Bulldogs draw Michigan State in NCAA Tournament opener

Published 7:05 pm Sunday, March 17, 2024

Mississippi State’s path through the NCAA Tournament will include facing two of college basketball’s most accomplished programs and a No. 1 seed in its own backyard — and that’s just to survive the first weekend.

The Bulldogs (21-13) received a No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament’s West Region, and will open up Thursday against No. 9 seed Michigan State (19-14).

Start times and TV assignments for all NCAA Tournament games were to be announced later Sunday night.
The Bulldogs and Spartans will play in a pod in Charlotte, North Carolina, along with No. 1 seed North Carolina and either Howard or Wagner.

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NCAA Tournament bracket

Mississippi State and Michigan State have only played once, in the the 1972-73 season. Both were considered bubble teams entering their respective conference tournaments and did enough to land squarely in the middle of the 68-team field.

Mississippi State is the No. 32 overall seed after reaching the Southeastern Conference Tournament semifinals. Michigan State is No. 33.

“When you start seeing some teams you thought you were maybe ahead of get decent seeds, your mind plays tricks on you. It made it more gratifying to see your name come up as an eight seed,” Mississippi State head coach Chris Jans said.

The winner between them will likely play the West’s No. 1 seed, North Carolina, just two hours from the Tar Heels’ campus on Saturday.

North Carolina lost in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game, but still claimed a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament for a record 18th time.

North Carolina will play Thursday against the winner of a First Four play-in game between Howard Wagner. Those teams play Tuesday night in Dayton, Ohio.

Mississippi State is in the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row. It lost to Pittsburgh in the First Four last season.

Michigan State has reached the Final Four eight times in coach Tom Izzo’s 28 seasons leading the program, the last in 2019, and this is its 26th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.

The Spartans got to the Sweet 16 in 2023, but are entering this NCAA Tournament having lost five of its last seven games.

The Bulldogs are one of eight SEC teams to receive bids to this season’s tournament, tied with the Big 12 for most of any conference. SEC Tournament champion Auburn, along with Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina and Texas A&M all qualified.

In addition to North Carolina, No. 1 seeds were awarded to Connecticut in the East Region, Houston in the South and Purdue in the Midwest.

Two teams from Louisiana made the NCAA Tournament as conference champions — Grambling and McNeese.
Grambling won the Southwestern Athletic Conference Tournament and will play a First Four game on Wednesday, with the winner moving on to play Purdue on Friday in Indianapolis. Grambling is making its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance.

McNeese won the Southland Conference title to earn its first NCAA berth since 2002. The Cowboys are led by coach Will Wade, who previously led VCU and LSU to the NCAA tourney before the Tigers fired him in March 2022 amid an investigation into recruiting violations.

Wade missed the first 10 games of this season and was given a two-year show-cause penalty by the NCAA, but that didn’t stop the Cowboys from going 30-3 and winning the Southland to earn the No. 12 seed and a first-round game with Gonzaga.