The words “we are not finished” pulsated out of the speakers in the Humphrey Coliseum. After two straight years of making NCAA Final Four appearances and two NCAA Championship Game appearances, the phrase rings true for Mississippi State University women’s basketball team. These Bulldogs want everyone to know they are not finished, and there is still work to be done for head coach Vic Schaefer and his team.
"They posses the potential to be the best ever," Schaefer said. "They have already done some things that relate to being the best ever. For us this is about one more ... I want it so bad for them."
On the dawn of the NCAA Tournament, MSU has a No. 1 seed, a regular season SEC Championship and a SEC Tournament Championship in their possession, but they have more history to write. Schaefer said the team had an unbelievable season since they had four new starters, and they have lost eight starters in the past two years.
“This team has really worked extremely hard all year,” Schaefer said. “It is just really phenomenal to go 30-2, win the SEC regular season outright and then win the (SEC) Tournament Championship in three straight games. Hats off to this team—they have been tremendous.”
MSU has never won a National Championship in any team sport, but they have been on the brink of doing so multiple times. The closest chance was last year when the women's basketball team lost in the final seconds to Notre Dame. They have won five games in the tournament two years in a row, but have lost the sixth game. Game six is the final part of the mountain–the summit they have yet to conquer.
With the success of winning conference championships and earning a No. 1 seed in what Schaefer said could have easily been six teams competing for those top four spots, the Bulldogs have unfinished business.
“Now we got to go live it though, it's (the regular season) over, it's done,” Schaefer said. “Y’all can talk about it, all of our fans will talk about it, but now we have to go own it. That is my message to my team, ‘This is great, but you know what, a little bit, the pressure is on now and you have to go own that.'"
MSU is in the Portland Regional, which means if they were to make it past the first two rounds, they will play in Oregon. If the chips fall where they may, the Bulldogs could have a rematch with the Oregon Ducks, who they lost to earlier in the season by a final score of 82-74.
However, the road to Portland runs through Starkville as the Bulldogs will have to beat Southern University at 8:30 p.m. Friday, and then the winner of the South Dakota University versus Clemson University on Sunday night to make it to Oregon.
Schaefer said he is worried about one game at a time for now.
“My focus is Friday night and this team,” Schaefer said. “We hope to be able to play on Sunday. We are going to fight like heck on Friday, and compete and play. Certainly, I think all of the regionals we play in is stiff; it is really a lot of parody.”
To reach the summit of the mountain, the team will start at a base camp. While students were out on spring break, the Bulldogs were in Starkville practicing for their ascent. However, that peak and the championship confetti are six games away.
“It is going to be here before you know it. That is what I want these kids to understand, this time of the year now, it is one and done," Schaefer said. “You start thinking this is winding down. How long do you want it to go? One week, two weeks, three weeks? Because that is what is in front of you right now.”