Alright, so if you all do not know by now, then let me be the one to tell you Mississippi State Women’s Basketball is REALLY good! 21-0 good after yet another convincing win over the Florida Lady Gators by the score of 90-53 this past Thursday night. The 21-0 start is the greatest start in Mississippi State Women’s Basketball program history and the best part is I do not think they are done adding to this historical run. The Bulldogs’ next game is versus the Lady Rebels in Oxford, Mississippi today at 1 p.m. followed by a mid-week matchup on the road versus the Lady Tigers of Missouri on Thursday, February 1st. I, personally, feel Mississippi State gets an 8th straight win over the Lady Rebels and in another convincing manner, but the Missouri Tigers next Thursday night will definitely be another healthy test for these Bulldogs on their way towards making history again. However, after watching Vic Schaefer’s team play week in and week out, I honestly could see this women’s team traveling into the postseason with an undefeated record (*knocks on wood). Everyone enjoys watching a successful program continue to win ball games like this Mississippi State Women’s Basketball team, but what are the things which make this team so good and fun to watch?
- Chemistry - Look, I am new to FWTCT, so let me say I am a HUGE basketball fan. My future goals are to be coaching basketball somewhere here in the state of Mississippi and hopefully one day become a part of the Mississippi State Men’s Basketball program - a lifelong dream of mine. I say all of those things, because there is nothing I value more in basketball than the first three points I have listed for the success of this women’s basketball program (chemistry, ball movement, and defense). My favorite coach in basketball right now is Greg Popovich, who is the head coach for the San Antonio Spurs, because when you watch Coach Pop’s teams, you will notice his teams play together as a unit and fulfill roles on the team instead of competing against each other for points. There is NOTHING I can think of being more important than chemistry on a basketball team, regardless of the level of play. And guess what? Mississippi State Women’s Basketball has A LOT of it! The Bulldogs are led by 4 senior starters (Vivians, William, Schaefer, and Johnson) and the mighty sophomore, Teaira McCowan, who finishes out the starting 5 as we all should know. These five Mississippi State heroines, especially the four seniors, have built up chemistry playing together over the past seasons and it shows heavily on the court. Chemistry sits in as teammates understand their roles while also understanding the abilities of what each of their teammates can do, and then they utilize each other to play as a unit realizing the team is only as good as its weakest link. Watching players come off the bench for the Bulldogs and work straight into their roles on the court is something else to watch as a basketball fan.
- Ball Movement Accompanied with Smart Shots- I hate to say it, but the difference between Men’s Basketball and Women’s basketball right now is this point right here. Watching Mississippi State Men’s Basketball shot selections in the last three or four 2nd halves they have played in has not been pretty to watch, but on the other hand, watching the women’s team swing the ball around the court is my equivalent to watching an art masterpiece be illustrated right in front of my eyes. Vic Schaefer’s team this year is one of the least selfish teams I think I have witnessed in my lifetime. Morgan William was the team’s second leading scorer last year (this year she is 5th), and I have heard numerous people say she is not playing as well offensively this year. Those comments maybe true speaking from a shooting percentage perspective, but “Itty Bitty” has stepped into her point guard role already totaling 98 assists for the season. The way Morgan William plays the role of floor general on the court is highly impressive, and she has helped teammates like Schaefer and Johnson really elevate their games this year through finding them in open situations for key shots. The Lady Bulldogs do a phenomenal job of balancing their perimeter and post games, making sure to swing the ball around for big time shots and feeding one of the nation’s best post players the ball. The ball movement and smart shot selection are big reasons why the lady dogs are the nation’s fourth best scoring offense in the country.
- Physical, Fast, Hard-Nosed Defense- There are not many teams in college basketball (men’s or women’s) who are athletically gifted enough to play hard-nosed man-to-man defense all game like these Bulldogs are capable of doing. It looked like Vic Schaefer had the girls out in a press early to start their last ballgame, and it created problems for Florida early on. If you noticed on Florida’s defensive end, they switched to a 2-3 zone in the second half, which made no sense to me with the many great shooters we have on our team. However, it is simply because they did not have the athletes across the board to defend our girls woman for woman I should say, and there was not a player on the court who could defend McCowan specifically in the post. There is only one girl in the entire country who I personally feel can bang with McCowan in the post, and it is none other than Aja Wilson of South Carolina, who we play on Feb. 5. I was ecstatic to learn the game is already sold out, because our women deserve a packed hump against the team who defeated them three times last year in highly fought out games, including the two championship games (SEC and NCAA title). Going back to this team’s defense, these Bulldogs are something special watching them take the ball away from the Gators an astounding 22 times I believe. WOW! As they say, defense wins championships and these women definitely have what it takes.
- Attendance- How about that crowd for the Florida game?! I missed the electric atmosphere of the Hump and I am glad to finally be witnessing it come back around. BASKETBALL FEEDS ON CROWD ENERGY LIKE NO OTHER SPORT! Of course this is my opinion, but I have never seen a crowd’s energy affect a sport in the way it does both men’s and women’s basketball. A home team can be down 15 points, hit a few quick shots, and a home crowd’s energy has the other team wondering, “what in the hell just happened?!” I guarantee you could ask both Vic Schaefer and Ben Howland for their opinions, and they will tell you a crowd’s attendance makes a huge impact in the games. I strongly feel it is a big reason why our Men’s Basketball team is not as successful, because we want to wait until they start reeling off wins to come back into games. I also strongly disagree with the logic involved in that. I, personally, cannot stand when fans are “fair weather” and decide to start showing up when their programs start jumping on the scene. Why not be a part of getting them there?! Look at what Mississippi State’s attendance creates for Mississippi State Women’s Basketball and think what it could also do for our Men’s Basketball team. I am PROUD of the attendance for our women’s games and I hope we all can do a better job of attending all our major sport teams’ games.
- Great Coaching- Obviously, the first place people will look to for a team’s success is their coaching, and my oh my do we have some incredible coaches led by Coach Schaefer. The adjustments Coach Vic makes throughout a game, especially after halftime, show just how special he really is for our program. Florida gave us a bit of a scare early on in the ball game closing the score to 22-20, but once Coach Vic made the adjustments he needed to, the Bulldogs took off and it was beautiful to watch. Another thing is you can tell the players love him and he loves each of them like family (obviously his daughter being one of them, but you catch my drift). There is more to coaching than developing players into superb athletes, it is also about developing them into better individuals ready to take on the world. Take for instance one of my favorite Bulldogs, Dominique Dillingham, who came back to school for her Master’s and is now helping coach for Coach Schaefer. Also, Victoria Vivians becoming our latest Homecoming Queen at Mississippi State is another example. Yes, this has a lot to do with the individuals themselves, but it also says a lot about the coach who recruited the players to this school and spent 4+ years coaching these players into the ladies they have become. All in all, there is so much to like about Coach Schaefer and there is so much to appreciate what he has done for this university. Thanks Coach!
p.s. How about Mississippi State finally having a team which gets the calls in games it’s supposed to from the referees?