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