The Free Press, Mankato, MN

November 22, 2013

3 might be Mavericks' magic number


The Mankato Free Press

---- — When the subject is Minnesota State men’s basketball in the Matt Margenthaler era, you think of great athletes who like to play fullcourt basketball, teams that may score 100 points but give up 90.

And you think about wins, given that the Mavericks have won about 70 percent of the games in Margenthaler’s 13 seasons.

But he said something interesting Tuesday night after his team easily defeated another inferior opponent: “We don’t have the athletes we’ve had in the past.”

Which is odd, considering the Mavericks just put 117 points on the board against Clarke College. But it seems true, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Other than bad opponents, one thing that has stuck out in the last three home games is that the Mavericks can shoot the basketball, especially when they’re not being guarded. The Mavericks have made 35 3-pointers in the last three games, shooting about 46 percent from behind the arc.

With center Assem Marei sidelined by a sprained ankle, there’s been more opportunity for the shooters, and six different players have taken advantage with made 3-pointers.

When Marei returns, and Margenthaler is hoping that he is back for the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference opener Nov. 30 at Concordia-St. Paul, defenses are going to have to decide to double-team the post or play tighter on perimeter shooters.

The Mavericks have had some pretty good shooters in the last decade, but this might be the most balanced perimeter group in Margenthaler’s tenure. You can’t sag off of point guard Zach Monaghan or wings Gage Wooten and Alex Hanks. When Zach Romashko, Mike Busack and Tanner Adler come off the bench, the defense better find them.

When Jayme Moten returns from injury, which might be Monday, he’s another perimeter threat.

Last season, when the Mavericks won 28 games, they made 5.6 3-pointers per game and shot 37.1 percent. Through six games, Minnesota State is averaging 8.5 3-pointers per game and shooting 41.5 percent.

The Mavericks have shown that they can still run the floor, and it looks like they’ll be good enough on rebounds to get some fast-break points.

But maybe this season, those explosive dunks will be replaced with 3-pointers, and it doesn’t take a math genius to tell you that 3 is better than 2 in basketball.

It still remains to be seen if the shooters hold up once conference games begin. It will be a little tougher to shoot when the defender is nearby. But given that Marei has no peer in the post in this league, the combination of inside and outside should be effective.

It still looks like the Mavericks have some defensive deficiencies, but you’re going to give up some points in the Northern Sun. If they can increase their efficiency on the offensive end, forcing teams to defend the entire court, that should be better.

Minnesota State remains the favorite to win the conference again, which could lead to hosting another regional tournament. Maybe a couple more 3-pointers will push Minnesota State over the top.

Chad Courrier is a Free Press staff writer. To contact him, call 507-344-6353, e-mail at ccourrier@mankatofreepress.com or follow his Twitter feed @ChadCourrier.