By Chad Courrier
---- — MANKATO — The Minnesota State men's basketball team may still control where the Central Region tournament will be played.
The first region rankings were released Wednesday, and the Mavericks (23-4) are No. 2, right behind Winona State (22-5), which swept the season series with Minnesota State.
"It's nice to see your name in the top eight," Minnesota State coach Matt Margenthaler said. "Our goal is to get to the NCAA tournament, and we have an opportunity to solidify that over the next two weekends."
Missouri Southern is third, followed by Northwest Missouri, Central Missouri, Fort Hays and Arkansas Tech. Bemidji State rounds out the top 8, which is how many teams advance to the national tournament. Southwest Minnesota State is ninth and St. Cloud State is 10th.
"If we win out, we have a chance to host (a regional), which would be good for Mankato," Margenthaler said.
There is just one weekend left in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, with the Mavericks playing at Sioux Falls on Friday and Southwest Minnesota State on Saturday. Winona State hosts Wayne State and Augustana.
The conference tournament begins Wednesday.
The No. 1 team in the women's rankings was Emporia State, followed by Harding, Central Missouri and Wayne State. The Mavericks, who have won eight straight, are fifth, ahead of Pittsburg State, Northern State, Concordia-St. Paul, Missouri Southern and Fort Hays.
"That's about where we expected to be," Mavericks coach Emilee Thiesse said. "Our goal is not to be fifth, but we're excited about the potential for the postseason. We feel like we have some momentum."