With the start of Super Bulldog Weekend tomorrow, people are eagerly anticipating the Maroon-White Spring Football Game. Spring Practice allows the football fan inside us all to get a small taste of the game so many love. With the baseball team struggling in 2014 and struggling even further in 2015, Spring Practice would logically be more important to fans of Mississippi State. That was very true in 2014, but it hasn’t played as much of a role in 2015.
Last year during Spring Practice, I wrote a bunch of pieces about what I hoped to see from the different position groups. I haven’t done much to write about it this year, and outside of Jake, the rest of our writers haven’t spent a ton of time on it either. And no one has been asking us to do more.
The reason is because there has been a renewed interest in basketball. Mississippi State basketball has been a sore subject the past three years under Rick Ray, and you could argue that it was a sore subject the final year of Rick Stansbury in 2012. The struggles of the team soured many of our fans on watching or reading anything about basketball. But the moment Mississippi State fired Rick Ray and hired Ben Howland 48 hours later, a passionate but dormant fan base came alive.
Even the harshest critics of Rick Stansbury (I would be among them) will admit that when Mississippi State Basketball was at its pinnacle under Stansbury from 2002 through 2005, the Bulldogs were as tough a team to beat as there was in the SEC. The Hump was loud and intimidating. Rick’s Rowdies made life miserable on the opposing players. Mississippi State dove head first into basketball. You could easily make the argument that we were so passionate about basketball during that time only because our football team was atrocious. This is the same time frame that ended the Sherrill Era and ushered in the Croom Era. They were ugly times for football. But to see the response to the Howland hiring has reminded me that Bulldog fans desperately want Mississippi State Basketball to be relevant.
As we have gone into April and approach May, football has become a more prominent topic and will be throughout the weekend. But Bulldog fans are also eagerly awaiting an announcement from Ray Kasongo, a JUCO power forward from Southern Idaho, to announce his decision. And we are keeping our hopes up that Malik Newman, the most coveted prospect in the state of Mississippi in years, has decided to suit up in Maroon and White. Newman has always been a long shot, but ever since Howland was hired, the gap that Mississippi State had behind Kentucky has slowly begun to shrink.
Outside of Kentucky, there isn’t a school in the SEC that will value basketball more than they do football. But Mississippi State has shown in the past that we love the sport, even if it doesn’t match our love for football. If Ben Howland can get the right players, a sleeping giant could finally be awakened from a long hibernation.