MSU basketball anime

This season has not gone as most Mississippi State University basketball fans had hoped, but best said by sophomore forward Andersson Garcia, “the season is not over yet.” The postseason begins in Tampa, Florida, for all fourteen SEC teams this week.

Is there a way for the men’s squad to make it into the big dance, then? The answer is yes, but head coach Ben Howland knows what has to be done to make that a reality. 

“I think we’re going to have to win the conference tournament to get in. There’s no doubt at this point,” Howland said. 

With this knowledge, the Bulldogs will have to win four games in four days throughout the tournament.

MSU finished 10th in the conference standings, earning them the No. 10 seed, which secures them a first round bye. In their second round matchup, the Bulldogs will face off against No. 7 seed South Carolina. The two teams faced off twice this season, with each winning a game on their home court. The game will air on Thursday at 5 p.m. Central Time on SEC Network.

Awaiting the winner of this matchup is the No. 2 seed Tennessee Volunteers. MSU hosted Tennessee on Feb. 9, where the Bulldogs lost by nine. However, MSU led by one with five minutes remaining in the contest before Tennessee closed the game on an 11-2 run. Howland’s team has proven they can hang with the Volunteers’ stingy defense. This one will air at 6 p.m. Central Time on Friday, via SEC Network.

If MSU is able to get past South Carolina and Tennessee, they will find themselves in the semifinals. If the highest seeds win in each of the other games, this means No. 3 seed Kentucky is up next. The Bulldogs traveled to Rupp Arena on Jan. 25, where they fell just short in an overtime thriller. MSU was without veteran forward Tolu Smith in this contest, who could have changed the outcome of this game. 

Last would come the SEC championship game against No. 1 seed Auburn, assuming they make it. The Bulldogs hosted Auburn last Wednesday, where MSU suffered another heartbreaking loss in overtime. MSU led with one minute remaining in regulation, but were unable to hold the lead. 

MSU has proven time and time again they can compete with the best teams in the nation. They simply have not been able to make the big plays when they matter the most, or hold on to a lead late in a contest. 

“It comes down to us. We've got to learn how to close out close games,” Tolu Smith said following the Auburn defeat.

If the Bulldogs can fix these issues, they can absolutely win the SEC Tournament, and clinch a spot in the NCAA Tournament. If not, the season will be over very soon. 

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