Three games remain in the regular season across the Southeastern Conference and the Mississippi State Bulldogs prepare to travel to Tuscaloosa, Ala., to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide this afternoon at 5 p.m.
These familiar foes battle once again with an opening round bye in the SEC tournament at stake.
The winner has a chance, while the loser has virtually no chance. Alabama (18-9, 7-6) is tied with LSU and Tennessee for the fourth and final opening round bye with a conference record of 7-6. The Bulldogs (19-9, 6-7) find themselves a game back.
Although unlikely, these teams are still alive for the third position currently held by Vanderbilt at 9-4. A Mississippi State win would keep it alive heading into the final week of the regular season, a loss would leave the Bulldogs in a position to, at best, finish 8-8 and only the slimmest of margins for them to earn the bye. The scenarios are too convoluted to explain at this point, just know that a Mississippi State victory would keep it in the running for the all important extra day of rest heading to New Orleans, La. for the league tournament.
As for the game, the Crimson Tide enter on short rest but will be riding an emotional high after defeating the Razorbacks in Arkansas on Thursday night 79-68.
Rodney Cooper sparked the Tide offense scoring a team-high 17 points while coming off the bench.
“Alabama is playing some of its best basketball of the season right now,” said MSU head coach Rick Stansbury, who owns a 16-13 record against the Alabama. “To see what they did at Arkansas (Thursday) is really impressive. It’s going to be a challenge, and we’ll have to be at our best. It’s on the road, and we all know that’s never easy.”
If the Tide are to hold off the Bulldogs, they do so without Tony Mitchell who was dismissed from the team early this week. JaMychal Green has been suspended since the LSU outing but is expected to return to the floor against MSU.
Mississippi State won the previous matchup 56-52 in Starkville when Arnett Moultrie and Dee Bost combined to score 42 points and will need a similar performance if the Bulldogs break the current four-game skid their currently on. Moultrie continues to pace the league in rebounding (10.8) and double-doubles (16).
The junior forward also leads State in scoring with 16.4 points per game while Bost, a senior guard, comes in second with an average of 16 points per game. Also for MSU, an already short bench becomes even shorter with the absence of freshman forward Rodney Hood. The Meridian native suffered a bone bruise to his left knee during State’s loss to Kentucky on Tuesday night. Hood, who has made 43 three-point baskets this season, doesn’t have a time table for his return to the floor.
Next up for the Bulldogs is yet another road trip, this time to South Carolina to take on the Gamecocks on Wednesday night.