Mississippi State has won 18 or more games in each of the last five seasons and hopes to keep that trend going.

The Bulldogs will get their first shot at a victory Monday night when they host Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at Starkville to get the 2022-23 season rolling.

Mississippi State was 18-16 last year but dropped its final two games, including a 60-57 loss to Virginia in the NIT.

The Islanders were 23-12 a year ago and lost in the First Four to Texas Southern by a 76-67 score. They are the favorite to win the Southland Conference and return all five starters, including reigning conference tourney MVP Terrion Murdix, who averaged 9.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists.

Mississippi State is led by All-SEC preseason selection Tolu Smith, who has started 50 of the 51 games he has played in for the Bulldogs. Smith averaged 14.2 points per game and finished the season strong, averaging 19.0 points and 7.6 rebounds over the final seven games.

First-year Mississippi State head coach Chris Jans sees plenty of potential in Smith.

“You guys have all seen his skill level, his body, his quickness and all the things that make anyone a good player,” Jans said, according to the Daily Journal in Tupelo. “Tolu possesses a lot of those characteristics.”

Jans replaces Ben Howland, who was fired in March after seven seasons and a 134-98 record. Jans compiled a 122-32 record over the past five seasons at New Mexico State.

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi is coming off its second NCAA Tournament appearance (also 2007) and that has the players hungry for more success.

And while it is an unranked team at the moment, the Islanders are a squad that won’t be an easy out on any night during the season.

“Don’t sleep on us,” Murdix said, according to KRIS 6 News in Corpus Christi. “Offense, defense, anything. We’re diving for the loose balls. We’re doing all the extra stuff.”

–Field Level Media