LOGAN LOWERY: Schaefer putting MSU in national spotlight

Mississippi State players join with fans to celebrate Thursday's win over Auburn in the WNIT. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Mississippi State players join with fans to celebrate Thursday’s win over Auburn in the WNIT. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

STARKVILLE

Vic Schaefer is building something special. In his second season at the helm of Mississippi State’s women’s basketball program, Schaefer appears to be on the cusp of turning the Bulldogs into a force to be reckoned with on the national scene.

LOGAN LOWERY

LOGAN LOWERY

Last year there were a few glimpses of what was to come but those were few and far between. This season they have come more frequently with wins over ranked opponents Arkansas and Vanderbilt as well as taking Tennessee, Kentucky and South Carolina to the wire at home.

Despite fielding a roster that features just two seniors and has two true freshmen in the starting lineup, Schaefer has guided MSU to one of the most successful years in school history. He is the only coach in school history to post 20 wins in his second season and the Bulldogs’ current 22-13 mark is the fourth best ever.

State still has a chance to finish with its best win total ever, having advanced to the Elite Eight of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament. The Bulldogs will host its fourth straight contest in the event Sunday at 5 p.m. against South Florida.

But no matter how that contest turns out, Mississippi State has a lot to be excited for in the future. The Bulldogs have signed two solid recruiting classes under Schaefer including an 18th-ranked class coming in next year including Victoria Vivians, who ended her career as high school basketball’s No. 2 all-time scorer, and Schaefer’s daughter Blair, a four-star prospect.

Four of the five members of that 2014 class were nominated for the McDonald’s All-American game and will join 6-foot-5 Nigerian center Chinwe O’Korie, who sat out this season.

Also back will be first team All-SEC selection and Co-Defensive Player of the Year Martha Alwal. The 6-foot-4 center is already the school’s all-time shot block leader and is poised for a strong season season based on her progression thus far.

“During conditioning in the fall, the coaches were telling us what we were doing was preparing us for February and March,” Alwal said. “It was really hard at that moment to trust in it because we’d never been where we are now. We have bought into what they’re saying. Next year we know with the new players that we’re going to get that we’ll be so much better.”

The Bulldogs will also be playing abroad in France during August which will help further their progression of the four returning starters and five newcomers heading into next year.

The 2013-14 season may not be finished yet, but even Schaefer admits the program is ahead of schedule and has a wealth of potential.

Logan Lowery (logan.lowery@journalinc.com) covers Mississippi State for the Journal. He blogs daily at InsideMSUSports.com