Women's basketball has a new team and same high expectations

Victoria Vivians takes a shot over MSU defenders in the Maroon White scrimmage on Wednesday.

The Mississippi State women’s basketball program is on the national radar and is on the verge of becoming a nationally recognized powerhouse.

Last season, the team got to the Final Four of the NCAA tournament, knocked off the Uconn Huskies and ended their 111-game winning streak, and finished as the NCAA runner-up.

Entering the 2017-2018 season, MSU women’s basketball is ranked No. 4 in the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll. The ranking comes after their historic second-place finish in last year’s final poll, which is a school best.

Expectations have never been higher for the women’s basketball program.

Head coach Vic Schaefer said maintaining the program's excellence is a challenge. 

“Mississippi State women’s basketball has been on the lips and tongues of people for three years now,” Schaefer said. “Twenty-seven, 28 and 34 wins in the last three seasons is a lot of winning. But I told y’all before, the only thing harder than building it is keeping it there and that is the new challenge this program faces.”

Senior guards Victoria Vivians and Morgan William were named to the preseason All-SEC team this year. Both players said they have high expectations for the season during media day.

“Last year’s team was great, but we can’t be satisfied with that, because we didn’t win anything,” Vivians said. “We came in second in everything we did, so that gives us something to strive for and to work for this season.”

“Coach [Schaefer] has been preaching that this is a new year, new team," William said. "The past is behind us and we’ve got a new identity. We will still be a defensive team, but this year our identity will also be playing hard and running the floor.”

Teaira McCowan was the SEC Sixth Woman of the Year last year and will play as a starter this season. Coach Schaefer said he expects her to be a go-to option on offense.

“I’m embracing my new role as a primary offensive option," McCowan said. "It is a good thing, knowing my teammates can come inside to me and I’ll deliver for them. I think teams will try to double team me more, but I know how to find the open person.”

MSU women’s basketball will open the season on Friday in a preseason exhibition against the University of Arkansas in Fort Smith. Their first game of the regular season is on Nov. 10 against the University of Virginia. 

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