A year older and wiser with all of its pieces back is an enviable position to be in. Debbie Antonelli doesn't need nearly 30 years experience as a college basketball television analyst and commentator to know experience and depth have pushed the 2016-17 Mississippi State women's basketball team into the top 15 of all of the preseason rankings.
MACON -- The march is nearly complete. But Noxubee County High School football coach Tyrone Shorter doesn't want his team to look ahead to what is coming down the road. Instead of losing focus and jumping ahead a week to a showdown against Houston, the No. 2 team in the state's Class 4A rankings, or the start of the playoffs and a quest for a third-straight state championship, Shorter wants his players' attention solely on Caledonia.
STARKVILLE -- Peter Sirmon just shook his head when asked about the forced fumble in overtime against BYU.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- When talking to SEC coaches, the list of reasons why the league hasn't had a bigger presence recently in the NCAA tournament is long: Weak scheduling. Backlash for football dominance. Poor recruiting. Coaching turnover. Now, coaches say they've addressed all those hurdles but have one more to conquer -- perception.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The increased star power of the Southeastern Conference men's basketball coaching fraternity hasn't made an immediate impact. Those high-profile coaches have discovered this isn't a conference conducive to quick turnarounds. One year ago, Mississippi State's Ben Howland, Tennessee's Rick Barnes and Alabama's Avery Johnson arrived in the SEC while Florida began the post-Billy Donovan era with Mike White arriving from Louisiana Tech. Howland and Barnes had combined for four Final Fours and 32 NCAA tournament berths, while Johnson had coached the Dallas Mavericks to the NBA Finals.
Believe it or not, the final week of the regular season is here for Mississippi Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) teams in Class AAA and Class A/AA. Heritage Academy and Starkville Academy will look to work their way up the seeding charts with critical home wins to complete district play. In the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) ranks, Starkville and New Hope face must-wins at home. Columbus and West Point hit the road needing to win to keep their stocks high. Here is what to watch for week in No. 10:
CALEDONIA -- Outside hitter Tori Brooks and middle blocker Cheyenne Ruth realized their team needed a lift at the same time. Brooks and Ruth responded with back-to-back kills to spark a 13-1 run for the Caledonia High School volleyball team. Caledonia took control from there, beating Cleveland 3-0 Tuesday night in the opening round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class II playoffs. Set scores were 25-14, 25-8, 25-13.
PHILADELPHIA -- Cheering from the dugout is a constant in softball. Some teams take pride in devising catchy new phrases, while others stick with familiar sayings to motivate their hitters. The Neshoba Central High School slow-pitch softball team doesn't need words to provide a spark, but it showed Tuesday it is just as skilled delivering a timely phrase as it is peppering a softball.
STARKVILLE -- As the Mississippi State football team departed for Provo, Utah, last Friday, the running backs knew there was an opportunity to be had. Starter Brandon Holloway didn't make the trip with an undisclosed injury. Senior Ashton Shumpert earned his second-consecutive start, but sophomore Aeris Williams received the majority of the carries finished with career highs of 82 yards and 21 carries in a 28-21 loss to BYU in double overtime at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
Taking a vacation wasn't in Quinndary Weatherspoon's summer plans. Spending time away from the court also wasn't an option following a standout freshman season with the Mississippi State men's basketball team. So while friends relaxed and took time to get away from the daily rigors of college life, Weatherspoon attacked his "offseason" and took to the court. Training with his brother, Nick, in his hometown of Canton, Quinndary filled his days in May by making 400 shots from all over the court and hitting the weight room hard.
There is no time for a letdown for the East Mississippi Community College football team. After dropping the season opener, the Lions have faced an uphill battle to put themselves back in position to compete for a third National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) national championship in four seasons.
Noxubee County High School sophomore Kyziah Pruitt grew up watching the school's football team. He knew the honor it was going to be to play for Tyrone Shorter. Shorter has worked as a coach at Noxubee County High for 19 years. He served as an assistant and then defensive coordinator for veteran coach M.C. Miller, and played a key role in the program's first state title. Since taking over as coach for Miller in 2010, Shorter has led the Tigers to three more Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 4A state championships.
CALEDONIA -- It's safe to say Samantha Brooks was curious in the preseason when asked how the Caledonia High School volleyball team was going to fare in 2016. On paper, Brooks knew her Lady Confederates didn't have a lot of size, which meant they weren't going to be a dominating blocking team. With a total of five freshmen and sophomores on the 12-player varsity roster, Brooks also wasn't sure how Caledonia's youth would blend with its experience, especially seniors Kaylee Jernigan, Gracie McCleskey, Jensen Reed, and Cheyenne Ruth.
STARKVILLE -- Sydney Passons has seen enough movies to wonder if time really slows down in real life like it does on the big screen. Last Monday, the Starkville Academy senior forward experienced just how quickly events appear to come to a stand still. Passons doesn't remember the things her teammates yelled to her after she collected a loose ball in overtime because she didn't hear them.
Megan James will play softball this weekend. The only problem is the New Hope High School junior doesn't know if she will be in Ridgeland or Tupelo, or if she will be playing slow- or fast-pitch softball.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama dropped 49 points on a nationally ranked team and Southeastern Conference challenger, then went out and did it again. Now the Crimson Tide wants to keep rolling through another huge game. Alabama (7-0, 4-0 SEC) will play host to No. 6 Texas A&M (6-0, 4-0) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday (WCBI) in its second-straight top-10 matchup. The coaches and team leaders harp on staying grounded even after a 49-10 thrashing of then-No. 9 Tennessee, which followed another road win over No. 17 Arkansas (49-30).
STARKVILLE -- After a late kickoff Friday night in Provo, Utah, the Mississippi State football team didn't arrive back in Starkville until early Saturday morning. A 9:15 p.m. kickoff that resulted in a 28-21 double overtime loss to BYU at LaVell Edwards Stadium led to MSU returning to the Leo Seal Jr. Football Complex at 6:30 a.m. MSU coach Dan Mullen and his staff used Saturday to break down the BYU film and start preparing for Kentucky. The players had the weekend off.
After seeing a near-fatal blow to its Southeastern Conference championship hopes, the Ole Miss football team doesn't have time to wallow in pity. Instead, another rival and big opportunity in the Southeastern Conference awaits at 8 p.m. Saturday (ESPN), when No. 23 Ole Miss (3-3, 1-2 SEC) will face No. 25 LSU (4-2, 2-1) at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in the Magnolia Bowl.
SCOOBA -- The Lions are back. The East Mississippi Community College football team slipped from the nation's subconscious a year ago. A season-ending brawl, a postseason ban, and a loss in this season's opener left the Lions a forgotten team.
STARKVILLE -- Chinwe Okorie looked like a machine. It was less than an hour into the Mississippi State women's basketball team's first practice of the 2016-17 and the 6-foot-5 senior center was moving well and keeping up with the Bulldogs' guards and forwards in a drill designed to have the players finish at the rim off fast breaks.
1. MSU hopes Williams makes most of another opportunity COLLEGE SPORTS
2. Run in first set sparks Caledonia volleyball team HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
3. Hard work in summer has MSU's Weatherspoon ready to go COLLEGE SPORTS
4. No. 3 EMCC has two to go before postseason COLLEGE SPORTS
5. Playoff fates will be on line in Week 10 LOCAL COLUMNS