MANKATO — Matt Margenthaler knows what the veterans on the Minnesota State men’s basketball teams can do. He also sees the talent in the freshmen.
Starting tonight, he’ll see how it all mixes together.
“When we play hard and are dialed in, we can be a very good basketball team,” Margenthaler said. “What we don’t have right now is that consistency.
“We’re very talented, but we need more from our senior leadership. We need them to show up every day and work hard in practice and do the things we need them to do to show the younger guys how we do things here.”
The Mavericks open the season tonight and Saturday at a crossover event between the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association and Northern Sun Intercollegiate at Kansas City, Missouri. Minnesota State opens with Washburn today and Missouri Southern State on Saturday.
“If we don’t show up to play, we’re not going to win either of these games,” Margenthaler said. “We could play really well this weekend and still lose both. It’s a tough way to start, but these kind of games are going to help us down the road.”
The Mavericks are led by a pair of seniors. Power forward Cameron Kirksey, who was voted South Division preseason player of the year, is the top returning scorer at 17.7 points per game. He also averaged 5.9 rebounds and shot 52.9% from the field, including 43.4% from 3-point range.
Kevin Krieger returns at small forward, though he’s been battling hamstring issues during the preseason. Last season, he averaged 14.1 points and a team-high 7.3 rebounds.
“We know we have the talent,” Krieger said. “We just have to focus every day on us and getting better.”
Sophomore Tre Baumbardner, who was the backup point guard last season, is now the starter, having averaged 7.4 points in 28 games last season. Junior Jamal Nixon, who started all 30 games last season, will open at the shooting guard, with transfer Kelby Kramer, a 6-foot-10 post, rounding out the starting lineup.
Freshmen Corvon Seales and Ryalnd Holt will be the first players off the bench. Senior Carter Asche, juniors Frankie Mack and Paris Parham and freshmen Landon Wolfe and Malik Willingham round out the roster.
“We have some versatility, offensively and defensively,” Margenthaler said. “We should have the athletes to guard people, and if we will play inside-out on offense, we should be successful.
“The biggest concern I have is our toughness and mindset. If everybody does their job, we’ll be fine. We just need to be consistent with our effort and mindset.”
The Mavericks were selected by the coaches as preseason favorites to win the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, a title they haven’t won since 2014. Minnesota State had won 20 or more games in six straight seasons but slipped to 18-12 last season, though they still qualified for the NCAA tournament, making it 13 of the last 15 seasons.
“I’m excited to get started,” Krieger said. “It’s a fun group. Let’s see what we can do.”
Follow Chad Courrier on Twitter @ChadCourrier.