MSU's opening foe: No. 25 Longhorns

The Mississippi State women’s basketball team will get a national stage for its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2003.

The Lady Bulldogs’ first-round game against sixth-seeded Texas, set for 11 a.m. on Saturday, will be televised on ESPN2.

Both teams are assigned to the Berkeley (Calif.) Regional, but they start the tourney assigned to a “pod site” at Columbus, Ohio.

MSU is one of seven SEC teams to make the field.

“Every team sets a goal at the beginning of the season to win a championship,” said MSU coach Sharon Fanning. “This year, we finished in the top half of the league and we have an opportunity for the NCAA Tournament, two goals we set at the beginning of the year. Hopefully, we will play our best basketball at noon on Saturday.”

It’ll be the first meeting between her team and the Longhorns, who are trying to fight their way back to national prominence under the direction of second-year head coach Gail Goestenkors, who guided Duke to the NCAA championship game in 2006.

But while Mississippi State (22-9) goes into the tournament having won 6 of its last 8, including a 66-61 victory at home against Vanderbilt, No. 25 Texas (21-11) has lost 6 of 8.

Earlier this season, Texas visited Oxford and beat Ole Miss 74-50. A week later, the team beat Tennessee 73-59.

The MSU-Texas winner will advance to a Monday game against the Ohio State-Sacred Heart winner.

Texas played its last game, a 59-55 Big 12 quarterfinal loss to Iowa State, on Friday. MSU, by contrast, has been idle since a 63-58 loss to LSU on March 6 at the SEC tournament.

Fanning, in an interview on Sunday, said she had no concerns about the potential ill effects of a two-week layoff on her team.

“We’ve had this schedule for a long time and we’ve had a bunch of teams come out of our league and be successful in the NCAAs,” she said. “It does give you some time to heal up those little injuries that you fight late in the season.”

Fanning is 3-4 in four trips to the NCAA in her career at MSU.

The top seed in the Berkley Regional is Duke (26-5). Stanford (2) and defending national champion Tennessee (5) are among the other teams in the regional.

The fifth seed is the lowest in ever for the Lady Vols (22-10), who will play Ball State (25-8).

The overall top seed is No.1-ranked Connecticut (33-0), which opens at home against Vermont in the Trenton Regional. The last women’s team to make it through the tourney unbeaten was UConn in 2002.

The other top seeds: Oklahoma (28-4) in the Oklahoma City Regional and Maryland (28-4) in the Raleigh Regional.

Other SEC teams in the field:

– Auburn (29-3, OKC), No. 2 seed, plays Lehigh (26-6).

– Florida (23-7, Trenton), No. 8 seed, plays Temple (21-9)

– Georgia (18-13, Trenton), No. 11 seed, plays Arizona State (23-8)

– LSU (18-10, Raleigh), No. 6 seed, plays Wisconsin-Green Bay (29-3)

– Vanderbilt (24-8, Raleigh), No. 4 seed, plays Western Carolina (21-11)

Four teams are making their first appearance in the NCAAs – Ball State, Drexel, South Dakota State, and Virginia Commonwealth.


Daily Journal/Wire Reports

Click video to hear audio