Mississippi State apparently is geared up and confident of beating West Virginia in next Tuesday’s National Invitation Tournament semifinals at Madison Square Garden.

A headline in the Sun Herald of Biloxi/Gulfport, Miss., read in its Wednesday edition:

“The Bulldogs will take New York.”

Charles Rhodes, 6-9 junior, was quoted, “We’re gonna do a lot of things in New York. But we really can’t tell y’all about all of them.”

He recalled that when Mississippi State found out it was seeded No. 1 in the South, “everybody got fired up... It meant we’d be playing at The Hump. All the way to New York.”

The Bulldogs proceeded to knock off Mississippi Valley State 82-63, Bradley 101-72 and Florida State 86-71 to earn their ticket to the Final Four.

In his story Wednesday, the Sun Herald’s Jim Mashek wrote: “Makes you wonder what they might have been able to do in the NCAA Tournament.

“Nobody in their right mind would want any part of Mississippi State right now.”

The last time someone checked, the Mountaineers, No. 1 seed in the East, had not canceled its trip to the Big Apple.

This will be West Virginia’s first-ever basketball meeting with Mississippi State. The schools did meet in football last year, with WVU winning, and have a 2007 rematch here.

WVU is 25-9 and MSU 21-13.

It was announced Thursday that their game will tip off at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the opener of the NIT doubleheader.

Clemson and Air Force, also No. 1 seeds from their regions, will clash at 9 p.m.

The championship contest is set for 7 p.m. next Thursday.

ESPN2 will televise the semifinals, with ESPN carrying the title tussle.

Mississippi State, which was 8-8 in the Southeastern Conference, finished the season 16-3 at home, 3-9 away and 2-1 on neutral courts.

WVU was 9-7 in the Big East, 17-1 at home, 3-6 away and 5-2 neutral.

The Bulldogs are shooting 46.1 percent from the field to 40.4, outrebounding opponents 39.0-36.0, and averaging 77.2 points per game to 68.7.

They have won nine of their last 12 games. That stretch included wins over Auburn 91-83, Arkansas 84-60, LSU 56-50, Vanderbilt 83-70, Alabama 91-67, and Kentucky 84-82 in overtime.

The losses were at Georgia 86-73 and to Arkansas twice, 81-72 on the road and 81-72 in the SEC tournament.

Mississippi State has three players averaging double figures in scoring. They are 6-4 sophomore Jamont Gordon 16.2, the aforementioned Rhodes 13.8, and 6-3 senior Dietric Slater 10.1.

The other two starters, 6-4 sophomore Reginald Delk and 6-2 freshman Barry Stewart, are scoring at respective clips of 9.8 and 9.6 ppg.

Gordon also is the leader in rebounding (7.2), assists (5.2) and steals (44). Rhodes has blocked 63 shots, three less than 6-9 freshman Jarvis Varnado’s 66.

The Mountaineers, meanwhile, resumed practice on Thursday. They took some time off after Tuesday night’s 71-66 quarterfinal victory over North Carolina State.

Coach John Beilein and his squad will depart for New York City on Sunday.

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