It’s official: Mississippi State women’s basketball is back in the NCAA Tournament, making their seventh appearance in school history. The Bulldogs will be a five seed in Durham and play Tulane on Friday at 2:30 p.m. in their first game.
“I promised them this day would come,” head coach Vic Schaefer said. “I know it was hard to see when we were 13-17 in year one, but we knew what the process was.”
With their selection Monday night, this is the first time since 2010 the Bulldogs have made the NCAA Tournament, a year in which MSU advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. Schaefer and his team were hoping to be selected as hosts after finishing in third place in the SEC and spending much of the season in the Top-15, but the head coach said they’ll take their lot in stride.
“I’m disappointed that the country will not see The Hump with 10,000 Bulldog fans in there. I think we earned the right. I think our team is good enough,” he said. “But we’ve gotta be like that duck on the water, let the water roll off your back and go on, so that’s what we’re gonna do.”
Home team or road team, MSU will play either way, and there was a full house on hand to see them get picked in the final regional revealed on ESPN. The DawgHouse Grill in Starkville was full from the stage to the door and the balcony above as several hundred filled the restaurant and old theater to watch the show with the team.
“When you’re a top 15 program,” Schafer said, “this is the way it’s supposed to be, y’all. This is the way it’s gonna be from now on.”
Speaking of Tulane, it’s a team MSU is plenty familiar with. NCAA rules prevent schools from publicizing such events at the time, but Schaefer revealed tonight that the Green Wave and the Bulldogs actually played each other twice in closed scrimmages before each of his first two seasons at MSU.
“It was a butt kicking,” Schaefer admitted, and his team was on the wrong side of it both times.
“I mean, they killed us,” said senior forward Martha Alwal. “It was horrible.”
However, as fate would have it, the two teams met again last year, and that time, it was with something real on the line. When MSU hosted the Women’s NIT last March, their first game was against, of course, Tulane. That time around, State pulled out the win, beating the Green Wave 77-68 in Starkville and advancing in the tournament.
In an odd way, MSU’s performances against Tulane have been an incidental barometer for how the program is progressing, and now they get another chance for that test this Friday.
“It’ll be a tough ballgame, I’m sure,” Schaefer said. “We’re familiar with them and they know a lot about us.”
With time at a premium, Schaefer said the staff will begin immediately preparing for Tulane and will have a gameplan ready for the team to study first thing on Tuesday when they practice. The familiarity certainly helps, but the coaches are making no mistake in understanding that Tulane has improved just like MSU has.
Schaefer said the Bulldogs had their best practice in a couple months on Monday as the team was still waiting to hear their fate and hopes the excitement and energy remain intact for the duration.
“I’m anxious to see us practice tomorrow,” he said. “We have to keep improving.”
With the postseason in mind, Mississippi State will host a special Hail State Hoops Luncheon Tuesday at 11:30 am in Mize Pavilion. Fans can call (662) 325-0198 or email dBrown@athletics.msstate.edu to RSVP.