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.

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