NCAA BASKETBALL: Mustang men, women ready for playoffs

MARSHALL – The first round of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference/Sanford Health Tournament takes place today with the Southwest Minnesota State men’s and women’s basketball teams in action.

The Mustang men host University of Mary at 7 p.m. at the R/A Facility. The Mustang women play at Northern State with a 6 p.m. tip-off in Aberdeen, S.D.

The following is a scouting report of the SMSU teams and its opponents:

Men’s Basketball


The Southwest Minnesota State University (17-11 overall, 14-8 NSIC) men’s basketball team begins play in the NSIC/Sanford Health Tournament today, hosting the University of Mary (7-20, 5-17 NSIC North) with tip-off set for 7 p.m. at the R/A Facility.

SMSU enters the tournament as the No. 3 seed in the NSIC South Division, while U-Mary is the No. 6 seed in the NSIC North Division. The winner of Wednesday’s game will face the winner of North No. 2 seed Bemidji State and South No. 7 seed Wayne State game Sunday with tip-off set for 8:30 p.m. at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D. This is the second straight year the NSIC Tournament, established in 2000, has been a 16-team format.

U-Mary defeated SMSU 74-65 on Feb. 14 in Bismarck, N.D., during the only meeting between the two teams this season. SMSU finished the regular season sixth overall in the NSIC standings, while U-Mary finished tied for 12th overall.


Southwest Minnesota State is 14-12 in the NSIC Tournament since the event began in 2000. The Mustangs are 7-2 at home, 1-5 on the road and 6-5 in neutral sites games. SMSU has advanced to the semifinals eight times and played in five championship games (2001, 2002, 2007, 2010, 2012), including winning its lone tournament championship in 2012.


SMSU was ranked ninth in the first NCAA Division II Central Region rankings released last Wednesday by the NCAA national committee. The next region rankings were announced this afternoon. The top eight teams in the 41-team region advance to the NCAA Central Region Tournament on Mar. 15-18. Automatic bids are granted to the winners of the NSIC, MIAA and GAC postseason tournaments, with the remaining five spots are awarded on an at-large basis.


Tonight’s game will be the final home game for four Mustang senior players. The four players, Vinard Birch, William Giddings, Nick Smith and Matt Zager enter the NSIC tournament having combined to play in 445 career games, grab 1,605 rebounds and score 3,952 points during their careers.


– SMSU ranks 26th in Division II in field goal pct. (49.3), 60th in rebound margin (+4.1), 69th in steals (185), 80th in scoring defense (71.0) and 88th in total blocks (91).

– Matt Zager ranks 14th on the SMSU all-time scoring list with 1,075 points and became the 19th player in school history to reach 1,000 career points earlier this season versus Bemidji State on Jan. 31. He also ranks sixth in school history with 122 steals and ninth in field goal pct. (51.4). Zager finished the NSIC season ranked ninth in field goal pct., 10th in 3-point field goal pct. and 15th in steals.

n Vinard Birch, the program’s all-time assists leader with 391 in 113 career games, ranks sixth in school history in steals (123) and 10th in free throws made (232). He finished third in the NSIC in assists, seventh in assist/turnover ratio and ninth in steals. Birch begins the week ranked 56th in Division II in assists (122).

– Nick Smith ranks 10th on the SMSU all-time scoring list with 1,168 points. He became the 18th player in school history to reach 1,000 career points during SMSU’s win over MSU Moorhead on Jan. 4. He currently ranks 59th in Division II with 43 blocked shots and is ranked eighth among active Division II players with 164 career blocked shots. Smith finished ranked fourth in the NSIC in blocked shots, sixth in rebounding and 15th in field goal pct.

– Mitch Weg ranked 11th in the NSIC in rebounding.

– Shaun Condon ranked eighth in the NSIC in 3-point field goal percentage.

– William Giddings ranks second in school history in career 3-point field goal percentage (42.0).

– SMSU has held a lead at halftime in 15 of 28 games.

– SMSU has held a rebound advantage in 21 of 28 games.

– SMSU has shot 50 percent or better from the field in 17 of 28 games.

– SMSU has shot 60 percent or higher in a half eight times this season.

– SMSU has shot 70 percent or higher in the second half four times this season.

– Opponents have shot 50 percent or higher from the field nine times in 28 games. Only four teams shot 50 percent or better from the field all of last season versus SMSU.

Women’s Basketball


The Southwest Minnesota State University women’s basketball team (4-22 overall, 2-20 NSIC South Division) enters the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference/Sanford Health Tournament as the No. 8 seed in the South and will travel to play the No. 1 seed in the North, the No. 22-ranked Northern State Wolves, in the first round. Tip-off from Wachs Arena in Aberdeen, S.D. is slated for 6 p.m. today. The quarterfinals, semifinals and championship will take place March 1-4 at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D.


– Northern State is 13-0 at home this season.

– SMSU is 4-23 all-time on the road versus Northern State with its last win coming on Feb. 2, 2008 (64-56).

– SMSU fell 57-46 to Northern State on Jan. 3, 2014.

– Northern State outrebounded SMSU 53-25 in its regular season matchup on Jan. 3, 2014.

– SMSU’s leading scorer, Alison Nagel, recorded six games of 20 or more points this season.

– On Feb.14, Bree Holleman and Alison Nagel became the first Mustangs since the 2010-11 season to each score 20 or more points in a game.

– SMSU scored a season-low 42 points in its 64-42 loss to Concordia-St.Paul on Feb. 8.

– Mikayla Saathoff became the 17th Mustang in history to record 100 assists in a single season on Feb. 7.

– Annessa Rosch scored a career-high 20 points in SMSU’s 85-63 loss to No. 23 Minnesota State on Feb. 7.

– Mikayla Saathoff recorded her second career double-double (14 points,13 assists) in SMSU’s 76-64 win over Bemidji State on Jan. 31.

– Alison Nagel has double-digit scoring in 17 of the 24 games she has played this season.

– Mikayla Saathoff scored a career-high 18 points in SMSU’s 96-68 loss to Augustana on Jan. 25.

– With its 65-61 victory over WinonaState on Jan. 17, SMSU snapped its 12-game losing streak, dating back to Nov. 15, 2013.

– SMSU’s 65-61 victory over Winona State on Jan.17 was SMSU’s first NSIC win in 19 tries.

– SMSU has dished out 20 or more assists in a game two times this season.

– Mikayla Saathoff missed a triple-double by two assists on Jan. 10 versus St. Cloud State, first in program history since Lillie Brown in 1995.

– Bree Holleman passed Tori Fink’s mark for 3-point field goals made in a career (121) on Dec. 21, 2013, versus Sioux Falls.

– SMSU won back-to-back games to open the season (Crown and Notre Dame de Namur). SMSU didn’t won back-to-back games all of last season.


Northern State captured the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference North title by finishing the season 17-5 in conference play. The Wolves, ranked No. 22 in the latest NCAA top 25 poll, are ranked No. 7 in the latest NCAA Central Region Poll. NSU defeated the Mustangs 57-46 earlier this season at the R/A Facility.

Northern State is a solid rebounding team and features a roster loaded with height and it shows in the statistics. The Wolves finished the season ranked third in NSIC games in offensive (13.77) and defensive rebounding (29.0). NSU showed off its rebounding prowess in the lone regular season matchup as the Wolves outrebounded the Mustangs 53-25, including 19-7 on the offensive end. Megan Mutchler and Rachel Krogman each grabbed double-digit rebounds, 10 and 11, respectively, while Alison Kusler and Krogman each poured in 16 points. Northern State committed 17 turnovers to SMSU’s seven in the game, but the Mustangs shot just 29.6 percent (16 of 54) from the field, including just 1 of 15 from 3-point range. The Wolves closed the season on a two-game winning streak with home wins over University of Mary (73-59) and Minot State (59-49). NSU is a perfect 13-0 at home this season. The last time Northern State lost at home occurred on Feb. 23, 2013, in the 2012-13 regular season finale versus U-Mary.


NORTHERN STATE LEADS 44-15 – SMSU and Northern State will meet for the 60th time in a series that the Wolves control handily, 44-15. Northern State took the first 24 games of the series and 30 of 31 until the 1998-99 season, with the Mustangs’ first series victory coming in the 1995-96 season. The series is tied at 14-14 since the 1998-99 season but SMSU has lost five straight meetings dating back to Feb. 27, 2010. The last two wins in the series for SMSU have come at the R/A Facility – 50-49 on Feb. 28, 2009 and 66-64 on Dec. 11, 2009. The last time SMSU defeated Northern State at Wachs Arena in Aberdeen, S.D., was on Feb. 2, 2008. SMSU won by a score of 64-56 – Abby Oakland hit five of eight 3-pointers and led SMSU with 17 points. Sara Leidall went 5 of 5 with 12 points.


Southwest Minnesota State and Northern State have met just once in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Tournament in the series history. The meeting came in the 1999-2000 season with SMSU taking a convincing 70-53 win in St. Paul in an NSIC semifinal game. SMSU fell to Minnesota Duluth in the championship game 83-57 and finished the season 20-9 overall.


Southwest Minnesota State is 8-9 all-time in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference tournament. It is the second straight season that all 16 teams qualify for the tournament after the conference expanded before the 2012-13 season. In previous seasons, only the top eight teams in the conference qualified. SMSU has lost seven consecutive NSIC Tournament games, with its last win coming in the 2002-03 season over Wayne State, 67-54. SMSU fell 72-47 to No. 1 North seed St. Cloud State last season. This season marks the second consecutive season that SMSU is the eighth seed in the South, taking on the No. 1 seed in the North.?