Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. South Carolina Gamecocks Pick & Prediction MARCH 9th 2024

No. 17 South Carolina and Mississippi State will have a lot at stake when they meet in their regular-season finale Saturday afternoon in Starkville, Miss.

The Gamecocks (24-6, 12-5 Southeastern Conference) saw their conference title hopes vanish after No. 4 Tennessee never trailed in a 66-59 victory over South Carolina on Wednesday night to claim the outright title. But the Gamecocks can still seize a top-four seed and a double-bye in next week’s conference tournament by defeating the Bulldogs.

Freshman forward Collin Murray-Boyles, who had 11 points and 11 rebounds against the Volunteers, said “it’s never going to be easy” to move on from the disappointment of a loss of that caliber.

“But,” he added, “we just have to focus on the next part.”

The Gamecocks won just 11 games last season and were picked to finish last in the SEC this season. They have not only far exceeded expectations — they still have plenty they can accomplish.

“There’s still so many milestones in building (a program),” second-year coach Lamont Paris said. “All of me is excited about that. Every last drop.”

Paris acknowledged that he and his staff will have to do “some damage control” with the players to get them ready for Mississippi State.

“They expected to win (against Tennessee),” Paris said of his team.

South Carolina feels as though it has been doubted all season long, and Paris and the players have used that as fuel to get to this point.

“They’ve owned that,” Paris said. “They wore that badge all season.”

While the Gamecocks seem assured of a berth in the NCAA Tournament, the Bulldogs (19-11, 8-9) still have some work to do.

Despite losing 75-69 at Texas A&M on Wednesday night, Mississippi State can still reach the 20-win mark and get to .500 in league play heading into the SEC tournament.

“I think we like to look at every game as a must win,” forward Cameron Matthews said. “But, with it just being the last game for seeding and the tournament and everything, I guess you can say there’s a little bit more pressure (against the Gamecocks).”

A slow start on offense forced the Bulldogs to play from behind in the loss to the Aggies, just as another one cost them in a 78-63 loss at then-No. 11 Auburn four days earlier.

“It was deja vu,” Bulldogs coach Chris Jans said. “I didn’t expect that. We obviously wanted to get off to a better start after our last outing on the road. And unfortunately, we didn’t.”

Mississippi State fell behind by as many as 23 points in the second half before getting within three, but the Bulldogs couldn’t complete the comeback.

“The opportunities are running out,” Jans said. “We’ve got one more opportunity in the regular season to get a big win that we need for this particular team to increase our resume and get ourselves in a better position.”

The Gamecocks prevailed in the teams’ conference opener on Jan. 6, posting a 68-62 win over the Bulldogs in Columbia, S.C.

–Field Level Media

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