When reflecting on two games against Bemidji State last weekend at Bresnan Arena, Minnesota State men’s basketball coach Matt Margenthaler said he expects a lot of splits in this new style of scheduling in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.
Given the back-to-back games with the same opponent at the same site, he figured that teams that lose the first game of the “series” would be highly motivated to get some revenge the next night.
Veteran teams will be better equipped for these games, given no preseason, and the results will sometimes be illogical, such as what happened at Bresnan Arena, with Minnesota State losing by 15 points one night and winning by 34 the next night. There is no homecourt advantage with no fans in most arenas.
In the men’s games last weekend, there were four sweeps as Northern State, Augustana, Sioux Falls and Upper Iowa each won twice.
Augustana had the most impressive weekend, winning twice at Minnesota State Moorhead. Northern State, who many think is the best team in the league, struggled to get two wins at Wayne State. Sioux Falls won a couple of close games, with one in overtime. Upper Iowa also needed one overtime victory to get the sweep.
Minnesota Duluth defeated Winona State on Saturday but had Sunday’s game canceled because of COVID-19 concerns in the Winona State programs.
The only women’s teams to sweep were Concordia-St. Paul and Southwest Minnesota State. The Mavericks won a squeaker at Bemidji State in the opener, then lost in overtime in the second game.
Before Sunday’s game, Bemidji State coach Mike Boschee said he liked the back-to-back games against the same opponent at the same site, given there was no chaos of late night travel, checking into a different hotel and trying to prepare for a different opponent. He maybe changed his mind after his team played with much less efficiency and energy in a lopsided loss on Sunday.
One of the officials also said that working consecutive games with the same teams went well, though neither game was hotly competitive and there were no issues with either team’s players or coaches. That might be different the rest of the way should there be any controversial incidents in the first game of these series and the games become more intense.
The Northern Sun schedule isn’t perfect, but it’s the best the league could do in a two-month season. It will be interesting to see how the conference handles games that get canceled by COVID-19, given there will be no games rescheduled for later in the season.
Kudos to the Northern State and Southwest Minnesota State women’s teams, who had opponents cancel this weekend because of coronavirus. They ended up rescheduling this weekend against each other, which disrupts the division-only criteria for making the conference tournament but it gives the athletes another opportunity to compete.
There’s still seven weeks left in the Northern Sun schedule, and it’s going to be tough to predict any outcomes. Augustana was the best team in the men’s games last weekend. Minnesota State will get a chance to change that this weekend at Bresnan.
Chad Courrier is the Free Press sports editor. He’s at 507-344-6353, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ChadCourrier.