The Northern Sun Conference is on holiday. About 1/4 of the way through the conference season one might say that:
• The men's race is wide open with 7 teams at 4-1and 2 more at 3-2.
• Upper Iowa is the big surprise among the men. Forecast to finish in 7th place in the South, UI is tied for the lead at 4-1.
• The Augustana women are the only undefeated team at 5-0 and are the only team with the potential of having a dominant type of season. And they're doing it with balance. Not a single Augie woman is among the league leaders in any statistical category.
• St. Cloud is the big surprise among the women, Minnesota-Crookston the big disappointment so far.
Moorhead and St. Cloud were picked at 1-2 in the North and they are, but tied also with Bemidji and Northern.
• Moorhead is led by pre-season PoY pick Alex Novak with 13.5 ppg and 90 boards, and by "newcomer" Anthony Tucker. Tucker, the former Minnetonka, Iowa and Winona State star, is leading the league in scoring at 21.5 and minutes at 36, while adding 4.5 assists.
• St. Cloud is led by Theo Rothstein at 18.5 ppg and Shaun Jensen at 16 with 6 assists.
• Bemidji is led by Dermaine Crockrell with 16 ppg.
• Bemidji is at Moorhead on Jan. 5 while South 1st place (tied) Mankato State is at St. Cloud on the Jan. 18.
• Top players to date have been Novak, Tucker, Jensen, Rothsten, and Alex Dorr of Mary.
Mankato and Augustana are 4-1, along with surprising Upper Iowa.
• Perennial doormat Upper Iowa is led by Tucker Wettstein with 14 ppg.
• Augustana is led by Cameron McCaffrey, who leads the South with 21 ppg.
• Mankato is led by newcomers Jarvis Williams, a senior guard and transfer from UW-Green Bay (14 ppg), Assem Marei, a 6-9 sophomore forward from Cairo, Egypt (14 ppg) and Zach Monaghan, a senior guard and transfer from South Dakota State (14 ppgs, 6 assists, 2 steals).
• Mankato is at Augustana on Jan. 4.
• Top players are Monaghan, McCaffrey, Wettstein, Isaiah Thomas and Claytion Vette, pre-season PoY who has 18 points and 9 boards per game.
• St. Cloud State has returned to its former prominence, sitting alone in 1st place in the North at 4-1. Sophomore forward Jessica Benson from Grand Meadow, MN, has been the key, increasing her output from 10 ppg to 16t, while guards Sam Price, Nicole Anderson, Amanda Wagner and Rachel Moen come after you in waves.
• Pre-seasoin favorites Mary and UMD are not out of it at 3-2, but Mary's front line has not been as dominant as expected and pre-seaon PoY Katrina Newman has gotten off to a slow start (14 points, 3 steals).
• Top players have been Price, Hannah Rutten of UMD, guard Ali Collins of Mary, Carly Boag of Minot State, and Megan Strese of Moorhead.
• Augustana is 5-0 despite not having anyone among the league leaders in any categotry. Guard Alex Feeney, pre-season PoY, leads the team in scoring at 14.
• Like the Mankato men, the women have returned to prominence at 4-1. Junior forward Ali Wilkinson is doing everything from scoring 19 ppg to grabbing 9 boards and 3 steals per game.
• Along with Feeney and Wilkinson, top players include Becca Friestleben and Katie Wolff of Winona,
Annika Whiting of Concordia, and Whitney Kieffer of Upper Iowa.
• Wayne (3-2) also has nice balance with a league-high 5 players among the league leaders.
Here I'm talking about Minnesota Hoops' year-end awards. Who from the NSIC has a shot?
• Novak and Tucker of Moorhead, and Monaghan of Mankato.
• Wilkinson of Mankato among the women..
Whoever wins, including the post- as well as the season. Right now Augustana is the most dominant but they, of course, are not a Minnesota team. So how about the Mankato men and women, both who are having breakout seasons after a secretive near-.500 year in 2012.
Right now it's Mankato coaches Matt Marganhaler and Emilee Thiessen.