Another Men’s Basketball game, another bad performance by the Bulldogs last night in Vanderbilt. The Bulldogs led the Commodores 36-32 at halftime, but they fell apart as they have done so often in the second half. They ended up losing 66-56.
After the game was over, the Twitter account for sixpackspeak.com sent out this question to a Mississippi State fan that posts on their board.
The reason the question was asked is because there isn’t a person who covers or is close to the Mississippi State program that believes Rick Ray will be let go at the end of the season. From all indications, Scott Stricklin hired Rick Ray with every intention of giving him four years to produce results. Stricklin will not jettison that plan for any reason. So it is a legitimate question to ask. It sparked some debate on Twitter, and my response was that it would be equivalent to shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic. The Men’s Basketball season is just like that notorious ocean liner: a sinking ship.
The problem with this version of the sinking ship is the hole in the hull of the liner is a small puncture that is slowly taking on water. I say that because we have at least one more year of the Rick Ray era. Fans are losing their patience and they want to see results. You don’t need to look any further than the attendance to see that. For just about every game, the number of empty seats outnumber the filled seats by about a 2 to 1 ratio.
Improvement is no longer the issue. The team plays better than they did three years ago. The Bulldogs put up a fight, but they can not close the deal. With Sword, Ware, and Thomas being in their third years and I.J. Ready in his second year, the Bulldogs should be able to at least reach .500 in SEC play. Instead, the best the Bulldogs can accomplish is a 6-12 season, assuming they can beat the Missouri Tigers this Saturday at Humphrey Coliseum.
The problem does not rest with the players, the problem rests with the head coach. Rick Ray was wearing a microphone for the game against Alabama, and during one of the huddles, he told the players that the offense will take care of itself. He was trying to make a larger point about being committed to defense, but when your team is 307th in the NCAA in scoring per game, the last thing a fan wants to hear is that the offense will take care of itself.
The biggest problem I have with the Rick Ray era is it has reached a point where some Bulldog fans are wanting the team to lose in the hopes it will expedite Ray’s departure. Personally, I can never get to that point. As long as the team is wearing Maroon and White and call themselves the Bulldogs, I will always hope and pray they win. But if you ask me if I understand why they do, I absolutely do. There were a lot of people, myself included, that thought the Bulldogs had a chance under Ray to eventually get better. Maybe there are still some that feel this way, but they are small in number. If the objective is to get a new head coach, that won’t happen until Ray is gone. And if he is going to be back in 2015-16, some people are holding out hope that a complete embarrassment will force the hand of Scott Stricklin. I can see why fans of the team want us to lose. They are pulling for what they believe is the greater good of the program.
The fans of Mississippi State want to win in basketball again. As great as the Women’s team has been, it will never reach the popularity and following that the Men’s team will. That’s just a reality. The school attendance record for the Women’s team was set this past Sunday, and the Humphrey Coliseum was only about 70% to 75% full. The Women’s team has been a great story all season long, but it doesn’t have the following that the Men’s team would if we were better. Maybe if Schaeffer can get a sustained run for a number of years, that might change. But for now, it simply isn’t there.
I wish I could give you words of encouragement about this team. I wish I could tell you that next year should be better. Heck, I wish I could tell you that there was a chance that Stricklin will go ahead and pull the plug on Rick Ray. The only thing I can tell you is that the program probably is in about the same shape as the football team was when Croom was running it, and we found a guy that got things turned around. While all hope might seem lost now, it will eventually get better. Whether or not it is sooner than later remains to be seen.