STARKVILLE – New Mississippi men’s basketball coach Chris Jans isn’t sure yet if the butterflies will come as he rushes out of the Humphrey Coliseum tunnel for the first Bulldogs game.
By the time this opening contest – Monday 6:30 pm against Texas A & M – Corpus Christi – is over, he might have a better idea.
“I know I’ll be excited,” Jans said in Monday’s press conference. “I’ll be as anxious as you are, and I hope our fanbase will want to see who we are and how we will play.
“How do you feel, you’ll have to ask me this in a week from tonight around 9.”
Jans and Mississippi State should have every expectation to feel good against Southland Conference’s Islanders team, but teams worse than TAMU-CC stumbled over teams better than MSU before.
Jans said he was close with Islanders coach Steve Lutz and praised the “tough” defense between Texas A & M-Corpus Christi players.
“I know they’re excited about their show,” said Jans. “They come out of an NCAA tournament appearance; they have five starters back. It’s not the smartest game you can get your first gutter game, but that’s how the cookie broke up.
MSU will be busy early, playing three matches in seven days to kick off the 2022-23 season.
The Bulldogs head to Philadelphia to face Akron at 6:00 PM on November 11 at the Barstool Sports Invitational, then head home to host the Arkansas-Pine Bluff at 2:00 PM. November 13.
Jans said he was “not entirely sure” how good his first Mississippi team was yet, so playing early and often should help.
“Once we start throwing the ball to jump, it’s quite a lot of games in no time and I think after that we’ll have a better idea of where we are and what we need to work on.” said Jans.
Unlike many teams, MSU does not have exhibition matches to judge where it stands, but Jans said he believed closed door fights would produce similar results.
He said he has noticed a drop in players’ effort levels as they delve into training or scuffles, which happens naturally, but Jans thinks it could be improved.
That’s one of the two main things he said he would like to fix before the Bulldogs get a real trial.
“That’s probably what we’re at right now – we’re just more consistent in our efforts and our attention to detail on the defensive,” said Jans. “Of course, bouncing is something we’ve always been proud of, and now I don’t think we are getting as high as we should be.”
The team chemistry is something Jans saw at the beginning and so far has described the results as “pretty good”.
The former New Mexico state coach said his “litmus test” on the camaraderie among his players was whether they would stay after training or whether they would split up immediately. Bulldogs mostly did the former.
“If guys walk out the door as soon as the buzzer sounds or as soon as we break in, it’s probably not a good sign,” said Jans.
The Bulldogs coach noticed while watching the tournament tape that several players on the bench did not seem fully engaged in the game, but said the problem was fixed.
“I think that will change quickly,” said Jans. “We’ll see. A lot of things will happen when we start playing these games.
Whoever sees the voice for the state of Mississippi will be one of those things.
Jans said three or four starting positions have now been fixed and declined to name starting names ahead of the MSU season opening. He said the competition for rotating seats will continue throughout the season as players are constantly being judged.
“I can’t predict who will recover and who will produce when the lights come on,” said Jans. “Some people cringe when their time comes, and some rise to the occasion. We’ll have to see who gets the best out of their minutes and then they’ll get more. “
Theo DeRosa reports on Mississippi sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.
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