SEC Championship Preview: Miss State Fights for Tournament Bid

The ACC and SEC BlogSenior Analyst IMarch 15, 2009

We have an East vs West battle for the SEC Championship in Tampa, FL, but it is probably not the team from the West most expected. The Bulldogs of Mississippi State need this win to get an NCAA berth while their opponent, Tennessee, has already locked up a bid.

The Volunteers are looking for their first SEC Tournament title since 1979. Miss State is hoping for its third all time and first since 2002.


Season Meetings

Tennessee 81, Mississippi State 76, Feb. 25, Knoxville

The Volunteers forced 17 turnovers and won the rebounding battle 38 to 31 en route to a five point home win just a few weeks ago. Wayne Chism and Tyler Smith were able to limit Miss State's James Varnado to just eight points and four field-goal attempts.

But the Bulldogs' 11 three pointers kept them in the game until the very end.


Tennessee Volunteers Keys to Victory

1. Stay Hot Shooting
In their wins this weekend, Tennessee has shot over 50 percent on average; the Vols barely broke 46 percent on the season. And they have been doing this by pounding it inside to Chism and Smith who have 87 points combined in the two wins.

2. Control the Boards
The Volunteers have won the rebound battle all year but stepped up big time in yesterday's win over Auburn. Miss State on average loses the glass 43 to 41.


Mississippi State Keys to Victory

1. Three Point Shooting
The Bulldogs are hitting a blistering 37 percent from beyond the arc this season led by Ravern Johnson who hits nearly 42 percent on 195 attempts. Vol opponents make a respectable 34 percent on the season so watch for Miss State to try and attack here.

2. Lock Down Defense
The Bulldogs held South Carolina to under 36 percent shooting and LSU hit only 31 percent. The Volunteers have been red hot shooting so something has to give. Miss State's smaller lineup will need big man James Varnado to play well on the inside.


The aforementioned Varnado is a big question mark for this game. Can he improve on his eight point game in the last meeting. Can he slow down Tennessee's bigs inside. If those answers are yes then Miss State wins this one. If not, I still think Rick Stansbury's club has a shot because of their three point shooting.

Pick: Mississippi State

Season: 38-29 SU through 3/14

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