Friday, December 16, 2011

LIVE CHAT: MSU basketball vs. Upper Iowa

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Another weekend of MSU basketball

There are just two Minnesota State basketball games remaining before the holiday break, and it's been quite a cold slap in the face to watch the men's team.

After losing all those seniors from last season, there was a pretty good chance the Mavericks would struggle this season, especially early. But the play has been ever harder to watch than expected.

There are only three players with any experience. Stephen Kirschbaum is a spot-up shooter, and he's been trying too hard to drive to the basket. He needs to shoot 3s when he's opene because he generally makes at least half of them.

Connor O'Brien is the only player to have improved his game, and he's been good for about a double-double each night. But he can't be the go-to scorer. If he's your second or third option, you have a pretty good team. If he's the fifth option, as he was last season, you have a great team.

Point guard Jimmy Whitehead missed a lot of offseason work with a broken jaw, and he's been slow to recover. He leads the team in minutes played, yet his performance hasn't dictated that. Offensively, he doesn't look confident. He's not a great shooter, and when he goes to the basket, he often is called for charging.

The other players, most of whom are in their first season at Minnesota State, have been inconsistent. There are times when you see a bright future, followed by a harsh reminder of the sloppy future.

Will it get better this season? Tough to tell. This weekend's games should be a good test. Upper Iowa is a veteran team known for scrappy play, exactly the kind of team that could take advantage of the inexperienced Mavericks.

Winona State is one of the elite teams in the Northern Sun, and that game could be a blow out. Few teams wold like to bury the Mavericks on their home court more than Winona State.

You can only imagine that coach Matt Margenthaler, who has been pretty patient to this point, will be scouring the transfers this spring to find more college-ready players who can make an immediate impact next season. He doesn't like to lose.

Follow Friday's game at my live chat right here. I'll be on vacation Saturday through the end of December.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

LIVE CHAT: Minnesota State basketball vs. St. Cloud State

Friday, December 9, 2011

LIVE C HAT: MSU basketball vs. Concordia-St. Paul

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Watch MSU men's basketball differently this season

The Minnesota State men's basketball team hasn't played a home game in three weeks, and if you didn't see the Mavericks at the home opener in early November, you might be surprised by what you see.

The Mavericks are a young team, inexperienced in the ways of college basketball. The team has played more halfcourt basketball, a far cry from the explosively offensive teams of the last seven or eight seasons.

The Mavericks have yet to find their offensive identity. Shooting has been a problem, and there have been nights that it's been a struggle to score 50.

But while this season might be tough to watch, the future bodes well. The young players in the rotation have big-time skills. Connor O'Brien is clearly better than he was as a freshman, and freshmen Zach Romashko and T.J. Okafor look like a rock-star tandem in the post.

Sophomore point guard Jimmy Whitehead will have to elevate his game. Whitehead missed offseason time while healing a broken jaw so the extended minutes could help him to find a rhythm. He needs to be a distributer and scorer on this team.

Coach Matt Margenthaler has had to adjust his expectations of this team, which will test the patience of a highly successful coach. It will be interesting to watch him straddle the line of competitiveness with understanding.

The Mavericks have home games against Concordia-St. Paul and St. Cloud State this weekend, then host Upper Iowa and Winona State the following weekend. It's important that Minnesota State protect its home court.

Check out the live chat from all four games this weekend by clicking the link at or go directly to

Friday, November 18, 2011

Mankato West football vs. Bemidji

Sunday, November 13, 2011

LIVE CHAT: MSU men's basketball vs. Dickinson State

Saturday, November 12, 2011

LIVE CHAT: Minnesota State football vs. Minnesota Duluth

Friday, November 11, 2011

LIVE CHAT: Mankato West football vs. South St. Paul

Friday, October 28, 2011

LIVE CHAT: Mankato West football vs. Waconia

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Big win for MSU football

For the second straight week, Minnesota State has given up more than 500 yards of offense, yet came away with a victory.

On Thursday, it was Augustana that moved the ball with ease, but the Mavericks got some stops in the red zone and prevailed late in the fourth quarter.

Augustana's big, veteran offensive line dominated the Mavericks, and the Vikings held a 26-21 lead midway though the fourth quarter. But Minnesota State's best drive of the game yielded the go-ahead TD on a 6-yard pass from Jon Daniels to Andy Pfeiffer, two players who weren't at Minnesota State last season.

Dennis Carter scored two spectacular TDs in the first quarter, returning the opening kick 87 yards for a score, then a 53-yard run on a reverse, going to each sideline as he looked for running room.

However, Carter picked up a personal foul in the second quarter and did not play again. It's not the first time he's lost playing time because of his conduct.

Augustana running back Dajon Newell, just a freshman, had 189 yards and three touchdowns rushing, but the Vikings couldn't generate any offense on its final possession.

Augustana punted the ball back to the Mavericks with less than three minutes remaining, down a point with no timeouts, a curious call.

Then on first down at the 50, MSU was called for holding. Augustana accepted the penalty, giving the Mavericks an extra play. That extra 40 seconds was enough for the Mavericks to run out the clock.

The victory clinches at least a share of the Northern Sun South Division championship. It also puts Minnesota State back into the national-tournament picture.

The Mavericks have two games remaining: next week at Southwest and the finale at Minnesota Duluth. That final game could decided the conference championship and a berth in the playoffs.

This MSU team has come a long way this season, and with all the young talent, the future has rarely looked better.

LIVE CHAT: Minnesota State football vs. Augustana

Friday, October 21, 2011

LIVE CHAT: MSU football vs. Wayne State

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Gotta love high-school athletics

Did you give Mankato East a chance to win Wednesday's football game
against Mankato West?
Be honest. Nobody, at least outside of the Cougars' locker room, thought the Cougras could pull off the upset.

That's not to demean the East program, which has struggled the last few
seasons, but the numbers didn't add up for an East victory. West was just
too powerful, having bulldozed every opponent this season.

But with seven minutes to play in the third quarter, East had cut the lead
to 14-11 and were about to try an onside kick.

That's why high-school athletics are so much more fun to watch than college
or professional.

As most know by now, West pulled away in the final 19 minutes to post a
28-11 victory, finishing an undefeated regular season with the sixth
straight Jug victory.

The victory kept West on track for its season's goals, which include a No. 1
seed in the Section 2AAAA playoffs and homefield for the semifinals and
championship game. Eventually, this team has its sights on a state
championship, but there will be some tough battles ahead in that pursuit.

East also has plenty to feel good about. The Cougars pushed West as hard as
any team this season, and despite having just three victories, East now
looks like a formidable opponent in the playoffs.

The only chance East had to pull off the upset was to use running back Tevyn Schmidt and a size advantage in the offensive line to pound the ball at the Scarlets.

It¹s too corny to say that both teams were winners Wednesday night because
that¹s not how life works. You can say that both teams should be proud of
their performances.

The winners were the 3,500 or so folks who sat at Blakeslee Stadium, some in the
protected environment of a press box, who got to watch a very compelling,
fun game.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

LIVE BLOG: Mankato East football vs. Mankato West

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A few observations from Midnight Madness

It's tough to drawn many conclusions from watching a 10-minute intrasquad scrimmage by the Minnesota State men's and women's basketball teams early Saturday morning at Bresnan Arena, but there's no reason to stay up past midnight if you're not going to try to gain a little insight.

The men's team has new nine names on the roster, four of which might be starters when the season begins Nov. 12. Connor O'Brien, who clearly has added some size and strength, will be back in the post, and he looked very aggressive and confident.

Point gurd Jimmy Whitehead will be the starting point guard, but he's out with a broken jaw and could miss games, leaving that position to redshirt freshman Travis Meinders or true freshman Kelly Madison.

Freshman forward T.J. Okafor is freakishly athletic, and if his effort matches his talent, fans are in for a treat.

Perimeter shooting looks like this team's weakness, though transfer D.J Hoskins has a good reputation as a shooter. Stephen Kirschbaum, the team's only senior, looks like the best shooter.

Speaking of shooting, the women's team showed good peimeter shooting. Newcomers Aubrey Davis, Kathleen Reynolds and Jameila Hudnell showed 3-point acumen, and with Laura Weber and Ali Wilkinson in the post, it looks like a better team.

But the last two seasons for the women's team have not been very good so it remains to be seen how the incumbents and new faces mix.

Friday, October 7, 2011

LIVE BLOG: Mankato West football vs. Rochester Mayo

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Biggest win of season for MSU football

Head coach Todd Hoffner and receiver Adam Thielen downplayed the importance of Saturday's 24-14 victory over Winona State, but there's no question it was the most significant victory of the season.

Previous wins over Northern State, Minnesota Crookston and Concordia-St. Paul only proved that the Mavericks were not a bottom-feeder in the Northern Sun.

Saturday's win against Winona State shows that Minnesota State is one of the big boys.

The defense was spectacular, limiting Winona State to just 216 yards of offense and one touchdown. The other score came on a blocked punt.

A week ago, the Warriors rolled up a school-record 677 yards of offense against Upper Iowa.

Offensively, the Mavericks won despite three interceptions, two of which came in the end zone.

Andy Pfeiffer continued his strong play, rushing for 101 yards, his fourth straight 100-yard game. The former Mankato West standout ran hard and earned all of his yardage.

It was a very good game by the young, improving offensive line. With four sophomores and redshirt freshmen on the line, it looks like the Mavericks are building something special in that unit.

The Mavericks face a tough road test this week at St. Cloud State. Though it's not a division game, the Mavericks and Huskies are among five Northern Sun teams at 4-1, so this will be an important outcome for postseason consideration.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

LIVE BLOG: Minnesota State football vs. Winona State

Thursday, September 29, 2011

MSU football season begins for real

The South Division of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference football season is nearly always going to be a four-team race between Minnesota State, Winona State, Augustana and Wayne State.

Which means Saturday's homecoming game between the Mavericks and Winona State is one of the three most important contests of the season.

Minnesota State's first three games were more of a preseason, with two victories, then last week, the Mavericks eased into the South Division games with a road win at Concordia-St. Paul.

Winona State is the best team the Mavericks have faced yet, and the winner keeps alive hopes of a South Division championship and postseason invitation. The loser will need to win out and get help, either from other league teams or the regional committee, to make the playoffs.

At this point, Winona State has been very impressive, rolling up 677 yards and 72 points in a victory against Upper Iowa. The Warriors also have a win over St. Cloud State, which was ranked ninth in the country at the time.

Augustana lost in the much-hyped opener to Minnesota Duluth, then lost games to Bemidji State and Mary, probably falling out of postseason contntion in the first month. It's tough to say what a win against Southwest Minnesota State last week will do for the Vikings, who remain a dangerous team.

Wayne State got done by Nebraska-Kearney in the opener, then struggled against hapless Minnesota Crookston. A 7-0 victory over Minnesota Duluth opened some eyes so Wayne State probably is still a threat in the South Division.

The Mavericks are also a wild card. The loss at Northern Michigan was explainable, and the victories against Northern State, Minnesota Crookston and Concordia-St. Paul haven't been much of a test.

That makes the game with Winona State a lot of fun. In this league, you don't get a marquee matchup every week. You need to enjoy them when you can.

Friday, September 23, 2011

LIVE BLOG: West football vs. Faribault

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Getting you ready for MSU football

The Mavericks take on Minnesota Crookston on Saturday at Blakeslee Stadium in what should be a good tune-up for the next three games, which are at Concordia-St. Paul and St. Cloud State with a home game against Winona State in the middle.

The Mavericks weren't impressive in a 32-10 win over Northern State, nor were there any reasons to panic. Quarterback Jon Daniels was efficient as the offense moved the ball and controlled the clock.

Freshman running back Andy Pfeiffer, who went to Mankato West, was the most impressive runner, gaining 111 yards on 14 carries with a 53-yarder mixed in. He's listed as the starter this week.

Defensively, the Mavericks limited Northern State to nearly nothing in the first half, then made an impressive goal-line stand, stopping four plays at the 1, in the final minute.

Minnesota Crookston shouldn't provide much of a test, though the Golden Eagles forced Wayne State into the fourth quarter before the Wildcats scored the final 14 points in a 35-24 win.

Running back Richard Haley has gained 379 yards on 60 carries to pace Crookston.

The Mavericks should enjoy a victory Saturday because the next three weeks will determine this season's success. With already one loss, the Mavericks can't afford any more losses.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A few thoughts from Minnesota State's football victory

Just got done writing about Minnesota State's 32-10 victory over Northern State at Blakeslee Stadium.

It was a good win for a program that lost its opener at Northern Michigan, which is a better team than Northern State. The Mavericks dominated play for most of the game, accumulating 485 yards of offense to 212 for the Wolves.

Quarterback Jon Daniels had a nice game, completing 13 of 19 passes for 236 yards and a touchdown. Receiver LaMark Brown had a touchdown run and reception, breaking a few tackles to complete the 70-yard scoring pass. Receiver Adam Thielen made six catches for 84 yards, pushing him over 1,000 yards for his career.

Running back Andy Pfeiffer rushed for 111 yards, including a 53-yarder in the third quarter. The offensive and defensive lines were too big and fast for Northern State.

Defensively, the Mavericks were pretty stingy, including a goal-line stand to end the first half. Northern had first down at the 1 and went nowhere in four plays.

Northern State isn't the worst team that the Mavericks will play this season, though the Wolves are unlikely to be a .500 team. It was a good win for Minnesota State, not something you can draw many conclusions from.

Around the league, Minnesota Crookson gave Wayne State all it could handle before losing 35-24. Bemidji State upset Augustana 30-27 in overtime.

It's good to have college football back.

LIVE BLOG: Minnesota State football vs. Northern State

Thursday, September 8, 2011

LIVE: Mankato West football vs. Austin

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Let the (football) games begin

Even though Mankato Loyola has already played one game, the football season really begins this week, and for local football fans, it's going to be an interesting season to watch quarterbacks.

At Mankato West, senior Philip Nelson will likely be remembered as the best quarterback in program history, and he'll surely end up with most of the prominent passing records by the time he leaves for the University of Minnesota next fall.

If West is to win another state championship, which is Nelson's stated goal, he'll have to be very productive, both passing and running, to overcome some of the Scarlets' weaknesses.

Loyola has a returning starter in Blake Matuska, while Mankato East will send in an inexperienced starter Friday, be it senior Matt Roberts or sophomore Quinn Frisell. Both teams had losing records last season, meaning it's up to the quarterback to help turn things around.

Minnesota State, which had poor quarterback play for much of last season, is going to Jon Daniels, a senior transfer from Nebraska-Omaha. The early reports have been good on Daniels, but sophomore Jon Wolf looked promising at the end of last season.

Gustavus Adolphus brings back senior Logan Becker, who put up pretty good numbers last season but threw 12 interceptions. Ball security should be better as a senior, in his second season as a starter, but the Gusties won't go far with that kind of turnover number.

The Minnesota Vikings acquired Donovan McNabb to be the starter until Joe Webb or Christian Ponder are ready to take over, and McNabb has looked a little better in each preseason game. The Vikings aren't likely to get much out of this season so you wonder how long McNabb will remain engaged.

It's often said that quarterbacks get too much blame and too much credit, but this season, in this area, quarterback play has never been so important.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

High-school football begins

With the exception of Mankato Loyola, area prep football teams began practicing Monday. Of course, any program with a hint of success has been working out all summer, either at camps or led by captains.

Loyola started a week early, taking advantage of a new rule that allowed teams to schedule a game the last Friday of August, then take a week off during the rest of the season.

Loyola should be in a better place this season, with numbers up to 43 from 27. Last season, the Crusaders won just two games, often times practicing with less than 22 players. But those younger players gained a lot of experience.

At Mankato West, all eyes will be on senior quarterback Philip Nelson, who has committed to the University of Minnesota. Other teams will measures themselves against Nelson, who will likely collect many of the program's passing records by season's end.

But don't forget Hunter Friesen, who caught 50 passes and made nine interceptions to earn some all-state recognition.

Mankato East won three games last season and should be able to build on that. There will be a new quarterback, but there are some veterans in the backfield and on the line.

You should always keep an eye on Waterville-Elysian-Morristown, which has a lot of players returning but must replace all-state quarterback Conrad Masberg.

At Blue Earth Area, 6-9, 290-pound lineman Jonah Pirsig has also committed to the University of Minnesota.

New Ulm Cathedral returns as the defending Class A champions, though there were a lot of seniors on that team. Senior running backs Eric Hauser, Ted Skillings and Nick Simon each played key roles in that championship season.

Surely, many other cool stories will emerge as the season gets rolling. Check back here or keep an eye on the print edition for some of those.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Annual Krugel golf tournament begins Saturday

The Mankato Golf Club's 63rd annual Loren Krugel Invitational will be played Saturday and Sunday, with the usual cast of talented amateur golfers expected in the field.
Two-time defending champion Steve Chesley will be teeing it up in the 45-hole event, and crowd favorite J.B. Lloyd would surely like to add another Krugel title to his resume.
Past champion Jason Rudquist is also in the field.
Local players Geoff Klein, Toby Robinson, Alex Klehr and Josh Blackman certainly have a chance to win.
Former Minnesota State golfer Kyle Bahe had a great spring for the Mavericks, and he's entered in the Krugel. The University of Minnesota's Rob Bell is also in the field.
The Krugel is a great tournament, with flights for higher handicaps and older players, and it's one of the few events where each golfer plays his own ball, from tee to hole.
In the championship flight, you can expect the winning score to be under par, and the course is in beautiful shape. If you're not doing anything Sunday afternoon, stop by the Mankato Golf Club to watch the finish.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Northern Sun baseball tournament coming to town

Minnesota State is the top seed for the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference baseball tournament, which will be played Wednesday through Saturday at Franklin Rogers Park.

The Mavericks, who have won a program-record 27 straight games, have won this tournament the last two seasons and would be the favorite to win again, though all three of their conference losses came to second-seeded St. Cloud State on April 1-2.

Minnesota State has the top offense in the Northern Sun, batting .350 in league games, and the top pitching, with a 2.29 ERA in Northern Sun games, which is almost a run better than any other team.

The Mavericks have the deepest rotation of Danny Miller, Blake Schwartz and Luke Putz, who are a combined 24-3 this season, which means pitching shouldn't be an issue this weekend.

Jeremy Sudbeck, Patrick Dockendorf, Aaron Berner and Steven Helget all rank in the top 10 in the conference for batting average, and Matt Kuchenbecker led the conference with 46 RBIs.

There are some other players to watch this weekend. St. Cloud State outfielder Jordan Smith might be the best player in the league, batting .477 in conference games, and teammate Scott Lieser just threw a no-hitter last week.

Augustana's Charlie Dubanoski batted .457 in conference game, and teammate Nate Baumann led the Northern Sun with seven homers.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Ponder seems like a good choice for Vikings

There's no doubt that the Minnesota Vikings were going to draft a quarterback this week, though many were caught off guard when they took Christian Ponder at No. 12.

Three quarterbacks had already been selected, and presumably, the Vikings had some interest in one, two or all three. So when it came time to pick, the Vikings used their choice on Ponder, a player whose strengths seems to be intelligence and leadership but has concerns about arm injuries.

If the Vikings have faith that Ponder will be a starter for the next 5 to 10 years, it was a good choice, regardless of what self-titled "draft experts" say.

Could the Vikings have drafted Ponder at No. 20? Probably.

But the problem is that the Vikings didn't draft at 20. They were 12.

The Vikings may have tried to trade down, but apparently, no team was willing to offer much. So the Vikings were stuck at 12, and they took the player they wanted.

That makes it a good choice.

Does that mean that Ponder will work out? No.

But none of the players drafted Thursday, or any of the ones selected in the next two days, carry any money-back guarantee.

The Vikings could have taken a defensive lineman or offensive lineman that would have been safer, but if you have a chance to draft a starting quarterback, you do it.

For that reason, give the Vikings the benefit of the doubt. If the Ponder selection doesn't work out, GM Rick Spielman or coach Leslie Frazier won't be around the next time the team drafts a quarterback.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

NFL Draft live chat

Thursday, April 21, 2011

What to watch for at MSU football team's final spring practice

The Minnesota State football team holds its final spring practice Friday, beginning at 6 p.m. at Blakeslee Stadium, and there are a few things to keep an eye at the scrimmage.

Quarterback Jon Wolf has missed most of the spring practice with a broken throwing hand, leaving redshirt freshman Trent Cummings to handle the work. Senior Will Brogan has not participated in spring practice to save a semester of eligibility, though it's clear that the athletic Wolf is best-suited and favored to be the starting quarterback in the fall.

There are three offensive linemen returning, and it's important that the Mavericks improve up front. Hoffner prefers a physical, run-first attack which can't happen without good offensive line play.

Defensively, the top five tacklers from last season are gone, leaving gaping holes in that unit. Defensive lineman Chris Schaudt and linebacker Ross Jirgl are the top tacklers back.

This is an important season for the Mavericks, who took a step back with a 6-5 record. After consecutive playoff appearances, the Mavericks can't afford to continue slipping.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

MSU men's basketball team getting bigger ... literally

It doesn't appear that Minnesota State men's basketball coach Matt Margenthaler is done with recruiting this spring, but he certainly has solved the team's most glaring need: size.

In the last week, the Mavericks have added high-schoolers Zach Romashko (Blaine) and T.J. Okafor (Champlin Park)and Iowa Lakes Community College transfer Charles McNeal III. Each is around 6-6 or 6-7, with good numbers for scoring and rebounding.

Romashko and Okafor are more gifted scorers, apparently inside and outside, while McNeal is more of a scrapper. Regardless, the Mavericks, who have Connor O'Brien, Mike Bisenius and Mitch Grundman returning, will no longer have a size disadvantage.

Throw in guards Kelly Madison and Miles Chamberlain, who signed in the fall, and Margenthaler said this is the most talented recruiting class he's ever brought to Minnesota State. That's a big statement, considering all the talented players to put on the purple and gold over the last 10 seasons.

Margenthaler said Monday that he'd like to bring in at least one more player, preferably a transfer who is more mature and ready to play right away. The roster only has one true point guard (Jimmy Whitehead) and one known 3-point threat (Stephen Kirschbaum).

Since Margenthaler has already recruited size, he's free to add a shooter or ball-handler.

It might be a rebuilding season upcoming for the Mavericks, who made that historic run to the national semifinals, but it doesn't appear that the dropoff will be severe as fans may have thought. And it likely never will under Margenthaler.

It's only six months until Midnight Madness. Recruiting has a way of getting you excited for the next season.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Final thoughts on MSU basketball from Elite Eight

Left Springfield, Mass., for a couple of days at Hartford before returning to Minnesota on Sunday.

It's always amazing, regardless of sport or level its being played, how quickly the emotions of a dramatic postseason run can crash with a loss. When a team, such as the 2009 Minnesota State women, wins a championship, there's usually a few days for everyone to revel in the victory, slowly coming down from the emotional high.

But when a team is playing at a high level, such as this Minnesota State men's squad, and then loses, it's an immediate and hard letdown for the coaches and players. In a few days, they'll be able to look back at the amazing accomplishments of this season, but that first 24 hours seems pretty tough.

The Mavericks will be back at the Elite Eight sometime, especially if Matt Margenthaler continues to coach at Minnesota State, but the rebuilding task is daunting. Seniors Jefferson Mason, Marcus Hill, Cameron Hodges, Joe Drapcho and Taylor Morrow were so important to this team, and it leaves little experience coming back next season.

This will be the most difficult class to replace since the 2007 class of Luke Anderson, Tony Thomason and Paris Kyles, which ironically was the year that Hill, Drapcho, Morrow, Mike Bisenius, Stephen Kirschbaum and Mitch Grundman came to Minnesota State.

There was no shame in losing to Bellarmine, which has a good chance to win a national championship Saturday against BYU-Hawaii. Bellarmine was a veteran, tough, strong, disciplined team that out-executed the Mavericks over the last five minutes.

Mason ended his career as one of the top 5 players ever at Minnesota State, and Cameron Hodges' final month was nearly as good. Hill is also a top-20 player in program history, and the fact that he played 224 of 225 minutes in the national tournament says a lot about his courage and determination.

Margenthaler and assistant Mike Schott will never have a bad team at Minnesota State. They're too good at recruiting to let the talent level slip, but experience will be the key.

There might only be two starters for next year that are on the team right now. Jimmy Whitehead will be the point guard, and Connor O'Brien will be the center or power forward. Kirschbaum and Bisenius will probably be the first players off the bench.

That means the two freshman already signed -- Kelly Madison of Des Moines, Iowa, and Mile Chamberlain of Madison, Wis., -- might be starters, or there could be some additional signings or transfers.

It's important that Margenthaler and staff capitalize on this historic season and attract some talented players. The women's program didn't do that after 2009, and that team is struggling just two years later.

You might expect next season to be less successful, but that's the same opinion that most fans had back in November, especially after the two senior transfers were kicked off the team.

It appears that you should never underestimate Margenthaler, Schott and his players. A lot of teams and fans found out the hard way this season.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

National semifinals ... this is getting fun

Just a few thoughts from Springfield, Mass., as the Minnesota State men's basketball team prepares for tonight's game against Bellarmine University at the NCAA Division II tournament.

It should be another interesting matchup of styles. Bellarmine is a big, physical team with lots of man muscles. They seemed to play a disciplined style and shoot the ball well.

The Mavericks will want to press the pace, hoping to make it a fullcourt game instead of a halfcourt battle. Marcus Hill will have a tough time guarding any of their players, yet Bellarmine has no one who can keep up with Hill.

In Wednesday's game, Midwestern State was able to dribble inside the Bellarmine zone, but then the guards made bad decisions. Hill and Hodges should be able to penetrate, but then they have to finish or find an open teammate.

It will be interesting to see how much energy Wednesday's overtime victory over Alabama Huntsville took from the Mavericks. Hill played 45 minutes, and in the region tournament, he struggled offensively in the second game of back-to-backs. In his favor, Bellarmine is unlikely to press much.

If the Mavericks can score 80 points, they should win. Bellarmine appears to prefer a game played in the 60s.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

FINAL FOUR: Minnesota State vs. Bellarmine

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

ELITE EIGHT: Minnesota State vs. Alabama Huntsville

Monday, March 21, 2011

Off to Springfield for MSU basketball game

Leaving Mankato at 8 a.m. Tuesday, with stops at MSP airport, Philadelphia and Hartford before, hopefully, getting to Springfield, Mass., in time for happy hour.

While it's been hectic, trying to make sure all the work is done and the kids have rides to their various activities this week, once I get to Springfield for the NCAA Division II Elie Eight, it should be a lot of fun.

I've been thinking a lot about the trip to San Antonio two years ago, watching the Minnesota State women's basketball team win a national championship. That final game still ranks with the most enjoyable I've ever watched.

If the Minnesota State men's team can make that kind of run, I'm sure it will be just as much fun.

Hope you've enjoyed some of the preview stories, a profile on coach Matt Margenthaler and another on senior Jefferson Mason. Tuesday's print edition includes a story with some prominent members of past Mavericks teams to get their views on this historic season.

Once I get to Springfield, I';ll try to a story the night before the first Elite Eight game, trying to see if the boys are nervous or excited. I'll try to get some info on the Alabama Huntsville, the team Minnesota State plays Wednesday.

I'll try to get some stories about the fans who made the trip to Springfield, and hopefully there will be three Minnesota State games for them to watch.

I'll check back once I get to Massachusetts, and don't forget to access the live blog during the game.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

LIVE BLOG: Minnesota State vs. Fort Lewis

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Wow! What a game. On to the championship game.

As Minnesota State coach Matt Margenthaler said after Sunday's 69-65 victory over Metro State, "Wow."

The hard-fought semifinal victory in the NCAA Division II Central Region men's basketball tournament had something for everybody. It was a tough-guy game, there were some unbelievably athletic plays, the game was close throughout.

There was the agony of two missed free throws by Metro superstar Reggie Evans, followed by the joy of two clinching free throws by Jefferson Mason.

If you didn't enjoy this one, you have no heart or emotion.

The Mavericks looked tired early, then got a spark from Taylor Morrow and Stephen Kirschbaum in the second half. Then with the game on the line, Mason started attacking the basket and Metro's shot blockers to provide 16 second-half points.

The Mavericks had the rebounding advantage, which hasn't happened much in the last month, and 23 offensive rebounds, usually the other team's number.

Now it's on to the championship game against Fort Lewis, a team that Minnesota State has had success in the past. This is the best Fort Lewis team of the last five or six, but it's a favorable matchup for Minnesota State.

Marcus Hill has played 80 minutes in the last two games, and Margenthaler said he'll play 40 on Tuesday. Mason has played 76 minutes and Cameron Hodges 63. Expect each to log a lot of minutes in every game from here on out.

Minnesota State has only playe din one regional championship game, losing to Winona State in 2006. This team is much better prepared to win that elusive title.

LIVE BLOG: Minnesota State vs. Metro State

LIVE BLOG: Colorado School of Mines vs. Fort Lewis

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Few thouhts from first day of Central Region

Been at Bresnan Arena for 12 hours, watching four quarterfinal games from the NCAA Division II men's basketball tournament.

Here's a few thoughts:
Three of the four games today were rematches. In fact, three matchups were between teams that were playing for the fourth time this season.

It's inevitable with only two teams in each region, but something has to be done so that you get more teams facing each other for the first time. Too much RMAC vs. RMAC and Northern Sun vs. Northern Sun.

Colorado School of Mines really struggled to defeat Adams State, and I think that getting that victory will allow Mines to play better in the semifinals.

Fort Lewis demolished Mesa State. Hard to believe that Mesa State beat Fort Lewis twice during the regular season. Mesa State didn't look like it belonged in the tournament today.

Minnesota State was impressive in dispatching Winona State for the third time this season. Marcus Hill was unbelievable, and the big thre eof Hill, Cameron Hodges and Jefferson Mason combined for 70 points.

But the role players also contributed to the surprisingly easy win.

The best game was the last, when Metro State defeated Mary 78-73. Reggie vans is for real, and Metro has some other nice parts. Anthony Moody really struggled for Mary.

Sunday night's semifinals match Mines against Fort Lewis and Minnesota State vs. Metro State. It should be fun.

LIVE BLOG: Mary vs. Metro State

LIVE BLOG: Minnesota State vs. Winona State, Central Region tournament

LIVE BLOG: Fort Lewis vs. Mesa State

LIVE BLOG: Colorado School of Mines vs. Adams State

Friday, March 11, 2011

Region tournament begins Saturday

Minnesota State again hosts the NCAA Division II men's basketball tournament, which begins Saturday and runs through Tuesday.

The best eight teams in the region are in town, and judging by last season's tourney, there is a lot of good basketball to watch at Bresnan Arena.

There are some intriguing story lines.

Minnesota State is the No. 1 seed, and for five straight years, the top seed had won the region championship and advanced to the Elite Eight. That streak ended last season when the Mavericks lost in the semifinals.

Will the Mavericks finally claim a region championship in its seventh straight appearance at the tournament?

Minnesota State's opponent is Winona State, which might be the best eighth seed in any region. The Warriors got in by winning the Northern Sun tournament, a three-game stretch of impressive play after suspending leading scorer, and top headache, Anthony Tucker.

Can the shorthanded Warriors stay on a roll?

You might remember Colorado School of Mines, who nearly took out the Mavericks in the quarterfinals last season as an eighth seed. The Orediggers have all five starters back, and as the No. 3 seed, look like the best team in that bracket.

Can Mines use last season's loss as motivation for a better finish?

Adams State must be a hoot to watch. The Grizzlies commit more than 26 fouls per game, and they turn the ball over at an alarming rate. But this is the first 20-win season in school history so they must do other things right.

Will Adams State's frenetic pace be effective in a halfcourt game that is the norm in national tournaments?

Fort Lewis has been to the national tournament seven times since 2002, but the Skyhawks are 0-6 at this level. Fort Lewis was the No. 1-rated team when the first region rankings came out, then slipped to 6 before jumping back to 2 after winning the RMAC tournament.

Can Fort Lewis finally win a national-tournament game?

You can go to Bresnan Arena to watch the games, or you can follow my live blog during each game. It should be fun.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Tough day for MSU hoops, but things may work out

The Minnesota State men's basketball team lost 82-74 to Winona State in Saturday's semifinals of the Northern Sun tournament, but the opportunity to host next week's Central Region tournament may not be lost.
It was a day of upsets in the Northern Sun as in all four semifinals, two for men and two for women, the lower-seeded team won.
In the men's tournament, Winona State and St. Cloud State will play for the championship, and since the winner gets an automatic berth into the national tournament, an neither team is ranked in the top 10 in the region, some team is going to get bumped, likely either Augustana or Adams State.
Minnesota State was ranked No. 1 in the region before this weekend's games, followed by Colorado School of Mines, Mary and Metro State. All four lost this weekend so the seedings will probably remain the same.
Minnesota State is hosting a viewing party for the NCAA selection show at 9 p.m. Sunday at the downtown Buffalo Wild Wings. The best guess is that Minnesota State will retain the No. 1 ranking and host the Central Region tournament next weekend.
Here's a guess at the pairings: Minnesota State vs. the winner of Winona State and St. Cloud State, Mines vs. Augustana, Mary vs. Metro State and Fort Lewis vs. Mesa State.
The NCAA could choose not to have so many matchups between teams of the same conference, so we'll see Sunday.
Will it matter for MSU? Not if they play so passively as in Saturday's loss. Winona State attacked the offensive glass, and Minnesota State didn't match the physical play. The referees allowed a lot of contact, and the Mavericks didn't adjust.
Unfortunately, Minnesota State has a reputation for great regular seasons and postseason losses. So far, that's the story on this season.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Minnesota State vs. Winona State, Northern Sun semifinals

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wayne State vs. Minnesota State, NSIC Tournament

Saturday, February 26, 2011

MSU men win another conference title

The Minnesota State men's basketball team escaped with a 61-60 victory over Southwest Minnesota State on Saturday at Marshall, earning the program's second consecutive Northern Sun regular-season championship.
The Mavericks led by 14 points with seven minutes to play, but it took a pair of free throws by Marcus Hill with five seconds remaining to secure the win. Southwest had a last possession but couldn't get a shot off before the buzzer.
Minnesota State is now the No. 1 seed for the conference tournament and will host Wayne State in the quarterfinals at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The semifinals and finals will be played Saturday and Sunday at Concordia-St. Paul.
Saturday's win was interesting in many ways. Cameron Hodges scored 13 points in the first half, when the Mavericks led by 18 at one point and 32-24 at halftime. Jefferson Mason scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half, and Hill had all of his nine points after halftime.
Southwest had a 50-34 rebounding advantage with 25 offensive rebounds. But those produced only 11 second-chance points as Southwest shot only 29 percent from the field.
The hold on the Central Region rankings seems safe for the No. 1-rated Mavericks, though No. 2 Colorado School of Mines and No. 3 Mary also won. The final region rankings will be released after conference tournaments next Sunday.

Minnesota State men vs. SW Minnesota State

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

MSU men stay at No. 1 in region

Despite Saturday's loss to Concordia-St. Paul, the Minnesota State men's basketball team remained atop the NCAA Division II Central Region rankings, which were released Wednesday.

Colorado School of Mines jumped up to No. 2, followed by Fort Lewis, Mary, Augustana, Fort Lewis, Mesa State and New Mexico Highlands.

The Mavericks probably need to win the final three regular-season games against Minnesota Duluth, Bemidji State and Southwest Minnesota State, all on the road to stay at No. 1. Minnesota State might also have to win a couple games in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference tournament.

Te Mavericks had a similar loss last year, falling at home to Augustana near the end of the regular season. Minnesota State then lost to Southwest in the opening round of the conference tournament but held onto the top ranking in the region and hosted the regional tournament.

Can the Mavericks take another loss? Probably not. Mines and Fort Lewis play each other this week so that eliminates one of those teams from jumping to No. 1. However, the winner seriously increases its schedule strength.

It would be best for the Mavericks to win these next three games, all against teams from the bottom half of the Northern Sun. That's something Minnesota State controls.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Minnesota State men, women vs. Concordia-St. Paul

Friday, February 11, 2011

LIVE BLOG: MSU men, women vs. St. Cloud State

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

MSU men move to No. 1 in region rankings

Two road victories last weekend not only strengthened the Minnesota State men's basketball team's chances of winning the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference championship, they also put the Mavericks in position to host the NCAA tournament's Central Region.

Minnesota State (19-2) moved into the No. 1 spot in the region rankings, which were released Wednesday.

Fort Lewis, which had been ranked No. 1, lost twice last weekend and slipped to No. 2, followed by Metro State, Colorado School of Mines, Mary, Augustana, New Mexico Highlands and Winona State.

The Mavericks host St. Cloud State on Friday (8 p.m.)and Concordia-St. Paul on Saturday (6 p.m.. The regular season ends with road games at Minnesota Duluth, Bemidji State and Southwest Minnesota State.

The Mavericks have a two-game over Mary in the conference and could clinch the Northern Sun title with two wins this weekend and two losses by Mary. If the Mavericks win four of the five remaining games, they will be the No. 1 seed for the conference tournament.

However, the big prize is hosting the region tournament. Minnesota State hosted that event last season but lost in the semifinals, but the No. 1 seed has been very successful in the last 10 seasons.

Friday, February 4, 2011

MSU men need signature road victory

The Minnesota State men's basketball team has just two losses, both on the road, at gyms where the opponent doesn't win very often.

However, in order to be a serious threat to advance in the national tournament, the Mavericks will likely have to face tough crowds and rowdy environments. That makes Friday's game at Augustana so important.

In this surprising season, the Mavericks have played inspired, tough basketball, but they haven't produced that key road victory that will make the rest of the region take notice.

Back in December, you might have thought that the Minnesota State's win at Winona State was a big victory. It was at the time, given the nature of that rivalry, but it has been shown by other teams beating Winona State this season, even at home, doesn't mean what it would have the last five seasons.

Augustana has one of the top two homecourt advantages in the Northern Sun, along with Mary. The student section is unbelievable, and the community support is wonderful, the kind of thing that happens about once per season at Minnesota State.

The Vikings have won eight straight to move into second place along with Mary, two games behind the Mavericks with seven to play, and the loss at Minnesota State earlier this season will likely provide additional motivation.

If Minnesota State can handle that atmosphere and defeat Augustana, that would be a large statement for what might lie ahead in the postseason.

A loss wouldn't be crippling to the Mavericks' chances of winning another conference title, given that the lead would still be one game, and Augustana plays at Mary next weekend.

The Mavericks are a veteran, gritty bunch that should be able to handle this assignment. Those traits are what has made this a special season. A victory over Augustana would be another positive step.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

MSU men's, women's basketball vs. Upper Iowa

Friday, January 28, 2011

MSU men's, women's basketball at Winona State

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Battles will be going to Super Bowl

Former Minnesota State football player will be traveling to Dallas next week to participate in Super Bowl week as a member of the Green Bay Packers.

Battles, an offensive lineman, was cut by the Minnesota Vikings at the end of the preseason, and he signed with the Packers as a practice-squad player in late December. He was with the team for the last two regular-season games, which means he draws 1/8th of a rookie minimum salary, though he should get a full share of the Packers' playoff money.

I talked with Battles, who grew up in Milwaukee, for a few minutes earlier in the week, and we'll talk again next week after he's had a couple of days to soak in the Super Bowl atmosphere.

It would take a strange set of events for the Packers to activate him for the Super Bowl, but clearly he has a future in professional football, perhaps in Green Bay. He'll certainly get another invitation to training camp somewhere.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Mavericks in good shape with 9 games to go

The Minnesota State men's basketball team took care of business at home this weekend, defeating Bemidji State and Minnesota Duluth, and there are important games coming up Friday and Saturday at Bresnan Arena.

Minnesota State is 15-2, 11-2 in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference and holds a two-game lead over Winona State, Augustana, Mary and St. Cloud State. The Mavericks still have games remaining with Winona State on Friday, at Augustana on Feb.4 and at home against St. Cloud State on Feb. 11.

The Mavericks can just about eliminate Winona State on Friday. Minnesota State won at Winona in December.

It's been amazing how the Mavericks have navigated this season, with coach Matt Margenthaler dismissing two potential starters before league games begin. Then, Mike Bisenius, Mitch Grundman, Connor O'Brien, Jimmy Whitehead and Cameron Hodges have all missed game with injury.

Of course, if Jefferson Mason or Marcus Hill get injured, the Mavericks will likely not be able to overcome that.

Look for the College Basketball Notebook on Thursday where we'll discuss the careers of Joe Drapcho, Taylor Morrow and Stephen Kirschbaum. All three have greatly outplayed the expectations they had when they got to Minnesota State.

The regional rankings come out this week, and the Mavericks will be No. 1 or 2. Metro State of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference has nearly the same record so we'll see what the committee comes up with.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

MSU men's, women's basketball vs. Minnesota Duluth

Friday, January 21, 2011

MSU basketball vs. Bemidji State

MSU men, women try to get back on track

The Minnesota State men's and women's basketball teams take on Bemidji State at 6 and 8 p.m. Friday, then play Minnesota Duluth at 4 and 6 p.m. Saturday. All games will be played at Bresnan Arena.

You can follow these games with my live blog each night.

We're at the halfway point in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference schedule, and the Mavericks have just six home games remaining in the regular season.

Despite the loss at Mary on Saturday, the men's team remains in first place in the conference, leading Winona State by one game and Mary by 1 1/2 games. This weekend's opponents are both in the bottom half of the league, with losing records.

But Bemidji State and Minnesota Duluth brings different challenges. The Beavers don't mind playing a high-tempo game, and all five of their starters are double-figure scorers. Minnesota Duluth is more methodical (boring)and have caused problems for past Minnesota State with that deliberate style.

If you like entertaining basketball, Friday's your night. But you should expect the home team to sweep these games.

The women's team is in ninth place in the conference, with the top eight qualifying for the league tournament. Bemidji State has struggled, but Minnesota Duluth will be a tough test.

The Mavericks have played much better at home and should get a split, but a sweep would really help the postseason outlook.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Looks like expansion for Northern Sun

The University of Sioux Falls has called a press conference for Thursday afternoon to discuss a decision by the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference presidents regarding expansion.

The conference presidents are scheduled to take a vote on expansion Thursday morning.

The Northern Sun has been considering expansion to 16 teams, with Sioux Falls and Minot State being the additional programs. The league expanded to 14 when Minnesota State, St. Cloud State, Augustana and Minnesota Duluth joined the league in 2008.

It's hard to believe that there would be a press conference, attended by Sioux Falls coaches and administrative officials, if the Northern Sun declined to expand.

The league will likely need to form divisions in basketball, as there already is for football. It would be logical that Sioux Falls will join the South Division with Minot State in the North, but there also could be a total realignment.

Sixteen teams is too many, and it's tough to see what Sioux Falls and Minot State bring to the league. This could set the stage for the stronger programs to form their own eight-team conference sometime in the future.

Or maybe the Northern Sun will surprise everyone and decline expansion.

We'll find out Thursday.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Notes for a weekend of MSU basketball

Minnesota State plays at Northern State on Friday and at Mary on Saturday. Both games are big for the Mavericks' men's and women's basketball teams, though for different reasons.

The men need to keep winning to hold onto their lead in the Northern Sun. Northern State is a team trying to stay out of last place in the conference, while Mary is the up-and-comer, needing to knock off a team from above in the standings to mark their improvement.

The Mavericks are a little more healthy this weekend. Freshman center Connor O'Brien missed last week's game with a sprained ankle but should be able to play, and guard Jimmy Whitehead, who took a nasty spill in last week's game, is also expected to play, though he has a bruised rib.

Minnesota State was one of only two teams to win at Mary last season, and you know the gym will be packed. Mary still has an outside shot at winning the conference but will be virtually eliminated with a loss. Mary also is a borderline team in the region so any victory strengthens their case.

Something that won't matter this weekend: Guard Tre Creamer has transferred to Minnesota State and can practice but not play until next season. Creamer, a 6-5 point guard, averaged 13 points last season at Madison (Wis.) Memorial, and he enrolled at John A. Logan junior college but left before joining the basketball team. He has four years of eligibility.

For the women, it looks like Northern State and Mary will be teams that will battle Minnesota State for spots 4 through 7 in the league, and obviously, fourth is better. There could be a home game in the first round of the conference tournament and a possibility of being invited to the national tournament.

Guard Lauren Barber is expected to play after missing five games with a concussion, but Brittany Thiesfeld is doubtful with a concussion. As noted in Friday's print edition, there have been seven different Mavericks to lead the team in scoring, and it will take that kind of balance this weekend.

Northern State is a big team, though the Wolves' 6-2 center apparently injured her knee last week and is done. Mary is a guard-oriented team that likes to shoot 3-pointers, and the Marauders hit 18 3s and scored 111 points in last week's victory over Minnesota Crookston.

Friday, January 7, 2011

MSU basketball vs. Southwest Minnesota State

Big games coming up for MSU basketball

Minnesota State hosts Southwest Minnesota State on Saturday, with the women's game starting at 2 p.m. and the men's at 4 p.m.

It's getting close to the halfway point of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference season, and both the women and men need victories to keep momentum, especially on the home court.

The women (7-5, 4-4 in Northern Sun) have won four of their last five games to get back into the upper half of the league, tied for sixth with Mary and Northern State, next week's road opponents.

Southwest is 3-9, 2-6 in the conference, but with a new coach and new schemes, the Mustangs seem to be getting bettter.

It looks like the Mavericks will have sophomore post Ali Wilkinson available. She took a hard fall late in Tuesday's victory over Minnesota Crookston and left the court limping, holding her hip. She hasn't participated in the contact portion of practices, but coach Pam Gohl said Wilkinson, who leads the team in scoring and rebounding and has become a double-double machine, will play.

The men's team (11-1, 7-1) continues to roll, though the victories have not been easy. I thought Southwest would be a conference contender this season, but the Mustangs (6-5, 3-4) have struggled to score.

Senior Jefferson Mason has been playing at an MVP level, scoring 58 points in a pair of victories this week to earn Northern Sun Player of the year honors, and nearly every player contributes something important each game.

Southwest is a rugged rebounding team, which could give the Mavericks some trouble. Minnesota State has used perimeter pressure to keep the ball out of the post, but the Mustangs go hard to the offensive glass as a big part of their offense.

Freshman center Connor O'Brien is questionable for this game, spraining his ankle early in the second half of Tuesday's victory. The Mavericks can't afford to be without its post players, especially against Southwest.

Junior Mitch Grundman will start if O'Brien can't make it.
You can ask questions or make comments by following my live blog from courtside Saturday.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Live blog: MSU men's, women's basketball vs. Minnesota Crookston

Monday, January 3, 2011

MSU women, men takes on Minnesota State-Moorhead