Originally created 03/15/04

Mississippi State land No. 2 seed in NCAA tournament



Mississippi State can add another accomplishment to its impressive list.

The Bulldogs received a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament Sunday, the best in school history.

Mississippi State (25-3) will face No. 15 seed Monmouth on Friday in the first round of the tournament in Orlando, Fla. Monmouth (21-11), a 3,500-student university in New Jersey, received an automatic bid to the tournament after winning the Northeast Conference championship by defeating Central Connecticut State 67-55.

The Bulldogs started the season unranked and unknown.

Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury had just one returning starter in guard Timmy Bowers, who was switching from shooting guard to point.

Bowers made the transition with ease and the other pieces came together perfectly.

Baylor transfer Lawrence Roberts was even better than expected and became SEC player of the year by dominating in the post.

In their first season as starters, gritty power forward Branden Vincent and athletic shooting guard Winsome Frazier stepped up their games on both ends of the court.

Iowa State transfer Shane Power made a strong recovery from a knee injury and provided the Bulldogs with another versatile player who can score, handle and defend.

With that starting five and gutsy freshman point guard Gary Ervin coming off the bench, the Bulldogs twice reached No. 4 in the AP rankings - their first time in the top five since 1962.

The Bulldogs are making their third straight appearance in the NCAA, another first in school history.

They hope to fare better this year then they have in the previous two.

As a No. 3 seed two years ago, Mississippi State was knocked out in the second round by seventh-seeded Texas in a game played in Dallas.

Last season, the Bulldogs were seeded fifth when they were upset in the first round by Butler.

Mississippi State made its only Final Four appearance in 1996, it was a No. 5 seed.

The tournament gets under way Tuesday night with the play-in game at Dayton and the first round begins Thursday.

The regionals are March 25-28 and the Final Four is in San Antonio on April 3 and 5.