The 2008 SEC Tournament was truly one for the ages. How many tournaments during Championship Week (or in general for that matter) are interrupted by a tornado? Georgia was obviously the story of both the tournament and the week. For every surprise team like Georgia are teams that fell to that Cinderella story. Mississippi State is one of those teams. In this preview, I take a look at the Bulldogs and how they will respond after their loss to Georgia.
Mississippi State failed to advance to the finals of the SEC tournament. Let’s be honest, though. It appeared that fate was against them.
Georgia, the eventual winners of the tournament, defeated Mississippi State in the semi-finals of the Southeastern Conference tournament 64-60. It was the second game of the day for Georgia in what could only be described as a “unique” circumstance in the SEC tournament. Mississippi State went 12-4 in SEC play this season, two games behind regular season conference champion Tennessee. Five other teams along with Mississippi State finished the season with 20 or more overall victories and the Bulldogs themselves enter the NCAA Tournament at 22-10.
Outside of the SEC, Mississippi wasn’t very impressive. They lost by two against Clemson early on in the season. The Bulldogs were then crushed by Southern Illinois 63-49 on November 23. Their biggest victories of the year unquestionably came from in-conference play. Mississippi State beat Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Arkansas and Florida during the regular season. They’ll now have to play well against teams outside of the SEC.
Junior Jamont Gordon leads Mississippi State in scoring, averaging 17.3 points a game. He also grabs 6.3 rebounds a game, impressive when you consider that Gordon is listed as 6-4. Senior Charles Rhodes scores about 17 points a game and also averages 7.7 rebounds a contest. Guard Barry Stewart is good for 11.6 points a game and Ben Hansbrough (perhaps the last name is familiar) scores 10.4 points a contest for his team. Jarvis Varnado contributes about eight points and eight rebounds for the Bulldogs every game, as well.
As a team, the Bulldogs are nothing special from three-point land. They average only 33 percent from beyond the arc. They also only shoot 64 percent from the free throw line. Mississippi State wins games by winning the inside game. They average about 41 rebounds and eight blocks every game.
At the end of January, Mississippi State was in the midst of a nine-game winning streak. Since then, the Bulldogs have gone 8-5. That’s a stat that makes me very uneasy when filling out my bracket, especially considering that the Bulldogs have gone 2-2 in their last four games. Teams that back into the NCAA Tournament rarely go far once play begins.
I’m not a huge fan of this team at all. The reality of the situation is that they could have (and should have) been defeated by Alabama (17-16, 5-11) in the round before the Georgia game during the SEC tournament. There is nothing about the Bulldogs that makes me believe that they can go anywhere. After watching their last two games, I wouldn’t be shocked if Mississippi State is a one-and-done situation in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
All stats courtesy of ESPN.com