Football is king in the Southeastern Conference. We all know that is the case. But the recent success and future outlook of both basketball programs for the Mississippi State Bulldogs has me pondering if the school will have its most success in the sport of basketball.
The Women’s Basketball team has become one of the best programs in the country. Vic Schaefer has taken a fledgling program and turned it into a powerhouse. The Lady Bulldogs have risen to number 4 in the country in the AP poll and are poised to be one of the four number one seeds in the NCAA Tournament if they can continue to win at the level they are right now.
The Men’s Basketball team has been in one of the longest funks it has ever been in since 1991. The Bulldogs have not received an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament since 2008, and their last appearance in the tournament came in 2009 when they had a semi-miraculous run to the SEC Tournament Championship. The Bulldogs have had four consecutive losing seasons entering the 2016-17 season.
But the Bulldogs pulled off an impressive upset Tuesday night against the Arkansas Razorbacks, and won back-to-back SEC road games for the first time since 2011. They are 2-1 in SEC play and 11-4 overall with a winnable game this Saturday against the Texas A&M Aggies. The return of the team to the Stansbury years might be here a year earlier than anyone expected.
Both teams have one of the best players in the conference on their team. The Women’s team is led by All-SEC Guard and potential All-American and Player of the Year candidate Victoria Vivians. She’s averaging just under 17 points a game and has the potential to score points in volume in a short amount of time.
The straw that stirs the drink for the Men’s team is Quinndary Weatherspoon. Tuesday night against the Razorbacks might have been his best game as a Bulldog. He scored 25 points on 8-11 shooting including 6-7 from three point range. For the season, Weatherspoon has pushed his points per game average up to 18.2 and collects five rebounds a game. He has an impressive 49.1 field goal percentage and shoots 46.0% from three point range. If he can keep his average above 18 points, he would be the first Bulldog to average 18 a game since Darryl Wilson in 1996.
Both teams have exciting, dynamic play makers running the point for them as well. Morgan William does not get the same kind of publicity as Victoria Vivians, but her presence on the team might be more important. Her 11.4 points per game is nice, but she averages almost 4 assists a game and just under 2 steals per game which often leads to easy points for the Lady Bulldogs.
Lamar Peters was just inserted into the starting lineup for the Men’s team, and he has shown what he can do in that role. He’s averaged 14.5 points in those two starts while shooting 40% from three point range. His dribble penetration has allowed open looks for the rest of the team and made the offense much more productive. The Bulldogs were averaging 72.7 points in the 13 games prior to his insertion in the starting lineup. In the two games Peters has started, the offensive production has gone up to 89.5 points.
Mississippi State fans will always be most excited about football. This is Mississippi and we play in the SEC, so that is just the nature of the beast. But with all of the hurdles the football team has to overcome, the fans should probably start expecting more success from the teams that play on the hard court than the one that plays on the gridiron.