Best Path for Bulldogs is Second Place

We’re halfway through the SEC schedule, and I still don’t know what to make of Mississippi State’s basketball team. Tons of double-digit losses with some nice wins and lots of off-court drama sprinkled in. Renardo Sidney looks good one night, terrible the next.

MSU is coming off a one-point win over a bad LSU team, albeit with Ravern Johnson sitting at home and Dee Bost hobbled. So it’s hard to draw many conclusions from that game.

Makes it hard to predict which direction this team will take over the course of the next month. The Bulldogs are 12-10 overall and 4-4 in SEC play. That puts them alone in second place in the Western Division (Alabama leads at 7-1). In third place is Arkansas at 4-5, followed by Ole Miss at 3-5. The Razorbacks visit Starkville on Wednesday. Big game.

Here’s what MSU needs to focus on: Securing second place in the division. That gets a first-round bye in the SEC Tournament, and the only way State gets to the NCAA tourney is by winning that sucker, a la 2009. Right now, it looks like just finishing above .500 in the SEC will be enough to get that No. 2 seed, which would have the Bulldogs playing the winner of East No. 3 vs. West No. 6 in the second round.

So let’s examine the remaining schedule: Wednesday vs. Arkansas, Saturday at Auburn, Feb. 15 at Kentucky, Feb. 19 vs. Ole Miss, Feb. 23 vs. LSU, Feb. 26 at Tennessee, March 2 at Arkansas, March 5 vs. South Carolina.

MSU has already beaten Auburn, Ole Miss and LSU and has yet to play any of those other teams. I can definitely see four or five wins in there, but the way this team and this league have gone this year, I can see five or six losses, too.

I can guarantee you one thing: If the theme of this season holds, it’s going to be real interesting either way.