UConn fell on the road last night, losing to the Baylor Lady Bears. That could help change the perception about this Mississippi State basketball team to an extent. It could also help the Bulldogs out a lot down the line.
The Bulldogs aren’t the only national title contender to fall on the road early on during the season. Just as the Mississippi State basketball team lost to Oregon back in December, UConn lost to Baylor last night. That should help change the perception around MSU’s loss to the Ducks.
UConn losing at any point during a season is a rare thing. The Huskies haven’t lost in the regular season since all the way back in 2014. We’re now in 2019 (in case anyone has already forgotten), meaning that around five years have passed since that last regular season defeat for Geno Auriemma’s legendary program.
But last night’s UConn loss helped serve as a reminder that even the giants within this sport are vulnerable and can still stumble. It also may have shown Mississippi State how to beat the Huskies should the Bulldogs meet up with them in the postseason.
First, let’s look at how this could change the perception of the Bulldogs’ loss.
Mississippi State is new to being a giant in this sport. The Bulldogs are a officially a national powerhouse in women’s basketball, but it’s not like State is used to being in this territory.
So that loss to Oregon a few weeks back was a bit shocking (and frustrating), but it shouldn’t be something that fans (or this team) panics over. The Ducks are currently the 5th ranked team in the country and the Bulldogs lost in Eugene two time zones across the country.
UConn losing under similar circumstances should help folks realize that even the best can lose when placed under difficult circumstances to win. Travelling across the country to face off a highly ranked team in their home stadium can make for a difficult game.
MSU experienced that and the Huskies confirmed that.
So, with fans, and more importantly media members and the selection committee, recognizing that, there’s a very realistic chance that MSU will have an argument in its favor should it need one come NCAA Tournament selection and seeding time.
Now let’s take a look at how this could help the Bulldogs plan for a possible meeting with the Huskies.
Baylor found a way to completely expose UConn in their game, and the Lady Bears effectively held the Huskies out of the paint. Given Mississippi State’s current roster, there’s a good chance that the Bulldogs could do the same should they ever have to meet up with UConn.
Senior Baylor center Kalani Brown is 6-7 and is averaging 15.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game this season. Last night against the Huskies, Brown had arguably her biggest game of the year, scoring 22 points and pulling down 17 rebounds, well beyond her season average for either stat.
Brown was able to thrive against a smaller UConn lineup. The tallest player on the Huskies’ roster is forward Olivia Nelson-Ododa at 6-4, bust she’s coming off of the bench as a freshman.
And if Kalani Brown can have that sort of success against the Huskies in the paint, there’s a very real chance that Teaira McCowan could as well. This year, the senior 6-7 center for Mississippi State is averaging 16.6 points and 13.2 rebounds per game. She’s also got 40 blocks to her name this season.
If Brown can give UConn issues, expect McCowan to be able to as well.
And it’s not just McCowan in the paint that could give the Huskies issues. The Bulldogs have the pieces on defense to create problems for any team, just as Baylor did last night.
The Mississippi State basketball team has a couple of guards in Jordan Danberry and Jazzmun Holmes who can move up and down the length of the court with ease. Chloe Bibby and Anriel Howard are agile enough to cover on the perimeter while also still getting in the paint to block shots and grab rebounds.
Unfortunately, Baylor beating UConn will probably hurt MSU in the polls, but that’s fine.
Looking at the AP poll, Vic Schaefer’s Mississippi State basketball team is the 7th ranked team in the country. UConn was the top ranked team in the nation. And, well, Baylor was the 8th ranked team in the nation.
That means that there’s, unfortunately, a pretty good chance that the Bulldogs could drop down a spot once the next AP poll comes out.
Looking at the Coaches Poll, UConn is number one, MSU sits at No. 6, and then Baylor is No. 7. The Bulldogs and the Lady Bears actually recently flipped rankings too. So, well, expect them to flip back once the next poll comes out.
But, all things considered, this is far from being the worst thing ever.
There’s still plenty of season left and there’s plenty of games for the Bulldogs to play. With UConn being handed their first loss, the Bulldogs were given a theoretical method of beating the Huskies should they ever need it.
Last night’s loss should also serve as a reminder for fans and media members that anyone can lose at any given time. The perception about the national powers in women’s college basketball should be changed a bit. That could give the Mississippi State basketball team an argument that would help them overcome their loss to Oregon at the end of the season should it be needed with the seeding in the NCAA tournament.