For the second straight season, Mississippi State received a double bye as the No. 3 at the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
But unlike last year, coach Vic Schaefer and the Bulldogs hope their visit lasts longer than a one-game affair.
“To be able to reward our kids with a double bye is certainly a good thing,” Schaefer said. “We know what it’s like to play on Friday. We’d like to experience Saturday and Sunday, too. That’s our goal this year because if you can make it through the SEC Tournament, you can get through that next one without a doubt.”
MSU (24-6, 11-5 SEC) will take on No. 11 seed Vanderbilt tonight at approximately 7:30 p.m. on SEC Network.
The Bulldogs played at Vandy last Thursday and won 66-61 behind 21 points from Victoria Vivians.
State has met the Commodores eight times in the SEC Tournament with just a 2-6 record, last meeting in 2012.
Vanderbilt (18-13, 5-11 SEC) reached the third round of the SEC Tournment by defeating Ole Miss 74-59 on Wednesday and Georgia 54-49 in overtime last night.
State also has experience in Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, site of this year’s SEC Tournament. The Bulldogs defeated South Florida on Dec. 30 in that venue as part of the SEC-AAC Challenge.
“That was the whole purpose of going there,” Schaefer said. “We talked about the conference tournament being there. We’ve had a full practice, shootaround and game in there so it won’t be any walking in and looking around because it’s a big building with lots of room.”
Schaefer has had his struggles at the SEC Tournament during his previous three experiences with Mississippi State, going just 1-3.
Last year the third-seeded Bulldogs let a 15-point lead over Kentucky slip away and were eliminated in a 76-67 loss.
“We’ve got some kids that have been to this tournament,” Schaefer said. “They have a little experience and had the taste of playing on a Friday night, getting upset and beat so I think they’d like to have a chance to play on Saturday and Sunday too.”
MSU is 15-36 all-time at the SEC Tournament and have reached the finals only once in 2000, losing to Tennessee 70-67.