Dogs Denied Dancing For Another Year

Their coach has said it the past two Marchs, so these Bulldogs understood the script: letting others determine your fate leads to post-season disappointment. Unfortunately, 2012 will be another March where the madness is inside Mississippi State's own locker room. And, among an again-frustrated fan base.

Mississippi State had fears affirmed Sunday as the NCAA did not deign to offer a bid to their Tournament. Following their first-round failure in the SEC Tournament, the Bulldogs (21-11) were sitting on pins and needles three days as analysts kept bumping them down the mythical ‘bubble' for at-large selection. By Sunday afternoon few at State really expected good news based on other conference tournament scores.

Instead, the Bulldogs will stay home this week to play in the National Invitation Tournament. A #4 seed in the 32-team field, State will host #5-seed Massachusetts at 6:00ct Tuesday.

When their name did not show up on CBS's selection show screen there was no real surprise. Just the disappointment that another season which had showed such promise had, again, fallen apart down the stretch. The Bulldogs were ranked as high as 15th nationally for consecutive weeks in January and showing high-quality victories over Arizona, Texas A&M, West Virginia, and Vanderbilt.

Then a five-loss streak in February, combined with collapses by some of those pre-SEC victims, dragged the Dogs down into a dangerous pack. Stansbury's team snapped out with a couple of wins in the final regular-season week and went to New Orleans needing, consensus said, just one more win to assure a NCAA invitation.

Then lowly Georgia, who had started the skid, thumped a startlingly lifeless Bulldog bunch that did not seem to care whether they danced or not. The result is, not. Instead Mississippi State will await confirmation that they are playing in the NIT as a consolation prize.

Stansbury and players were not available for immediate comment Sunday after the NCAA selection show.

Mississippi State last appeared in the NCAA Tournament in 2009, which was the sixth such trip in an eight-year run that began in 2002. The successful span was bookended by SEC Tournament championships for automatic berths, with at-large invitations in 2003, '04, '05, and '08. Now they will miss for a third-straight year, which last happened to MSU in 1999-01; the first three years of Stansbury's regime.

This will be the fifth time a Stansbury squad has played in the NIT, along with 1999, 2001, '07, and '10. His teams have a 6-4 record in the ‘other' tournament and in 2007 reached the semifinals in New York City, with five of those wins in Humphrey Coliseum. As a whole Mississippi State is 7-7 in the NIT going back to 1979.

As the higher seed State is hosting NIT action this week, though with the campus in spring break. Humphrey Coliseum was left in game-condition following the regular season finale in case of just such a need. Stansbury's teams are 5-1 in NIT home games.


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