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Post-game at New Orleans Arena: Georgia 71, Mississippi State 61 - Did the bubble burst on MSU's NCAA hopes?

 

 

Matt Stevens

 

NEW ORLEANS -- Where do we go from here? 

 

I know.....this is normally the question for Mississippi State University football games but it seems like an appropriate starting point to what could be the thud of disappointment which ends the 2011-12 season for the MSU men's basketball team.  

 

State (21-11) will go home and wait for the NCAA tournament selection committee to reveal the brackets for the 68-team. After a crushing 71-61 loss to an under .500 University of Georgia team in a neutral site in which MSU was clearly favored, all State can do is hope they're included in the field.  

 

In his latest bracket projection posted Thursday morning,ESPN bracket analyst Joe Lunardi had MSU as an 11-seed in Columbus, Ohio playing Ohio Valley Conference Tournament champion Murray State (30-1). That's sure to change and not for the good as the days and hours till selection Sunday continue to dwindle.  

 

As I wrote in the sidebar for Saturday's edition of The Dispatch, I informally polled Lunardi and Doug Gottlieb along with CBS Sports national contributor Seth Davis Thursday morning about the tournament status of MSU. All three formed a consensus in the opinion the Bulldogs were one win in New Orleans away from the field of 68.  

 

Hours later after the upset loss to an under .500 Georgia squad, who also beat State in overtime in Starkville nearly a month ago to start the five-game losing streak in the month of February, and the national pundits had already flipped to the other side of the opinion MSU.  

 

Only Lunardi left the door open for a possibility for MSU to sneak into the NCAA field but Gottlieb and Davis were adamant the loss sunk the Bulldogs' hopes. 

 

As of early Friday morning, Lunardi had MSU as one of the last four teams in the NCAA tournament - http://espn.go.com/blog/collegebasketballnation/post/_/id/52034/lunardis-late-night-bracketology-update-6 -  

 

Mississippi State currently has a ratings percentage index of 71 after Thursday night. To put that into context, last season the highest-ranked RPI team which received an at-large bid into the 68-team field was the University of Alabama at Birmingham with an rating of 67 and the Blazers' selection into the First Four round in Dayton, Ohio was highly criticized by national pundits. 

 

 

 

What we learned? 

 

Well.....The Dispatch MSU Sports Blog asked MSU Director of Athetics Scott Stricklin two questions Thursday - and got essentially a no comment response to both of the inquires.  

 

1) Does Rick Stansbury's contact automatically rollover another year if MSU qualifies for the NCAA tournament?  

 

Stricklin: "I don't want to comment on that and provide any commentary to the situation." 

 

After the 71-61 loss to Georgia, I caught up with Stricklin in person before I went in the open Mississippi State locker room and asked this question:  

 

2) Will Mississippi State University accept an NIT bid this season?  

 

Stricklin: "I don't.....I don't want to comment or speculate on anything like that right now." 

 

 

 

On the floor we learned MSU as a basketball team hasn't changed since their weaknesses were exposed in a two-point loss vs. Baylor University in Dallas on Dec. 28.  

 

 

 

So....let's run through the checklist of problems for MSU this season:  

 

 

 

1) Coming into the contest MSU was 11th in the league in defending the three-point shot and Georgia (15-16) made 7-for-19 from beyond the arc. Georgia's guard trio of Gerald Robinson, Dustin Ware and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope combined for 49 points.  

 

"If I had to pinpoint (a consistent negative to this season) we haven't defended the way I want to every possession," MSU coach Rick Stansbury said. "That hasn't been constant for us." 

 

 

 

2) State is unable to function on either end of the floor without the services of senior point guard Dee Bost.  

 

During a television timeout with 7 minutes, 47 seconds left in the first half, Stansbury tried to buy a few minutes of rest for Bost and that window allowed Georgia to go on an instant 7-0 run to turn the momentum permanently the rest of the evening.  

 

"You know the answer to that......that was big," Stansbury said the importance of Bost being on the bench in the sequence. "It was the first time I subbed him and I was just trying to buy him some minutes. It was a momentum changer. We a couple bad plays in that stretch without Dee that's for sure." 

 

 

 

3) Renardo Sidney is out of shape, lazy and consistently in foul trouble. Sidney, who had constantly gotten himself in foul trouble throughout the 2011-12 season had as many personal fouls (4) as points Thursday night in just 19 minutes. When he was in the game, he was completely dominated by UGA freshman forward Nemanja Djurisic for his first double-double effort of his college basketball career. The 6-foot-8 forward from Montenegro got 11 points and 11 rebounds by beating every MSU player to loosed balls and being force in the paint.  

 

"I thought his effort on the glass was critical to the game," Georgia head coach Mark Fox said. 

 

 

 

4) MSU becomes essentially a jump shooting team any time they're facing a zone defense.  

 

Georgia coach Mark Fox, who is 3-1 against MSU in his career, admitted after the game to changing the zone defense as compared to the one that was also effective in Starkville less than a month ago.  

 

"We played a zone in Starkville," Fox said. "Rick is such a good coach we knew he'd have the answer for us, so we played a completely different one tonight." 

 

 

 

5) When given the opportunity to talk in an open locker room setting junior forward Arnett Moultrie, a team leader who opened his mouth in public during State's five-game losing streak, refused to say anything showing his complete lack of maturity as a upperclassmen on this basketball team.  

 

Mississippi State junior forward Arnett Moultrie when I approached him in the locker room: "Nope. I ain't doing no interviews. None." 

 

 

 

What we heard?  

 

Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury on NCAA Tournament hopes: 

 

 

 

"It's over 31, 31 games, what you judge us on. We have won 21 games. We had a great non-conference schedule, and we were 13-2 in the non-conference play against really good people." 

 

 

 

Georgia coach Mark Fox: 

 

"We played a zone in Starkville," Fox said. "Rick is such a good coach we knew he'd have the answer for us, so we played a completely different one tonight." 

 

 

 

Mississippi State senior guard Dee Bost: 

 

"It's real disappointing especially on my behalf (since) I played bad. I could have done more to help us win." 

 

 

 

Mississippi State junior center Renardo Sidney: 

 

"We just didn't come out to play and we didn't come to play at all in the second half. We tried to get in that zone but it would just get stolen or their would be a bunch of guys around you." 

 

 

 

Mississippi State freshman guard Rodney Hood:  

 

""It wasn't the zone, wasn't the pressure or anything like that - we didn't come to play and we missed shots. We have nobody to blame but ourselves." 

 

 

 

What's next?: NCAA Tournament Selection Show, WCBI, 5 p.m. 

 

 

 

All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.

 

 

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