You expect college basketball teams to win at home, and the Minnesota State men’s team has done that, going 5-2 even with crowd support not creating any sort of advantage.

But special seasons occur when teams go on the road and win, and the Mavericks have done that, going 7-1 away from the comforts of Taylor Center.

However, the toughest road game of the season might be tonight at Minot State, a veteran team with some size and a skilled point guard. Minot State’s only two losses came to Northern State, a squad that won at Bresnan Arena a couple of weeks ago.

And a January trip through North Dakota can be dicey any time, even more so with this weekend’s conditions.

The Mavericks already have road victories at Winona State and Upper Iowa, places where the team has had some recent struggles. The most impressive road victory came last weekend in front of 3,200 fans at Augustana. Despite losing a 20-point halftime lead, the Mavericks regrouped in overtime to win 94-91.

Winning at Wayne State the next night, after travelling, was almost as impressive, given that four players went more than 34 minutes against Augustana.

Road victories generally include a team-bonding element, learning to play together when most of the fans in the gym are rooting against you. When you’re on the road, you have no one but your teammates to hang out with.

The Mavericks don’t have as many flashy, physically imposing players as they’ve had in the past. Instead, they rely on gritty, tough athletes who play a little bigger than they are, make smart decisions and quietly deliver clutch plays in the final minutes of the game. There’s not a lot of showmanship with this squad.

Minnesota State has won nine of its last 10 games to jump right into the mix for the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference championship, leading the South Division by two games. It’s been surprising, given preseason predictions and the number of injuries early in the year, but it should never be unexpected for this program to challenge for the conference titles.

After this weekend, Minnesota State has five more games on the road, including a season-ending trip to Southwest Minnesota State and Sioux Falls, both of whom could still be in the hunt for the South Division championship. Then comes the conference tournament, which could include more games away from home.

If Minnesota State takes care of its business at home, and wins a few more road games, another 20-win season and NCAA berth is realistic.

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.

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