January 31, 2023

STARKVILLE — Before Chris Jans could say a word on his first Dawg Talk radio show at the Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux Wednesday night, a woman in a maroon Mississippi State sweatshirt sitting at the bar grabbed her cowbell and rang it loudly.

The excitement of the MSU fanbase at their new men’s basketball coach was already evident.

Jans, who was hired by the state of New Mexico in March, has been lauded by almost everyone associated with the state of Mississippi, and his early winning streaks are a testament to that.

The Bulldogs (7-0) can repeat their best start in five years with a win over Mississippi Valley State (1-7) at 1 p.m. Saturday, and Jans wants as many viewers as possible for Magnolia State’s only division I secure basketball game that day.

Informed that Walk-On’s would open at 8:30 am Saturday for the US Men’s World Cup Round of 16 match against the Netherlands at 9:00 am, Jans floated a double dip to those in attendance on Wednesday.

“It’s going to be a really good episode – have breakfast in here, maybe a little bit before the game, come to the hump at 1 o’clock when we play then,” he said.

Mississippi State averages just over 6,000 fans in each of its first four home games, about two-thirds the capacity of the Humphrey Coliseum under construction.

That number is likely to increase as the Bulldogs keep winning, especially if they take part in the Southeastern Conference against Alabama on Dec. 28.

So far, Jans admitted in a media session earlier Wednesday that the state of Mississippi has impressed him.

But there is still more to do.

“I think we’re just scratching the surface of what we could and should be,” said Jans.

For one thing, Jans wasn’t happy with his team’s performance in Monday’s win over Omaha. He said the defense – which allowed just 54 points and had to give up more than 55 in a game this year – could have been better.

A mixed offensive is the Bulldogs’ biggest problem so far, but Jans was optimistic and said “at some point the lid will fall off the basket”.

Nonetheless, he and his staff have attempted to look at each upcoming competition from the opposing team’s point of view. For example, how should Mississippi Valley State attack MSU?

For his part, Jans was unwilling to reveal his scouting report on his team on Wednesday.

“Why should I reveal what we would do?” he said. “I should know my team best, but there are many coaches who are smarter than me and they have already done some things that have caused us some problems. I’m sure we’ll see a lot more.”

What’s fueled Mississippi State’s success — aside from defense and rebounding, which Jans says are must-haves for the season — are “guys who jump on the bandwagon.”

In just over eight months on the job, Jans has seen his players understand and appreciate what their coach is trying to build.

“Our culture, our buy-in is probably even better than I expected so early in our tenure,” said Jans.

Now it’s a matter of maintaining that.

Winning is an easy path, but tougher teams will have their say later.

If Jans’ Bulldogs pass those tests and build chemistry in the process, there could be a lot more cowbells ringing for the MSU coach every Wednesday night.

“Hopefully we can get more of that buy-in,” said Jans. “If we do that, we have a chance to be good later.”

Theo DeRosa covers Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.

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