Monday, January 16, 2012

Halfway point of the Northern Sun schedule

Minnesota State reached the midway point of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference basketball season, which makes this a good time to digest what has happened.

Obviously, the men's team has struggled. You knew there would be an adjustment period after the program lost so many talented kids from last season, but you also never expected to see one of coach Matt Margenthaler's teams struggle so much.

The transfers didn't work out. Torrieo Williams was gone before the season started, and D.J. Hoskins left at semester break. Charles McNeal was going to be deep on the bench so he's taking a redshirt season.

That leaves the Mavericks with a lot of young kids, all of whom are talented. But experience is very important in this league. Zach Romashko, T.J. Okafor, Miles Chamberlain and Kelly Madison all look like they have a promising future, but the growing pains are severe.

For the most part, Stephen Kirschbaum has played well, though the team's only senior is much better when others are creating and he can shoot from the perimeter.

Sophomores Jimmy Whitehead, Connor O'Brien, Travis Meinders and Alex Hanks have all had good games, but consistency is an issue.

The outlook for this team will change if Egyptian transfer Assem Ahmed is declared eligibile and is as good as expected, but the Mavericks will be lucky to crack the top eight in the conference to qualify for the league tournament.

The womn's team has been a pleasant surprise. After starting conference play with three losses, and having top scorer and rebounder Ali Wilkinson lost to a knee injury, the Mavericks have won eight straight to move into third place in the Northern Sun.

This team is athletic and defends well, and the last five victories have been by 7 points or less, meaning the Mavericks are performing well under pressure.

Seniors Laura Weber and Jennie Noreen have been very good over the last eight games, and freshmen Aubrey Davis and Jamie Bresnahan have played above their experience.

Ali Hoefer and Jameila Hudnell have provided key minutes, and just about every player that takes the court gives the team something.

It looks like Minnesota State has a very good chance of hosting a first-round game in the Northern Sun tournament, and you shouldn't sleep on their chances to challenge for the conference title and advance in to the national tournament.

As much as the men's team has fallen from last season, the women's team has made that big of a jump.

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