STARKVILLE — Mississippi State women’s basketball coach Vic Schaefer felt right at home Monday in a meeting of prominent people in the business community.
Speaking to the Starkville Rotary Club, Schaefer likened the process he and his coaching staff have followed in elevating the MSU women’s basketball program to the building of a business.
“You have to take pride in what you are doing,” Schaefer said. “We have players who are invested. They are proud to represent this town and this university. You have to believe in what you are doing. If you are building a business, you have to have the same mind-set. There are no shortcuts to greatness.”
Schaefer has posted a 90-46 record in four seasons with the Bulldogs. In the last two seasons, MSU has finished nationally ranked and third and second in the prestigious Southeastern Conference.
Last season, MSU advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament for the second time in program history. All but one player returns from that team. That is why the expectations are so high for the 2016-17 squad.
“We will most likely be picked second or third (in the SEC) in the preseason),” Schaefer said. “We will be ahead of teams like Texas A&M, Tennessee, LSU. The only two teams we have not beaten since I have been here are South Carolina and Kentucky. We should be in the top 10 or right outside of it. It’s going to be a special year.”
Even though the conference hasn’t made an official announcement, Schaefer tipped his hand about the 2016-17 schedule. The Bulldogs only will play three non-conference home games, including a nationally televised Nov. 20 matchup with Texas in Humphrey Coliseum. There is also will be a non-conference game against Tulane on a Wednesday in Biloxi. Another game will be played at Southern Mississippi.
In the SEC, the Bulldogs will face all 13 conference opponents. MSU will face Texas A&M, Tennessee, and Ole Miss twice.
“They have faulted us for our non-conference schedule in the past,” Schaefer said. “That won’t be an issue this year. We could have as many as seven or eight ranked teams in the non-conference tournament. We will spend Thanksgiving weekend at a tournament in Hawaii.
“If you aren’t going to Oxford (for the Egg Bowl football game), then you need to go to Hawaii with us. We will let you watch (the football game) while over there.”
This season, the Bulldogs are looking to set a new season tickets record, with the number expected to be north of 4,000. Schaefer said in his first season about 400 tickets were sold.
Again, Schaefer repeated a similar sales pitch.
“If I can get you into the arena one time, you will come back,” Schaefer said. “We play a high-level, entertaining form of basketball. The girls go up into the stands after every game and pose for pictures and autographs. They are a lovable bunch. Our success is good for the university. It helps the national brand of the university.”
Schaefer’s appearance gave the approximately 150 area business people a chance to see how he spends each day making sure the MSU brand improves. He said they can use the same strategies he and his staff use.
“It’s just like in business. You have to surround yourself with good people,” Schaefer said. “There has to be a teamwork. There has to be everybody reaching for a common goal. If you have a work ethic and a belief, anything is possible.”
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.