Mississippi State finalizes 2014-15 basketball schedule; optimism runs through program

Friday evening, the Southeastern Conference officially released its league-wide basketball schedule for 2014-15 season. Given the time of announcement, you may very well have missed it, but with the announcement, Mississippi State’s basketball schedule is now complete.

rick-rayAs you may recall from relatively recent changes, SEC basketball has dropped divisions and instead each school has five opponents they play twice and face the other eight league teams once, completing the 18-game conference schedule.

MSU will obviously play Ole Miss twice, with the other four home-and-home opponents rounded out by Tennessee, Missouri, Vanderbilt and Arkansas. Between MSU and those teams, four of the five ‘Villes in the league are represented (Starkville, Knoxville, Nashville and Fayetteville), which is meaningless and nice all the same.

One important note comes on the heels of the conference’s biggest recent news: 12 of State’s games this season will be broadcast on the SEC Network. Additionally, the Bulldogs will play one game each on ESPNU and ESPN2, as well as four games on Fox Sports Net. All told, MSU has 18 games on TV, plus all non-TV home and conference games on SEC Network+.

Beyond the television and conference opponents, the entirety of the schedule – as we’ve mentioned before – speaks to the growing confidence Rick Ray has in his team. For the first time since he got to campus, he will actually have a full roster, as well as a relatively experienced one.

I’ve been around Ray and his players in the offseason and they are very serious about their belief that they will be a strong, competitive team, both in the SEC and outside of it.

The non-conference schedule includes the Corpus Christi Challenge and games against Utah State, Florida State and Oregon State (in addition to others, of course).

Ray’s quote in the release on the finalized schedule adds on to that a bit.

“My hope is that by increasing our non-conference strength of schedule that it will prepare us to have more success in the SEC,” said Ray, now entering his third season at the helm. “Our SEC schedule is challenging, but any schedule in a power conference is going to be challenging. We now have experienced players and depth which bodes well for us in our endeavors to climb the SEC ladder.”

He’s right on that last part, too. The experienced players and depth are now there, when they very clearly weren’t the first two years for him.

They have actual leaders now, as the core of Gavin Ware, Fred Thomas and Craig Sword are juniors, along with seniors Trivante Bloodman and Roquez Johnson. He’s also got a point guard he loves in IJ Ready, who enters the season healthy after an injury-riddled freshman year. He’s got serious post depth with signees and the availability of Fallou Ndoye, who had to sit out last year.

One of the most impressive players in practice is another one who was around but didn’t play last year – Travis Daniels, a JUCO transfer with size, ball skills and a pretty shot. He’s got the size of a post player with the talent of a guard, the kind of swing player Ray needs to run his offense effectively.

We’ve got a couple months until the season begins, but it ought to be the most entertaining (and anticipated) one of Ray’s career.

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