Which Mississippi college team will be the next to win a national championship?
Those championships could be isolated occurrences that set up another century of championship droughts. Or they could help usher in a new age of champions in Mississippi.
Here are a few candidates for Mississippi programs that have a chance to bring the state its next national championship.
It feels like the most obvious answer for which team will get the next title has to be the teams that already have them.
Mississippi State baseball returns plenty of talent in 2022 and, more crucially, will never have trouble recruiting top talent to play at Dudy Noble Field. Now that Mississippi State has a championship, the allure of playing at the largest ballpark in college baseball for a program that wins and puts players into the pros should make this a destination location.
Winning a College World Series isn't easy. But Mississippi State baseball does have the easiest path to another title of any program in this state.
As for Ole Miss women's golf, the roster should be set to reload. Only one contributor, Kennedy Swann, is out of eligibility and only one other, Julia Johnson, has fewer than two years left. The three other golfers who represented Ole Miss in match play in the national championship against Oklahoma State were a freshman and two sophomores.
No women's golf team has repeated as NCAA champion since 2007, but Ole Miss does have a young and talented enough roster to make it happen.
One team with a (literal) good shot
NCAA rifle competitions don't get much publicity. However, Ole Miss came pretty close to claiming a championship.
Ole Miss finished third, just 21 points behind national champion Kentucky. The Rebels were ranked No. 1 early in the season in October, finished the regular season with an 11-1 record and beat Kentucky in January.
Rifle isn't exactly a parity sport. Since the NCAA established a championship in 1980, only seven teams have won titles. There hasn't been a first-time champion since 2011. But Ole Miss showed it has the ability to compete with those teams and might be able to carry that success into a championship someday.
Big sports with harder roads
Ole Miss and Southern Miss baseball have talented programs year after year, and it's hard to count them out because of the parity and streakiness in college baseball. If either program has a year where its pitchers get hot in May and June, there's no reason to think these teams aren't deep enough that they can take home a title.
The same can be said about women's basketball. Mississippi State has gotten close recently, and even without coach Vic Schaefer in charge anymore, that's still a brand name program. And fresh off an NIT finals appearance, Ole Miss is also a program on the rise, especially with likely top-five WNBA draft pick Shakira Austin in the front court.
Football and men's basketball still feel out of reach for Ole Miss, Mississippi State and especially Southern Miss. But in sports like baseball and women's basketball that see higher priority in Mississippi than in some other areas, there's always going to be a chance.
What about the Celebration Bowl?
It's not an NCAA championship, but the Celebration Bowl is the de facto HBCU national championship for football. And Alcorn State and Jackson State look like teams capable of winning that trophy for the SWAC.
Alcorn State has been to three of five Celebration Bowls but lost all three times. The Braves opted out of the 2021 spring season to prepare for this fall, and they will likely begin the season ranked in the Top 25 and be among the favorites to win the SWAC.
Jackson State should be considered one of the other favorites. Deion Sanders is putting together top-ranked recruiting classes and attracting transfers from major programs. If he and his staff can translate talent into wins, there's no reason the Tigers can't compete with the Braves or any other team for a chance at the Celebration Bowl title.
Contact Nick Suss at 601-408-2674 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @nicksuss on Twitter.