Although MSU didn't move up or down in the SEC standings, winning 2 of 3 on the road against the 11th ranked team in the nation can definitely be viewed as a positive achievement. It shows the team is playing much better than it had been earlier in the SEC season when it lost 2 of 3 games to every nationally ranked SEC team that it faced.
After MSU finished their non-conference schedule and began SEC play, they lost 2 of 3 to No. 10 Tennessee, No. 7 Ole Miss, No. 8 LSU and No. 21 Florida (Although all were ranked when they played MSU, the rankings listed are their current rankings.-Gene). And coming into this weekend's series, Auburn was not only ranked but tied for 4th place in the SEC standings. The only unranked SEC team MSU has played this year was SEC cellar-dweller Kentucky, a team they won 2 of 3 from.
With the toughest part of their schedule now over, the Bulldogs look to move up the SEC overall standings.
After having played 4 of the top 5 teams in the SEC standings, the Bulldogs play at Vanderbilt (10th in SEC), them come back home to play Georgia (6th) and Arkansas (1st), then go to Alabama (11th). The two toughest teams of the four, Georgia and Arkansas, play at Dudy Noble Field. Both are 7-7 on the road, although Arkansas has won 5 of their last 6 SEC road games. Another factor in MSU's favor is how well they play on the road. MSU currently has the second best overall road record among all SEC teams, 9-5. The final factor in MSU's favor is the fact that the three teams 1 game ahead of MSU are battling each other during three of those same weekends. Auburn hosts South Carolina and Georgia while Georgia hosts South Carolina.
Here are their complete schedules.
Auburn probably has the toughest schedule of the three, having to play at league-leading Arkansas and at East leader Florida as well as South Carolina and Georgia.
South Carolina, in addition to playing at Auburn and Georgia, faces a struggling, but pitching-potent Ole Miss team and East runner-up Tennessee.
Georgia, in addition to playing the three other teams that are battling for the 6th, 7th and 8th spots in the SEC, also host Kentucky.
MSU, very likely, completed their 2003-2004 recruiting class with the signing of the 6-foot-9, 240-pound Walter Sharpe.
Walter, considered one of the better small forwards in the nation, had narrowed his list down to MSU and Alabama after officially visiting MSU Super Bulldog Weekend.
He made his decision to sign with the Bulldogs the Wednesday following his visit.
After his coach, Maurice Ford, notified Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried of Walter's decision Wednesday night, Coach Gottfried, in a strange turn of events, notified the media that he had decided to withdraw his scholarship offer. Because it is so rare for a college coach to publicly announce to the media during the recruitment of a player that he has withdrawn an offer, a media and internet feeding frenzy followed.
At the official press conference on Friday morning, Coach Ford and Walter explained the decision to the media representatives in attendance.
It, basically, came down to nothing more than the fact that Walter felt he had a chance at more playing time early in his career at MSU. He based that on Alabama having all but one of its big men returning, including 6 who were either freshmen or sophomores last year, while MSU has 4, possibly 5, returning, depending on what SEC Player of the Year Lawrence Roberts decides to do in regard to the NBA Draft. Only 1 of MSU's other 4 had significant playing time last season, while 3 of Alabama's 6 started and a 4th played 14+ minutes per game.
Although he could have easily been upset with Gottfried, the articulate Sharpe said, while he was somewhat surprised by Gottfried's action, he bears no ill-will toward him.
Did you know that MSU softball signee, Ragan Blake, a right handed pitcher who plays for the top ranked team in the country, Elkins High School in Missouri City, Texas, is one of the leading candidates for National Player of the Year honors? Blake, who had a 27-2 record with a 0.27 ERA coming into this season, was 20-0 record with an 0.06 ERA on April 15th.
Gene Swindoll is the publisher/owner of Gene's Page, the source for Mississippi State sports on TheInsiders.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.