By Dale McKee

Sports columnist



What were the best sports stories of 2018 in Mississippi?

My personal picks would have to start with the SEC champion Mississippi State Lady Bulldogs and their remarkable run to the National Championship game.

Not far behind would be the Mississippi State Diamond Dawgs' unforeseen trip to the College World Series behind their rally banana. Bulldog baseball appeared to be in dire straits when three games into the season their coach Andy Cannizaro was forced to step down. MSU Athletic Director John Cohen then turned to pitching coach Gary Henderson who righted the ship all the way to Omaha. State also got more good news in June as All-American Jake Mangum spurred major league baseball to play his senior year at MSU.



SEC Champs

Ole Miss baseball winning the SEC tournament and having a ranking as high as No.4 in the country during the regular season was fun for Rebels baseball fans.

One of the 2018 headlines came from 2,336 miles away in Pullman, Washington, where Brandon native Gardner Minshew III turned the Washington State Cougars into a winner. The Cougars won a school record 11 games, and Minshew took the nation by storm as he led the NCAA in passing and the Cougars to a bowl win. His famous mustache fad also caught on throughout the Far West. Mississippi State finishing in the Top 20 in football and earning a trip to the Outback Bowl was another top headline. First year MSU coach Joe Moorhead going 8-4 and reclaiming the Egg Bowl was a satisfying performance for the Bulldogs and their loyal fans. Alcorn winning the SWAC football title and playing in the Celebration Bowl made headlines during the past football season. Quarterback Nick Foles, with a connection to Petal where his dad grew up, led the Philadelphia Eagles to the top of the football world with a Super Bowl championship.

Brandon High School pitcher J.T. Ginn turned down millions of dollars from the L.A. Dodgers to sign a baseball scholarship with Mississippi State.

Ole Miss basketball went through a transformation as Andy Kennedy stepped down and OM hired an MSU graduate and another Mississippi native in Kermit Davis Jr. The last of the 2018 headlines was the Ole Miss football program. The Rebels battled on Saturdays on the field and tangled with the NCAA during the week.  The Rebels came out on the short end on both battlefields.



College Basketball

The Lady Bulldogs (12-1) will open SEC play at Arkansas this Thursday night at 6 p.m. on the SEC Network. The MSU Bulldogs (12-1) will have off until January 8 before traveling to South Carolina. The Ole Miss Rebels basketball team was 6-0 in December as they are off to a 10-2 start. The Rebels open SEC play Saturday night in Nashville. USM (8-5) concludes a six-game road trip this week with stops at Rice and North Texas.



 College Football Playoffs

The College Football Playoff Committee did their jobs as they have the two best teams playing for the title. I am not sure we need four teams. I prefer the committee picking two teams and let’s get after it. This concept (CFP) has been in place since 2014 so we would get the top two teams playing for a national championship. The football experts harped on Notre Dame and Oklahoma being in the playoffs.  I agree, but Georgia should have beaten LSU or Alabama, and Ohio State should have defeated Purdue.



 Closing thoughts

If you really want to help college football, make a rule that each school could play only six home games. This would definitely spread the wealth and maybe the playing field.

  Dale McKee, a resident of Waynesboro, has covered Mississippi sports for more than 46 years. He writes a weekly sports column. You can contact Dale at ddmckee18@yahoo.com