Mississippi State women’s basketball coach Vic Schaefer, second from left, watches the NCAA selection show with players from left: Jazzmun Holmes, Teaira McCowan, Anriel Howard, Chloe Bibby and Myah Taylor Monday night at Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville. In front of the players and coaches are the SEC Women’s basketball tournament, left and regular season trophies. Photo by: Jim Lytle/Special to The Dispatch
March 19, 2019 10:53:55 AM
It happened. Again.
Monday afternoon it was announced that the Mississippi State women's basketball team will head into the NCAA Tournament as a No. 1 seed for the second straight year.
MSU will take on 16th-seeded Southern University at about 8:30 p.m. Friday at Humphrey Coliseum, or 30 minutes after No. 8 seed South Dakota and No. 9 Clemson conclude their 6 p.m. game.
"They're going to be a tremendous opponent for us," MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said.
"Great guard play, athleticism, quickness and so we'll have to be ready to go on Friday against that group."
While the official announcement of the Bulldogs' placement was not supposed to be revealed officially until 6 p.m. Monday, a snafu on ESPNU around 3 p.m. leaked the brackets early.
That said, MSU still held a public viewing party for the selection show at Humphrey Coliseum as scheduled with the women's team and coaching staff on hand.
Clad in their maroon and white, the MSU faithful graced the stands, awaiting their chance to be seen on the ESPN telecast that was shown on the lowered JumboTron.
Though the television announcement around 6:30 pm was rather anti-climactic for the players, the fans in attendance roared in approval as their beloved team was headed to March Madness once more.
"I want to thank everyone for being here today," Schaefer said in his address to the crowd. "It's such a special day for all of us here at Mississippi State."
There's a level of revenge for this year's MSU team. Onlookers were reminded of these sentiments Monday night when the ESPN broadcast showed the go-ahead 3-pointer Notre Dame guard Arike Ogunbowale drained in the waning seconds of last year's national championship game that sank MSU.
Bulldog fans jeered and booed in distaste at the heartbreaking reminder of how agonizingly close they came to a title just a year ago.
After losing four starters from last season's national runners-up, questions swirled as to whether Schaefer's bunch could rebound from such a staunch loss of talent.
That they have.
Following a regular season in which the Bulldogs tore through their schedule en route to a 27-2 record and an SEC title, the hot start persisted into the postseason.
MSU barreled through the SEC Tournament, defeating Tennessee, Missouri and
Arkansas by a combined total of 61 points.
The run was capped off by a 31-point shellacking of the Razorbacks in the
tournament championship game.
Despite the offensive onslaught that the Bulldogs, led by senior center and first team
All-American Teaira McCowan, have boasted, Schaefer says his squad still has plenty
to improve on.
"This team has excited me all year because they possess the potential to be the best
ever," he said. "Now they've already done some things that would relate to being the
best ever -- outright championship, winning the SEC tournament championship...
This is about one more."
While Schaefer has said he prefers to take the tournament one game at a time, it's
worth scrutinizing whom MSU could play down the pipe.
The most glaring matchup is a potential Elite Eight meeting with No. 2 seed Oregon
in Portland, Oregon.
The Ducks and Bulldogs met earlier this season in Eugene, Oregon -- an 82-74 Oregon
Texas A&M graduate transfer Anriel Howard totaled 30 points in the contest, but
McCowan was limited to just five points -- well below her season average of 17.8.
Further, though MSU's focus remains on Friday's first-round matchup against
Southern, the Bulldogs and their bench boss are intent on finishing business in
"This time of year now it's one-and-done," Schaefer said. "You've got to start
thinking, 'This is winding down, how long do you want this to go? One week? Two
weeks? Three weeks?' because that's what's in front of you right now."
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