The Bulldogs flew up north to visit the Tigers of Missouri on Saturday. The game went back and forth but Missouri was just the better team until the last few minutes. After a pair of made free throws by the Tigers, Mississippi State was down by 12 with only 1:37 left. The win probability tracker on ESPN had the Tigers with a 99.5% chance of winning. But the Bulldogs stormed back to tie the game and sent it to overtime. Unfortunately, State ran out of gas in the extra period and lost 85-89. Coming into the game the Bulldogs had a slim chance of making the NCAA tournament. On Saturday morning, much of the media had Mississippi State as one of the “first four out.” With the loss, the Bulldogs are barely “on the bubble.” But are the Bulldogs a definite lock to miss out on the NCAA tournament this year? I don’t think so, not yet anyway. The next few weeks are going to decide their fate. Let’s take a look at what has to happen for the Bulldogs to go dancing.
The Bulldogs need to win 5 of their last 6 regular season games.
Mississippi State may be able to win 4 of their last 6 games combined with a strong showing in the SEC tournament, but realistically because of their weak non conference schedule, the Bulldogs will need to win 5 of 6. This is no easy task. Half of these games are on the road. The Bulldogs have only 1 road win this year. State has winnable games against Vanderbilt, South Carolina, and LSU. They play a decent Texas A&M on the road. Tennessee comes to Starkville as the second place team in the SEC. Ole Miss also travels down to Starkville for the basketball version of the Egg Bowl. Although the Rebels are second to last in the SEC, when the Bulldogs face the Rebels, I throw records out the window. Win your conference games. Plain and simple.
The American Athletic Conference upper tier teams will have to start losing.
Depending on the source, Mississippi State is either one of the first four out, next four out, or just simply in the discussion. In order for Mississippi State to be bumped up in the pecking order some other teams are going to have to lose. A few middle tier ACC or PAC 12 teams losing would help but I have my eye on another conference. There are a trio of American Athletic Conference (AAC) teams that have similar NCAA tournament positions as the Bulldogs. Houston, SMU, and Temple are all in the same discussion as Mississippi State. These teams are going to have to suffer some losses for Mississippi State to have any chance at making the dance.
Lamar Peters needs to ball out.
As we have seen so far this season, the Bulldogs rise and fall on the play of Lamar Peters. Saturday’s game against Mizzou was a microcosm of that. Peters hit the game tying three pointer to send the game to overtime. Then he hit what would have been the go ahead three in the waning seconds of the overtime period. After a tremendous freshman campaign, Peters has had a bit of a sophomore slump. But lately, as Peters has stepped us his game, the Bulldogs have stepped up in the standings. Peters has found his three point shot, as well as becoming a better distributor of the ball. His assists have gone up and turnovers have gone down. If State has any chance at making the field of 68, Lamar Peters will be the one to take them there.