MSU, Ole Miss open NCAA play

By By Fredie Carmichael / staff writer
March 15, 2002
Throw the records and seedings out the window.
It's NCAA tournament time and only the strong survive. Just ask a few of higher seeded teams like the University of Southern California, Gonzaga and Miami just to name a few who took an early exit on Thursday.
Mississippi State (26-7), winner of eight straight is arguably one of the hottest and most underrated teams in the country.
Ranked 17th in the latest Associated Press poll the Bulldogs look to be poised to follow in the foot steps of the memorable 1996 Final Four team. They got off to a good start for that by knocking off then-eighth ranked Alabama by three in the SEC tourney last weekend.
MSU (3rd seed) takes on another hot team today at 6:55 p.m. in Dallas at the 19,200-seat American Airlines Center when it faces 21-8 McNeese State in the opening round game of the Midwest regional.
After getting off to a fast start, Ole Miss struggled down the stretch and lost its first game in the SEC tournament against South Carolina last week.
But in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year, the Rebs finished the year 20-10 (9-8 SEC) and are headed to Pittsburgh, Pa. to face ninth seeded UCLA in the first round of the West regional of the NCAA Tournament today at 9:05 p.m.
MSU is facing no patsy, as the 14th-seeded Cowboys are sporting a 14-game winning streak of their own and won both the regular-season and tournament championship of the Southland Conference.
These two teams squared off last season in Starkville with the Bulldogs claiming a hard fought 83-74 decision.
For the Bulldogs, this is the first year their names have popped up on the television screen on selection Sunday since the 96 Final Four team.
And even though they're glad to be back, senior guard Markell Patterson says they won't be satisfied with just getting there.
Ole Miss got quality wins over Alabama and Florida down the stretch to secure its tournament berth.
In his fourth season as the Rebels head coach, Rod Barnes has led his team to four straight tournament appearances. Last season, the Naismith Coach of the Year led his team to a Sweet 16 bid.
And Barnes' team does it with defense. Ole Miss is holding its opponents to 63.8 points a game, tied for second in the SEC. The Rebels are also strong on the offensive end, knocking down a lead-leading 38.6 percent of their shots from behind the arc.
The Rebels will face another good shooting team tonight in UCLA. The Bruins are second in the Pac-10, shooting 40.6 percent from three point range.
Super Sophomore Justin Reed leads Ole Miss, averaging 14.6 points a game and 6.7 rebounds a game. The All-SEC power forward is one of three players for Jackson's Provine High School Sophomore Aaron Harper, 11.6 ppg, and junior David Sanders, 12.7 ppg both make up the "Provine Posse."
Point guard Jason Harrison is the lone senior on the team. The 5-foot-5-inch Harrison has scored 1,066 points during his career at Ole Miss and has a deadly touch from the outside.
The winner of the UCLA-Ole Miss game gets the winner of the Cincinnati-Boston University game on Sunday.

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