The Free Press, Mankato, MN


February 21, 2014

College BB notebook: MSU men, women still have shot at Northern Sun titles

MANKATO — With two games remaining in the regular season, both the Minnesota State men’s and women’s basketball teams have a chance to win Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference championships.

While that might not mean as much as it once did, replaced by national-tournament goals, the conference title does mean that you’ve had the best season among your peers.

“One of our goals every year is to win a conference championship,” Mavericks coach Matt Margenthaler said. “It’s very important. We’ve won conference championships seven of the last eight seasons, which I think is remarkable from a consistency factor. We have bigger goals, like an opportunity to host a regional, but a conference championship is something you play for.”

The men’s team (23-4, 17-3 in Northern Sun) is tied for first with Winona State (22-5, 17-3) heading into the final weekend of Northern Sun regular-season games. Winona State holds the tiebreaker for the top seed in the conference tournament, but the regular-season championship is shared between teams that are tied.

The Mavericks play tonight at Sioux Falls (14-10, 11-9) and Saturday at Southwest Minnesota State (16-10, 13-7), while Winona State hosts Wayne State (8-16, 5-15) and Augustana (1-12, 11-9). The Mavericks defeated Sioux Falls 109-64 and Southwest Minnesota State 77-68 two weeks ago.

“I don’t like the conference schedule at all,” Margenthaler said. “Playing the same teams so close together makes it easier to prepare, but I don’t think it’s right.

Sioux Falls is 10-2 on its home court, while Southwest Minnesota State is ranked 10th in the Central Region, needing victories to move up to consideration for the NCAA tournament.

The women’s team (19-5, 16-4) trails Wayne State (24-3, 17-3) by a game in the conference race. The Mavericks play at Sioux Falls (12-12, 8-12) tonight and at Southwest Minnesota State (4-20, 2-18) on Saturday. The Mavericks swept both games two weeks ago at Bresnan Arena.

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