"I told them this team is good," said Nilsson. "And you will realize it but you better realize it now instead of Friday at 12 o'clock when we are in a battle. But I think they do realize it now. It's easy to look at rankings and think we are ranked higher than them, so we are going to be beat them. It used to be like that, but it's not like that anymore."
Mississippi State, the 2011 Western Division Champions, is a perfect example of that. During the regular season they easily defeated the then number 4 ranked Tennessee Vols 6-1. And Nilsson doesn't want his team to be Florida State's Tennessee.
"We are ranked higher than them but when you look at their schedule they just haven't picked up those wins that we did against some better teams," said Nilsson, who is in his fourth year as the head coach at MSU. "They lost almost all of them 4-3, which is scary to us. We've been through that and know how good we were in the past. We hadn't gotten over that hump, and that's kind of like what they are going through this year."
Ultimately, according to Nilsson, it will come down to one thing.
"We know they have a really good number 1 player (No. 25th ranked Vahid Mirzadeh) and they are also good at number 1 doubles (No. 13th ranked doubles team Vahid Mirzadeh and Connor Smith)," said Nilsson. "We have some good matchups against them and they have some good matchups against us but it's really going to come down to who is playing well. I hope that the guys will show up and play to win, which I think they will. If we do that then we will be fine."
MSU has four players ranked among the top 100 in the nation, including George Coupland (60th), Artem Ilyushin (61st), Louis Cant (86th) and Malte Stropp (92nd). In doubles, Cant and Stropp are 37th.
The winner of the match will play either 15th-ranked host Georgia Tech or Middle Tennessee on Saturday at 2 p.m. CT in the second round. The winner of that match advances to the round of 16 of the NCAA Team Championships, which will be held May 19-22 in Palo, Alto, Calif.
MSU IN THE 2011 NCAA MEN'S TENNIS TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
First and Second Rounds - May 13-14, 2011 - Atlanta, Ga.
Friday, May 13
#21 Mississippi State (13-8) vs. #47 Florida State (9-14) - 9 a.m. CT
#15 Georgia Tech (19-5) vs. Middle Tennessee (13-12) - 12 p.m. CT
Saturday, May 14
Second Round Match (to advance to round of 16 at Palo Alto, CA) - 2 p.m. CT
(numbers preceding team names indicate current ITA national rankings)
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.