What a ride. The Mississippi State women's basketball team arrived back in Starkville on Saturday with the carnage of a 98-38 loss to three-time reigning national champion Connecticut fresh on its mind.
The target was on the back of the Columbus High School boys basketball team from the day Luther Riley was hired.
The Mississippi State softball team will play important games against Southeastern Louisiana (tonight) and Central Arkansas (Wednesday, SEC Network) at Nusz Park. While the MSU-SLU and MSU-UCA games won't determine bids to the Women's College World Series, both are big for the Bulldogs. MSU is 19-8 and 1-2 in the Southeastern Conference after winning one of three league games against No. 3 Auburn last weekend. In the first Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) figures released by the NCAA on Monday, MSU checked in at No. 31. That number will be more than sufficient for MSU to earn a fifth-straight regional berth under fifth-year coach Vann Stuedeman.
Roughly 15 minutes after Mississippi State point guard Morgan William dribbled away the final frantic seconds and heaved the ball into the air as a roaring crowd of 7,094 at Humphrey Coliseum erupted in celebration of a 74-72 victory against Michigan State, Spartans' coach Suzy Merchant sat before her post-game press conference with a glum trio of players.
The awards continue to roll in for the Mississippi State women's basketball team. On Tuesday, sophomore Victoria Vivians and junior Dominique Dillingham were named to The Associated Press' All-Southeastern Conference team. Vivians, the Bulldogs' leading scorer at 17.2 points per game, earned first-team honors, while Dillingham, who leads the team with 49 charges taken, received honorable mention accolades. The honors were the latest to come in another history-making season that will continue at 1:30 p.m. Friday (ESPN2) when No. 5 seed MSU (26-7) plays host to No. 12 seed Chattanooga (24-7) in the first round of the NCAA tournament's Bridgeport Regional at Humphrey Coliseum.
It appears to be a number's game at this point for the Mississippi State women's basketball team.
Glenn Schmidt always believed a career in coaching would be fulfilling. Turns out her 39-year coaching career was that and then some. After 13 seasons at Starkville Academy, Schmidt informed the Board of Trustees at the school last week she was retiring and wouldn't return as girls basketball coach and athletic director.
It's time for the Southeastern Conference to pick a site for its annual women's basketball tournament. By the time most of your read this, the first games in this year's event in Jacksonville, Florida -- Alabama vs. LSU and Ole Miss vs. Vanderbilt -- already will have been played. The five-day marathon comes on the heels of a 16-game regular season that seeded all 14 teams for the chance to earn the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Jacksonville is the 14th city to play host to the marquee event for what remains one of the nation's best women's basketball conferences. An event of this magnitude deserves a site that will show it off and a fan base that will create a great environment for the all of the games.
The stretch run is here, and the Mississippi State women's basketball team is poised to add a new entry to another history-making season.
STARKVILLE A few weeks ago, ESPN.com's Charlie Creme called the Mississippi State women's basketball team's 65-63 overtime victory against Tennessee a "season-saver." It didn't matter that the win was MSU's first in 37 meetings against Tennessee. Creme was more concerned about how the victory bolstered the Bulldogs' resume for NCAA tournament consideration. As ESPN's women's basketball "bracketologist," Creme believed the win solidified MSU's standing to earn one of the top 16 seeds and a chance to play host to the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament.
The games count for real now. For the past two decades, the Mississippi State softball team has been a model of consistency. On an annual basis, the team has won more games than it lost and, more often than not, has made postseason play. It has earned a few national rankings, but it hasn't reached elite status in the Southeastern Conference.
Tyrone Shorter sets the tone in every way for the Noxubee County High School football team. Whether it's his desire to keep the program's field house spotless or his edict that his players wear a buttoned-down shirt, a tie, and a blazer on Fridays during the season, Shorter wants his players to look and to act like one of the top programs in the state of Mississippi.
STARKVILLE At 8:25 p.m. on Wednesday April 15, the Mississippi State women's basketball team officially became the hunted. On that night, MSU coach Vic Schaefer said to the crowd at the team's annual banquet that the Bulldogs would face a different road in 2015-16. In many ways, the 2014-15 season was a coming out party for MSU. It rode wins over Mercer, Arkansas State, West Virginia, and Western Kentucky to a Preseason Women's National Invitation Tournament title that served notice to the rest of the nation. Those victories were part of an 18-0 start that helped the Bulldogs climb back into the national rankings and sent them on their way to a return trip to the NCAA tournament.
"Season saver" and "gauntlet" carry extra meaning with a month to go before the Southeastern Conference women's basketball tournament.
It's time. Coming off a strong performance in front of a record crowd at Humphrey Coliseum, there would be no better way for the Mississippi State women's basketball team to take the next step than to make more history Thursday night. On Sunday, then-No. 10 MSU lost to No. 2 South Carolina 57-51 before a crowd of 10,626, which exceeded the listed capacity of Humphrey Coliseum by 126. The crowd was the biggest in MSU's history, the largest to see a women's basketball game in the state of Mississippi, and the fourth-largest in the history of the Hump.
In her first news conference of the season, Mississippi State softball fifth-year head coach Vann Stuedeman threw out an interesting statistic. Stuedeman pointed out that last season Southeastern Conference rival Kentucky won 17 percent of its conference games and still played in a super regional. Stuedeman said Kentucky finished 4-20 in league play but a top 30 Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) was enough to help the Wildcats earn an invitation to the NCAA tournament. From there, Kentucky won a regional at South Bend, Indiana, before falling to Florida in a Super Regional in Gainesville, Florida.
Several teams in our coverage area could contend for a state championship as we enter the final four weeks of the prep basketball regular season. We should have a large group of participants headed to Jackson from the Mississippi High School Activities Association's six classifications. In the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools, the Heritage Academy and Starkville Academy boys are ranked among the best in the state. We also know the Starkville Academy girls, both teams at Oak Hill Academy, and the boys team at Columbus Christian Academy have a chance to advance, too.
Olive Branch High School girls basketball coach Blake Jones has a new holiday tradition. "My favorite games of the season are the games we play in the Travis Outlaw tournament every year," Jones said. "(Starkville High) coaches Kristie Williams and Greg Carter put on a great event. It is the best tournament in the state. I don't know how more people haven't found a way to get here and play. It's just an overall incredible experience."
Women's basketball history will be made twice this week in the state of Mississippi. From Starkville to Oxford, it's difficult to deny the enthusiasm surrounding the state's two biggest programs. At Mississippi State, fourth-year head coach Vic Schaefer has his program at new heights again. On Monday, the Bulldogs climbed one spot to No. 7 in The Associated Press Top 25 poll. The ranking eclipses the team's previous best of No. 8 last week. At 14-1 and 1-0 in the Southeastern Conference, MSU will play host to Auburn at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in its SEC opener at Humphrey Coliseum.
As we ring in 2016, here is hoping to another exciting year in the world of sports.
1. Cooper sets tone for Heritage Academy HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
2. Columbus Christian's DeLoach, Frazier earn All-State honors HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
3. Caledonia's Glasgow, Reed-Wood finalize college plans HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
4. Caledonia boys golf team wins state title HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
5. Cathedral blanks Heritage Academy in playoff opener HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS