By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Jouranl
Mississippi State has a few days to rest and heal up before it plays in the SEC Tournament. It also has plenty of time to ponder a most critical question: What will it take for the Bulldogs to earn an NCAA tournament berth?
Losses to Auburn and Tennessee last week popped that proverbial NCAA bubble for MSU, at least in the mind of the bracket experts. Don’t think 12th-year coach Rick Stansbury, who’s taken State to the Big Dance six times, isn’t aware of that.
“I learned a long time ago, I can make whatever case I want to make, but those cases don’t mean much,” Stansbury said Monday. “The only thing that matters is just keep winning. We had an opportunity here Saturday to take any of those questions out of anybody’s minds, and we weren’t able to do it. So now it puts us back in a situation (where) we’ve got to win basketball games.”
The question within the question is, how many games must MSU win in Nashville this weekend? One? Two? Or must it win the tourney outright like it did last season?
For what it’s worth – and since he doesn’t sit on the selection committee, not much – Kentucky coach John Calipari thinks one win could get State the nod, and certainly two.
His Wildcats defeated MSU in overtime earlier this season, and he thinks Stansbury’s team has the tools to not only get in the NCAA tournament, but to make some noise.
“I bet you everybody will be stunned because they block shots, they’re a great defensive team, and they can really shoot the ball,” Calipari said. “In the NCAA tournament, that’s the things that get you over.”
The coaches who beat the Bulldogs last week, Auburn’s Jeff Lebo and Tennessee’s Bruce Pearl, were hesitant to gauge MSU’s chances of making the field of 65. Both men cited unfortunate scheduling as one pitfall – an early-season win over UCLA was diminished by the Bruins’ atypical struggles, and MSU drew one of the Big East’s few weak teams, DePaul, in the SEC/Big East Challenge.
“If they get on a roll shooting the basketball much like they did last year in the conference tournament, anything can happen,” said Pearl, whose Volunteers fell to MSU in the 2009 SEC title game.
Said Lebo, “My guess is Rick will have them doing whatever they need to do to get in.”
Bost’s hip improving
– Sophomore point guard Dee Bost didn’t practice Monday – but neither did the rest of the Bulldogs. They got a second consecutive day off, which gave Bost an extra day to heal up.
He suffered a hip pointer in the first half against Tennessee, but with the help of a pain killer injection at halftime, Bost played 35 minutes, although he wasn’t himself. He was very sore on Sunday, but team trainer Scott Johnson said Monday afternoon that Bost’s soreness “is getting much better. We expect him to be fine for the tournament.”
Johnson said MSU is amp”planning onamp” Bost being 100 percent.
“He’s our point guard and he runs the show,” senior guard Barry Stewart said. “You may want to put me out there, you may want to put Jarvis (Varnado) out there, but the point guard gets you going.”
– Junior post Elgin Bailey, who’s been out since early in the season with a nagging ankle injury, is scheduled to have surgery on it Wednesday, according to Stansbury. … MSU, the No. 1 seed from the Western Division, will play the Auburn-Florida winner at 6:30 p.m. Friday. The Bulldogs split with Auburn this season and lost their game against Florida. … As the 3-point shots go, so goes MSU. In its nine SEC wins, State has shot 36.1 percent from behind the arc. In its seven losses, that figure is 27.4 percent.
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or firstname.lastname@example.org.