• 54°

What cost State and Southern spots in the field of 64?

By Staff
March 12, 2001
Thoughts whizzing about as I wonder exactly which loss cost Southern miss a spot in the Big Dance …
The Southern Miss Golden Eagles and the Mississippi State Bulldogs were left out in the cold looking in at the NCAA Tournament party yet again.
We all saw that one coming didn't we?
Southern Miss was ripe for the Not Invited Tournament, as were the Bulldogs.
According to NCAA Tournament Chairman Mike Tranghese, 22-8 just didn't do it for them.
Would 23-8 have? It's a good chance. Another win means the UNC-Charlotte 49ers are out and the Eagles in, along with Cincinnati.
Tranghese danced around the subject of those that had to be left out in a teleconference after the 65 seeds were announced.
Apparently a quality win over Arkansas and a quality loss to Iowa State wasn't enough to sway them. Hate to sound like a broken record, but USM's league hurt them.
Tranghese said the Bulldogs also had their share of positives, and in the end, were the school with highest RPI rating (40) to not make the tournament.
Funny thing is, the way Tranghese spoke about the Bulldogs, it gave you the feeling that with two more wins MSU is in Georgia's spot.
The regular season make-or-break game had to be the first post-Robert Jackson game in which they lost to Jim Harrick's 'Dawgs.
The second blown opportunity was State's lackluster first-round 86ing in the Southeastern Conference Tournament at the hands of South Carolina.
Another thing we saw coming, well some of us anyway, was the Alabama Crimson Tide being shut out as well.
The Tide, like State, simply couldn't get it done on the road and toward the end, couldn't get it done period. A subpar finish, coupled with a cupcake non-conference schedule, sealed their fate too.
But you know what the NIT is giving us?
Something magical.
Something special.
Southern Miss at Mississippi State.
USM fans finally get their wish and get to play one of their in-state neighbors from the SEC.
I can't wait. It's going to be great.
I would venture to say if MSU wins, they will probably get a second round matchup at home, as well. Why? Because you can bet your bottom dollar that Humphrey Coliseum will be jam-packed to the rafters Wednesday night.
Hopefully, plenty of Golden Eagle faithful will make the trek from Hattiesburg.
Those that are lucky enough to get a ticket are going to see one heckuva matchup. USM is going to want to prove that its conference was indeed worthy of three teams like USM head coach James Green said.
MSU on the other hand, will be trying to show the world that they were worthy of that high RPI ranking they held all season.
As for Ole Miss, the Rebels got a No. 3 seed in the Midwest Regional after being blown out Sunday in the Southeastern Conference Tournament Final.
The champs, Kentucky, got thrown into the East Regional with the Duke Blue Devils.
I'm thinking it's probably a good thing they did lose Sunday.
Richard Dark is a sports writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at rdark@themeridianstar.com.

x