MSU stays on guard against upset
By By Tony Krausz / assistant sports editor
March 17, 2004
STARKVILLE Before you scoff at Monmouth forward Blake Hamilton's statement of the 21-11 Hawks not being a "pushover team," remember this is the NCAA tournament.
The tournament was built for upsets.
And no team may know that more than Atlanta Regional No. 2-seed Mississippi State University, which will open play in the tourney against No. 15-seed Monmouth at 6:10 p.m. Friday in Orlando, Fla.
The Bulldogs (25-3) were knocked out of last year's tournament by No. 12-seed Butler, after entering as a No. 5 seed.
MSU senior guard Timmy Bowers said no matter how much time has passed since the loss, he still remembers how Butler ended his junior campaign earlier than expected.
Even players who were not on the floor or even in a Bulldogs uniform are well aware of the dangers that lye ahead in the month of March.
Shane Power, who sat out last season after transferring to MSU from Iowa State, is all too aware of an unknown team pulling off the big upset.
The Bulldogs forward was a member of the No. 2-seed Iowa State team that lost to 15 seeded Hampton in the 2001 tournament.
It was the fourth time a 15 seed defeated a No. 2 since the field expanded to 16 seed per region in 1985, and Power is still at a loss when trying to explain what happened.
Hampton outscored Iowa State 14-2 over the game's final eight minutes, and the Cyclones never scored after Martin Rancik hit a shot with 7:01 left in the game to give them a 57-48 lead.
The Boise subregional produced lower-seeded winners in three of its four games in 2001. No. 11 Georgia State defeated No. 5 Wisconsin, and Georgetown, which seeded 10th, edged out No. 7 Arkansas that year. Only No. 3 Maryland survived, beating No. 14 George Mason.
MSU head coach Rick Stansbury tried to down play the significance of last year's loss to Butler, after his team received its two seed in the tournament.
The sixth-year Bulldog coach said MSU's team this year is completely different from last season's squad, and he pointed out how good Butler proved to be in the last tournament. Butler advanced to the Sweet 16, where it lost to No. 1-seed Oklahoma.
Surprisingly, the Bulldogs are not talking about the loss to Butler as they gear up for a run in the 2004 tournament, at least according to the team's leading scorer Lawrence Roberts.
Whether the Bulldogs talk about it or not, an upset seems to always be just around the corner in the tournament, and MSU will need to stay focused to keep from being an upset casualty for a second straight year.