STARKVILLE — New Mississippi State men’s basketball coach Chris Jans isn’t sure yet if the butterflies will come when he runs out of the Humphrey Coliseum tunnel for the Bulldogs’ first game.
By the time that opening contest — at 6:30 p.m. Monday against Texas A&M–Corpus Christi — is over, he might have a better idea.
“I know I’ll be excited,” Jans said during Monday’s press conference. “I’ll be anxious just like you guys are and hopefully our fanbase is to see who we are and how we’re going to play.
“How I feel, you’ll have to ask me that a week from tonight at about 9 o’clock.”
Jans and Mississippi State should have every expectation of feeling good against an Islanders team out of the Southland Conference, but teams worse than TAMU-CC have tripped up teams better than MSU plenty before.
Jans said he’s close with Islanders coach Steve Lutz and touted Texas A&M–Corpus Christi’s “hard-nosed” man-to-man defense.
“I know they’re excited about their program,” Jans said. “They’re coming off an NCAA tournament appearance; they’ve got five starters back. It’s not the smartest game to host your first game out of the chute, but that’s the way the cookie crumbled.”
MSU will be busy early, playing three games in seven days to begin the 2022-23 season.
The Bulldogs travel to Philadelphia to face Akron at 6 p.m. Nov. 11 in the Barstool Sports Invitational, then return home to host Arkansas–Pine Bluff at 2 p.m. Nov. 13.
Jans said he was “not exactly sure” how good his first Mississippi State team is just yet, so playing early and often should help.
“Once we start throwing the ball up for the jump, that’s quite a few games in a short time period, and I think after that we’ll have a better idea of where we’re at and what we need to work on,” Jans said.
Unlike many teams, MSU has no exhibition games to gauge where it stands, but Jans said he trusts closed-door scrimmages to provide similar results.
He said he’s seen a drop-off in players’ effort levels when they get deep into practices or scrimmages, something that does happen naturally but that Jans thinks can be improved.
It’s one of two main things he said he’d like to fix before the Bulldogs take the court for real.
“That’s probably where we’re at right now — just being more consistent with our effort and our attention to detail on the defensive end,” Jans said. “Certainly, rebounding is something we’ve always prided ourselves on, and right now, I don’t think we’re rebounding at the level that we should.”
Team chemistry is something else Jans has been watching for early on, and he termed the results “pretty good” thus far.
The former New Mexico State coach said his “litmus test” for camaraderie among his players is whether they stick around after practice or immediately scatter. The Bulldogs, for the most part, have done the former.
“If guys are heading out the door as soon as the buzzer sounds or as soon as we break, that’s probably not a great sign,” Jans said.
The Bulldogs coach did note while watching scrimmage tape a couple of bench players appearing not to be fully engaged in the game, but he said the issue has been addressed.
“I think that’ll change quickly,” Jans said. “We’ll see. A lot of things will unfold when we start playing these games.”
Who will see the floor for Mississippi State will be one of those things.
Jans said three or four starting spots have currently been settled and declined to name starters prior to MSU’s season opener. He said competition for rotation spots will be ongoing throughout the season as players are constantly evaluated.
“I can’t predict who’s going to get better and who’s going to produce when the lights are on,” Jans said. “Some people cower when it’s their time, and some people rise up to the occasion. We’ll have to see who makes the most out of their minutes, and then they’ll get more.”
Theo DeRosa reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.
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