2019-20 Season in a Nutshell

This is the final preview in the 2019-2020 Season Preview series.  Per normal tradition, it concludes with a season overview for the casual fan.  This is a higher level simplified preview for those who don't eat, sleep and breathe hoops like the rest of us.  Its who and what you need to see and when and where to see it.  If you missed any of the 121 team previews over 13 conferences or the 14 section previews, a full list of them can be found here.

10 Local Events
  • Nov 30th - Big 12 Classic at Champlin Park
  • Dec 7 - Boys Tipoff Classic at Hopkins
  • Dec 14 - Southside Showcase at Minnehaha and Hiawatha Academy
  • Jan 3rd and 4th - Sierra Canyon (CA) and Patrick School (NJ) at Minnehaha
  • Jan 11th - Basketball Showcase at Minneapolis Henry
  • Jan 18th - Hall of Fame Winter Classic at Anoka-Ramsey CC
  • Jan 18th - Bragging Rights Classic at Prairie Seeds Academy
  • Jan 20th - Dream Classic at Minneapolis Roosevelt
  • Jan 25th - South Metro Hoopfest at Burnsville
  • Feb 1st - Community Clash at St. Michael-Albertville
As usual the Breakdown Sports USA events kickoff the season with a bang.  A rematch of last season's class AAA title game between De La Salle and Waseca is just one of the notable games on the Big 12 schedule.  Waseca and Mankato East are a couple of outstate teams with tough matchups on the main court in the Tipoff Classic.  All 10 teams in the AAAA Breakdown top 10 will be on the main court along with 4 of the top 6 in AAA and #1AA Waseca.  Lake City and Caledonia are 2 of the top 5 class AA heavyweights playing on the east court.

The Southside Showcase expands to 2 gyms and 14 games.  Minnehaha has all big school games.  Don't sleep on the small school teams just down the street at Hiawatha.  Hiawatha, Cristo Rey, Hope Academy, Blake and Mayer Lutheran plus tradition power Rushford-Peterson are a good group of teams that will all be playing there.

Speaking of Minnehaha, they'll host a monster set of games on the 1st weekend of the new year.  Friday night will feature national powers Sierra Canyon of California and The Patrick School of New Jersey.  Sierra Canyon's roster has Bronny James (Lebron's son) amongst many high profile guys.  The Patrick School is loaded too.  They'll play each other on Friday night along with Minnehaha hosting Park Center.  Then Sierra Canyon sticks around to play Minnehaha on Saturday in the local game of the year.  Rumor says there might be ESPN involvement too.

The usual Tim Williams events dot the rest of the January calendar.  But 1 new event pops up with the Minnesota basketball hall of fame putting on an event at Anoka-Ramsey.  A possible state title preview there with the 2 top preseason favorites, Eden Prairie and Park Center, going at it.  It also includes the best chance for metro fans to catch the Madsen twins in action (Cincinnati commits) as they take on East Ridge.

10 Other Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • De La Salle at North St. Paul - Dec 5th 
  • Minnehaha at Hopkins - Dec 17th 
  • Eden Prairie at East Ridge - Dec 21st
  • East Ridge holiday tourney- Dec 27th and 28th
  • De La Salle at Hopkins - Jan 10th 
  • Prior Lake at Chaska - Jan 30th
  • Eden Prairie at De La Salle - Feb 1st 
  • De La Salle at Cretin-Derham Hall - Feb 15th
  • Eden Prairie at Minnehaha - Feb 18th
  • De La Salle at Minnehaha - Feb 22nd
There's nothing like a good grudge match and the first 2 games fit that bill.  North St. Paul went to the island and got everybody's attention with a win there last season.  Minnehaha has lost 3 straight to Hopkins over the last 2 years including their only 2 losses last season.  A tough trio of games for Ben Carlson and East Ridge to end the calendar year.  AAAA favorite Eden Prairie comes calling to start the holiday break.  Then Ben Carlson goes head to head with future Wisconsin teammate Steven Crowl to start their holiday tournament.  They finish that tourney against Minnehaha.  State contenders and powerhouses Hopkins and De La Salle have a return game to start the new year.  Prior Lake's only major solo non-conference matchup is a tough section battle at Chaska right in the middle of the South Suburban season.   De La Salle gets in a couple of rivalry games in February with CDH and Minnehaha.

10 Conference Games to Watch
  • Prior Lake at Shakopee - Jan 7th
  • Tartan at North St. Paul- Jan 14th
  • Eden Prairie at Hopkins - Jan 16th
  • Champlin Park at Park Center - Jan 28th
  • Cristo Rey at St. Croix Prep - Jan 28th
  • Shakopee at Prior Lake - Feb 7th
  • Hopkins at Eden Prairie - Feb 11th
  • North St. Paul at Tartan - Feb 14th
  • St. Croix Prep at Cristo Rey - Feb 18th
  • Cretin-Derham Hall at East Ridge - Feb 28th
The beauty in this list of games is not just the conference implications, but also the section seeding impacts.  8 of these 10 games are section matchups with the Hopkins vs Eden Prairie games being possible 1 seed matchups and a state title preview.  Great rivalries here too with Prior Lake and Shakopee in the section 2AAAA and a very underrated district rivalry in section 4AAAA between Tartan and North St. Paul.  Cristo Rey and St. Croix Prep had a tight non-conference game last year and are favorites in section 4AA.  Champlin Park vs Park Center is the only meeting between the division favorites in the NW Suburban and 2 of the best teams in section 5AAAA along with Osseo.  The regular season finale between CDH and East Ridge is too good to resist with a league title and top seed in section 4AAAA possibly up for grabs.

10 Upperclassmen to Watch
  • Ben Carlson - East Ridge
  • Steven Crowl - Eastview
  • Dain Dainja - Park Center
  • Drake Dobbs - Eden Prairie
  • Dawson Garcia - Prior Lake
  • J'Vonne Hadley - Cretin-Derham Hall
  • Chet Holmgren - Minnehaha 
  • Jacob Hutson - Edina
  • Jalen Suggs - Minnehaha
  • Kerwin Walton - Hopkins
10 Underclassmen You Need to Know
  • Prince Aligbe - Minnehaha
  • Kendall Blue - East Ridge
  • Braeden Carrington - Park Center 
  • Chase Carter - Minnehaha Academy
  • Taison Chatman - Totino-Grace
  • Camden Heide - Wayzata
  • Tre Holloman - Cretin-Derham Hall
  • Emmett Johnson - Holy Angels 
  • CJ O'Hara - Totino-Grace 
  • Elvis Nnaji - Hopkins
10 Local Teams to Watch
  • Cretin-Derham Hall
  • De La Salle
  • Eastview
  • East Ridge
  • Eden Prairie
  • Hopkins
  • Minnehaha Academy
  • Park Center
  • Prior Lake
  • Shakopee
Current 10 Games or More Streaks In Conference Play
  • De La Salle - 40 wins
  • Minneapolis North - 39 wins
  • Minnehaha Academy - 32 wins (23 in a row overall)
  • East Ridge- 23 wins
  • St. Paul Central - 17 wins
  • Park Center - 15 wins
  • Tartan - 14 wins
  • Cristo Rey Jesuit - 12 wins (in EMAC, move to Skyline this season)
  • Lakeville North - 10 wins
  • Hill-Murray - 17 losses
  • International School of Minnesota/Eagle Ridge Academy - 14 losses* 
  • Richfield - 13 losses (in Metro West, move to Tri-Metro this season)
* The International School of Minnesota/Eagle Ridge Academy streak ends this year as the programs are no longer doing their co-op.  ISM now combines with Chesterton but that will be under an independent banner this year.  Eagle Ridge joins the new era of the MCAA.
Season Thoughts
Its another quality year in class AAAA thanks to a deep 2020 class.  Park Center and Eden Prairie stand out as immediate favorites but the loss of Ariel Bland leaves a hole inside for Eden Prairie.  Hopkins won't be big either but will have lots of firepower on the perimeter with Kerwin Walton leading that crew.  Cretin-Derham Hall will be similar to that with J'Vonne Hadley filling the stat sheet on the wing and Tre Holloman running the show.  There's also plenty to talk about with big guys too.  Dawson Garcia at Prior Lake, Steven Crowl at Eastview and Ben Carlson at East Ridge will all make their teams forces to be reckoned with.  Can't forget Jacob Hutson of Edina in that group of outstanding bigs either.  I'm also looking forward to how Osseo and Champlin Park reload with young talent. 

Minnehaha moves up to AAA and is the heavy favorite thanks to a roster that may be as talented from top to bottom as we've seen in Minnesota.  De La Salle has talent but lacks experience and an obvious high level guy on the offensive end.  But Cade Haskins may be the guy to fill that role. Don't expect Holy Angels to go away, they were very good at all levels last year and have turned around in a hurry.  Soph Emmet Johnson is a big reason for that.  Totino-Grace has a group of very talented freshmen that will be a fun story to follow in the tough NW Suburban schedule.  St. Croix Lutheran has a nice junior class that can make a run this year and next.

As to the small schools, I think the races in the new Skyline conference and the renewed/revamped EMAC be really fun to watch.  St. Croix Prep and Cristo Rey have outstanding guard play that will make them very dangerous all season.  Those 2 look to be on a collision course in section 4AA.  Section 4A will once again be an entertaining mess figure out with Hope Academy, CHOF and the EMAC elite going after a trip to state.  Thomas Conroy won't put up the same crazy stats he did last year for Liberty thanks to an upgrade in competition but he's still an inside threat to be dealt with.  Hope's Caleb Hoilien will play all 5 spots and have a big year trying to get beyond last year's section final loss.  Hiawatha's freshman make them appealing to follow over the next few years.

So now that all the predictions and off season work are in, its time to let the season play out on the court.  Good luck to all and I hope everyone will #ShockTheCzar.

2019-20 Section 8AAAA Preview

This is the 27th preview in my 2019-2020 season preview series.  This is the final class AAAA preview, a look at section 8AAAA.  Tomorrow the series wraps up with a season overview.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 8AAAA (7 teams)
Defending Champion: Maple Grove

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Tuesday, March 3rd
Semifinals: Saturday, March 7th at St. Cloud Tech
Finals: Thursday, March 12th at Monticello

Predicted Seeding
  1. Maple Grove
  2. Moorhead 
  3. Buffalo 
  4. Brainerd
  5. St. Michael-Albertville 
  6. Rogers 
  7. Elk River
Maple Grove looks to defend their crown as section champs but it could be wild and very wide open.  Moorhead loses star Maleeck Harden-Hayes but with lefty veteran Drew Hagen leading the way from his do everything forward spot and the Walthall twins amongst the returnees at the guard spots, the Spuds will make a run here.  Buffalo despite losing Tony Dahl and Aidan Bowman can't be counted out as they still have Matt Willert to build around.  Tough 3 night section stretch for Maple Grove as they visit Buffalo, host Rogers and then Moorhead on Dec 11th thru 13th.  Brainerd should be very respectable as well.  STMA will get beat up by the Lake Conference schedule but they have a couple of solid pieces as well.  The loss of Sean Buchanan is a hit though.  Rogers and Elk River are both looking at down seasons.

Sleeper: Brainerd. They return a couple of double figure scorers and did pull off a home win vs Wayzata last year.

Section Winner: Maple Grove.  They return quality size and have plenty of options that will step in on the perimeter.  That depth will carry them through to another state appearance.

2019-20 Section 7AAAA Preview

This is the 26th preview in my 2019-2020 season preview series.  The class AAAA previews move on to section 7AAAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 7AAAA (7 teams)
Defending Champion: Cambridge-Isanti

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Wednesday, March 4th
Semifinals: Saturday, March 7th at Elk River
Finals: Thursday, March 12th at Elk River

Predicted Seeding
  1. Cambridge-Isanti 
  2. Duluth East
  3. Coon Rapids 
  4. Forest Lake
  5. Blaine
  6. Anoka
  7. Andover
Cambridge-Isanti loses 3 double figure scorers but they still have 2 of the best shooters around in Henry Abraham and Micah Ladd.  Ryan Cox will step into that group as well.  Connor Braaten will fill in nicely for London Williams on the front line.  They have section road games at Duluth East (12/17), Coon Rapids, Forest Lake and Blaine.  They also have Wayzata, Eden Prairie and Edina at home.  Duluth East returns 3 starters and a top reserve from last season.  Will Van Scoy at a guard spot and center Noah Paulson and Mattie Thompson on the wing give them a nice trio for the next 2 years.  Beyond that, its the local teams.  Coon Rapids appears to be the best of the rest with a quality front line.  Forest Lake and Blaine will battle for the last home game.  Anoka will try to jump in that group as well.  Andover will struggle.

Sleeper: Coon Rapids.  They do have good size returning plus that funky 1-3-1 makes you prepare differently.

Section Winner: Cambridge-Isanti. I think the Bluejackets get it done again with their offense.  The matchup zone is another difficulty to prepare for as well.

2019-20 Section 6AAAA Preview

This is the 25th preview in my 2019-2020 season preview series.  The class AAAA previews continue with a look at section 6AAAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 6AAAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: Hopkins (State Champion)

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Wednesday, March 4th
Semifinals: Friday, March 6th at Osseo
Finals: Wednesday, March 11th at Osseo

Predicted Seeding
  1. Hopkins
  2. Wayzata
  3. Robbinsdale Armstrong
  4. St. Louis Park
  5. Robbinsdale Cooper
  6. Minneapolis Washburn
  7. Minneapolis South
  8. Minneapolis Southwest
The usual suspects of Hopkins and Wayzata lead the way again.  Both teams can really fill it up on the wings.  Armstrong is clearly next in line with plenty coming back from an 18 win group last year.  Then its a sea of orange behind these teams.  Metro West members St. Louis Park and Robbinsdale Cooper will battle it out for the final home game.  The Minneapolis City comes in behind them.  Washburn with the most back gets the nod.  South and Southwest battle to stay out of the last seed.

Sleeper: Robbindale Armstrong.  With a solid returning group and a couple of youngsters ready to step into bigger roles, the Falcons have the best chance to surprise in this section.

Section Winner: Hopkins.  Too much offense from the Royals.  Kerwin Walton with a big year leading the Royals back to state.

2019-20 Section 5AAAA Preview

This is the 24th preview in my 2019-2020 season preview series.  In this 6th and final week of previews, I complete the last half of the class AAAA section previews and then finish up with the annual season overview on Friday.  Today its section 5AAAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 5AAAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: Park Center

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Wednesday, March 4th
Semifinals: Tuesday, March 10th at Coon Rapids
Finals: Friday, March 13th at Rogers

Predicted Seeding
  1. Park Center
  2. Champlin Park
  3. Osseo
  4. Spring Lake Park 
  5. Roseville
  6. Centennial
  7. Mounds View
  8. Irondale
Park Center is a heavy favorite here and a state championship threat with all the pieces.  Then a very interesting battle behind them for 2nd between Champlin Park and Osseo.  They'll meet on Jan 17th at Champlin Park in a game that could decide that seed.  Both have lots of talented new guys stepping into the rotation.  Spring Lake Park's experience will keep them in the fight with that group as well.  Roseville and Centennial will battle it out behind them.  Then the Mounds View district lags behind.

Sleeper: Centennial.  Shooting comes and goes and can be suspect in the playoffs.  Not sure they can stop the size in this section. But if they get hot in the right matchup, an upset could happen.

Section Winner: Park Center.  The lineup is too loaded and experienced to not pick them.  Dain Dainja is a monster inside.  Josh Brown gives them a shooter.  DT Frierson can do multiple things for them.  Then a bunch of interchangeable parts off the bench.  John Grigsby as a stretch 4 is another important dimension for them.

2019-20 Section 4AAAA Preview

This is the 23rd preview in my 2018-2019 season preview series.  Continuing our look at the class AAAA sections, we move on to section 4.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 4AAAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: East Ridge

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Wednesday, March 4th
Semifinals: Saturday, March 7th at Hastings
Finals: Thursday, March 12th at Hastings

Predicted Seeding
  1. Cretin-Derham Hall
  2. East Ridge
  3. North St. Paul
  4. Tartan
  5. Woodbury  
  6. St. Paul Central 
  7. White Bear Lake 
  8. Stillwater
While not as strong as section 2, this section also has 3 projected conference champs plus 2 other projected runners-up.  East Ridge will have their hands full defending the section title.  Cretin-Derham Hall sticks out as a favorite.  East Ridge still has Ben Carlson and some young guys who will have to step into bigger roles.  The inexperienced guard play could be a major factor against the other top teams here.  North St. Paul and Tartan will battle it out in the Metro East.  North St. Paul's crazy difficult December schedule will help them prepare.  That includes the season opener at home vs Cretin-Derham Hall on December 3rd.  That's a must win for North St. Paul if they want any kind of top 2 seed considering how the Suburban East votes in bloc.  Woodbury and St. Paul Central will battle it out behind that group.  Central has a ton to replace but the St. Paul City schedule will help their record.  They have the young talent to do it as well with the freshman and JV squads playing the Twin Cities games last season.  Woodbury has a few pieces coming back as they look to make a jump.  White Bear Lake and Stillwater have to replace just about everybody.  But White Bear Lake as a couple of replacements ready to step in that should keep them out of the 8 seed.

Sleeper: Woodbury.  No expectations and they are experienced which is more than a lot of the section can say.

Section Winner: Cretin-Derham Hall.  Too much offensive firepower here with Curtis Jones and J'Vonne Hadley on the wings.  Plus they have star PG Tre Holloman to make it all go.  Add in Amari Carter and Will Burke to fill front court roles and they have to be the pick.

2019-20 Section 3AAAA Preview

This is the 22nd preview in my 2019-2020 season preview series.  Continuing our look at the class AAAA sections, we move on to section 3.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 3AAAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: Eastview

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Thursday, March 5th
Semifinals: Monday, March 9th at Farmington
Finals: Friday, March 13th at Farmington

Predicted Seeding
  1. Eastview
  2. Lakeville North
  3. Eagan  
  4. Apple Valley 
  5. Hastings 
  6. Burnsville
  7. Park
  8. Rosemount
After an 8 year hiatus and sweep in Section 1AAAA, business has picked up with Lakeville North returning to section 3AAAA.  They replace Henry Sibley who dropped down to section 3AAA.  Lakeville South is the last team to beat Lakeville North in both sections.  Its a weak section with only 1 team projected above 5th in their league.  So Lakeville North's chances are still reasonable to reload and keep their 8 year streak of state trips alive.  Don't expect John Oxton's crew to fall far as they'll fill in with some nice JV pieces from last year.  Eagan has lots of shooting coming back and Apple Valley has experience back.  Hastings loses their size but they have a quality guard in Devon Haraldson coming back from injury and a couple other returning guards.  They should battle for the final home game.  Burnsville will  try to jump in that mix as well.  Park has to replace a ton of talent from last year's team.  Rosemount continues to rebuild.

Sleeper: Burnsville.  Daniel Rosenbur gives Burnsville a chance to move up but not much help for him.

Section Winner: Eastview. They are deeper and bigger than everybody in the section.  Star Steven Crowl in the middle, Ryan Thissen on the wing and Jaylen James at the point are solid and they have plenty of pieces to go around them.