The Mississippi State Bulldogs (20-7, 8-6) are on a four-game winning streak and are in the running for a fourth place finish in the Southeastern Conference. Mississippi State escaped Athens, Ga. with a narrow win against the Georgia Bulldogs and had a comeback victory over South Carolina on Saturday night to keep the winning streak alive. MSU now hosts the Missouri Tigers (12-14, 3-11) to try and continue moving up in the SEC rankings.
Currently, there's a three-way tie for first place between Kentucky, LSU, and Tennessee. After that is a small gap, and there's four teams trying to get that fourth place spot to get the two-round-bye in the SEC Tournament. Ole Miss and South Carolina are both three games behind first place and tied for fourth place. Mississippi State and Florida are tied for sixth place with MSU holding a tie-breaker over Florida because of better record and head-to-head. Mississippi State is one game behind Ole Miss and South Carolina.
Missouri was a No. 8 seed in the 2018 NCAA Tournament and have regressed substantially. The Tigers only have conference wins against Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, and Arkansas. They had close losses against LSU, Kentucky, and Florida, but they couldn’t find a way to close the game and leave with a win. Missouri was poised to make a big run last year in the SEC tournament before Michael Porter Jr. got injured. That squad now gone and the program is now in rebuild mode,
Mississippi State matches up very well with Missouri. The Tigers have a very low points per game average (67.3), but also don’t give up many points either (68.6). This could be a defensive battle for both teams, and the way the Bulldogs have been playing defensively, I can be very optimistic about this game.
As a team, Mississippi State averages:
- 78 points per game
- Allows 70.2 points per game
- 47.4 percent from the field
- 37.5 percent from 3-point range
- 73 percent from the free-throw line
- 35.7 rebounds
- 14.5 assists
- 8.4 steals
- 5.3 blocks
To finish in the top four of the SEC, Mississippi State will need some help from other teams to jump South Carolina and Ole Miss. Mississippi State closes out the year by hosting Missouri, traveling to Auburn, traveling to Tennessee and hosting Texas A&M. On paper, the Bulldogs should win three of those, but if they can steal one in Knoxville, it will be a game changer. Ole Miss has a tough close-out to the season by hosting Tennessee, traveling to Arkansas, hosting Kentucky and traveling to Missouri. South Carolina’s schedule isn't nearly as tough as MSU’s or Ole Miss’, but they could still find a loss or two. The Gamecocks host Alabama, travel Missouri, host Texas A&M and host Georgia to finish the season.
If Mississippi State can take care of its own business and win three games over the next two weeks, this team will be in very good position to have the two-round bye in the Tournament. If those three teams are tied, Mississippi State will claim the tie-breaker because of the better overall record. But before we look ahead to the Tournament, the Dawgs have to take care of the Tigers at home. Go Dawgs and Hail State!