Mississippi State is one win away from back to back trips to the Final Four. Tomorrow's opponent on the other hand, hasn't reached the Elite Eight since 1999.
MSU did scrimmage UCLA 2 years ago, so the Bulldogs and the Bruins aren't total strangers. As a matter of fact, head coach Cori Close said she admired MSU's rise in last year's NCAA Tournament.
"I have so much respect for Vic Schaefer and not only in how he's built the program from the court, but in the way that he invests in the lives of his student athletes and I think they play for each other and for him in a really cool way," Close said. "I think you could just see their hunger last year. I could see it. I became a fan watching that hunger to have that break through and I think in what they did in building their program to have that break through was remarkable. I think that's something we've been seeking to do is to believe internally, really deeply before anyone on the outside could even suspect."
Vic Schaefer expects another test in KC. "We're going to have our hands full," Schaefer said. "They are fast, quick, long, athletic, cover a lot of ground, they forced 21 turnovers last night which led to 31 points. We will be ready. We had a good practice last night. We're excited about the opportunity. We run into these great teams a lot."
Senior Blair Schaefer feels playing in a tough conference will prepare them for another Power 5 opponent. "They have a lot of athleticism and height," Blair said. "I think it makes me have to be more on my game, I have to be focused on boxing out and going to get them on the perimeter, not letting them come in the paint and box them out in the paint. I feel like we have played a lot of athletic teams this year SEC. The SEC has a lot of length as well so hopefully that experience in the SEC will carry over into tomorrow."
Mississippi State and UCLA play Sunday at 6:30pm in the Kansas City Regional Final. The game will be televised on ESPN.