MISSISSIPPI STATE Basketball: -1 Mississippi State (12-4, 6-3 Big 12) is on pace to have its most successful season since it won the conference tournament title in 2003-04 and the national championship in 2008-09.
It’s been a year of major changes for the Bulldogs, who have gone from a 3-9 team to an 8-5 team and from a 10-loss team to a 10.5-win team.
That was all in the past two seasons, but now they have a new coach in John Calipari, a new star in Anthony Davis, a young star in Malik Monk and a veteran backcourt in Jordan Clarkson and Nick Marshall.
The team is also having a great year on the offensive end with the addition of former Missouri guard Anthony Gbinije and a new shooting guard in Gino Torrence.
On defense, the Bulldogs are getting help from a top-10 recruiting class that includes five players rated in the top 100 nationally, including five who are top-five players, according to ESPN’s composite rankings.
It has been an outstanding season for the program, and now it will continue to move forward with a focus on the NCAA tournament.
MISSISSIPPISTS STATE CAPTAINS WIN OUT: John CalIPARI was a five-year associate coach at Mississippi State, winning a national championship at Missouri in 2009 and a second title in 2011.
The Bulldogs were also a finalist in the SEC Tournament for the first time in program history and will play at Alabama on Wednesday.
TENNESSEE STATE CAPTAINS BIG CHANCE: Tennessee State (11-8, 5-9 SEC) is coming off its best season since 2011-12, when it won 12 games.
The Vols are averaging more than 30 points a game, up from 25.6 points per game in 2014-15.
It was a tough season for senior guard Marcus Lee, who was injured in the second half of last season.
He had surgery to remove the metal plate in his right ankle that prevented him from playing in games last season and missed the rest of the season.
Tennessee State was coming off a 14-win season and a national title in 2014, but a series of injuries limited the team to one win in its last three games.
It also lost in the NCAA Tournament for just the second time since 2009.
MISSOURI STATE BEATS TOP FIVE FOR FIRST TIME IN 13 YEARS: The Bulldogs had the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class in 2015-16 and had three top-100 recruits from last season, including top-20 prospects from Kentucky, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina.
This season, Mississippi State had the No. 1 recruiting class and had five top-50 prospects in the country, including one ranked in the Top 50.
The Tigers were also the first team in program memory to reach the Final Four for the fifth time since 2001-02.
The program has made big strides in recent years and has become the biggest threat in the nation to the No, 1 ranking in the Associated Press Top 25 rankings, which is released on Wednesday, Nov., 7.
MISSOURERS GIVE BIGGEST ROAD TO THE BOUNTY PLAYOFFS: Missouri State is the only team in the history of the SEC Conference to reach that milestone.
The Jayhawks won their first nine games of the 2016-17 season and won their final 10, before falling to Mississippi State in the conference semifinals.
The last time Missouri State reached the Sweet 16 was in 2014 when it defeated Florida in the Elite Eight.
The Dawgs have won five straight games at home, and the first of those wins came on Monday against Texas A&M, a team that has been on a losing streak.
MISSING GAYS ON THE BULLDOGS: It will be the first game of the regular season for two of the three gay players in the program.
Junior guard Matt Coleman has been the only openly gay player on the roster for five seasons, and senior guard Malik Monk, who is the son of former Kansas coach Bill Monk, is the first player on that team to be on the court.
The first openly gay basketball player on a national team is Kentucky guard Brandon Ingram, who plays for Kentucky.
Ingram is the youngest player on any national team.
The second player on either team is forward Dajuan Johnson, a freshman from Alabama.
Johnson is the oldest player on Mississippi State’s roster.
MISSISSAUGA CAPTAINES BIG CHANGE: The Tigers moved from a 2-10 team in 2015 to 10-5.
The changes were part of the program’s “A+ program” initiative.
In the past year, they have made significant strides.
They are averaging nearly 50 points per contest and are allowing just 32.8 points per 100 possessions, the second-best mark in the league. The Golden