Dec 17, 2013; Starkville, MS, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Rick Ray during the game against the Florida A
I’m going to spend my next few articles on some time looking at some beliefs regarding our Athletics program and take a look at how true they are. So let’s start with the basketball team since they start league play against Big Blue Nation tomorrow night in Lexington.
The Mississippi State Men’s Basketball team has surprised a lot of people.
But are they really good enough to make it to one of the postseason tournaments? There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about the future of the basketball program, but should we care more about the immediate future or the long term future? What exactly is the basis of this optimism?
Rick Ray had a monumental task facing him when he took the reins of the program in 2012. Between graduation, player defection, and overall turmoil, there really wasn’t a whole lot he could do with what he was handed. The bright spot? All the players that were new to the program appeared to buy in to what he was telling them. They have placed a renewed emphasis on conditioning and playing for 40 minutes, and the defensive intensity that was lacking during the collapse of 2012 has come back fresh and anew. The success or failure of Rick Ray as a head basketball coach won’t start to be determined until next year, but there are a lot of positive signs early in his tenure.
USF and FGCU Victories
Most people were uncertain how we would do against Florida Gulf Coast, and many penciled in an L for South Florida. When we tallied up consecutive wins against both schools, optimism started to skyrocket. It was tempered after UNLV manhandled us some in the final of the Las Vegas Classic, but a lot of it is still there. South Florida is a good, not great, team, and is on par with what we will see consistently in league play. IF we beat them, it isn’t far fetched to believe that we can be competitive in the SEC.
The SEC is considered the premiere conference when it comes to football. That isn’t the case in basketball. Most years the SEC struggles to be considered a good conference. While that can hurt a team when it comes to tournament selection time, it makes it a little bit easier to rack up wins and possibly get an NIT bid for those teams that simply need additional experience like our team. When I did my Basketball Preview, I had us winning six SEC games. If we do, then we would finish the season at 16-15. I’m not sure we make it to the NIT with that record, especially if we ended up with a loss in the first round of the SEC tournament. Seeing how the team has played since the season started, I think it is possible that we might be able to get up to 8 wins in league play. I think that would get us there.
I want to believe this is based mostly in fact, but I am not 100% certain. This team has played better than most thought they would so far, but who knows how they are going to respond once the SEC slate starts. It wouldn’t surprise me if they won a few games they weren’t supposed to, but it also wouldn’t surprise me to see them blow a couple they should win. I’m going to say mostly fact, and pray for the best.