Stansbury and a few older Dogs have some experience in playing in not-entirely-neutral courts at NCAA time. Three years ago State was assigned to play in Dallas and ran into Texas in the second round. The atmosphere played into MSU falling far behind early and coming up just short in a frantic late rally. This year cruel fate brought State to Charlotte where Duke will be in friendlier confines…but not really be the ‘home' team. "Everybody tells me it will be a Carolina crowd tomorrow," Stansbury said. "But if we can get Carolina fans behind us that is neutralized at best."
Later, in the MSU locker room, Stansbury said he was not worried about what fans might believe is a ‘mystique' to the Blue Devils. A great program with a Hall of Fame coach, sure. But Mississippi State has played in far more intimidating situations at tournament time, such as SEC Tournaments which become practically home games for another team in blue. "We feel it with Kentucky," Stansbury said. "The Duke mystique doesn't affect us. Zero." Now, the coach hopes, Duke's bitter foes might zero out their advantages in Charlotte.
"It's going to be half Duke—give us the other half and it's even!"
Asked if cheers from the local crowd could make a difference, senior guard Shane Power shrugged. "It doesn't matter. But it will help a little bit. That's a funny question. But if the UNC fans want to give us support we'll certainly take it." Which prompted a local writer to ask if, say, ‘Ole Miss' was playing at the same site, would State fans pull for the opposing team? "I can guarantee you of that!" laughed Power.
And anyway, as senior forward Ontario Harper said, "Regardless of who is in the stands we have to perform." *More Game Notes: MSU and Duke have faced one common foe this season. The Bulldogs beat Virginia Tech 71-65 in the Sugar Bowl Classic played in New Orleans in December. Tech, a first-year member of the ACC, split with the Blue Devils by losing 100-65 in Durham before winning 67-65 in Blackburg.
*The Bulldogs will try to give their coach his 150th career victory Sunday. Now in his seventh year in charge, Stansbury has a 149-74 overall record. Five of his teams have won 20 or more games, including the last four. And six of his seven clubs have played in a postseason tournament, either the NCAAs (2002-03-04-05) or the NIT (1999, 2001).
*Half of the eight NCAA bids Mississippi State has received since the championship tournament began in 1939 have gone to Stansbury squads. Thus far the coach has a 3-3 record in NCAA play.
*In the eight NCAA trips, Mississippi State is 10-7. The first win came in 1963 in consolation play, something the tournament did away with after 1981.