Much like the roster the schedule is not finalized either, though it lacks only one date to complete. The season opens November 10 with Louisiana Tech coming to Humphrey Coliseum, the same date as the home football game with Alabama. Stansbury was able to give dates for the trio of higher-profile home dates as well. Clemson is at The Hump on November 13, Miami on December 13, and Missouri December 29.
The Bulldogs have at least six games away from home in the pre-conference slate as they go to Loyola-Marymount, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, and South Alabama. That last game is part of the one-day Coors Classic on the Mobile school's campus, with State playing the host and Alabama appearing in the other game. The other three games are on Thanksgiving Weekend in Anaheim, Cal. It is one of the ‘exempt' tournaments allowed by the NCAA, giving State two extra competition dates prior to league play.
"We open with Cal-Irvine, then play the winner of Southern Illinois and another team. And if we win those we'll play USC (Southern Cal) in the championship and they'll be in the top-ten. All three games will be on ESPN."
Stansbury could not say whether or not State will be able to play another non-conference December game in Jackson as has been done the last three years. However it appears as of now there is no such date available unless one of the road games already contracted falls through and opens a slot before Christmas and during the holiday school break. The SEC has not released its schedule yet.
Not that Stansbury needs to see it to rate this slate as a whole. "We've got the best non-conference schedule I'd say in the history of Mississippi State. For the first time ever, except post-season, we have two ACC teams coming to The Hump, Clemson and Miami. And we have Missouri out of the Big XII. All three were right on the edge of being top-25 teams." With a lineup like that Stansbury anticipates no problems selling every available season ticket for another year. And, he reminded the crowd, starting this year there will be a ticket exchange system giving at least a chance for last-minute purchases to fans who can't get on the season-ducat list. "So if something happens, you're there," he said.
"The Hump has become as good an atmosphere as there is in the SEC."
So has a program that over the last five years is third in the league, behind only Florida and Kentucky, in such categories as total wins, SEC wins, and championships earned. This winter should be more of the same even after losing two seniors and four transfers, leaving seven scholarship players (five of them veterans) and hopefully four freshmen. Still, "I like the starting point for this season," Stansbury said, commenting on Jamont Gordon's status as a point guard, Charles Rhodes' focus after flirting with NBA early-entry, and the opportunities youngsters like Barry Stewart, Ben Hansbrough, and Jarvis Varnado have to become starters and stars as sophomores.
Stansbury said he was leaving Jackson to go back on the recruiting road, and while the coach could not come out and say exactly where he was headed or who he meant to see it was clear enough by his comment he would be "babysitting." As in, paying personal attention to a trio of high-profile prep players (refer to Basketball Recruiting stories file on front page) who have announced their intention to sign with Mississippi State this winter for the 2008-09 season. Since commitments aren't binding, Stansbury isn't simply taking things at their word just yet.
Later to the crowd he did refer to the trio, after quipping that internet reporters "knew more" about State's announced prospects than he did. "But we have three commitments, we like all three and we like the direction we're heading with those kids."