Saturday, February 27, 2010

Big road wins for MSU men, women

If you're going to spend 16 hours traveling to and from a game, you might as well win. The Minnesota State men's and women's basketball teams both faced important games Saturday at University of Mary, and both teams prevailed at Bismarck, N.D.
The men won 75-63 and clinched the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference championship, in part because St. Cloud State lost at Winona State. The men are the No. 1 seed for the conference tournament, and there is some thought that the Mavericks may have also locked up the top seed for the Central Region tournament in two weeks.
Minnesota State will play Southwest Minnesota State at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Bresnan Arena in the quarterfinal round of the conference tournament, and with a victory, the Mavericks would host the semifinals and championship game Saturday and Sunday.
There could be a lot of high-quality basketball being played at Bresnan Arena in the next two weeks.
The women needed a victory to get into the conference tournament and prevailed 72-69 at Mary. Minnesota State will face regular-season champion Concordia-St. Paul on Wednesday, and the teams split during the season. It would be an upset if the Mavericks won, but last year, the Bears knocked off top-seeded Minnesota State in the quarterfinal round of the Northern Sun tournament so revenge is possible.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Surprise! Gustavus hosting MIAC championship game

The Gustavus Adolphus men's basketball team was seeded second for the MIAC tournament so it's not surprising that the Gusties are playing in the championship game Saturday. But the opponent and site is a big shocker as fourth-seeded Carleton upset No. 1 St. Thomas in the semifinals and will be the visitor at Gus Young Court at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
The winner gets an automatic berth into the national tournament, which is probably the only way either team advances. St. Thomas is likely to get an at-large berth despite the loss to Carleton.
The Gusties have had an interesting season in that every time it seems like they may get on a roll, they take a loss. When it seems as though things might be falling apart, they win again. They have trouble finishing games, though they've won a few at the buzzer.
Carleton was playing poorly early in the season but have won 11 of the last 12 games.
The playoff atmosphere is generally outstanding at Gus Young Court, and both teams will have vocal support. It should be fun, even if you're not concerned with who wins.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Augustana keeps Mavericks from clinching Northern Sun title

A week ago, the Minnesota State men's basketball team had a two-game lead in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, and it look like it was inevitable that the Mavericks would win the title. But losses to St. Cloud State and Augustana have put Minnesota State's hopes of winning a conference championship and hosting the Northern Sun and Central Region tournaments in serious jeopardy.
On Wednesday, the Mavericks lost 72-71 to Augustana, making only 17 of 29 free throws and commiting 14 turnovers. Augustana ended up winning on freshman Cameron McCaffrey's baseline 8-footer with 9.1 seconds, but had the Mavericks taken care of business at the free-throw line, the outcome would have been decided much earlier.
The Mavericks must now win at Mary on Saturday to ensure at least a share of the conference title, and tiebreakers could decide if the conference tournament is played at Bresnan Arena or St. Cloud. It didn't seem like it would come down to this just a week ago.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bethany wins playoff game, and future looks bright

With senior Tommy Saffert, who had scored 57 points in two victories over Martin Luther in the regular season, limited to only two points Tuesday, Bethany Lutheran was still able to defeat Martin Luther 64-52 in the quarterfinals of the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference tournament.
This playoff victory was all about the future as freshman Derek Peterson led the Vikings with 16 points and nine rebounds. Freshman Patrick Garvin had 12 points and seven assists, and sophomore Trevor Bartelt added nine points and 12 rebounds. Freshman Garrett Benson scored 10 points, all in the first half, and freshman Gavin Kroehler grabbed seven rebounds.
The rookies commited a few too many turnovers in the second half, but the youngsters didn't back down fvrom physical play after the officials swallowed their whistles. It's been a tough season for the younger players, who took lumps until Bethany won 10 of the last 13 games. The Vikings could easily go to Minnesota-Morris on Thursday and win the UMAC semifinal game, and it wouldn't be surprising to see Bethany defeat Northwestern in a championship game, either.
It's going to be interesting to watch these young players develop, and in the next season or two, it should be Bethany winning UMAC championships. Every bit of court time these talented players get this season should be of benefit in the future.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Loyola football coach resigns

Mankato Loyola football coach Dan Rotchadl announced his resignation Monday, saying that it was just the right time to make a change. He said that he looks forward to hunting with his sons and traveling with his wife, and he said the fall is the best time to do those things. Rotchadl has been the Crusaders head coach for six seasons, and he said that he was an assistant another eight or nine seasons. Rotchadl took Loyola to the state tournament in 2007. This season, the Crusaders were 5-3 and lost in the first round of the section playoffs.
Athletic director Brad O'Donnell said that he'll be talking with current assistants about the job before opening the position to those outside the program. Fore more on this story, check out Tuesday's print edition.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

MSU men take care of business at Southwest

Minnesota State rolled in the second half and defeated Southwest Minnesota State 81-64 Saturday as the Mavericks close in on a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference men's basketball championship.
Seemingly, everybody that played contributed in some significant way, with Jefferson Mason getting 16 points and reserve Taylor Morrow scoring a career-high 15 points. The biggest stat was rebounding. At the 10-minute mark of the first half, Southwest had a 15-4 rebounding advantage, but the Mavericks outrebounded the Mustangs 31-15 the rest of the way.
The victory keeps the Mavericks one game ahead of St. Cloud State with two games to play in the regular season. The Mavericks can clinch a share of the conference title with a victory at home Wednesday against Augustana or Saturday, Feb. 27, at Mary. The Huskies have a home game with Concordia-St. Paul on Wednesday and finish the regular season at Winona State on Feb. 27.
The Mavericks will be the No. 1 seed in the Central Region come Wednesday because Mesa State lost on Friday to five-win Adams State. Augustana and Winona State also took losses this weekend so it's really come down to a two-team region race between the Mavericks and St. Cloud State. Should the teams meet in the conference tournament, that outcome could decide where the regional tournament will be played.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Recruits and other MSU men's basketball tidbits

Talked with Minnesota State basketball recruit Alex Hanks on Thursday, and for more on the conversation, pick up Friday's print edition or visit the web site Friday. But the gist of the conversation revolved around how excited he is to be joining the Mavericks next fall. The irony is that he lives in St. Cloud and attended Saturday's game at Halenbeck Hall, where he used to root for the home team, but he's already bleeding the purple and gold of Minnesota State and he's eager to get started.
The Mavericks received a commitment from guard Anthony Brant of Vermilion Community College in Ely. What stands out about him is that he's made 113 of 264 3-pointers in 25 games, both of which would represent program records at Minnesota State. However, Vermilion coach Paul McDonald assures that Brant plays both ends of the floor and passes well, and he said character is Brant's best trait.
The Mavericks enter Saturday's game at Southwest Minnesota State needing a victory to maintain first place in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. St. Cloud State takes on Minnesota Crookston on Saturday, and Minnesota Crookston has just one conference victory. By my math, the Mavericks would still host the conference tournament if they tie with St. Cloud State for the regular-season championship, based on the strength-of-conference opponents tiebreaker.

Monday, February 15, 2010

MSU's loss at St. Cloud State hurts twice as much

Not only did the Minnesota State men's basketball team lose at St. Cloud State on Saturday, closing the conference lead to one game, the Mavericks also missed a chance to take over the top spot in the Central Region when Mesa State lost to Western New Mexico later Saturday.
The Mavericks had a chance to clinch a share of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference championship and the right to host the league tournament by defeating St. Cloud State, but senior center Matt Schneck made sure that didn't happen with 34 points and 18 rebounds in the 92-84 victory.
Minnesota State has three games remaining in the regular season, starting Saturday at Southwest Minnesota State. The Mavericks may have to win all three to win the Northern Sun and may have to win the conference tournament to wrestle the region's top seed away from Mesa State.
The region rankings come out Wednesday, and despite the loss, second-seeded Minnesota State may have closed the gap a little on Mesa State, based on strength of schedule. Mesa State plays a key game at Fort Lewis on Saturday that will surely get the attention of the Mavericks, who also need to take care of their own business.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

St. Cloud State gets revenge on Mavericks

For most of this season, the Minnesota State men's basketball team has been stronger than its opponents over the last five minutes of a game, but on Saturday at Halenbeck Hall, it was St. Cloud State that prevailed 92-84 to close the Mavericks' lead to one game in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference race.
The Huskies earned a split in the season series, with the Mavericks winning 88-76 at Bresnan Arena in January.
The Huskies' Matt Schneck had 34 points and 18 rebounds, but role players Josh Ortmann, Brett Putz and Andrew Bernstetter combined for 42 points, with each hitting at least one key shot down the stretch.
Minnesota State's Jefferson Mason had 28 points and 13 rebounds, and Travis Nelson added 24 points, but the role players weren't there for the Mavericks, who trailed by only four with 2:55 to play.
With three games remaining in the regular season, the Mavericks may have to win out to get the conference  championship and host the Northern Sun tournament. The Mavericks are unbeaten at home, and after watching the two games against St. Cloud State, the home team certainly would have the advantage should the teams meet again.

Friday, February 12, 2010

MSU men close in on conference title

The Minnesota State men's basketball team pulled away in the final 13 minutes to defeat Concordia-St. Paul 93-79 in a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference men's basketball game Friday at St. Paul. The Mavericks play at second-place St. Cloud State at 6 p.m. Saturday, and a victory would clinch the conference championship and the right to host the Northern Sun tournament in early March.
Friday's game will be remembered for Jermain Davis' two monstrous dunks in the first seven minutes, and he finished with a season-high 22 points. It is also another reminder that the Mavericks are the deepest team in this league, breaking open a game that was tied at 58 with 13 minutes to play.
For the Mavericks to lose right  now, an opponent is going to need to play awfully well. Minnesota State had 10 different players in the game before the 14-minute mark, and when leading scorer Travis Nelson struggled with foul trouble, not scoring until there were just nine minutes to play in the second half, Davis, Jefferson Mason and Marcus Hill stepped up. Even Taylor Morrow had three impressive drives into traffic for key baskets, and Mitch Grundman logged quality minutes in the post.
The second-best team in this conference is St. Cloud State, and the Huskies are tough at home. St. Cloud State defeated Southwest Minnesota State 64-51 at Halenbeck Hall on Friday, and that place will be a zoo Saturday night. It should be an exceptional atmosphere, and it's the kind of pressure the Mavericks need to face to get ready for a serious postseason run.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Big weekend for MSU basketball

With just five games remaining in the regular season, the Minnesota State men's basketball team could clinch the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference championship with victories Friday at Concordia-St. Paul and Saturday at St. Cloud State. The Mavericks swept those teams at home last month, but St. Paul and St. Cloud have traditionally been tough places for the Mavericks to win.
Minnesota State has won four conference championships, with three coming at the end of the defunct North Central Conference. The Mavericks placed third last season, the first in the Northern Sun. The championship would allow the Mavericks to host the conference tournament the first weekend in March.
To beat Concordia-St. Paul, the Mavericks need to defend. The Bears have a couple of talented players, but Minnesota State has superior depth. Against St. Cloud State, it could come down to rebounding. The Huskies were plus-18 in the loss at Bresnan Arena, and the Mavericks won with perimeter defense, especially against guard Taylor Witt.
Despite a three-game winning streak, the Minnesota State women remain in a three-way tie for seventh, with the top eight teams getting into the Northern Sun tournament. The Mavericks upset Concordia-St. Paul last month so the Bears will surely be focused on revenge. The more winnable game is at St. Cloud State, though the Huskies won by one-point at Mankato.
It's been a weird season for Minnesota State, which seems capable of beating any team in the conference, though every opponent seems capable of beating the Mavericks.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Mavericks take Moorhead's best shot

It took a while for the Minnesota State men's basketball team to get rolling, but a 33-14 run over the final 13 minutes allowed the Mavericks to defeat Minnesota State-Moorhead 92-73 Saturday at Bresnan Arena. The Mavericks are 14-0 at home this season and have outscored opponents by more than 25 points per game at Bresnan Arena.
Not much else happened in the Northern Sun as St. Cloud State remains two games behind the Mavericks with five games to play. The Mavericks can clinch the Northern Sun championship with victories next week at Concordia-St. Paul and St. Cloud State.
The Minnesota State women won their third straight game, upsetting Minnesota State-Moorhead 73-56. However, the Mavericks remained locked in a three-way tie with Southwest Minnesota State and Northern State for the final playoff berth.
There is only one regular-season home game remaining for Minnesota State, that coming Feb. 24 against Augustana.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Another blowout for the Mavericks

There's no way a basketball team should be able to beat a conference opponent by 50 points, but that's what happened Friday at Bresnan as Minnesota State posted a 105-55 victory over Minnesota Crookston. That shows the disparity in the Northern Sun between the first-place and last-place teams.
The Mavericks had several highlight-reel dunks, but the impressive part was a season-high 29 assists that led to 62.1 percent shooting, the 12th-best single-game performance in program history. Point guard Jesse Clark became the second player at Minnesota State to reach 500 assists; not bad for a walk-on that few thought would ever achieve these kind of accolades.
More interesting than what happened at Bresnan Arena was what happened in the Central Region. Top-ranked Mesa State needed overtime to survive Fort Lewis at home, and the teams play again in two weeks at Fort Lewis. Winona State dropped a home game to Northern State, endangering the Warriors' chances of even qualifying for the national tournament.
The Minnesota State women picked up an important victory to keep alive the hope of qualifying for the conference tournament. With six games to go, the Mavericks are tied for the eighth and final spot with Northern State, and the Mavericks have the tiebreaker. Saturday's game against Minnesota State-Moorhead is very important.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Hoffner touts recruiting class

As former Minnesota State football coach Clarence Holley once said, "Nobody's ever going to tell you their boys are a bunch of mules." Which was his folksy way of saying that recruiting is like an election ... you can say just about anything and nobody will remember once it's done. Hoffner received letters of intent from 35 high-school seniors on Wednesday, and speed seemed to be a common denominator.
Two were from Mankato, lineman Colby Straka of West and running back Kenthen King of East. Both were no-brainers for the Mavericks because both have parents that work at Minnesota State. Both players are at least a year away from contributing, but it's important for Hoffner keep the best local talent at home if possible.
The recruiting class is heavy on linemen, with seven offensive and six defensive. It's interesting that the Mavericks signed four linemen from Omaha, Neb., where you'd think Nebraska-Omaha would have scooped up the quality linemen. Offensive and defensive line might be a spot where a true freshman could find playing time this fall.
The Mavericks also got a recruit from the St. Louis area in cornerback Kelend Smith; the last player to come to Minnesota State from there was Kelvin Rodgers.Watch out for receiver Keyvan Rudd of Davenport, Iowa.
The class has two quarterbacks, possibly three, but they are unlikely to see the field next season. Steve Pachan clearly has the advantage, based on experience, but don't count out former Mankato West quarterback Ray Teachout. After redshirting last season, it sounds like the coaches are eager to find ways to get Teachout on the field.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Football signing day is Wednesday

High-school seniors will be signing football letters of intent with colleges Wednesday, and Minnesota State is expected to get more than 20 kids. Already, the Mavericks have gotten commitments from Mankato West lineman Colby Straka and Mankato East running back Kenthen King, both of whom will surely be redshirted next season. If you believe Division II message boards, the Mavericks have gotten commitments from some big linemen in Wisconsin, which makes sense because four of five starting lineman last season were seniors.
It's going to be interesting to see if coach Todd Hoffner brings in a quarterback, either a high-schooler or transfer. Steve Pachan got a lot of experience last season, but Cody Rose and Ray Teachout, who played at Mankato West and redshirted last season, are the inexperienced backups.
Hoffner seemed pretty pleased with his recruiting last week,
The university is hosting a signing-day gathering Wednesday at the Loose Moose Saloon, beginning at 5 p.m.