Mississippi State, with a victory against Arkansas, will become just the 3rd team in MSU history to win 22 or more games during the regular season. If MSU wins, it will also be just the 17th time in 69 seasons of SEC play that MSU will end up with a winning record in SEC play.
Entering the week ranked 14th nationally according to CollegeRPI.com with a No. 22 national strength of schedule rating, coach Rick Stansbury's 21-7 Bulldogs claimed their third consecutive victory with Saturday's 61-59 home win over rival Mississippi in front of a Humphrey Coliseum-record crowd of 10,645 fans. State's current win string began with recent sizable triumphs over Auburn (89 53) and Vanderbilt (66-43). Now guaranteed of at least a .500 record in league play with an 8-6 SEC mark, MSU is bidding to secure a winning conference ledger for the first time since going 10-6 in league action during the team's Final Four campaign of 1995-96. With a 12-1 home record this year, State is also looking to match the current single-season school standard of 13 home wins.
Bidding for their first NCAA Tournament appearance since advancing to the Final Four six years ago, the Bulldogs continue to lead the SEC in team field-goal percentage (49.1%) and rebounding margin (+6.9). Defensively, MSU has limited its last three opponents to a collective total of only 155 points to mark the team's best three-game defensive stand in SEC play since the 1994-95 season.
Individually, sophomore all-SEC candidate Mario Austin paces the Bulldogs in both scoring (15.6 ppg) and rebounding (7.5 rpg) on the year, while leading the conference in field-goal percentage (57.6%) for league games only. One of five senior players to be recognized during Wednesday's pre-game activities, Marckell Patterson begins the week 22 points shy of moving up three more notches to No. 19 on the school's all-time scoring list. The team's second-leading scorer (13.0 ppg) this season, Patterson currently has 1,102 career points to his credit in 115 career MSU appearances.
In fourth place in the SEC's Western Division standings, the Arkansas Razorbacks are 13-13 overall on the season and 5-9 in league play after dropping their fourth decision in the last five games with last Saturday's 71-58 setback at Kentucky. Guided by veteran head coach Nolan Richardson, the Hogs are led by the senior backcourt duo of Jannero Pargo and Brandon Dean, who average 16.5 and 11.7 points per game, respectively. Freshman guard J.J. Sullinger adds 10.2 points per outing.
Having nailed down their first upper-division SEC West finish since 1995-96, the Bulldogs close out the regular-season slate this Saturday afternoon by taking on South Carolina in Columbia. Now slated to be televised by JP Sports, the game is set to tip off at 2 p.m. ET at Frank McGuire Arena. MSU will then participate in next week's SEC Tournament, March 7-10, at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.