Making history at MSU: Bulldogs to host NCAA Tournament again
Much history has been made under coach Vic Schaefer’s watch over the women’s basketball program at Mississippi State.
The Bulldogs have steadily improved each season setting school-record marks in wins each of the last three seasons. They came within a game of winning the Southeastern Conference this season but came up short. That, in itself, is driving the team to finish strong as the NCAA Tournament begins Friday.
More history was made last season when the Bulldogs hosted the first two rounds of the tournament for the first time in school history. Gaining a No. 2 seed this season for the first time ever is a big deal, but it’s an expectation at this point and with most of this year’s team experiencing last year’s hosting opportunity, they’re experienced.
“I guess you can say hosting back-to-back, it is kind of expected for us,” MSU junior point guard Morgan William said. “We just have to go out there and handle business.”
MSU is set to meet 15 seeded Troy today at 1:30 p.m. on ESPN2 in what Schaefer hopes will be another great crowd and a raucous Humphrey Coliseum. State won both games at home last year in the tournament on its way to the school's second Sweet 16 appearance.
The Trojans will be a tough task in their own right. They enter the tournament 22-10 but are hot with three-straight wins toward a Sun Belt title. There won’t be any opponent overlooked for Schaefer and his Bulldogs as every game could be their last. The bright lights and big crowd won’t shock these players, either.
“Any time you have a four-senior team, they take things differently,” Schaefer said. “They handle the good, bad and indifferent things differently. I haven’t seen this team too giddy after wins, (and) they bounce back after losses. This group has been pretty even all year.”
MSU’s star scorer Victoria Vivians is a player that Schaefer will look toward to get going offensively. The All-Southeastern Conference guard managed double figures in just two of her three SEC Tournament games two weeks ago while shooting 8-of-30 from the field.
Schaefer has faith that when the lights come on, Vivians will be there this weekend. She expects much of the same out of her teammates and herself and they’ll feed off the crowd.
“We (hosted) last year for the first time ever," Vivians said. "Just having it here back-to-back seasons means we are doing something really well. We have a good fan base, and out families get to come and watch us play. I think the overall environment will be really good.”
When the Bulldogs take the court, they’ll do so with their final home game of the regular season in mind. MSU wasn’t happy with how they went out in an 82-64 blowout that cost it a share of the conference title.
With records continuing to be broken, the 29-4 team this season is hoping to keep things going in a historic year.
“An expectation has been created here at Mississippi State. We are expected to do this every year,” Schaefer said. “It is an honor to be able to host this event and be a part of it. I think there’s a little bit of motivation because as everyone knows, we did not play well the last time we played in Humphrey Coliseum.”