2017 Week 1 Sanford League Preview

So the April open periods are now behind us.  Now we move into May where there are a couple more weeks for the D2 schools to be out.  While the shoe companies and NY2LA played their league games during the open periods, the Sanford Pentagon Tournament Series kicks up this week.  They'll be playing games Saturday and Sunday on 4 courts at the fantastic Lansing Center at Mounds Park Academy in Maplewood.  Then next week the teams invade the Iowa West Fieldhouse in Council Bluffs, Iowa for week 2.  That building is the home of league member Omaha Sports Academy.  Then the teams get a week off before playing the finals at the Pentagon in Sioux Falls over Memorial Day weekend.

This weekend features 30 games in each of the 15U, 16U and 17U divisions.  12 teams will play in each division with 13 total organizations being represented.  6 Minnesota programs plus Omaha Sports Academy, Dakota Schoolers, ECI, WI Playmakers (16U and 17U) and new SPTS members IA Mavericks, Team KC and 43 Hoops (15U only) make up the league this year.  Let's take a look at the programs.  One of consistent themes you'll see here interestingly enough is size, something that seems to be lacking nationally.

Dakota Schoolers
In 17U, the Schoolers feature the top rated 2018 player in South Dakota.  That's 6'8" center Trevor Hanson.  6'7" Forward Mason Larson is ranked 4th.

ECI Prospects
In 17U, 6'3" Josh Sipes and 6'6" Kade Amundson are ranked 3rd and 4th in North Dakota.  They are high school teammates at Bismarck Century.  They struggled at the Comets Shootout last month.  In 16U, ECI has the top 3 ranked players in North Dakota, Jaden Klabo, Isaac Undlin and Mitch Larson.  They lost to Heat Bui in St. Cloud before winning 2 consolation games.

Iowa Mavericks Purple
The 17U Mavs have played well in the open period going 7-2 the last 2 weeks.  That included a semifinal finish in Des Moines 2 weeks ago.  Keep an eye on 6'7" forward Peter Timmerman.  The 16U group went 3-4 in those 2 events.  That included a loss 2 weeks ago to fellow SPTS member Team KC.

Minnesota Comets
The Comets Lewis 17s finished 5-4 in NY2LA play after being the runner up in the Comets Shootout.  PG Matt Todd and C Joe Hedstrom have both shined in spots so far.  The Comets Stumpf 16s won their division of the NY2LA league after an early playoff loss to the very good SD Storm at the Comets Shootout.  The Comets have shown great success in the history of the Sanford league and should be right near the top again.

Minnesota Fury
The Fury Wilde 17s have gotten off to a very solid start losing only 1 game in each of their 1st 3 tourneys.  Wing Michael Jones is a big scorer for this crew.  His stock has gone up with a nice spring.  Fury Mikiska has also been very solid in the 16s.  Fury Zurn 15s are off to a great start.   They swept the open division at NY2LA last week, ran the table at the Comets Shootout and their only loss is to MOKAN Elite in Iowa 2 weeks ago.  Fury has run the table with Sanford championships. They look to do so again.

Minnesota Heat
Its a down year for the Heat 17s but they'll still claw and scrap.  The Heat MacDonald 16s were knocked off by the Playmakers last week.  They meet again Saturday night.

Minnesota Select
The Select 16s and 17s were both 4-4 in NY2LA play.  Coach Mitch Ohnstad's 17s were 4-1 in St. Cloud with a loss to Comets Lewis.  Beijan Newbern gives them a go to scorer.  The Select 16s made a run to the Comets Shootout final.  Jack Thompson and Malik Willingham is a very effective guard tandem for them.  Both teams lack size but have a bunch of interchangeable parts. 

Omaha Sports Academy
The OSA Crusaders are a traditional Sanford league power.  This year should be no different.  The 17U team was an impressive 7-1 in Adidas Silver play the last 2 weeks.  6'10" Gopher target Brady Heiman leads the way in the middle.  The roster is loaded with 7 of the top 9 ranked players in Nebraska.  PG Shereef Mitchell just picked up a Nebraska-Omaha offer.  The 16U roster features Nebraska's top ranked player 6'5" F Akol Arop.

Southwest Minnesota Stars
The Stars have fallen out a bit in the last couple of years.  Marshall's Trey Lance leads the 17U group along with Noah Slagter of Willmar.  Carter Henry from Central Minnesota Christian and Bentley Boike of Dawson-Boyd are top guys for the 16U team.

Wear Out The Net
WOTN Ewing 17s impressively went 6-0 to win the NY2LA open division last week.  That included a very nice win over 43 Hoops in the championship game.  They were also solid in Iowa going 3-1.  The only loss was in the opener to the champion MOKAN 16s.  They were 3-1 in St. Cloud with the loss to Comets Lewis.  Very impressive 12-2 start so far.   Owatonna forward Dalton Kubista is their main weapon. 

WI Playmakers 17s and 16s
The Playmakers put separate squads in the NY2LA and Sanford Leagues.  The 17U group is the 1 Playmakers team that was not in St. Cloud last month.  The Sanford roster features South Dakota St recruit Owen King from Caledonia.  But they also have plenty of Wisconsin talent around him.  In 16U, Owen's brother Noah plays up a year.  Keep an eye on 6'10" Bennett Loersch in the middle for that 16U crew as well.

43 Hoops 15s
43 Hoops 15s impressively ran the table at 9-0 in NY2LA play.  They made the semifinals at the Comets Shootout before losing to Fury Zurn.  No better way to start league play than with the 8 AM Saturday rematch.  That will be one of the top 15U games in the league.  Henry Abraham and Nate Heise give this group a couple of the best shooters in the 2020 class in MN.  Tate Machacek is a very skilled forward who plays inside and outside for this group.

Team KC
Sorry, too far away and too little info.

2017 Open Period 2 17U Look ahead

Its another open period week on the AAU schedule.  This week the big notable event locally is the NY2LA Spring Extravaganza taking place at Hopkins, Eden Prairie and Minnetonka.  NY2LA league games for the 17s are all at Hopkins.  Open division and lower level games vary between other locations.

In the 17U open division, 13 Minnesota teams will play in the open division.   Sanford teams from WOTN and the MN Heat both playing.  43 Hoops, MN Eagles, Fury Antl, Real Athletics, Heat Johnson, tNBA, Crossfire Schmidt, Select Ellis, Select Leafblad, Comets Little and MN Magic also playing in that 17U open bracket.   Plenty of possibilities for local matchups.  All 20 opening game winners will move on to the championship bracket.  The bottom 8 games send the loser to the silver bracket.  MN Eagles is in that group that could go silver.  However, they have a favorable draw into Sunday.  They could run into Fury Antl in the semis.

Czar Watch: 43 Hoops.  They followed up their win over D1 Minnesota on Easter weekend with a 3-1 weekend in Iowa last week.  They have good quick guards and Wendell Matthews inside so its a solid group for coach Shaye Fields.  Their opener is right away Friday night against Kingdom Hoops who also lost in the same quarter of the bracket to Sanford rep Iowa Mavericks Purple.  Kingdom Hoops was also 3-1 last weekend.  Both teams will open bracket play at 11:15 AM Saturday morning at Hopkins.  Location in the bracket determined by result of their game.

In 17U NY2LA play, Comets Lewis, Comets Servaty and Select Ohnstad represent Minnesota.  Both Comets groups were 2-2 and Select Ohnstad went 1-3 in week 1 in Dallas.   Comets Servaty has 4 games against opponents who are a combined 11-5 in league play.  Select Ohnstad fares a little better in their 4 games as the opponents are a combined 7-9.  Comets Lewis has a 5 game weekend.  Their opponents are 12-8 combined in league play.  3-1 WI Swing Litscher is always a hardnosed team and tough out.  Keep an eye on Mitch Listau for that crew.  Omaha Elite will feature a couple of 2017 kids including Isaiah Poor Bear Chandler who played here in the Timberwolves shootout.  Then the Sunday finale against 3-1 Team Blaze and arguably the top player in the NY2LA league this year, top 100 player Musa Jallow.   (Czar Correction: Comets beat Swing last weekend.  Opponents were 7-13 last week.  I had a 3-1 Swing and 2-2 Mac Irvin in my original count instead of the 2 0-4 teams that Comets actually play)

Fury Wilde will make the road trip east to the Steel City for the well regarded Pittsburgh Jam Fest.   The format is all at 1 convention center with a truck load of courts   Fury with an opening win would have to come right back and play a 2nd game Friday night which is a very very rare site for events.  But its a full 107 team bracket with only a 3 game guarantee.  Lose on opening night and they won't play Sunday.  Fury Wilde was 3-1 last week in Iowa.  Only loss was to Spiece Indy Heat's 16U EYBL team.

Powerhouse Hoops is at the Terrific 24 in Indianapolis.  Somehow there are 52 teams in 17U, hmm.  Czar confused, doesn't match name of event.  Powerhouse gets traditional power Belmont Shore on Saturday afternoon with the dynamic guard duo of UCLA commit David Singleton (#57 Rivals) and #83 ranked Bryce Hamilton.  Powerhouse was 3-1 last weekend at the So Cal Hoop Review.

Speaking of Indy, its the center of the hoops universe this weekend with Under Armour and Nike both playing in town.  Howard Pulley behind a big week from Tre Jones finished 3-1.  Jones averaged 18 points and almost 10 assists a game.  Their 4 opponents this week are a combined 7-9.  Biggest game of the weekend is vs division foe NY Rens who are also 3-1.  Also a fun matchup of PGs with Jones vs 2019 #24 ranked Tyger Campbell on Saturday morning.  Campbell runs the show for prep school powerhouse La Lumiere.

Grassroots got off to a rough start last weekend going 0-4 in UA Association play.  Jalen Suggs and didn't shoot it well but still carried the load.  He needs somebody else to step up and give him some help.  This week their 4 opponents are a combined 4-12. That could help the NATION get back on track.

Adidas has their weekend in Atlanta this week.  Nike will be there in 2 weeks and Under Armour has their finals there in July.  D1 Minnesota was 1-3 last weekend.  Despite having McKinley Wright for Friday and Saturday, D1 gave up big games to multiple guards.  Their 4 opponents were 7-9 last week.  Their 6:40 PM Saturday game vs Urban ASAK will be streamed online.  Urban ASAK featuring a quality frontline with Brock Cunningham and Will Baker.  Cunningham just picked up a Texas offer (Dad played there) and has Utah as well.  Baker is ranked #92 by Rivals in the 2019 class.

2017 Open Period 1

The 1st D1 open period of the 2017 AAU season is upon us with back to back open weekends.  Now this weekend there's nothing of note going on locally.  Just a couple of minor tourneys.  But here's where everybody else will be.

In the Des Moines area, its the Midwest Live Tourney.  13 17U teams make the trip.  That includes 8 local teams in the 32 team top bracket.  43 Hoops has a pretty open bracket in the top quarter.  They knocked off D1 Minnesota last weekend (no Matt Hurt though).  D1 Prospects and WOTN could meet in the 2nd round in the 2nd quarter of the bracket.  But Nike rep MOKAN has their 16s playing against WOTN in the 1st round.  Fury Wilde and MN Eagles are in the 3rd quarter.  Spiece Indy Heat's 16s from the Nike circuit are also here.  The quarter of doom is the bottom quarter.  Fury Antl, Mpls FAB, MOKAN Select, SD Attack and a Grassroots group are all here.  Also in Des Moines, 10 16U teams and 8 15U teams.

In Sioux Falls, its the Sanford Pentagon Spring Jam.  12 Minnesota teams make that trip.  GetShook 15s who are off to a very nice start will be in Chicago.

As to the teams in leagues.  Comets and Select will be at the Lone Star Invitational in Dallas as part of the NY2LA league.  Also in Dallas is the Adidas Gauntlet.  D1 Minnesota will have their top 15, 16 and 17U teams there.  Net Gain also has 15s and 16s in the top Adidas gauntlet.   The 16U teams are in separate brackets in Dallas but the 15s could meet in the semifinals.  Howard Pulley has their top 2 teams in Virginia for the opening weekend of the EYBL.  The 15U teams are in a local event.

Let's talk matchups for those teams playing on the shoe circuits.

Howard Pulley has a matchup against a loaded California Supreme team on Saturday.  That includes Shaquille O'Neal's son Shareef who just committed to Arizona.  Manute Bol's son Bol Bol is also a star on that roster.  Pulley finishes with a pair of fun point guard matchups.  Tre Jones is ranked #27 in the new Rivals rankings.  He'll see #30 Ayo Dosunmu of Mac Irvin Fire and #129 David Dejulius (Michigan recruit) of The Family in the last 2 games.    #75 Daniel Oturu not only gets O'Neal but also #96 Trevion Williams of The Family.  #107 Jeenathan Williams and #38 in 2019 Isaiah Stewart will be the challenge in the Friday opener vs Albany City Rocks.

Grassroots has a tough Under Armour Association opener against Team Breakdown in Brooklyn.  Jalen Suggs will see #28 Elijah Weaver and #51 Anfernee Simons.  Game 2 isn't much easier as #21 6'9" Miles Norris and Earl Watson Elite are the matchup.  Washington Supreme and Houston Defenders are the other 2 opponents for Grassroots.  The Grassroots UA schedule is favorable as the 1 team they'll miss is DC Premier.

D1 Minnesota will see Texas PRO, Mass Rivals, Stackhouse Elite and Game Elite in the 1st half of Kyle Lowry division play. Their 1st pair of games are tough as well.  #65 Jaedon LeDee vs #117 Race Thompson and #6 2019 Matt Hurt (assuming he plays with the hand injury) is the matchup there.  #55 5'11 G Kendric Davis is going to  be a tough matchup for the D1 guards.  Mass Rivals has a couple of players on the edge of the top 50.  #50 David Duke is 6'3" and 6'5" AJ Reeves is #54.

2017 Comets Shootout 17U Preview

Its time to kick off another AAU season.  That means the annual trip to St. Cloud for the Comets Shootout.  As usual the 17s will start late with 3 games at 3:00, 4 more at 4:10 and the final 9 openers starting at 5:20.  In a change from recent history, the tournament goes back to pool format.  In recent years its been a 32 team bracket with 2 games Saturday night and the quarterfinals to finish on Sunday.  This year its still 2 Saturday games for everybody.  But we're back to 16 pool winners making the championship bracket.  That begins bright and early at 8 AM on Sunday and goes thru the traditional 5:20 final.  That takes a toll on even the deepest of teams.  16 2nd place teams will play in the Gold bracket.  Then 12 3rd place teams will play in the Silver bracket.  Its a unique format with the last 4 pools being only 2 team pools.  Those pools will start play with a cross-over game but only the head to head game at 7:40 PM will have any meaning for pool standings.  The 4 cross-over pools will play their games at St. Cloud State.  Everybody is at the home base of Whitney Rec Center or Sauk Rapids Middle School.  While the format has changed, the concept of having a balanced championship bracket has not.  That still means very little in the way of surprises in Saturday pool play and plenty of blowouts.  So let's get to the important stuff.

The Favorites
Comets Lewis and D1 Minnesota are the clear top 2 teams in the tourney.  D1 Minnesota has already started their season with a 3-1 record at the Real Deal In The Rock tourney in Arkansas last weekend.  They lost to eventual champion and fellow Adidas squad Marcus Smart YGC36 in the semifinals.  The Comets return a talented squad and have some nice additions.  Monticello PG Matt Todd joins group as does Hopkins C Joe Hedstrom.  They also added a talented top 30 ranked forward from Wisconsin.  They go 2 deep at every position and have pieces to do a bit of everything.  I expect a dynamite final between these 2.

Other Teams of Note
Half of the Sanford League is represented with Select, Heat, Fury, WOTN and ECI also attending.  Select's top team keeping the guys who played up last year plus adding many guys from last year's very nice 16U crew.  Not much size there but they have a couple of solid PGs in Charlie Gove/Cire Mayfield and a scorer in Beijan Newbern to go with a solid group of wings.  For WOTN, PG Bryce Phillips and W Jon Martens are nice pickups for them.  Dalton Kubista from Owatonna gives them a forward scorer who can play in and out.  Fury will feature high scoring wing Michael Jones along with Charlie Jacob.   Heat's group from last year fell apart.  Former St. Anthony star Josh Pratt has the Sanford group this year.  Kameron Davis from Spring Lake Park had a nice season.  St. Anthony's Aaron Smith could break out for this group.  More on ECI later.

Other Minnesota notables.  We have to start with MN Powerhouse bringing 2 teams.  What looks like their top team gets D1 MN Prospects in their pool.  That's one of few compelling pool games.  MN Eagles come back together for the spring.  That's Apple Valley guys coming off a state title.  Crossfire brings 2 squads.  That includes 2nd division Sanford League team Crossfire-Schmidt who should give Heat Pratt all they want in the crossover game.  The Comets have all their other teams playing as expected.  Fury's 2nd team, Mpls FAB, MN Magic, MN Phenom also on the list.  FAB is the young Brooklyn Center kids playing with some Tri-Metro seniors. They got off to a nice start in Arkansas last week as well.    FAB part of the 1 pool that could be called the Pool of Doom with the WI Playmakers top team and Minneapolis Henry.  MN Phenom went 3-1 and finished 2nd in Iowa last weekend.  Center Michael Johnson is a sleeper name to be aware of for that crew.

Its not just Minnesota that's well represented.  Three Wisconsin Playmakers teams on the list but not the Playmakers-King team (that's Owen King) that will play in the Sanford events.  But Playmakers-Knutson is their NY2LA team.  I like the size of that team and they have 4 top 50 Wisconsin kids.  I'm looking forward to seeing forwards Josh Dahlke and Jaxon Knotek from that crew.  North Dakota Phenom brings their top 2 teams.  That means between the ECI and ND Phenom top 2 teams we should see 3 of the top 5 kids in North Dakota in the event.   Center Josh Kihle with ND Phenom.  Guard Josh Sipes and Forward Kade Amundson expected for ECI.

Predictions
Now for the always infamous predictions.  Here's how I see the championship bracket ending up.

Round of 16 Games (better games here than you might expect)
Comets Lewis vs Crossfire Schmidt
WOTN Ewing vs ND Phenom
Select Ohnstad vs D1 MN Rise
Powerhouse Black vs Fury Antl
D1 MN vs Select Ellis
MN Eagles vs Comets Servaty
Fury Wilde vs MN Phenom
ECI Prospects vs WI Playmakers Knutson

Quarterfinal Results
Comets Lewis over WOTN Ewing
Powerhouse Black over Select Ohnstad
D1 MN over MN Eagles
Fury Wilde over WI Playmakers Knutson

Semifinals
Comets Lewis over Powerhouse Black in a grudge match
D1 MN over Fury Wilde

Championship
D1 MN wins a nailbiter championship over Comets Lewis

Studying The Four Factors At State

In past seasons, I've done a Hubie Brown like analysis of the games of the state tournament.  In that analysis I looked at turnovers, free throws and shooting percentage.  Since it is the era of analytics, I've decided to advance that study.  One very similar way is to use The Four Factors of Dean Oliver.  If you watch the Timberwolves broadcasts, you'll see Jim Petersen reference these and you likely know what they are.  For those who aren't familiar here's what they are.
  • Effective Field Goal Percentage
  • Turnover Percentage
  • Rebounding Percentage
  • Free Throw Rate
One fundamental idea you'll see is that all of the values are percentages.  For the 3 items that aren't shooting %, that normalizes the data to take away differences in number of opportunities.  20 turnovers sounds bad but if you add the context of 100 possessions vs 50 possessions, it has far more meaning.  That's in contrast to my previous studies where I only looked at the final result without any manipulation.  For the detailed explanation of each factor and how its calculated, read this link.

So now that we have a reasonable tool, let's apply it to my subject, high school hoops.  No better time than the present with the state tournament just finishing up.  The data for the state tournament is easily found and I have reams and reams of it laying around.  That allows me to dig up the last 5 years of games at the boys state tournament.  That's 172 games of data with 43 games in each of the 4 classes.  I deem that a big enough sample size to provide reasonable value

Let's start with a chart of how winning teams did with respect to the factors

YEAREFG%FT RateTO%Reb%
201779.55%77.27%59.09%68.18%
201690.63%87.5%65.63%62.5%
201571.88%78.13%75%68.75%
201484.38%68.75%65.63%50%
201381.25%62.5%62.5%59.38%
OVERALL81.4%75%65.12%62.21%

So when a team won a game in the last 5 years, 81.4% of the time they had the higher effective field goal percentage. This is in line with my previous simpler studies and something I've been saying for years.  If you shoot it better, odds are very very good you'll win.  Period.  Basket->Ball.  Put ball in basket.  In this case is just over 4 out of 5.  Don't overthink it, just make shots. 

So what happened in the other 18.6% of wins where the winning team lost the EFG% battle?  The winning team won the TO% battle 29 out of 32 times.  That's 90.63% of the time, a very insane number.  Here's how that EFG% result broke down per class.

Class A: 88:37%
Class AA: 81.4%
Class AAA: 79.07%
Class AAAA: 76.74%

Let's look at how many factors each winning team won

YEAR1234
20174.55%25%52.27%18.18%
20160%25%43.75%31.25%
20153.13%25%46.88%25%
20143.13%31.25%59.38%6.25%
20133.13%37.5%50%9.38%
OVERALL2.91%28.49%50.58%18.02%

So 68.6% of the time a team won at least 3 or 4 of the factors.  More importantly, when a team won only 1 factor, they only won 2.91% of the time.  In those 5 wins, 2 of the wins were 20+ point wins thanks to winning the EFG% category.  The other 3 wins were by 3, 3 and 2 points and the winning team won the turnover battle in each.

Winning a 2nd factor wasn't a guarantee as winning 1 or 2 factors meant a win only 31.4% of the time.  That's less than 1 out of 3.  There are 6 combinations of winning 2 factors.  But the combination of EFG% and FT Rate accounted for 34.69% of those alone, double the amount of an even distribution.    The average margin of victory was 9.9 PPG with almost 60% of the games being single digit finishes.

When a team won 3 factors, effective field goal percentage was included 87.36% of the time.    The margin of victory expanded to 14.8 PPG.  The number of single digit games decreased to 37.9%

When a team won 4 factors, a blowout was in order as expected.  The average margin of victory was 21.45 PPG.  Only 12.9% of those games were single digit finishes.  That exactly matches the number of games that had a margin of 44 points or more.

Here's a breakdown of the number of factors won across classes.  Percentages are percent of the column total.

# Factors WonAAAAAAAAAA
12.33%0%2.33%6.98%
213.95%37.21%25.58%37.21%
355.81%48.84%55.81%41.86%
427.91%13.95%16.28%13.95%

83.72% of the games in class A were 3 or 4 factor games.  So in single A, odds are very high that you're going to see a game that ends up lopsided.  On the other end of the spectrum was class AAAA with 55.81% of the games seeing a team win 3 or 4 of the factors.

Here's how margin of victory related to the 4 factors in each class.  The values in the table are the average margin of victory.

# Factors WonAAAAAAAAAA
12N/A316
211.339.2513.279.9
315.751314.7514.83
425.2519.3322.2921.45

The class A 4 factors won number jumps up because of Minneapolis North's dominance the last 2 seasons.  Interesting that 2 of the 5 wins were blowout by doing nothing more than shooting better.  To win only 1 factor and steal a close game makes sense but 40% of the outcomes being blowouts is interesting.  Granted that's a very small sample size of 5 games.  Otherwise its what you expect, the more factors you win, the bigger you win.

Overall conclusions.  Shooting is big, rebounding can be overcome.  Dominate the factors, dominate the game.

2017 State Tourney Wrap

What a season!  2016-2017 has come to a close and in great fashion.  Some thoughts from this year's state tourney.

The Buzzer Beaters
How often can you say the state tournament made the Sportscenter top 10 not once but twice?  Sam Dubois became a cult hero right away on Wednesday morning as his prayer was answered vs Chaska.  Not to be outdone, North Woods soph guard Cade Goggleye threw in a half-court winner in the class A semis at Williams on Thursday. 

The Champions
As to champions, quite honestly nothing was a significant surprise.  North crushed everybody in their path with wins by 47, 44 and 47 points.  That means back to back state titles with no doubt for the Polars.  Next year they move up into section 5AA.  That section will have a new champ as Annandale shifts to 6AA next season.  They were the dominating pick at the start of the season and did everything expected.  The beat AA champ Minnehaha and their only 2 losses were to Hopkins and AAAA champ Apple Valley.

Speaking of AA and Minnehaha, the Redhawks were also a big favorite and didn't disappoint.  They put away solid Lake City and Crosby-Ironton teams and crushed a very good Annandale team.  The Redhawks started the season 7-5 but won their last 19 games to win the title.  With only 1 role player graduating, Minnehaha will be the favorite to repeat next season.  They won't see North in the tourney until state as Minnehaha remains in 4AA.

De La Salle handled Austin in the 2013 and 2014 title games by double figures.  Some thought this was the year that the Packers could make a run at the Islanders.  Not so much as the Islanders rolled 72-44 to their 6th straight title.  Once again the suffocating defense was too much.  They lost to loaded IMG Academy plus AAAA final 4 teams Champlin Park and Maple Grove. 

Class AAAA was the most wide open with any of 7 teams that would not have been a surprise as the winner.  It was Apple Valley who avenged regular season losses to the same 2 local teams as De La Salle.  The Eagles knocked off Maple Grove in the semis in impressive fashion and then Champlin Park in a great final.  Nothing like a tied championship game with under a minute to go.  Apple Valley gets a hoop and harm and rebounds the missed free throw to basically win it.  Apple Valley also knocked off CDH in the 1st round for a 2nd time this season.  CDH went on to knock off Lakeville North in a rematch for the consolation championship.  Apple Valley loses 3 role guys but they have an incredibly deep junior class that includes Tre Jones coming back.  Clear preseason favorite next season.

The Players
Tre Jones (Apple Valley)- Any mention of players for the state tourney and for the season has to start here.  Jones averaged 25.7 points, 14.1 rebounds and 6 assists in the 3 state tourney games.  He put the games away vs CDH and Champlin Park and dominated Maple Grove.  As the point guard, he set the school single season record for rebounds.  The role players did their thing but it was Jones who put everybody at a completely different level this season.  You knew he had to step up this season but he played at a level far beyond lofty expectations.

Jalen Suggs (Minnehaha) - He carried the Redhawks to their title.  In the semis vs Annandale, the switch of him to defend Cardinals star Jared Wilken changed the game.  Then in the championship game, he took over after Crosby-Ironton had rallied to within 1.  He sliced and diced the Rangers zone and had an impressive and critical helpside block to take away a Rangers change to go ahead.  Huge momentum changing play.  His potential is through the roof.

Theo John (Champlin Park) - He averaged 13.7 points, 11 rebounds and 5.3 blocks in the 3 games.  He had 14 blocks (plus plenty more uncounted) in the last 2 games.  That showed a dominating prescence that many thought he'd develop into over the years.  That shot blocking was disruptive but the Rebels gave up 43 offensive rebounds in the tourney.  Apple Valley ended up with 23 points on 21 offensive rebounds in the title game.

Goanar Mar (De La Salle) - He took his game to another level this season including a monster 40 point outing against Armstrong.  He was the catalyst in the tourney too.  He averaged 20.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 2 blocks in the 3 wins.  Those steals were often game changing and leading to runs.  A major factor on both ends and definitely deserves to be on the Mr Basketball final 5.

McKinley Wright (Champlin Park) - After a pair of high level performances in the 1st 2 rounds of the tourney, Tre Jones got the better of him in the final.  It was unfortunate to see the news about Dayton head coach taking the Indiana job on the same day as the final.  Wright did look to be off in the final and while Jones certainly was part of it, I hope the whole college thing wasn't a distraction.  He ended up at 21.7 points, 6.3 rebounds but only 3.3 assists for the tourney.   That was the shooters for the Rebels not knocking down shots.  Shooting always seems to rear its ugly head during the tourney.

Other Random Thoughts
I usually don't talk much about the outstate but some noteworthy items there too.
  • 13,893 was the attendance for the AAA/AAAA championship session.  Big crowd in the upper deck.  That's the biggest crowd at state that I can recall in my time at the tourney.  Great to see the turnout.  Austin fans brought 25 fan buses, wow.
  • Loved the Austin band, great variety.
  • Crosby-Ironton band also deserves a mention.  Hearing a quality rendition of Thriller on each of the last 2 days was well worth it.  The band director taking multiple roles directing with 1 hand, playing lead trumpet with the other. Then picking up signs and pom poms to cheer the Rangers on during play.
  • Center Noah Gindorff of Crosby-Ironton was a nice outstate player that I hadn't seen.  He was the key to all of the Rangers offense.  When JaVonni Bickham got in foul trouble in the championship game, I thought he should have received far more post touches to take advantage.  While Crosby-Ironton missed some open looks, I thought Gindorff's lack of touches hurt their final chances.
  • The future is bright.  North Woods, North, Minnehaha, Apple Valley, Lake City, Cretin-Derham Hall, Austin and more all return plenty of talent from state qualifiers. 

2017 6AAAA Championship Thoughts

Prologue
Now 3 days of section finals to prepare for the state tourney.  Its the traditional Wednesday finish in 6AAAA.  That's Osseo hosting a Lake Conference rubber match between top seed Wayzata and 2 seed Hopkins.  Both bands on hand which is never a bad thing.  Especially after no bands for the 5AAAA doubleheader last night.  More Jet's pizza and Pepsi on the concessions menu.

Game Time
Wayzata opens with a pair of triples countered by a pair of Hopkins hoops.  Ish El-Amin stops an 8-2 run with floater out of a timeout.  14-8 Wayzata at the midpoint of the 1st half.  Then its soph Luke Paulson off the bench with a pair of triples.  Ryan Lindberg with his 2nd 3 of the night.  25-11 Wayzata at 6:13.  31-19 Wayzata at the break. 

Hopkins would rally to within 7 with an El-Amin drive and Zeke Nnaji 3 point play.  But a big story was how Wayzata made Hopkins pay for mistakes.  Shooting foul, turnover and 2 bad shots and Wayzata converts all of that into a 9-0 run in 2 minutes.  Gavin Baumgartner 4 free throws, Lindberg for 2 and Drew Galinson with a triple.  40-24 Wayzata with 14:18 left and this one is out of hand.  Blaise Beauchamp with a hoop but can't convert the 3 point play. That cuts the lead to 11 but Wayzata gets a hoop and Paulson tacks on yet another triple.

Hopkins tries to stay close with a Dane Zimmer hoop, El-Amin bucket and a Anthony Davis drive.  47-37 Wayzata with 9:35 left.  But the Trojans won't give up the lead.  Alex Jensen runs for a layup after a block and puts back a miss on a long possession.  Jacob Beeninga adds 2 freebies and the lead is back to 16 with 6:23 left.  Its bucket trading and free throws after that.  Wayzata wins 66-51 and is the 1st team to advance to state.  This is the 1st Wayzata appearance at state since 1959.

Post Game
Hopkins finishes their season 23-6.  Ish El-Amin leads the Royals with 17 points.  Zeke Nnaji adds 16.  Shot selection was a huge issue for the Royals.  Way too many tough shots.  Plus they couldn't get big stops.  The bigs were not a factor inside which was the main advantage.  Nnaji had 16 but mostly on dump offs not on postups. 

Wayzata gets 16 points from Ryan Lindberg.  A quiet 10 from Gavin Baumgartner (2 buckets) is the only other guy in double figures.  But 2 others had 9 and 3 others had 6.  The bench outscores the Hopkins bench 19-6 with Luke Paulson's 3 triples being 9 of those.  This was a clinic in great offense.  The term good to great shot is becoming large in today's game and this was a textbook clinic in it.  Basic pass and cut action with the flare screen thrown in from time to time.  Wayzata was very patient and moved the ball to great looks.  Their guards, particularly the tiny sophomore guards Paulson and Beeninga, didn't turn it over.  Anytime Hopkins made a mistake, Wayzata would hit a big shot to demoralize them.  As to state seeding, I think they'll get the 5 seed if all holds.  Lakeville North, Champlin Park, Apple Valley and Maple Grove would slot in front of them.  But I think they would be in front of Chaska (worst case from 2AAAA), anybody from 7AAAA and in front of either Tartan or CDH from 4AAAA.