The MIAC has concluded conference play for 2012. A few non-conference games remain, but otherwise action will renew in January 2013. They've played about 1/4 of the conference schedule. Here's what you've missed.
1. St. Thomas remains unbeatable...er, unbeaten. No, make that unbeatable.
I mean, who's gonna beat the men? They're 4-0 and tied for 1st with Augsburg. They're #1 in both offense and defense, out-scoring opponents by a ridiculous 87-62. They outshoot 'em 53 percent to 46, and out-rebound 'em by 10. Will DeBerg leads in scoring with 14 ppg, while Connor Nord comes off the bench to add 10.
But it is their team defense--and especially the defense of Tommy Hannon and John Nance--that is a thing of real beauty. The Tommies wear you down, going 10 deep in the season thus far.
And, who's gonna beat the women? They're 4-0 and 2nd behind 5-0 Gustavus. They're only #3 on offense and #2 on defense but at 65-54 they lead the MIAC women on margin of victory. Like the men, they lead the MIAC in FG percentage, and they outshoot the opponents 45 percent to 36. They are, however, not a great rebounding team, but of course all-conference post Maggie Weiers is out.
They beat then #1 UW-Stevens Point 73-70 with both Weiers and all-conference forward Taylor Young out, and their only loss is on the road to then #1 Calvin 78-72. New starters Jenna Dockter, a guard, and forward Anna Smith join Weiers and Young in scoring double figures on average, and they use their depth to wear people down. 10 Tommies average double figures in minutes played.
2 more conference championship looks all but inevitable. The only question is how far the 2 Tommie teams can go nationally. The Final Four is a reasonable goal for both.
2. Gustavus and Macalester women, and Augsburg, St. John's and St. Olaf men surprise. Among the women, the Gusties and the Scots lost a lot of talent, including in the Gusties' case coach Mickey Haller. So the coaches picked 'em 4th (which is low for the Gusties) and 11th, respectively, in their pre-season poll. Instead, the Gusties make the turn in 1st place (5-0) and the Scots in 5th (3-2). Abby Rothenbuehler leads Gustavus with 14 points and 9 boards, while Julia Dysthe is scoring 13. Coach Laurie Kelly would be the Coach of the Year as of today. Macalester is led by Kyanna Jones with a ridiculous 13 points, 7 boards, 3 assists and 4 steals.
Among the men, the coaches had St. Olaf #7 and Hamline #9, and I must admit to having had Augsburg #9 myself. Instead the Olies are 2-1 (4th), Hamline 2-2 (5th) and Augsburg 4-0 (tied for 1st). For St. Olaf, 3 new starters are scoring in double figures: Connor Gunderson at 17.5, Sterling Nielsen at 13, and Riley Aeikens at 12. In the Johnnies' case, it's Seth Marx (11 ppg) and Mitchell Kuck (10).
In Augsburg's case, I was not aware that Dan Kornbaum had joined the Auggies when I picked them for 8th. Kornbaum, from Little Falls, had started his college career at UMD. His grandpa is Ron Johnson from New Prague and an all-American at the U of M. Kornbaum is currently 4th in MIAC scoring (17 ppg) and 2nd in boards (9) and blocks (2). He would be the PoY as of today.
3. St. Olaf women and Gustavus men disappoint.
With guard Mackenzie Wolter and forwards Nikki Frogner, Erin Haglund and Elise Raney back, much was expected of the Olies. The coaches had 'em 4th, I had 'em 3rd. Instead they're 1-3 in 9th. Newcomer Kim Cerjan, coming off the bench, suddenly is their leader in minutes (27) and scoring (13). Frogner is at 12 ppg and 7 boards. But Wolter and Raney are down from 13 and 11 ppg last year to 7 and 6 so far this.
The perennially powerful Gusties men are currently 1-3 and in 8th place. They lost a ton of talent and, honestly, I had 'em 7th in my pre-season ranking, but the coaches had 'em 2nd. Jim Hill and Ben Biewen score 17 and 16 points, respectively, but they're giving up 75 points a game.
4. If I had it to do all over again....
Among the men, I had St. Thomas, Concordia and Hamline 1-2-3. Today I would have the Tommies 1, Augsburg 2 and Concordia 3. P.S. I had Carleton, Bethel and Macalester through 6th and therefore in the playoffs. Now I'll replace Bethel and Macalester with St. John's and St. Olaf.
Among the women I had St. Thomas, Concordia and St. Mary's. Now I'll say St. Thomas, Gustavus and Concordia. St. Mary's still makes the playoffs. But I also had Carleton and St. Olaf. Now I'll say Carleton and St. Ben's.
5. What to look for...
The Augsburg men visit St. Thomas on Saturday afternoon January 5, so you'll get an early feel for whether anybody can compete with the Tommies.
Oddly enough the Tommie women are 4-0 with 4 home games so far and have not played 1st place Gustavus. They travel to St. Peter to face the Gusties on Wednesday, January 9. So here again, maybe we'll see then whether anybody is going to push the Tommie women.