By Parrish Alford
TAMPA, Fla. - Mississippi State is going dancing again.
The Bulldogs' four-day run to the men's SEC Tournament championship earned them a No. 13 seed in the West Region of the NCAA Tournament. They will face No. 4 seed Washington on Thursday at approximately 4 p.m. in Portland, Ore., at a time to be determined.
As the Bulldogs (23-12) kept winning last week at the St. Pete Times Forum they continued to put themselves in the NCAA discussion, though most analysts insisted they would not have received a bid had they not won the SEC Tournament.
By winning the conference tournament title - its second under head coach Rick Stansbury and third overall - MSU grabbed the automatic berth and removed itself from bubble discussion.
"Now we don't have to sit here and worry about being on the bubble," said Stansbury, whose team also won a league tourney title in 2002. "We busted that bubble."
The NCAA berth is State's sixth under Stansbury, its second in a row.
Washington (25-8) won the Pac-10 regular season title but lost in its tournament and received an at-large bid. The West Region's No. 1 seed is UConn, one of three Big East teams to earn a No. 1 seed.
SEC regular season champion LSU and Eastern Division champ Tennessee were the remaining SEC teams to receive bids. LSU's No. 8 seed is the highest of the SEC entries.
State's NCAA bid was made possible by its suffocating defensive effort against Tennessee. The Bulldogs stymied Tennessee All-SEC forward Tyler Smith (2-for-14 shooting from the field) and held the Vols to their lowest shooting percentage of the season.
MSU center Jarvis Varnado was named SEC Tournament MVP and extended his single-season conference record with six blocked shots. He also had 10 points and seven rebounds.
Guard Barry Stewart also made the all-tournament team.
Contact Parrish Alford at (662) 678-1600 or email@example.com.