"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.
It's time for the bear to come out of hibernation.
Don't underestimate the power of staying together. In the arsenal of sports cliches, the ability of teams to "come together" is one of the most popular used by players and coaches. Maybe it has something to do with the elusive nature of chemistry. Sometimes personalities on a team just click and coaches don't have to police their players or encourage them to do things with their teammates off the field to build stronger bonds.
The numbers are coming fast and furious at the Mississippi State women's basketball team.
"The Bulldogs are the most upwardly mobile team in the SEC. After three straight losing seasons, Vic Schaefer's rebuilding job produced a school-record 27 wins. Now Mississippi State is in position to challenge at the top of the conference. Sophomore Victoria Vivians is one of the most exciting young scorers in the country and leads a deep and versatile roster." -- Charlie Creme's analysis of Mississippi State in his Southeastern Conference preview posted last week on ESPN.com STARKVILLE Vic Schaefer doesn't always agree with Charlie Creme.
OXFORD Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze walked ashen-faced and slump-shouldered into the auditorium for his post-game news conference and promptly announced he was converting to Islam.
As we prepare to roll the calendar to November, it appears we will have several story lines from the coverage area we will continue to follow.
A year ago, Mississippi State quarterback was on everybody's short list for the Heisman Trophy as the Bulldogs rolled to a 9-0 start and the No. 1 national ranking. This year, Prescott's name is seldom, if ever, mentioned in the Heisman conversation. Early losses to LSU and Texas A&M quickly put the Bulldogs -- and Prescott -- out of most spotlight.
Through seven games, the 2015 Mississippi State football team has yet to acquire a slogan, motto or catchphrase, as far as I know.
As we close in on Halloween, each of the region and district races are coming a little more into focus. Quickly, we are separating the pretenders from the contenders.
What do you see when you drive past the Columbus Soccer Complex? Do you see an opportunity, or do you wonder why the city and county spent so much time and energy -- and all of that money -- for something only a fraction of the area residents can enjoy? Your answer to those questions will be important to how this next piece of news is received: Tom Velek has resigned as director of coaching for soccer in Columbus and as director of competitive soccer for Columbus United, the competitive soccer club of the Columbus-Lowndes Recreation Authority.
For fans of the Columbus-Starkville high school football rivalry, you might be in luck this year after all.
As we officially hit the halfway point of the prep football season, it is safe to say this season will be remembered for years to come.
Even though the calendar still says September, players and coaches at West Point High School have the extra step this week.
1. EMCC coach Wallace pleads guilty, given probation COLLEGE SPORTS
2. Woodard II enjoys action-packed summer HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
4. MUW set to make history in men's soccer debut COLLEGE SPORTS
5. Gautreau joins MSU baseball coaching staff COLLEGE SPORTS