Now we know why Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury was unhappy that the SEC scrapped divisions and went to a 1-through-12 format for the conference standings.
Had his Bulldogs still been playing in the SEC Western Division, they would have had a first-round bye in the upcoming conference tourney because their 8-8 league record would have been good for second place in the division.
The top two finishers in each division used to get byes.
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As it is now, the 79-59 whipping the Bulldogs handed Arkansas to close out their regular season got them only a six seed in the 12-team event.
They will play No. 11 Georgia in the first round.
“They are one of those teams that can beat anybody,” Stansbury said of Georgia. “Of course, they came in here and knocked us off at home.
“That’s the worst loss we have had all year.”
At least State will be going into the game on a two-game winning streak. The Bulldogs stopped a five-game losing streak earlier in the week by hanging on for a 69-67 overtime win at last-place South Carolina, then dominated the Razorbacks over the final 30 minutes.
In improving to 21-10 overall, the Bulldogs ended a two-game skid at home. They had lost to Georgia and Kentucky in their previous two home games.
-Junior F Arnett Moultrie scored 20 points and snatched 10 rebounds against Arkansas to record his second straight double-double, his fifth in his last six games, and his 18th of the season.
“When you have a guy like Moultrie with strength and decent size, and a shooter like Dee Bost, it builds the strength of their team,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said.
-Senior G Dee Bost doesn’t think the Bulldogs have done enough yet to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA tourney.
“No, this isn’t enough,” Bost said after the impressive win over the Razorbacks. “That’s our mentality going in to the SEC Tournament.
“We are going in with the mindset that we have to win it all.”
-The Bulldogs now have beaten the Razorbacks 12 straight times on their home floor, Starkville’s Humphrey Coliseum.
“It shows that not only is this a tough place to play, but it means that we have had some pretty good teams over the years,” coach Rick Stansbury said. “We have been pretty good here at home, because this is a great place to play.”
THIS WEEK’S GAMES
vs. Georgia, March 8, SEC Tournament, New Orleans
KEY MATCHUPS: Georgia snapped State’s 13-game home winning streak when these two met in Starkville on Feb. 11 with the 70-68 overtime decision sending State on a five-game losing streak. Freshman G Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 20 points and senior G Gerald Robinson added 13 for Georgia.
Mississippi State had reached at least the semifinals of the SEC Tournament in four consecutive years until losing to Vanderbilt in the second round last year. The Bulldogs won the tourney crown in 2009. If they can beat Georgia, they will play Vanderbilt in the quarterfinals.
-Senior G Dee Bost scored 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting against Arkansas in what could be his final appearance in Humphrey Coliseum. The Bulldogs could play more home games if they don’t make the NCAA field and play in the NIT.
-Senior G Brian Bryant finished with 15 points against the Hogs for his second straight game in double-figures. He had 16 in the win at South Carolina in the previous outing.
QUOTE TO NOTE
“Better late than never.” — Senior G Brian Bryant, on stepping up with 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting in State’s win over Arkansas.