The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports Columns

February 14, 2014

Lot to learn about Mavericks in next 4 games

There are just four games remaining in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference regular season, and the Minnesota State men’s basketball team will spend the last two weekends on the road.

Through the first 25 games this season, we’ve learned that once again, the Mavericks are capable of beating anyone, and Winona State will be a tough hurdle to overcome.

We’ll also learn a lot more in the next two weeks. The Mavericks take on Bemidji State, the Northern Sun’s third-best team, tonight, and next weekend, Minnesota State will play the finale at Southwest Minnesota State, which put up a pretty good fight at Bresnan Arena last weekend before falling in the final minute.

Both games should have a playoff look to them. Both opponents need victories over big-time opponents to have a chance to play postseason basketball.

Both teams have some history of beating the Mavericks. Bemidji State has won three of the last four games against the Mavericks, who defeated the Beavers in the conference tournament championship game last season. Southwest Minnesota State has gone 2-2 in the last four games with the Mavericks, and over the last half-decade, the Mustangs have stole some key games in this series.

There’s still a chance that Minnesota State could host another regional tournament, but it’s more likely going to be played elsewhere, either at Winona or somewhere in Missouri. The first region ranking comes out Wednesday so that will become more clear.

But the Mavericks have traditionally been a pretty good road team, which should give the team some confidence as it boards the bus for the last four games.

If the Mavericks go 4-0 in these games, that will be a confidence boost that should carry into the conference tournament, which will finish with quarterfinal, semifinal and championship games at Sioux Falls. A loss to either Bemidji State or Southwest Minnesota State wouldn’t be a huge setback, but you never know how college kids are going to react to adversity.

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