May 2, 2012 1:55:47 PM
STARKVILLE - The Mississippi State University men's tennis learned Tuesday they has been selected as a host site for the 2012 NCAA Championship first and second round matches when the brackets were announced. MSU will host the event as the ninth overall seed on May 11-12, at the A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre on the Starkville campus two weeks after hosting the Southeastern Conference Tournament at the same facility.
"I've heard from a number of people that had never been to one of our matches before or a college tennis match for that matter but I'm really happy that they had a good time," Nilsson said. "We're really excited as a program to get a chance to be a host of the first two rounds to show them how we do it right here."
Play will begin Friday, May 11, with the first match pitting 28th-ranked Baylor against 32nd-ranked Memphis at 11 a.m. CT. Then, at 2 p.m. that afternoon, No. 9 MSU will meet the Alcorn State Braves. The winners of the Friday matches will then face each other in the second round matchup on Saturday, May 12 (time TBA) for the right to advance to the NCAA round of 16 in Athens, Ga., on May 17.
MSU received the No. 9 overall seed in the 64-team NCAA Men's Tennis Championship, which concludes with four rounds in Athens, Ga., May 17-22. It is State's highest overall seed since being the national No. 4 in 1998.
Coming into Starkville is Baylor University after the Bears finished a solid season at 17-11 after falling to top-seeded Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship final. Baylor downed eight ranked opponents this season including SEC champion Kentucky on the road.
Baylor's first round match-up will be the University of Memphis as the Tigers are making their first-ever appearance in NCAA competition. On the year, Memphis posted a remarkable 19-5 record while finishing 5-1 in Conference USA. The Tigers earned an impressive seven wins over ranked opponents this season, all on the road and two of which came against SEC members and in-state foes Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
MSU's first round opponent will be Alcorn State University as the Braves earned a spot into the NCAA Tournament by taking their second-straight Southwest Athletic Conference Championship with a win over Prairie View A&M. Earning a 10-8 overall record this season, the Braves has earned its second-straight bid into the NCAA Championship and sixth overall.
This is the second year in a row for MSU to make the NCAA Championships and the program's 21st appearance overall. Last year was the Bulldogs' first bid to the tournament since a 2005 berth in Durham, N.C. As a top 16 national seed, MSU hopes to earn its way to the round of 16, a feat the program has accomplished 10 times in its impressive history, but has not done so since 2001.
State is hosting the first and second rounds of the NCAA's for the first time since the bracket expanded to regional play in 1999.
The Bulldogs enter NCAA action at 19-6 overall and 9-2 in SEC play, both State bests since 1998. The Bulldogs earned their second consecutive outright SEC Western Division Championship in 2012 as well.
"We took 5 days off which was mostly recovery work as we've had guys basically living in the training room to get healthy," Nilsson said. "Now that we've started to get gassed up again, we feel like when healthy we're able to beat anybody in the country."
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.
4. Step right up for a double dose of entertainment ENTERTAINMENT