March 19, 2010 1:21:00 PM
David Miller -
STARKVILLE -- Dee Bost is looking forward to Mississippi State''s game against North Carolina in the second round of the NIT.
The sophomore point guard, of Concord, N.C., believes he has something to prove when Mississippi State (24-11) hosts North Carolina (17-16) at Humphrey Coliseum at 11 a.m. Saturday.
The 6-foot-2 Bost was the Class 3A Player of the Year in North Carolina and he wants to play well against the Tar Heels because of what he perceived to be a lack of attention from North Carolina coach Roy Williams and his staff when he was being recruited.
"It''s just another game, but I would like to show them why they should have recruited me a little harder," Bost said.
North Carolina will be an esteemed guest of Mississippi State''s no matter the record or tournament.
When the game tips off, one of college basketball''s most storied programs will take the floor at Humphrey Coliseum.
Usually that storied program is Kentucky, but North Carolina''s six national championships should make for added excitement, no matter how much of a down year Williams'' squad is going through.
The Tar Heels, one point losers of 10 of 12 games, missed the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2003. Williams hadn''t missed the Big Dance since 1989, his first season at Kansas.
So why the big deal for a second-round NIT game?
For one, the Tar Heels won the national title last season and have an all-time NCAA tournament record of 102-39. No team outside of Kentucky has visited Humphrey Coliseum with as much historical prominence as North Carolina.
Former Mississippi State great Bailey Howell, who is the the only Bulldog to have his number retired, is anxious to see the matchup because of the historical significance.
"When I played, the only team in the South that was highly competitive on the national level was Kentucky," Howell said. "You had Murray State and Memphis State back then, which we both played, but you didn''t really have teams like Kentucky, UCLA or Seattle University coming to Starkville. Besides, we only played 25 games back then.
"Playing North Carolina is good for basketball, period. It''s especially good for MSU to compete against a team that''s so highly regarded."
Howell''s assessment of the current college basketball landscape doesn''t differ that much from the late 1950s and early 1960s when he was an all-Southeastern Conference player before becoming an NBA All-Star:
"In the world of basketball, people don''t regard the SEC as high as we think they should," Howell said. "All those teams in the East, they think that''s basketball heaven up there and it''s always been that way."
While the stage won''t be as grand as the NCAA, MSU coach Rick Stansbury admits the North Carolina contest is special because of the Tar Heels'' history. Add in the fact the Bulldogs will have added juice to go with the chip on their shoulder from being snubbed from the NCAA tournament.
The Bulldogs haven''t played a team with North Carolina''s history, outside of Kentucky, since facing Duke in the 2005 NCAA tournament. Ironically, the Bulldogs'' 63-55 loss gave Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski his 66th NCAA tournament win and put him No. 1 on the all-time list past former North Carolina coach Dean Smith.
"Just the tradition of North Carolina, you better respect that," Stansbury said. "They''re not coming to Starkville very often. That doesn''t happen much.
"People always ask, ''Why don''t you ever schedule Duke or North Carolina?'' Well, not just them, UCLA or Kansas, those teams don''t come to Starkville, that''s just the way it is."
And while the Bulldogs enter the game as favorites with a No. 1 seed compared to North Carolina''s No. 4, Stansbury warned of overlooking a team that''s disappointed compared to UNC teams of the past.
"Here''s the first thing about UNC, you look at their record and think they''re not very good, but it''s North Carolina and (Williams) has got the most talent of everyone we''ll play against," Stansbury said. "Seven McDonald''s All-Americans on that roster."
n NOTES: MSU senior guard Barry Stewart will start the game after x-rays on his foot came back negative. Stewart had checked himself out of Tuesday''s game against Jackson State in the first round of the NIT.