Monday, December 20, 2010

MSU basketball team earns nice break for holidays

Saturday's victory at Winona State was an early holiday present for the Minnesota State men's basketball team, and the Mavericks have two weeks off before home games against Minnesota Crookston and Minnesota State-Moorhead Jan. 1-2.
The Mavericks, who are 3-1 on the road, are the surprising leaders in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference race, tied with Minnesota Duluth and a full game ahead of four teams, including St. Cloud State and Winona State, two of the top threats in the league. And not for a couple of bad possessions late in the game at St. Cloud State, the Mavericks could be undefeated.
For the first time in coach Matt Marenthaler's career, which has now reached 200 victories, his team is an overachieving bunch whose sum is greater than the parts. This is a team that might not get a player of the week award, though Jefferson Mason and Marcus Hill are always a possibility, but it's a team that thrives on toughness and defensive intensity.
Winona State might be "the bad mix of good players," which has described past Minnesota State teams at times.
You still wonder how this bunch of Mavericks will fare in the final two months of the regular season and playoffs. Will the lack of size hurt? Winona State went hard to the offensive boards Saturday, and had the Warriors converted more often, the outcome may have been different. Other teams will try to do the same thing, especially Southwest Minnesota State.
But for now, the Mavericks are in first place with winnable games coming up against Minnesota Crookston and Minnesota State-Moorhead. When the regional rankings come out in mid-January, the Mavericks could begin at No. 1.
Who would have thought that?
The roster remaions in flux. Backup center Mitch Grundman didn't play last week with a bad back, though Mike Bisenius saw his first action since suffering a collapsed lung during a fall in practice Dec. 9. Anthony Brant, who has shown glimpses of the 3-point prowess he's supposed to have, but Margenthaler said that a knee injury has bothered Brant, who wants to take off the rest of the season and apply for a medical redshirt.
It's going to be an interesting final two months of the regular season for Minnesota State, which should make it fun to watch.

Friday, December 17, 2010

MSU men's, women's basketball vs. Winona State

Weber, Freisen earn all-state honors

The Associated Press' al-state football team finally came out Thursday, and Mankato West's Drew Weber and Hunter Friesen both earned second-team honors.
Weber, a senior linebacker, was named the Big Nine Conference's defensive player of the year, making 25 solo tackles and 131 assists. Freisen, a junior cornerback, had nine interceptions, including three in the playoffs.
Several area players received honorable mention, including Nick Kaus, Philip Nelson and Adam Athey from West.
Other local honorable-mentions were defensive lineman Michael Kroells of Belle Plaine; running back Zach Tvedten of Blue Earth Area; running back Mario Arroyo of Le Center; defensive end Cole Brown of Minnesota Valley Lutheran; lineman Dan Simon of New Ulm Cathedral; quarterback Sean Murphy, receiver Jamie Fischer and defensive back Nick Mans of Nicollet; lineman Teddy DuFrane of Sibley East; and quarterback Conrad Masberg and receiver Jordan Gregor of Waterville-Elysian-Morristown;
The player of the year was De La Salle running back Reggie Gandy, whom Le Sueur-Henderson fans might never forget from the state quarterfinals.

Monday, December 13, 2010

East, West hoops doubleheader on Tuesday

Mankato East and Mankato West meet in a girls-boys basketball doubleheader Tuesday, with the girls game starting at 6 p.m. at the East gym.
These games have been moved back to the respective campuses, with the rematch Feb. 1 at East.
Again this season, the girls game should be more competitive. East has lost its first five games, though three have been within five points, while West is 0-2.
Both boys team lost their opener, with East winning big at New Ulm and West losing big at home against Shakopee. West has owned this series lately, though that should change this season.
The East-West rivalry doesn't have the shine that it did five or six years ago, when there was college-level talent playing before big crowds at Minnesota State.

Friday, December 10, 2010

First real road test for MSU basketball

The Minnesota State men's basketball team plays road games at 7:30 p.m. today at Concordia-St. Paul and 6 p.m. Saturday at St. Cloud State. It's the first real test of the season as the Mavericks have opened the seaosn with six victories.
Concordia-St. Paul has some size so that may cause problems for the undersized Mavericks, and St. Cloud State has strong perimeter players, such as Taylor Witt, Brett Putz and Andrew Bernstetter. Saturday's matchup is clearly better against the Huskies.
As was written in the print edition Friday, this is a different Minnesota State team, built on defense and toughness. There's a lot less flash and more grit on the team, and the likelihood of the 94-88 type games is far less. Look for more scores in the 60s and 70s.
It's easy to have watched the last four home games and conclude that this team isn't as talented as past Minnesota State squads, but the Mavericks are winning differently. Coach Matt Margenthaler was asked last week if this was the best defensive team he's had in 10 seasons at Minnesota State, and the answer was a quick "yes."
Maybe ask Augustana's Cody Schilling, who scored only six points against the Mavericks last week. Witt is one of the premier players in the Northern Sun, and he's struggled against the Mavericks at times.
There might not be as many highlight-reel plays, but the success has been the same. You just have to adjust the way you evaluate this team's performance.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Who did you think would coach the Gophers?

It's amazing to hear the negative reaction about Jerry Kill's hiring as the football coach at the University of Minnesota.
You'd think the new coach has no chance of ever being successful with the Gophers. Why?
Because he's never coached at a major program? Because he's never won a national championship?
Kill has had a nice career, making incremental steps toward this job. His Northern Illlinois team was certainly better than the Gophers this season so why couldn't Kill do a better job at Minnesota?
It should be clear now that no big-time coach, outside of of Mike Leach, wanted to be the Gophers coach. This job is a coach-killer. No coach has left this job for a better one since Lou Holtz broke the faithful's hearts by jumping to Notre Dame.
It's time for the fans to realize that this is not a good job. You're playing in a power conference against a couple of the top teams in the country. Adding Nebraska next season isn't going to help the record. It's a program that lacks any vibe, either from the administration or the public.
The Tim Brewster experiment was such a failure that the program is years away from being competitive in the Big Ten. 
Coaches with options don't come here, which is why Leach publicly lobbied for the job. You have to take a chance on an up-and-comer who's willing to work hard to build something from scratch.
Is that Kill? We'll find out. History suggests that no one can make the Gophers into perennial winners.
Why not give Kill a chance? He can't do much worse than the coaches here for the last 40 years.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

MSU women, men vs. Augustana

Friday, December 3, 2010

MSU basketball vs. Wayne State

Thursday, December 2, 2010

More shakeup for MSU men's basketball

Minnesota State men's basketball coach Matt Margenthaler has booted another player from the team for bad attitude.
Andre Gilbert, a transfer from Kansas State, was dismissed on Wednesday, and Margenthaler said it was a good move for both parties.
Gilbert, who was suspended for the first two games of the season, played sparingly in last weekend's two games. He was clearly out of shape, though he would have been a big body that the Mavericks could have used.
A couple of weeks ago, Margenthaler booted transfer A.J. Wilson for his Randy Moss-like attitude.
Margenthaler has brought plenty of transfers into the program, and most have flourished. Luke Anderson, Jamel Staten, Atila Santos and Travis Nelson all began their careers at Division I programs, but there have also been Wilson, Gilbert and Zach Kiekow, who came here in the early 2000s but his "big-time" attitude didn't fit in.
You win some when you play the "transfer game," and you lose some.
Gilbert and Wilson won't be missed, but their departure leaves the team shorthanded as it begins Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference play this weekend.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Final thoughts on Cathedral championship

Now that there's been some time to digest what happened during New Ulm Cathedral's run to the Class A football championship, there's a few thoughts that remain.
Obviously, the Greyhounds had a special streak, losing the season-opener against Springfield before rattling off 13 straight victories. The rematch against Springfield in the section championship was the first hurdle to clear, then came an easy victory over Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City in the state quarterfinals.
The 34-33 semifinal victory over Minneota was the most memorable. Two evenly matched teams, with the outcome decided by quarterback Kevin Larson, who wasn't asked to throw much during the regular season.
The championship game seemed like it would be anticlimactic as Cathedral jumped ahead early. But Barnesville responded, and when Larson was unable to play in the second half, the outcome was in jeopardy.
However, Cathedral adjusted, using a running back at quarterback and trusting in an inexperienced junior quarterback later, and the defense stuffed any momentum as the program claimed its first state title.
As I pondered nominations for The Associated Press' all-state team, I figured Cathedral must have players worthy of that honor. But it was hard to single anyone out. This team was truly greater than the sum of its parts.
Cathedral has had some good runs at the state championship in the past, and this one finally was finished.
It's a great accomplishment, one that might be overdue for coach Denny Lux and a talented group of players.