Mississippi State Bulldogs guard Quinndary Weatherspoon (11) shoots against the Tennessee Volunteers during the first half of a quarterfinal matchup in the SEC tournament at Bridgestone Arena. MSU will face Liberty Friday in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Photo by: Jim Brown/USA TODAY Sports
March 18, 2019 11:32:00 AM
Three minutes into the NCAA Selection Show on Sunday, a roar erupted from a room inside Davis Wade Stadium.
That's precisely how long it took. Three minutes.
Less than 10 minutes after that, Mississippi's State NCAA Tournament-bound men's basketball team was off to begins its preparation for a game Friday against Liberty University. Assistant coaches headed to the basketball offices to download Liberty game videos.
There was work to be done.
Bulldogs head coach Ben Howland sat down for a press conference alongside seniors Quinndary Weatherspoon and Aric Holman, two of the guys who helped State reach the NCAA tournament for the first time in 10 years.
They're back in the NCAA's March Dance with a number five seed and a 23-10 record.
"I'm really proud of Aric and Q," Howland said. "They worked incredibly hard to get this team and this program to this point."
Howland laughed softly as he remembered Holman as a 178-pound freshman who is now a 220-pound powerful forward.
"Me and Q came here with a goal," Holman said. "We kept our word and stayed to the ground."
And that's why that quick roar late Sunday afternoon meant so much.
The Bulldogs will realize that dream on Friday at the SAP Center in San Jose, California. The game is scheduled for a 6:27 p.m. tipoff, Mississippi time.
If State wins its first-round game, the Bulldogs will play No. 4 seed Virginia Tech or No. 13 Saint Louis in Sunday's second round in San Jose. Virginia Tech (24-8) and Saint Louis (23-12) will play Friday following MSU's game. Two wins sends the Bulldogs to the Sweet 16 in Washington.
Not that Howland or any other Dawg is even thinking about Sunday just yet. It took so long for State to reach this point that overlooking Liberty, the 12th seed with a 28-6 record, isn't even a consideration.
"I'll make that clear to my team tomorrow (Monday)," Howland said. "Anybody can beat anybody."
The working orders are crystal clear.
"You have to respect everyone and fear no one," Howland said.
And while excitement quickly spreads around campus about its men's team, it's only half the show. Tonight, the State women await their seeding in the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament. A selection show public event will be held at Humphrey Coliseum. The doors open at 4:45 p.m.
The MSU men's team finished with a 10-8 record in the Southeastern Conference and fell to Tennessee in the quarterfinal round of the SEC Tournament on Friday night. The Bulldogs were one of seven SEC schools to make the tournament field, including tournament champion Auburn and regular-season champion LSU. Also in the field are Ole Miss, Kentucky, Florida and Tennessee.
Howland is thrilled that his Bulldogs have made the spring ritual known through the country, and world, as March Madness.
"This is the greatest sporting event in all of sports in America," Howland said. "It's thrilling for us to be a part of that."
Now, about those tickets.
MSU announced Sunday night that the school will receive a "very limited quantity" of tickets for the first- and second-round games in San Jose. The MSU Athletic Ticket Office will take requests from the top 1,000 Bulldog Club members with a limit of up to six tickets. If any tickets remain after that, requests will be taken from all Bulldog Club members beginning at 8 a.m. Tuesday. Tickets are $100 apiece.
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