The NCAA Central Region Tournament runs through Mankato

Welcome back to the Mavericks men’s basketball coverage. Before we went on spring break, our Mavericks were set to play in the NSIC tournament as the No. 3 team in Division II. 

In the two weeks since then, several Mavericks claimed NSIC honors, the team won the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Tournament and moved up to the No. 1 ranking in Division II, which means they will now host the NCAA Central Region Tournament. 

The award-winning Mavericks are headlined by Malik Willingham and Matt Margenthaler, who were named the NSIC Player of the Year and NSIC Coach of the Year, respectively. Malik and Kyreese Willingham were named to the All-NSIC First Team, while Dylan Peeters and Justin Eagins made the All-NSIC Second Team.

In the NSIC Tournament, the Mavericks were the No. 1 seed and had a first-round bye. In the second round, the Mavericks found themselves facing a Sioux Falls team that held them in check for the first half of their game, taking the lead 34-29 at halftime. However, the Mavericks offense exploded in the second half, scoring 49 points to give them a 78-64 victory. In their win, the Willingham brothers combined for 55 points. Malik scored 33 and Kyreese had 22, and their offensive firepower was the difference in the game. 

In the semifinals, the Mavericks bested the Southwest Minnesota State University Mustangs in a thrilling 68-67 win. All-NSIC Second Team member Justin Eagins hit the game-winning three with 45.6 seconds to go and the Mavericks advanced to the Championship Game. This gave the Mavericks their fifth NSIC Championship berth in the school’s history, with the other four occurring in 2009, 2013, 2014 and 2020.

In the championship game, the Mavericks did not disappoint. One of Division II’s most consistent teams over the 2023-24 season was able to blow out the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs, 97-77 in their biggest game of the season. UMD kept it close in the first half, but the Mavericks out scored the Bulldogs 50-36 in the second half to secure the Tournament Championship. 

Malik Willingham was named Tournament MVP for his 23 point, 4.3 rebound per game averages. He also shot 43.9% from the field in the tournament. Willingham became the fourth Maverick to claim these honors, joining Luke Anderson in 2006 (NCC), Jarvis Williams in 2013 and Zach Monaghan in 2014 as Tournament MVPs.

Following their Tournament win, the Mavericks were moved up to no. 1 in Division II and were awarded the opportunity to host the NCAA Central Region Tournament. 

“We are excited about hosting the Central Region Tournament here in Mankato,” said Margenthaler in a press release posted to the Maverick Athletics website. “We feel that we will represent the central region in a class manner.”

The Mavericks will take on no. 8 seed Arkansas Tech in the Taylor Center on March 16 at 5 p.m. when they take the court next.

Header Photo: Minnesota State, which won the NSIC regular season and conference tournament championships, has received the No. 1 seed and will host the NCAA Central Region Tournament. (Courtesy Maverick Athletics)

Write to Hayden Lee at

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.