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.

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