Rick Ray seems to have two thoughts on the 2014-15 basketball season, based on the non-conference schedule which was just released. First, he wants Mississippi State fans to come to The Hump and have good games to watch. Second, he thinks his team is going to be good, even if those outside the program aren’t expecting it.
The Bulldogs only have two true road games (at Tulane and at Oregon State), plus a pair of neutral site games in the Corpus Christi Challenge and a game in Jackson against USC Upstate on Saturday December 20.
The full schedule, as well as details on each opponent, is available here at HailState.com and seems both manageable and entertaining.
The story, as I see it, is as much about Ray’s confidence entering his third season as anything else. His quote in the release says as much.
“Our non-conference schedule is an indication of the direction of our program,” he said. “As our team matures and our talent level increases, our schedule reflects the belief in my team to accept bigger and better challenges. I also want to provide a great fan experience by having a team of the caliber of Florida State come in and play in The Hump. This schedule will not only prepare us for the SEC but also prepare us to have success in the SEC.”
The schedule is at the same time manageable and challenging, which I imagine is what he wanted.
But I’m more interested to see MSU than the opponents, naturally.
For the first time since he took over at MSU, Ray will actually have a full complement of players. Beyond that, he’s going to have a lot of good players. Two of the best players in practice last year weren’t even able to play, so he’ll finally have big, athletic guys Travis Daniels and Fallou Ndoye.
Ray’s point guard I.J. Ready ought to finally be healthy, and is now experienced. The trio of juniors have stepped into leadership roles with Craig Sword, Fred Thomas and Gavin Ware becoming the veterans of the group, and all that’s not even mentioning the incoming players and players like seniors Roquez Johnson and Trivante Bloodman.
I’m not saying they’re going to the Final Four (not saying they’re not either), but I’m expecting a very big jump for Ray’s team and it looks like he is, too.