Sweet 16 features grudge match for MSU

The Minnesota State Mavericks men’s basketball team have reeled off two straight wins in the NCAA Division II Tournament to reach the Sweet 16.

After receiving the No. 8 seeding in the tournament, following their loss to the Northern State Wolves in the NSIC Tournament, the Mavericks are the lone remaining 8th seed and they have a shot at revenge.

Northern State has played exceptionally this season, boasting an NSIC title and touting a 33-3 record thus far. The Wolves have averaged 79.9 points an outing through 36 games, hitting 51 percent of their shots and 39 percent of their 3-pointers. The team is not only an efficient, offensive machine but they also spread the ball around the squad. Northern State posts 15.9 assists nightly. This is made evident by the five players they have on the roster averaging double-digit points this season. While MSU has burned through postseason play, the Wolves are yet again, going to be the toughest task yet for the Mavericks.

Player Watch

  • Wolves guard, D.J. Pollard, has been lights out in the postseason by posting 2 points every time he takes the floor. Over the past five games, he has reached double-digits four times and led the team in scoring three times. Pollard will be who the Wolves look to in the game when they need a bucket.
  • All season long, Charlie Brown has been the steady, veteran hand that has guided the Mavericks through the season. He has consistently been whatever the situation calls for, producing monster nights scoring (28 points against Sioux Falls, 26 against St. Cloud State, etc.) but has also lead the team in assists per game (4) and is one of the top free throw shooters on the team at 82 percent. In the recent win over Southwest Minnesota, Brown racked up 19 points. Whether he does it scoring, assisting or hitting crucial free throws late, Brown will be a big part of the game against the Wolves.
  • When teams play so many games over such a crunched time frame, the play of the bench players becomes ever more important. Anderson Carlos and his 9.8 points a night off the pine while shooting 37 percent from three are already key pieces on the Mavericks. In the spotlight, playing for revenge, Carlos is going to play important minutes and could decide the outcome of the game.
  • Jamal Nixon is a dark horse with x-factor potential. The freshman from Chicago, Illinois grabbed six points late in the game against Southwest Minnesota, including a pair of free throws in the final three minutes to keep the Mavericks ahead. He performed well in crunch time to push the MSU to the Sweet Sixteen. Now he can build on his solid outing by adding more support from the bench.

Prediction: MSU wins a nailbiter 82-78 to make the Elite Eight.

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