Bulldogs tip off March Madness Tuesday night

Published 2:46 pm Tuesday, March 14, 2023

By Joel T. Coleman

Mississippi State Athletics

DAYTON, Ohio – March Madness begins on Tuesday night and by now you know Mississippi State will help tip it all off with its First Four game against Pittsburgh at UD Arena. The game will start at 8:10 p.m. and broadcast on truTV.

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What you might not know is that the madness has actually been going on for hours now for MSU.

As soon as State learned its NCAA Tournament fate on Sunday night, James Miller went straight to work. The Bulldogs assistant coach has been in charge of scouting the Panthers and there’s been no time to waste.

“It’s just basically like cramming for a test,” Miller explained. “You’re doing as much as you possibly can in a short amount of time to try and get as familiar as you can with [Pitt].”

Special times call for special measures. Miller has done scouts all year, but it goes without saying this is the most important one yet.

Miller watched on with anticipation during Sunday night’s selection show. And while he was no doubt as excited as anyone to see the Dawgs were indeed going dancing, perhaps nobody’s mind flipped from celebration to upcoming game dedication as fast as Miller’s.

“It’s exciting because you’re in the NCAA Tournament, which is where we wanted to be all year long,” Miller said. “Then you’re like, ‘Oh, wow. We’re going to play in about 48 hours.’ Typically, you have a week or sometimes more to work on a scout and here, we have less than 48 hours to turn it all around. It’s been madness over the last 24 hours, but I think we’re doing alright as far as catching up to where we need to be.”

So, what, exactly, has Miller seen when he’s studied the Panthers? Well, he can’t help but notice flashes of teams the Bulldogs have played already.

“They remind us of a Florida or a Vanderbilt because they can shoot it so well at multiple positions and they can get hot in a hurry where they could run off 10 or 11 3s with no problem,” Miller said. “Those are the kinds of teams we have a lot of respect for because we’ve played really difficult games against them.

“They’re similar to a lot of teams in our league from the standpoint of they really shoot the ball well from 3, which has given us trouble over the course of this season. Then they have guys that can make plays off the bounce as well. They really have a good team. They’re solid. They’re scary because they can score so well…I think they definitely have our guys’ attention.”

Pitt will stay at the front of State’s mind in the immediate future, too. The prep work is far from done.

Right after a Monday night practice on the court that the Dawgs and Panthers will face off on, Miller and the rest were going right back to cram a little more.

“The hay is definitely not in the barn just yet,” Miller said. “I probably slept about four hours [Sunday] night. It’ll probably be similar [Monday night]. It’s one of those deals where there’ll be limited sleep until the game, and hopefully we win and can get a little rest [Tuesday] night.”

If it sounds like a lot of hard work, it’s because it is. Fortunately though, Miller does have plenty of help.

“That’s the good thing about our staff is we’ll split stuff up and delegate accordingly,” Miller said. “We have a lot of people able to help in a lot of different ways with the scout. So, it’s a team effort for sure. We’ll have individual assistants assigned to the scouts, but at the same time everybody helps.”

Everyone helps and nobody minds. After all, this is a test State is excited to take. And everyone is determined to make sure the Dawgs earn a passing grade so they can move on to other exams in the days to come.

“This is a test we wanted to be a part of all year long,” Miller said. “It’s really cool for our guys to be able to experience this because it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for a lot of people.”