By Chad Courrier
Free Press Staff Writer
A month ago, Minnesota State men’s basketball coach Matt Margenthaler wasn’t sure if his team played better on the road than it did at home.
Three of the Mavericks’ losses came at Bresnan Arena this season.
“But we’ve really started to play well at home,” Margenthaler said. “The guys are really comfortable playing here.”
Minnesota State (26-4) is the No. 1 seed in the Central Region and will host the eight-team tournament next weekend. It’s the third time in the last four years that the region tournament will be played at Bresnan Arena.
“There’s not a better place to host an NCAA tournament than Taylor Center,” Margenthaler said.
The Mavericks will host Arkansas Tech (18-11) in a quarterfinal game at 5 p.m. Saturday.
“I’m really glad we’re playing someone out of our conference,” Margenthaler said. “It’s good for our fans to see someone they normally don’t see.”
Other quarterfinal matchups are Augustana (21-8) vs. Upper Iowa (20-11) at noon, Winona State (24-7) vs. Northeastern State (19-8) and Central Missouri (22-7) vs. Harding (21-9).
If Minnesota State wins its opener, the Mavericks would take on Central Missouri or Harding on Sunday. Semifinals are scheduled for 5 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday, with Tuesday’s championship game at 7 p.m.
“This is our big step for our team,” sophomore guard Zach Monaghan said. “It was one of our goals, and it’s nice to get rewarded for a long season.”
In the women’s regional, which will be played at Topeka, Kansas, Washburn (23-5) is the No. 1 seed and will host Emporia State (20-8).
The Mavericks (25-5) are seeded fourth in the women’s region and will face Arkansas Tech (23-6) in the quarterfinals Friday. It’s the second straight berth in the national tournament for the Mavericks and fourth in the last five years.
“I’m excited about the matchup,” Minnesota State coach Emilee Thiesse said. “I’m excited that we get to keep our season going.”
Central Missouri (24-4) is No. 2 and will take on Southwestern Oklahoma State (23-6), and No. 3 Concordia-St. Paul (23-6) faces Augustana (24-6).
Minnesota State had its 14-game winning streak ended in the conference tournament championship game Saturday, but Thiesse likes what she’s seen from her players since then.
“I have a really good feeling about where this team is,” she said. “I’ve heard the girls talking, and it sounds like they’re ready to get back to work.”