Photo by Kelly Donoho/MSU Athletics
Get the big takeaways in Mississippi sports with our weekly ‘Take Five’ series. Five minutes, five takes, all the insight and information you need to stay plugged in.
By Jon Wiener
1. One mark left for Miss. State women
SEC overall title: again. SEC tournament title: check. Gillom Trophy finalists: all three, with Teiara McCowan deservedly taking home the trophy for the state’s best women’s basketball player on Monday. It was no surprise to anyone and more icing on the cake for the Lady Bulldogs feast this season. Now, as Jake Taylor famously declares in Major League: “I guess there’s only one thing left to do….win the whole bleepin’ thing.” Something tells us that Vic Schaefer is telling his #PTLGD team the same thing, though likely folksier and more kid-friendly than Taylor’s rally cry. But it’s true: the time is now, more than ever, for the Mississippi State women to win it all. With two consecutive SEC overall titles, two straight appearances in the national championship game, and McCowan graduating to the WNBA after this season, the program couldn’t be any closer. Another No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament awaits. Can they bust down the door? It is the only thing left to do, and we can’t wait to find out.
2. March Madness back in a big way
For the first time in seventeen years, both Mississippi State and Ole Miss should be dancing in March. The Rebels’ road win over Missouri seems to have secured Ole Miss’s trip (20-11, 10-8), and cemented first-year coach Kermit Davis Jr. as a coach of the year candidate and one of the most beloved people in Oxford currently. Mississippi State beat Texas A&M 92-81 at home to avoid a three-game losing streak to close the regular season, but Ben Howland’s Bulldogs have been firmly in for awhile. And don’t count out the possibility of three or even four Mississippi teams in the NCAA tournament: Southern Miss (19-11, 11-7) earned the No.3 seed in the C-USA tournament and a first round bye to the quarterfinals. Can they win it? Well, they just beat the conference champion Old Dominion 58-52 on the road. (If there’s a “Coach of the Last Five Years” award, Doc Sadler should win it without a vote). Wayne Brent’s Jackson State team won three straight to close the SWAC season and earn the No.3 seed and quarterfinal home game Tuesday in the conference tournament. Call us crazy or hopeful, but Southern Miss and Jackson State have more than a fighting chance to win their tournament and make things really crazy. We’re just glad to have Mississippi basketball that matters in March.
3. J.T. Ginn: As Advertised And More
“The real deal.” “As advertised.” “That dude.” Just a few of the familiar refrains floating around in discussing heralded Mississippi State freshman pitcher J.T. Ginn’s start to the season. Ginn, remember was selected by the Dodgers in the 1st round of the MLB Draft out of Brandon High School and turned down around two million to go to Starkville. The only question through four starts seems to be how Ginn didn’t go higher. The freshman has been nothing short of sensational, with a 4-0 record, 1.80 ERA, 32 K’s & 3 BB in 25 innings pitched. You can see Ginn’s top-level MLB stuff in an instant: a fastball that easily breezes 94-95 MPH and late movement throughout an arsenal that gets better as the game gets later. But Ginn has also displayed considerable maturity and mound prowess for a freshman weekend starter, leading the Bulldogs (along with ace Ethan Small) to a 15-1 start.
4. Can we get Devin Booker out of Phoenix?
A plea for our guy from the Gulf Coast carrying the Mississippi banner in the NBA. Booker put 37 points, 11 assists and 8 rebounds on the defending champs in their own building on Sunday, as Phoenix shocked Golden State 115-111 at The Oracle. The reason it was so shocking? Phoenix, quite simply, is horrendous. They own the worst record in the Western Conference by twelve games (16-52). Meanwhile Booker, the former Moss Point star and 13th overall pick (Kentucky) in 2015, has blossomed into one the top scorers in the league. He’s averaging a career-high 25.1 ppg this year and has upped the rest of the game: he’s getting 6.7 assists per game and shooting a career-best 45% from the field. It’s all well and good for Booker, except he’s doing it on easily the worst franchise in the league for a few years running now. The NBA is openly concerned about the operation and the future of the Suns. We are desperate to see Booker somewhere remotely relevant, where he can get the shine he deserves — and prove whether or not he’s a bad-team chucker or a championship piece.
5. Big time golf on the horizon
If the sun ever comes out again in Mississippi, some great golf should too. Remember the Gator Invitational we told you about (one of the top junior golf tournaments in the country)? It got rescheduled due to the torrential rain in February and is happening this weekend at the Country Club of Jackson. Tour members and SEC stars like Braden Thornberry and Wilson Furr have won the event before. It is one of the only junior tournaments in America played on a PGA tournament course. It’ll be a great, up-close experience for anyone looking to get out and watch some great golf this weekend. At the end of this month (March 29-31) golf’s greats will tee it up in Biloxi for the PGA Champions Tour Rapiscan Classic at Fallen Oak Golf Club. This event has become one of the top non-major events on the Champions Tour since its inception in 2010: the pros love the delicious Fallen Oak course and even more delicious, Casino-backed southern hospitality. Former winners read like a Who’s Who of major winners, Ryder Cup captains, and international stars: Fred Couples, Tom Lehman, Miguel Angel-Jimenez, and 2020 Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker. Count us in for that one, if the sun is too 🙂
— espnW (@espnW) March 8, 2019