October 17, 2017 10:23:00 AM
The Mississippi State women's basketball team will make history today before it plays a minute in the 2017-18 season.
That news shouldn't be surprising given MSU advanced to the national title game last season in its first appearance in the Final Four of the NCAA tournament.
Victoria Vivians and Morgan William played key roles in helping MSU win a program-record 34 games and snap the 111-game winning streak of four-time reigning national champion Connecticut in the national semifinals. Both players return with classmates Blair Schaefer and Roshunda Johnson to lead a team that likely will be ranked in the top 10 of every major preseason poll and challenge national champion South Carolina and Tennessee for the top spot in the Southeastern Conference.
Today, Vivians and William will earn the first of numerous preseason awards when they are expected to be named first-team picks to the All-SEC preseason squad. The voting, which is done by The Associated Press and involves media members who cover the league, will be released today. This will be the first time MSU has had two women's basketball players earn first-team honors in the preseason balloting.
MSU has achieved that feat twice in the postseason All-SEC voting. In 2003, LaToya Thomas and Tan White were named first-team All-SEC performers by The AP. In 2002, the SEC coaches named Thomas and White to the first team.
The latest news will be released in advance of the SEC Media Days, which begin Wednesday in Nashville, Tennessee. The men's team will kick off the season Wednesday, while the women's teams will take center stage Thursday.
Quinndary Weatherspoon and Lamar Peters will join MSU third-year head coach Ben Howland at the festivities, which will begin at 11 a.m. It will be the second appearance for Weatherspoon and the first for Peters.
Vivians, William, and MSU sixth-year head coach Vic Schaefer will begin their appearance at 1:40 p.m. Thursday. Prior to that, Schaefer and South Carolina coach Dawn Staley will be the featured speakers for the Nashville Sports Council's Cooper Steel Speaker Series.
In addition, Vivians and William will participate in a Twitter chat hosted by The AP's Doug Feinberg. Schaefer, Vivians, and William also are scheduled to appear on The Paul Finebaum Show.
Vivians led MSU in scoring (16.2 points per game) last season en route to earning third-team All-America honors from The AP and first-team All-SEC accolades. She also was named to the Oklahoma City All-Region Team and the All-Final Four Team. Earlier this month, Vivians was voted MSU's Homecoming Queen for 2017. She enters her senior campaign with 1,754 career points, two back of Alexis Rack for third place in program history. Thomas (2,981 points) and White (2,421) are the program's top two all-time leading scorers.
William was second on the team in scoring (10.9 ppg.) and earned honorable mention AP All-America accolades and second-team All-SEC honors. She was nominated for an ESPY and earned a spot on the All-Final Four Team after hitting the winning basket to beat UConn in overtime the national semifinal. That performance followed a 41-point effort against Baylor in the Elite Eight that helped land her Most Outstanding Player of the Oklahoma City Regional.
William set the MSU career (480) and single-season (181) assists record in 2016-17.
With a talented freshman class, which includes three-time Mississippi Gatorade Player of the Year Myah Taylor and Australian import Chloe Bibby, expectations are high for another stellar season. The Bulldogs will be hard pressed to increase their win total for a fifth-straight season, especially after the graduation losses of Ketara Chapel, Dominique Dillingham, Chinwe Okorie, and Breanna Richardson. Those four helped the Bulldogs win 111 games in the last four seasons.
But the presence of experienced players who have played significant roles in MSU's ascension should ease the transition. The returning players also should be eager to build their own identity. In fact, the seniors have a chance to eclipse the last group for most wins by class. If things go according to plan, that piece of history should happen sometime in February. It should make for another entertaining season for the MSU women, who will play host to Arkansas-Fort Smith at 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 3, in an exhibition game at Humphrey Coliseum. MSU will play host to Virginia at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10, in its season opener
The MSU men, which return four starters and are coming off a 16-16 season, will play host to West Florida at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 2, in an exhibition game at Humphrey Coliseum. MSU will play host to Alabama State. at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10, in its season opener.
Between games, there will be a special Final Four banner-raising ceremony to commemorate the women's basketball team's run to the national title game last season.
Season tickets, as well as tickets to the season-opening doubleheader, can be purchased online at www.hailstate.com/tickets.
NOTE: After press time, MSU was picked second behind South Carolina in the preseason poll. Vivians and William joined South Carolina's A'ja Wilson, the preseason player of the year, Missouri's Sophie Cunningham, and Tennessee's Mercedes Russell on the All-SEC team. Missouri, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Kentucky, and LSU rounded out the top half of the league. Georgia, Alabama, Auburn, Vanderbilt, Florida, Ole Miss, and Arkansas rounded out the second half.
Adam Minichino is sports editor of The Dispatch. He an be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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