Previewing Mississippi State Basketball's SEC Tournament Matchup With Tennessee

Mississippi State basketball advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2024 SEC Tournament. Let's preview the matchup with Tennessee.

Mar 14, 2024; Nashville, TN, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Chris Jans and Mississippi
Mar 14, 2024; Nashville, TN, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Chris Jans and Mississippi / Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
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Mississippi State basketball (20-12) takes on the Tennessee Volunteers (24-7) Friday in the 2024 SEC Men's Basketball Tournament in Nashville. The Bulldogs defeated LSU 70-60 in the second round on Thursday and now will look to upset the SEC champions in the quarterfinals.

Here's everything to know about Mississippi State basketball vs Tennessee...

Examining Tennessee Volunteers basketball

The Vols are truly one of the very best teams in college basketball. It's why they're currently projected as a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament by most bracketologists. Rick Barnes' squad is a complete unit. They've got veteran talent across the board and combine an elite defense, rated 3rd by KenPom, with a potent offense.

SEC Player of the Year Dalton Knecht has taken Tennessee to a new level. The Northern Colorado-transfer is averaging over 25 PPG and shooting 42% from three in league play. SEC Defensive Player of the Year Zakai Zeigler and star big man Jonas Aidoo also average double-figures for an offense scoring 80 PPG. The Volunteer defense allows just 68 PPG and has the 3rd-best shooting percentage allowed at just 38.5%.

What happened previously between Mississippi State basketball and Tennessee?

Mississippi State basketball defeated Tennessee 77-72 in Starkville on January 10. The Bulldogs held a 13-point halftime lead and held off a Volunteer comeback effort to earn a Top-10 victory. Tolu Smith and Josh Hubbard combined for 48 points while Knecht and Zeigler combined for 54 for Tennessee.

Both teams struggled to find scoring options beyond their respective duos, and both committed an obscene amount of turnovers. But State had the more efficient night shooting and was effective at getting to the free throw line. MSU's DJ Jeffries also made several key defensive plays that arguably proved to be the difference in the game.

NCAA Tournament Implications for Mississippi State basketball

After beating LSU, Mississippi State basketball is in a pretty good spot to return to the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldog should be in at this point. But it's not yet a complete certainty because of other key results around the country. If MSU were to upset the Vols, there'd be zero doubt about making the tournament. They'd likely jump into 8/9-seed territory and be totally safe.

With a loss? State should still be ok so long as they don't get blown out. A blowout would be bad for their metrics and knock the resume. But if the Bulldogs keep it respectable, that shouldn't be an issue.

How to watch Mississippi State basketball vs Tennessee

Mississippi State basketball and Tennessee will tip-off at 12:00 pm CT on ESPN.

Mississippi State basketball has a chance to make a statement vs Tennessee

State faded down the stretch in the regular season, creating doubt as to whether or not they'd get back to the tournament. They erased most of that doubt with a dominant second half against LSU Thursday. If they can take down Tennessee, any doubts would be permanently gone, and you could suddenly start to feel really good about this team making a run in March.

The Bulldogs already have shown they're capable of beating the Vols. We'll see if they can do it twice.