in the preseason, the Gamecocks have put together their best regular season since 2016 and could potentially finish second in the league.

Though the metrics haven't been particularly impressed with South Carolina this season (46 NET, 47 KenPom), they simply keep finding ways to win games. With great wins at Tennessee and over Kentucky and Florida, the Gamecocks are a tournament lock.

The Gamecocks have been a good defensive team, holding opponents to 65.6 PPG and 42% shooting. Their offense isn't overly impressive at 71.6 PPG and 44% shooting, but they take a high volume of threes. And when those shots are falling, they're deadly.

Guard Meechie Johnson leads the team with 14.3 PPG and has taken over in many key moments. Forwards BJ Mack and Collin Murray-Boyles are both double-digit scorers in the post. Wing Myles Stute is back from injury, and he's a dangerous player to watch off the bench.

What happened in Game 1 between Mississippi State basketball vs South Carolina?

These teams met in Columbia to open SEC play back in January with South Carolina prevailing 68-62. Both Tolu Smith and Josh Hubbard came off the bench, and State had little offensive success without them on the court. The Bulldogs went just 3-13 from three.

South Carolina, surprisingly, dominated MSU on the glass, winning the rebounding margin 35-26 and posting a 16-6 second-chance points advantage. Those second-chance points, coupled with an 8-23 three point shooting performance, proved to be the difference in the game. Meechie Johnson had a huge day with 24 points, followed by Myles Stute with 15.

Matchup History

Mississippi State basketball is 29-18 all-time against the Gamecocks. The Bulldogs are 16-4 against South Carolina in Starkville, and have won five-straight at home in the series. Chris Jans is 2-1 in his career against Lamont Paris.

NCAA Tournament Implications

As has been the case for the last two weeks, Mississippi State basketball is on the cusp of locking up a bid to the NCAA Tournament...they just haven't yet been able to get over the hump. And after having lost three-straight games, they are suddenly trending closer to the bubble.

State is in need of one more win. If that happens, you can confidently say the Bulldogs will go dancing. But if they lose, their tournament chances take yet another hit. A loss would not drop State out of the projected field, but it would put them on incredibly thin ice entering the SEC Tournament.

Mississippi State basketball vs South Carolina TV Broadcast

1:30 pm CT on the SEC Network

Mississippi State basketball badly needs a win against South Carolina

Though Mississippi State basketball's tournament hopes aren't officially on the line against South Carolina, they would be in very dangerous territory with a loss. They would once again enter the SEC Tournament with work to do, and that's not an ideal situation to be in.

Beyond making the tournament, State needs a win simply for momentum's sake. You don't want to begin postseason play having lost four-straight games. This is a critical game for Mississippi State basketball to close out the regular season.