March 13, 2009
STARKVILLE -- The waiting is the hardest part.
But Donnisha Tate is convincing when she says she is a patient person.
The Mississippi State senior forward better be a patient person because she still has to wait until Monday night until she and her teammates learn their postseason destination.
Odds are the MSU (22-9) will hear its name called sometime after 6 p.m. Monday on ESPN''s NCAA tournament Selection Show.
The Lady Bulldogs, who lost to LSU 63-58 on March 6 at the Southeastern Conference tournament at Alltel Arena in North Little Rock, Ark., are one of seven SEC teams on the table for NCAA tournament consideration.
Several Internet "experts" have speculated a MSU victory against LSU in the SEC tournament, which would have been the third this season against LSU, would have virtually assured MSU its first trip to the NCAA tournament since 2002-03.
As it stands today, MSU is in the mix with Georgia, South Florida, New Mexico, Boston College, Richmond, Temple, San Diego State, Georgia Tech, and others to learn their fate.
Collegerpi.com has MSU with a Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) of 41 and a Strength of Schedule (SOS) of 65. The NCAA tournament selection committee will use those numbers with several others, including wins against top 25 and top 25 opponents, when it gathers to select the field.
In collegerpi.com''s bracket, MSU is a No. 8 seed and is set to take on No. 9 seed Michigan State in East Lansing, Mich., on March 22. Michigan State is one of a handful of teams that could benefit from playing on its home court.
ESPN "Bracketologist" Charlie Creme has MSU as one of his last four teams in the NCAA tournament with USF, Minnesota, and Temple. He has MSU a No. 9 seed and set to face No. 8 seed Villanova on March 22 in Lubbock, Texas.
Tate has watched all of the discussion on the Internet and heard all of the talk from friends and students. She is convinced the Lady Bulldogs have done enough to earn a spot in the 64-team NCAA tournament field.
"I think we deserve to go even though some people say we didn''t have a good season," Tate said. "We have people who are hatin'' on us, people around school and people back home who are calling me. But I think we have had a good season. I think we can go far in the tournament if we have our heads right and come out ready to play every game."
Tate said it is tough to sit and wait coming off the loss to LSU. She said MSU''s two victories against LSU should mean more, though, as well as its win against Vanderbilt and its strong showing against Tennessee, Auburn, Xavier, and Maryland, all when they were ranked.
"We have showed we can hang with the best teams," Tate said.
If she had an opportunity to state her case to the NCAA tournament selection committee, Tate said heart is MSU''s selling point. She said the Lady Bulldogs have matured throughout the season and are ready to give its all on the NCAA stage.
"They need a team that is going to entertain people," Tate said. "I think people want to see teams play against each other tough and have some kind of excitement. We should be in there for that reason, I hope."
MSU won eight games in the SEC in the regular season, which earned it a No. 6 seed in the SEC tournament. The Lady Bulldogs struggled, falling behind 18-0 to South Carolina in their SEC tournament opener before rallying for a 49-39 victory.
Coach Sharon Fanning shares Tate''s optimism about her team''s NCAA chances. She said the team is focusing on winning its next basketball game and isn''t worrying about if it will make the NCAA tournament.
"I anticipate we will be in the NCAA tournament," Fanning said. "That is what our expectations are. I think when I look at all of the teams depth wise in all of the conferences, I think we deserve to be there."
Fanning said she sat down earlier this week to crunch the numbers to see where MSU stood compared to the Big 12 and the Big East. She believes the number of expected invitees from those two conferences and other power conferences bodes well for the Lady Bulldogs.
Fanning said she hasn''t talked to the MSU administration about the possibility of playing in the WNIT if the Lady Bulldogs aren''t invited to play in the NCAA tournament.
MSU lost to Southern Miss 62-61 last season in the second round of the WNIT. The Lady Bulldogs reached the third round of the WNIT in 2007 and the first round in 2005.
Until MSU learns its fate, Fanning said she and her assistant coaches will focus on getting the players to re-focus in practice.
"I have been concerned the past couple of days with how hard they have worked," Fanning said. "Some of them are not familiar with the NCAA tournament format. I think they''re understanding and preparing as if they have a shot at it."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.