The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports Columns

March 14, 2013

COURRIER: Few thoughts about Northern Sun basketball season

MANKATO — Just a few thoughts about the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference basketball men¹s basketball season before the NCAA tournament gets started.

The league is going to look at lot different next season. Of the top 30 scorers, only seven are underclassmen. Two are from Concordia-St. Paul, and two are from Minnesota State. Concordia-St. Paul and the Mavericks are travel partners, meaning that could be the toughest weekend for opponents in league games next weekend.

The league coaches will no longer have to game plan for Augustana¹s Cameron McCaffrey and Winona State¹s Clayton Vette. The conference¹s two best players are both seniors, and they have been causing headaches for opponents for the last four years.

Of course, new dominant players will emerge next season, which could begin with Concordia-St. Paul¹s Terez Van Pelt or Minnesota State¹s Zach Monaghan or Assem Marei being named the preseason player of the year.

Bemidji State¹s late run nearly ended up with a bid to the NCAA tournament, but it pointed out how tough it is for a North Division team to qualify. Strength of schedule is a key component for the selection committee when it comes to choosing eight teams for each region, and playing in the North, with the weaker teams in the Northern Sun, may never result in as tough a schedule as South Division teams.

A North team has to win almost all of the 14 games within its division, then do very well in the one game against each of the South programs. Twenty wins for South teams is nearly a guaranteed invitation to the NCAA tournament. It¹s not so certain for North teams.

Former Gustavus Adolphus assistant Mike Boschee had an amazing first season at Bemidji State. Despite heavy losses to graduation, and the previous coach bolting to Minnesota Duluth, Boschee took a job others didn¹t want and had that team playing as well as any in the league by the end of the season.

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