The 1st season is all of those exhibitions and pre-season and non-conference games that occupy us before New Year's Day. The 2nd season for most teams in the conference season, the "regular" season. This typically is when individual honors--all-conference, all-state, all-America, etc.--are won. The 3rd season is the post-season, playoff time, wen the ultimate team honors are won and lost.
It seems like only yesterday that we were watching the 1st season pass on into the 2nd. But now the 3rd season is upon us. In the MIAC, in fact, it's already done except, probably, for the St. Thomas men abnd ther St. Thomas women who have already advanced to the NCAA D3 tournament, and in such dominant fashion that it's hard to imagine a 2nd MIAC team getting a bid.
The Northern Sun Men
The NSIC closed its regular season just the other night, and playoff brackets were announced this a.m. 1st, the men.
The men's playoffs are spiced up this year by the odd circumstance of Winona State's having 13 wins "nullified" for the use of an ineligible player. The wins don't turn to losses, however. Rather the Warriors' W-L percentage is reduced by a formula from the actual .864 (19-3) to .565, which means that they still qualify for the post-season but drop to the 6th seed.
Bemidji State, picked to finish 7th in the coaches' pre-season poll, thereby moved from 2nd to 1st and are declared to be not only the #1 seed, but the regular season champion. This shocking outcome makes coach Matt Bowen the obvious choice for coach of the year. And even aside from all of this intrigue, the Beavers' James Ellisor is and would be and should be MVP. He led the league in scoring at 22 ppg on 58 percent shooting while adding 7 boards.
The 1st round will be played this coming Wednesday February 29 at the higher seed.
#8 Wayne State (9-13) at #1 Bemidji State (16-6). The Beavers should be OK here.
#5 Augustana (14-8) at #4 Moorhead State (14-8). The Augies were the pre-season favorite and Cody Schilling the pre-season MVP. But Schilling's scoring fell from 22 ppg last year to 17 this, and his shooting percentage from over 50 percent to somewhat under 50 percent. All the more reason why Augustana is a dangerous playoff hope. Moorhead, meanwhile, surprised behind guard D.J. Hamilton.
#7 UMD (11-11) at #2 Southwest State (15-7). Picked for 8th by the coaches, Southwest State is as big a surprise as Bemidji but UMD led the NSIC in scoring and is dangerous.
#6 Winona State (19-3) at St. Cloud State (15-7). Awkward. #1 vs. #3, in truth. Tough break for St. Cloud, though if the brackets were straight up the Huskies would be getting Augustana. But in theory, Winona is better yet, so I guess the winner of this game goes all the way.
The semis and finals are next Saturday and Sunday at the Glen Taylor Center in Rochester. Look for Winona State to win it and the automatic bid to the D2 tournament.
Bemidji, Southwest State and Moorhead all surprised in a good way. In not such a good way were Mankato State, picked for 3rd but dropped to 8th, and Concordia-St. Paul, picked 4th, finished 9th. Coach on the hot seat would have to be Kelly Boe of CSP.
No such intrigues are found among the NSIC women. What you see is what you get, and what you see is:
#8 Northern (10-12) at #1 Wayne State (20-2). Nolo contendere. Ashey Arlen was MVP last year and was pre-season MVP this year. So guess who the MVP is: Yup. Ashley Arlen. She led the league in scoring at 19 on 52 percent shooting, with 9 boards and 2 blocks.
#5 Mankato State (13-9) at #4 UMD (14-7).
#7 Moorhead State (11-11) at Augustana (18-4, #25 nationally). Moorhead's Angie Jetvig is the top Minnesota-based player.
#6 Winona State (13-9) at Mary #3 (15-7). This one matches up the biggest surprise and the biggest disappointment. Winona was picked #2, Mary was picked #8. Mary's Fred Fridley is coach of the year.
By the time they get to Rochester for the semis and finals next weekend, it will be UMD against the world. Wayne State looks well-nigh unbeatable, but if anybody can beat them it will be the surprise team from Mary, not #2 Augustana.
Mary was the big surprise, but Mankato State also surprised. Picked 9th, the Mavs finished 5th as you can see. Concordia-St. Paul was the unpleasant surprise. Picked 7th, they did not make the playoffs, while Winona and Moorhead also finished 3 and 4 slots below expectations. St. Cloud State finished about where expected, which is out of the playoffs. Coach Lori Fish is designated as coach on the hot seat.
My All-Conference Picks
James Ellisor, Bemidji State, MVP, 22.5 ppg, 7 rebounds, 58 FG%, 86 FT%, 52 3-pt%
D.J.Hamilton, Moorhead, 14 ppg, 4 assists, 85 FT%
Peter Olafeso, Concordia-St. Paul, 17 ppg, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 89 FT%
Clayton Vette, Winona State, 17 points, 7 rebounds, 54 FG%
Cody Schilling, Augustana, 17 ppg, 87 FT%
Matt Bowen, Bemidji, Coach of the Year
Ashley Arlen, Wayne, MVP, 19 ppg, 9 rebounds, 52 FG%, 2 blocks
Angie Jetvig, Moorhead, MN-based MVP, 18 ppg, 10 rebounds, 89 FT%, 2 blocks
Alex Feeney, Augustana, 16 ppg, 8 rebounds, 84 FT%, 44 3-pt%, 2 blocks
Michelle McDonald, Winona, 16 ppg, 8 rebounds, 55 FG%, 84 FT%
Linda Murray, Mary, 12 ppg, 8 rebounds, 48 FG%, 2 blocks
Fred Fridley, Mary, Coach of the Year
Mike Roysland, MN-Crookston, MN-based Coach of the Year