Smith on Sports: Madness hits home for Mississippi State

Danny P. Smith
Staff Writer

March Madness will officially be hitting the Humphrey Coliseum this week.

The Mississippi State men's and women's basketball programs have made sure of that.

With the successful seasons the Bulldogs have enjoyed, it will cause quite a busy atmosphere in Starkville that nobody seems to be complaining about one bit.

The MSU men get all of the fun started Wednesday night when they host the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the National invitational Tournament's first round. The tip is set for 8 p.m. at Humphrey Coliseum.

It is a return to the postseason for the Bulldogs after a five-year absence.

If this year's NIT opening round game with Nebraska is anything like the last time MSU participated in the event, it's going to be a wild night in Starkville. In 2012, the Bulldogs went two overtimes with UMass before dropping a 101-96 decision.

MSU has enjoyed a successful season under the direction of Ben Howland. With a 22-11 overall record, it's the most wins for the Bulldogs since that last NIT appearance.

The Cornhuskers will not be an easy opponent. Since beating MSU 76-72 in an exhibition game back in October, Nebraska has developed a 22-10 overall record, which includes a 13-5 mark in Big 10 play.
James Palmer, with his 17.3 points per game, and the other Cornhuskers will be a difficult matchup for the Bulldogs. With Nick Weatherspoon having to sit out the game due to his severe hip contusion, MSU will be a little shorthanded.

The Bulldogs still have to be encouraged after defeating LSU and pushing Tennessee to the limit at the Southeastern Conference Tournament. If MSU brings the same intensity and fight against Nebraska tonight, it should be fine.

That's just the opening act for what is to come this weekend in the postseason.

Mississippi State will also host the first round of the NCAA Women's Tournament on Saturday when the Nicholls State Colonels, Oklahoma State Cowgirls and Syracuse Orange come to town.

The Cowgirls and Orange take the court for a 2:30 p.m. matchup, then the Bulldogs play the Southland Conference champion Colonels.

"You get a conference champion in Nicholls State, and I’m very familiar with them," MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said. "They have had a great year."

The first and second round in Starkville was officially announced as sellouts late Monday night, so crowds of over 10,000 are expected when the Bulldogs play at Humphrey Coliseum.

It seems there is plenty of excitement about what the MSU women have been doing lately under the leadership of Schaefer and with good reason.

Schaefer has gotten the program to the point where it can win consistently and the Bulldogs can make another run at the national championship this season.

MSU must not take any opponent lightly and that includes Nicholls State on Saturday.

When it comes to the one-and-done scenario of the NCAA Tournament, there is no more margin for error.

Danny P. Smith is sports editor and columnist for the Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily News or its staff.