Alabama’s John Petty Jr. (23) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Oklahoma in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Garett Fisbeck)
- No. 9 seed Mississippi State faces No. 1 seed Alabama in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament on Friday, March 12th (12:00 pm ET)
- The Crimson Tide won both regular-season meetings between the teams
- Below, see the odds and best bet for the game
Quarterfinal day at the SEC Tournament gets underway at 12 pm ET on Friday when top-seeded Alabama (21-6, 16-2 SEC) takes on No. 9 seed Mississippi State (15-13, 8-10 SEC). ESPN will have the television coverage for all the action from inside Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena.
Mississippi State advanced to the quarterfinal round by virtue of a hard-fought 74-73 win over No. 8 seed Kentucky on Thursday. The Bulldogs blew a 14-point second-half lead, but battled back and went ahead for good when Iverson Molinar converted two free-throws with 7.1 seconds to play. Molinar led MSU with 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the field.
Alabama, the SEC’s regular-season champion, defeated Mississippi State twice in the regular season, but those two victories both came by single digits. Perhaps that’s why the Crimson Tide are currently favored by a fairly modest 8.5 points in this matchup.
Mississippi State vs Alabama Odds
|Mississippi State Bulldogs||+8.5 (-116)||+315||O 141 (-110)|
|Alabama Crimson Tide||-8.5 (-106)||-400||U 141 (-110)|
Odds as of March 11 on FanDuel.
Alabama enters the postseason winners of three straight, but they were just a bit shaky down the stretch, losing to Arkansas by 15 on Feb. 24 before reeling off a trio of victories (including a 64-59 triumph over Mississippi State) over teams in the bottom half of the SEC standings. The Tide have claimed eight SEC Tournament titles in their history, but none since 1991.
Mississippi State has not won more than two games in a row since conference play began. They’ll need to pull off four wins in four days in order to make their second NCAA tournament appearance since 2009.
Alabama Looking to Lock-Up a #2 Seed
It seems like a foregone conclusion that Alabama will be the best-seeded team out of the SEC when the bracket is unveiled on Selection Sunday. The Crimson Tide are on the 2-line of virtually every bracketologist known to man at the moment.
The only way there’s a chance of Nate Oats’ team falling to a 3-seed would seem to be if they bowed out of the SEC tournament on Thursday, and then multiple teams currently behind them on the s-curve either won their conference tournaments or played their way to the finals. One of the teams that would have a chance to jump ‘Bama in this scenario is one from their own league — Arkansas.
Take care of Mississippi State in the quarterfinals and none of this is a concern.
Bulldogs Will Need to Make Some Threes to Win
Mississippi State is one of the teams in the SEC that matches up favorably with Alabama when it comes to size and physicality. The Bulldogs were competitive in both of their regular-season games against the Tide despite going 4-for-14 from three in the first game and just 1-for-12 in round two.
We know that MSU can exploit Alabama inside as well as limit what the Tide does so well offensively — ‘Bama shot just 32.3 percent from the field and was 7-of-28 from three in the game two weeks ago.
What we don’t know is whether or not Ben Howland’s team can knock down enough open shots from the outside to spring the upset.
Best Betting Angle
At first glance, 141 seems like a low total for a game featuring one of the most exciting, run-and-launch-qthrees teams in the country. But these two teams played just 12 days ago and combined for a mere 113 points. It’s also worth noting that the under is 7-3 in Mississippi State’s last 10 games and 3-1 in Alabama’s last four.
Expect MSU to slow things down and try to win a grind-it-out style game just 24 hours after a physically and emotionally taxing win over Kentucky. Also don’t be surprised if it takes Alabama just a bit of time to find their outside shooting stroke in their postseason opener. It’s not a rare occurrence for a top seed playing their opener in the afternoon.
The pick: Under 141 (-110)
Mike Rutherford has been the managing editor of Louisville sports website Card Chronicle since 2006. He served as SBD Nation’s college basketball editor from 2011-2020, and his college hoops writing has appeared on the websites of ESPN, CBS and Yahoo, among others.