The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports Columns

March 14, 2014

Courrier: No. 1 seed has brought no guarantees for MSU

Since the Minnesota State men’s basketball team started this nearly annual tradition of playing in the NCAA II tournament, the home team has almost been unbeatable in the regional.

The Mavericks have played in nine of the last 10 national tournaments, and the only two times that the home team didn’t win was 2010 and 2013, when the tournament was played at Bresnan Arena.

While there’s no shame in losing to one of the 64 best teams in Division II, why have the Mavericks only been able to win one regional in three tries on the home court?

“You have the bull’s-eye on your back,” senior Gage Wooten said. “There’s pressure, but we’re at home, where we have played pretty well.”

In 2010, the Mavericks defeated a scrappy team from Colorado School of Mines in the quarterfinals but were defeated by St. Cloud State in the semifinals. That team had Travis Nelson in the middle, and Jefferson Mason was starting to emerge as a big-time player. The Mavericks struggled to find perimeter offense and made only 2 of 15 from 3-point range in the loss to the Huskies, who won the region championship.

Last season, the Mavericks sailed through the first two games before running into Winona State in the finals. Before a large, loud crowd, these teams, who many predicted would meet in the final game, delivered an intense, physical battle that ended in overtime, a game many called the best they’d ever seen in the arena. But it was Winona State, thanks to a couple of banked 3-pointers, that left the building with the nets.

Bresnan Arena contributes to other teams’ success. It’s a big-time facility that lends a special feeling to the tournament, which helps other teams feel more comfortable. It’s a shooters’ gym, with a nice background.

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