Give us your thoughts about being a fifth seed and playing in Birmingham.
"We are very excited about playing in Birmingham, especially for our fans. It is very obvious, based on the turnout we had here in New Orleans, that our fans will be very excited about gathering all the tickets that they can get their hands on. That is two hours away. It is a bus trip for us. Five seed; five, four, six, there's not a whole lot of difference. I know that we are opening up against a very good Butler team. I like the fact that we don't play until Friday."
Talk a little about Butler.
"Butler is a very good basketball team. They are 25-5 for a reason. They are very good. I know that they lost out in their championship game. I watched them. They lost on the road in Wisconsin-Milwaukee's arena. That is why they lost."
Are you concerned about being overconfident against a Butler team?
"Absolutely not. I have no concern about that at all. Our kids have done a great job all year long respecting each opponent. They understand that everybody in the NCAA Tournament is good. We aren't going to overlook anybody. We are going to take them one at a time. Our next biggest game of the year will be Butler."
Is it better that you play on Friday instead of Thursday?
"Yes, in particular because we played on a Sunday afternoon. If our tournament had finished up Saturday, it would have been different. Having that extra day gives us a little bit more rest. We are glad of that."
What are your feelings about Tennessee not getting into the tournament?
"I have been in Buzz's shoes. I saw him flash on the tv screen where they had that tv camera in his living room. That is not a pleasant feeling, especially when you see some other names come on the board that you question how and why when you know your team is deserving. I don't envy what he is going through right now, because I have been there."
But the SEC did get six teams in the tournament.
"Yes, the league did get six teams in the tournament. There will be a lot of questions about whether they got the right six teams. Who knows. With the selection committee, coaches don't have any control of that. We are at their mercy. We will hear their reasons for taking certain teams over other teams."
Do you remember seeing Butler play Florida where they just about beat them? If so, does that tell you that they are a dangerous team?
"It tells me that they are a capable team. Their record is 24-5, so they have won a lot of games. We can't take them lightly."
Are you a little disappointed that you are a five seed?
"It really doesn't matter to me. I really don't keep up with it. Five, four...hey, you have to play anyway."
How excited are you that you are going to Birmingham?
"I am excited. We will have a lot of support there. We had a lot of support here in New Orleans. We had a lot of support in Texas last year, actually. I think it will be good for us."
Butler is not a named team but you guys lost to an unknown the first game of the season. Does that help motivate you for Butler?
"We try not to think about that. We have gotten back to the type basketball that we like to play in this tournament. We are playing hard, playing good defense and rebounding the basketball. On top of that, we are getting the ball down to Mario. I think if we continue to play like that, we will be pretty hard to beat."
What is the mental mindset of the team going into the NCAA this year as compared to last season?
"This year, I think the expectations are higher for us. Last year, the guys just wanted to, basically, get into the tournament. This year, we have a lot of experience coming back. We have been there before. We are looking to win it this year. We are looking to advance every game."
You have played two of the number one seeds in the nation this year and one of them last year. You beat one of them, went right down to the wire with a second one and played the third one last season ok. That has to give your team confidence going into the tournament.
"It gives us a lot of confidence. We beat Oklahoma and played Kentucky right down to the wire in both games. It gives us confidence and we know we can beat anybody in the country on any given night. We just have to go out there and play."
What do you know about Butler?
"Butler is a talented team. They shoot the three well and run a lot of back cut stuff, trying to slow you down. My freshman season at State, Butler played Florida and took them to a last-second shot. I think we have to be the aggressive team and play like we have been playing."
You guys have played two of the number one seeds and you have defeated one of them and took the other one down to the wire in both games. Does that excite you even more about the tournament, knowing how good your team is?
"It tells us how good we really are. Today's loss was tough because the guys really wanted to win. We really wanted to be the one to end their streak. But, we just have to move on. We have to get ready for Butler. Everybody will be clicking and working hard in practice. Then, we just have to get ready for the two-hour bus ride to Birmingham. A two-hour bus ride to Birmingham beats flying two or three hours to somewhere else."
I know you were extremely down after the Kentucky loss but I saw you clap after the selection show. Do you feel a little better now?
"To me, it's all about the chance to play again. I am frustrated right now because we have to wait. I am really to get back at it because I kind of felt like I didn't leave it all on the floor today against Kentucky. I felt like I could have made a play here or there to help our team win. I know my mind has to shift forward to Butler, which it has. You have to respect Butler. You can't overlook a team like Butler because they can hurt you. We are going to go into that game thinking that we have to take care of business."
It's a new season now that the NCAA Tournament is about to take place.
"The season was kind of crazy and one that we will have to live with, but we got where we wanted to be, to play in Alabama, close to home. We are going to use it as a plus and play hard."
Do you know anything about Butler?
"I don't know anything about Butler but I'm going to learn about them. You can't take anybody for granted."
When your team was announced on the selection show, you guys raised your hands for a couple of seconds but that was about it as far as celebrating was concerned. Was it not as big of a thrill this year compared to last year?
"This is like a business to us. You have your moment where you get excited but you have to get back to being serious because we have a job to do with our next game. From the time we leave this room until the time we play, it's straight business. That's the way we look at it. We are happy where we are playing and our seeding, but the guys know we have to really knuckle down."
You are a five seed despite beating one of the number one seeds and playing another one down to the wire twice.
"No one respects us. Nobody gives us any respect. If anybody watched that game today, they saw us take the number one team down to the wire and they only beat us by seven. That says a lot about our basketball team and how good we are."
Is this team more determined, more focused than last year?
"I think so because last year it was our first time to get into the NCAA Tournament and we didn't really know what we were getting ourselves into. I think with that experience last year, we really know what we have to do."
How much of an advantage is it for Mississippi State to be playing in Birmingham?
"Oh man, it is going to help us so much. Everybody is right there. If we can get everybody in New Orleans, four hours away from Starkville, I know we can get everybody to Birmingham."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher and owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial site for Mississippi State sports since October, 1996. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org