March 14, 2019 11:37:16 AM
NASHVILLE, Tennessee -- Coming off the program's first 10-win SEC campaign since 2007-08, Mississippi State will take the Bridgestone Arena floor tonight during the fourth and final second-round contest.
The Bulldogs (22-9) will face Texas A&M (14-17) in their opening round matchup on Wednesday. The winner of Thursday's game advances to Friday's quarterfinal round and a meeting with No. 8 Tennessee (27-4).
Mississippi State heads into the SEC Tournament winners of six of its last eight games. The last time the Bulldogs captured the SEC Tournament title was in 2009 in Tampa, Florida. Mississippi State defeated Georgia, South Carolina, LSU and Tennessee to earn the SEC's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The 2008-09 season also marked MSU's last NCAA Tournament trip.
The Bulldogs have won 47 games over the last two seasons, the fourth-highest among SEC schools. Mississippi State trails only Kentucky, Tennessee and Auburn. If the Bulldogs capture a NCAA Tournament selection, MSU head coach Ben Howland will be the 15th coach to lead four programs to March Madness.
Howland said he looks forward to post-season play.
"I was thinking today, 'This is my favorite time of year.' No offense to Christmas, but it's close. This is my favorite time of year," said Howland. "When you're participating in this time of year, it's pretty special, especially with all of the work that these guys have put in. All of the sweat, everything they've done.
"It's fun right now. Our guys are playing well, and I'm excited. We had a great practice today. It always feels good when you come out of a good practice."
A Mississippi State win on Thursday would punch the Bulldogs' ticket to Friday's quarterfinals and a matchup with No. 8 Tennessee. Tip time is set for approximately 8:30 p.m. televised by the SEC Network and available online through the WatchESPN platform.
Howland, when asked about the possibility of facing the Vols in the next round and how big of an opportunity it would present to beat them, said he takes one game at a time.
"Of course, we want to worry about the first game first. Then, if and when we get past the first game, we are all looking forward to the opportunity because we know that they (Tennessee) got us really good at their place. We want a second chance against them."
Tip time is on-tap for State's game with Texas A&M is set for approximately 8:30 p.m. televised by the SEC Network and available online through the WatchESPN platform. Tom Hart, Jon Sundvold and Andy Kennedy will serve as the announcing team.
Mississippi State defeated Texas A&M (92-81) on March 9 during the regular season. The Bulldogs fell at then No. 5 Tennessee (71-54) on March 5.
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