2016-17 Metro West Conference Preview

This is the 9th preview in my 2016-2017 season preview series.  This 3rd week and final week of conference previews will cover mostly class AAAA schools.  Then we'll move on to the 2nd half of the preview series by looking at the metro area sections.  In this preview, a look at the Metro West Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are done, click here.

Benilde St. Margaret's Red Knights (2015-16 season 17-10, 9-5 Conference, Tie 3rd)
Double figure scorers Sam Baker and Eli Cave need to be replaced.  Wing Derek Drees and PG Will Whitmore return to the lineup.  Joe Dunn will see time up front.  Shooter Michael Wexler will also see an expanded role.  Soph Jamison Battle is a big wing who has a chance to break out with this group

Bloomington Jefferson Jaguars (2015-16 season 17-9, 11-3 Conference, 2nd)
The Jags return their top 3 players from last year.  Versatile forwards Tyler Riemersma and Jack Tillotson return with PG Joe Hird.  That trio all averaged double figures and a combined 36+ PPG.  The only other returnee is forward Peter Gathje.  Depth will come from a solid group of juniors including Mike Evens and Gavin Lyons.

Bloomington Kennedy Eagles (2015-16 season 0-27, 0-14 Conference, 8th)
Kennedy has lost 31 straight and 37 of their last 39 games.  Raheem Simmons takes over for Willie Braziel who returned to Columbia Heights.  PG Markel Aune returns to run the show after averaging 18.5 PPG.   Josh Bryant returns with 10.5 PPG.  There's a group of juniors led by Dimarco Johnson that figure to make up most of the rest of the rotation.

Chanhassen Storm (2015-16 season 6-20, 4-10 Conference, 6th)
Leading scorer Trey Prince returns with 12.1 PPG.  Plenty of other experience returns despite losing 3 top scorers.  Jordan Bonk is another top returnee.  Keagan Williams is an option on the wing.  Chris Wandling gives the Storm a ballhandler.

Chaska Hawks (2015-16 season 21-6, 12-2 Conference, 1st)
The Hawks have won both Metro West Conference titles and are the favorites again this year.  Columbia commit Myles Hanson (24.1 PPG) returns on the wing.  PG Andrew Kallman (12.4 PPG) is also back.  Alex Strazzanti should be back after missing last year due to injury.  Soph Cole Nicholson will see time on the front line.

Richfield Spartans (2015-16 season 11-17, 2-12 Conference, 7th)
2 of the 3 leading scorers for coach Omar McMillan have graduated.  Antonio Maddox should be a top option after putting up 11.4 PPG last year.  Malik Hunter gives the Spartans size and 8.9 PPG.  Davis Miles and Jabari Atiim also return to the rotation.

Robbinsdale Cooper Hawks (2015-16 season 18-8, 9-5 Conference, Tie 3rd)
Coach Bo Powell's squad was the pleasant surprise of the league last year.  Melvin Newbern departs after a big season.  His play inside will be sorely missed.  But brother Beijan Newbern returns on the wing with 14.6 PPG.  Plus double figure scorers Nate Hill and Damien Gordon return.  Devin Mosby and Jalen Miller also return to the rotation.  Small and quick and they'll get after it in the full court.
St. Louis Park Orioles (2015-16 season 18-9, 9-5 Conference, Tie 3rd)
The Orioles improved from 1 win 3 years ago to 9 wins 2 years ago to 18 wins last season. Leading scorer Ray Whitlock graduated but everybody else is back.  Junior Cire Mayfield runs the show with Mykal Howard on the wing as double figure scorers.  Ryan Domres and Jack Lynch are the inside guys.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Chaska
  2. Bloomington Jefferson 
  3. St. Louis Park
  4. Robbinsdale Cooper  
  5. Benilde-St. Margaret's  
  6. Chanhassen
  7. Richfield
  8. Bloomington Kennedy
Conference Overview
You have 5 teams at the top who won 17 or more games last year.  You could make a case that all of them expect to do the same this year.  I won't bet against the defending champs.  Jefferson has their top trio back and always plugs guys in so I expect them to be right there as well.  The next section is orange and black.  St. Louis Park and Cooper should battle with BSM for the next 3 spots.  But any of that group could knock off the top 2 at any time.  Then there's a big drop off.  Chanhassen gets my vote for best of the rest with their experience coming back.  Richfield and Kennedy will struggle in league.

Conference MVP: Myles Hanson - Chaska

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Jamison Battle, Dylan Drees, Maciah Harut - Benilde-St. Margaret's
  • Regan Tollefson - Chanhassen
  • Cole Nicholson - Chaska
  • Jalen Miller, Jalen Justice - Robbinsdale Cooper
  • Josh Rogers - St. Louis Park
Conference Games to Watch
  • Chaska at St. Louis Park - Jan 17th 
  • Bloomington Jefferson at Robbinsdale Cooper - Jan 17th
  • Bloomington Jefferson at Chaska - Jan 20th 
  • Chaska at Benilde-St. Margaret's - Jan 24th 
  • Bloomington Jefferson at St. Louis Park - Jan 24th
  • Chaska at Robbinsdale Cooper - Feb 7th
  • Robbinsdale Cooper at Bloomington Jefferson - Feb 10th
  • Chaska at Bloomington Jefferson - Feb 14th 
  • Bloomington Jefferson at Benilde-St. Margaret's - Feb 21st
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • St. Louis Park at Minnehaha Academy - Dec 9th
  • Chaska vs Woodbury - Dec 10th - (Breakdown Tipoff Classic at Hopkins)
  • Lakeville North at Chaska - Dec 13th
  • Chaska vs North St. Paul - Dec 17th (Metro East vs Metro West Challenge at St. Thomas Academy)
  • Bloomington Jefferson at Wayzata - Jan 3rd
  • Chaska at Orono  - Jan 10th

2016-17 Metro East Conference Preview

This is the 8th preview in my 2016-2017 season preview series.  Thanks to the traditional MEA break, we'll end this 2nd week of previews here with a look at the Metro East Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and an explanation of how the previews are generated, click here.

Hastings Raiders (2015-16 season 12-15, 9-7 Conference, 4th)
The Raiders did the best job of rebuilding from major personnel losses last year.  This year most of the roster returns.  20 PPG from forward Brady Gullicks needs to be replaced.  Guard Brandon Haroldson leads the returnees and reached double figures scoring per game last year.  Fellow guard Collin Kummer returns along with junior forward Sawyer Levos.

Henry Sibley Warriors (2015-16 season 7-20, 5-11 Conference, Tie 6th)
Former Tartan assistant John Carrier takes over for Lernell James.  He has to replace most of the rotation.  Junior PG Rieshaun Satar averaged just under 9 a game last year and will be the focus of the offense.  Wing Jack Korte also returns to the rotation.  Antonio Vibar looks like he'll be the new guy in the middle.  Junior Kendall Williams will see a bigger role on the wing as well.

Hill-Murray Pioneers (2015-16 season 6-21, 5-11 Conference, Tie 6th)
Trevor Davis returns to the metro from the southern JUCO ranks to take over.  He spent time coaching here with Wear Out The Net.  He also has a ton to replace with 5 members of the rotation gone.  That includes 16 PPG from center Chris Moore.  PG Simeon Davis returns for a 3rd year at the point for the Pioneers.  He averaged almost 17 PPG.  Junior guard Lance Meniboon will see a much bigger role.  New coach and new players who struggled last year could mean a very long season.

Mahtomedi Zephyrs (2015-16 season 19-8, 12-4 Conference, 3rd)
The Zephrys have unfinished business after a shocking top seed upset in the 1st round of the playoffs last year.  Explosive forward Parker Fox (Northern St recruit) is 1 of 3 returning starters.  PG Shayne Frost and guard Will Tuttle also return.  Fox and Frost combined for 35 PPG last year.  Lincoln Rock is a guard who came off the bench last year.  Forwards Andy Voyen and Kaleb Siekmeyer provide inside depth.  Forward Lucas Buller is the main loss.

North Polars (2015-16 season 24-6, 15-1 Conference, Tie 1st)
It was a magical run to the state tourney for the Fighting Janquarts last season.  No fewer than 6 members of that group have graduated.  The leadership and swiss army knife game of Adreon Wadlington will missed more than people realize.  He was also the leading scorer at 12.3 PPG.  But the cupboard isn't bare.  Juniors Goodnews Kpegeol and Bryce Phillips are back.  Phillips will run the show while Goodnews is the top returning scorer at 11.4 PPG.  Add in the healthy return of shooter Josh Steckler (9.2 PPG) and you have a solid perimeter trio.  There are questions in the middle.
St. Thomas Academy Cadets (2015-16 season 9-20, 5-11 Conference, Tie 6th)
The Cadets have another new head coach this season.  Now alumnus Jason Birr comes in from NDSCS to take over.  Leading scorers Nate Chaffee (17.7 PPG) and guard Joe Harvey (10 PPG) have graduated.  Junior wing Sam Vascellaro is the top returning option at 9.9 PPG.  TJ Wright and Sam Schleper return to the lineup along with Eddie Perry and big man Nolan Sullivan.

Simley Spartans (2015-16 season 14-15, 6-10 Conference, 5th)
Simley was the survivor of section 3AAA least year despite not beating a team with a winning record.  They need to replace guard Jack Stensgard who averaged 27.7 PPG as the focal point of the offense.  Junior Jake Binley returns after putting up 16+ PPG last year.  DeAndre Smith also returns as a double figure scorer.

South St. Paul Packers (2015-16 season 2-25, 0-16 Conference, 9th)
49 straight league home losses now for the Packers.  Most of the rotation including forward Zach Taylor is gone.  But if Boo, The Mini Ref is around, it can't be that bad.  The rebuilding effort continues but expect another struggle to get in the win column.

Tartan Titans (2015-16 season 24-5, 15-1 Conference, Tie 1st)
New hall of fame coach Mark Klingsporn will have a ton of experience coming back.  Jordan Horn runs the point and Joevon Walker will work up front.  Add in shooter Noah Wahlen and defender Kingston Myles as returnees to the starting lineup.  Forwards Elijah Johnson and Jarvis Thomas (now at Orono) need to be replaced.  Defender Denario Jackson missed most of last season but his defense will be missed.  Jordan Thompson and soph Antwan Kimmons also return. 

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Tartan
  2. Mahtomedi
  3. North
  4. Hastings  
  5. St. Thomas Academy    
  6. Simley 
  7. Henry Sibley 
  8. Hill-Murray 
  9. South St. Paul
Conference Overview
To show how down the league was last year, consider these numbers.  Mahtomedi had just 3 wins of their 19 total versus teams with a winning record.  The 6 league teams below them had 50 wins total with only 2 vs winning teams (both in playoffs).  1 of those 2 was Hill-Murray's shocking 8 vs 1 upset of Mahtomedi in the 1st round of the 4AAA playoffs.

Tartan is the clear favorite despite losing Jarvis Thomas.  Mahtomedi and North will battle for 2nd with the teams playing at North on the final night of the regular season.  Very torn on that pick.  Hastings has the most back and was 4th last year so they stay there.  Simley and St. Thomas Academy battle for 5th.  Sibley and Hill-Murray duke it out for 7th as new coaches rebuild.  South St. Paul continues to hold down the final slot.

Conference MVP: Jordan Horn - Tartan

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Malik Spearman-Tschida - Henry Sibley
  • Isaiah Robinson - Simley
  • Antwan Kimmons - Tartan
Conference Games to Watch
  • Tartan at Mahtomedi - Jan 13th  
  • North at Tartan - Jan 27th
  • North at Mahtomedi - Feb 3rd
  • Mahtomedi at Tartan - Feb 10th
  • Tartan at North - Feb 21st
  • Mahtomedi at North - Mar 3rd
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • North vs Chaska - Dec 17th (Metro East vs Metro West Challenge at St. Thomas Academy) 
  • North vs Cristo Rey - Dec 22nd (Hamline Tourney)
  • Mahtomedi at Columbia Heights - Jan 5th
  • Tartan vs Whitefish Bay (WI) - Jan 28th (Border Battle at Apple Valley)
  • St. Anthony at Mahtomedi - Feb 21st

2016-17 Minneapolis City Preview

This is the 7th preview in my 2016-2017 season preview series.  Week 2 of the 6 week series stays in the city with a look at the Minneapolis City Conference.  For a list of all the season previews, click here.

Edison Tommies (2015-16 season 1-24, 0-12 Conference, 7th)
The Tommies ended up forfeiting the last month of their season.  Monteff Dixon takes over as the new head coach.  They played a bunch of young kids last year so they'll still struggle.  Larrion Davis is a notable returnee.

FAIR Falcons (2015-16 season 5-18, 5-6 TCIS 4th)
Now that FAIR is under the Minneapolis schools umbrella, they join the Minneapolis City Conference.  Former Prairie Seeds and Metro School College Prep head coach Tim Williams takes over the program.  Juniors Dameon Jones and Treavon Nystrom lead the way.

North Polars (2015-16 season 29-5, 11-1 Conference, 1st, Class A State Champion)
The defending class A state champs lose the dynamic trio of Tyler Johnson, Jamil Jackson and Patrick Dembley.  They combined for 45 PPG.  But coach Larry McKenzie's cupboard isn't bare.  Isaac Johnson and 14.9 PPG returns on the wing.  12.2 PPG from junior center Odell Wilson is back in the middle.  Guards JaQuan Sanders-Smith and Tayler Johnson return along with a loaded JV squad.

Patrick Henry Patriots (2015-16 season 20-8, 9-3 Conference, 2nd)
Forward Julian Jackson (21.3 PPG) and guard Demetress Edwards-Brown (12.4 PPG) have graduated.  The Patriots still have a ton coming back.  Lamar Wood is a long lanky interior player.  Savion Scott and Jordan Lynn both averaged double figures in the backcourt last year.  That trio plus quality reserves makes them one of the better teams in AAA.

Roosevelt Teddies (2015-16 season 17-12, 5-7 Conference, Tie 4th)
Coach Rob Mestas has to replace his 2 top 2 scorers.  That's Elijah Hannah (17.4 PPG) and Martez Rodgers (14.2 PPG).  Devon Hannah is the top returning scorer at 8.6 PPG.  Junior Devon Wade-Henderson added 8.3 PPG.  Soph Luke Barnes will look to be a front line contributor.

South Tigers (2015-16 season 14-13, 7-5 Conference, 3rd)
Most of the rotation is gone from a squad that had some very nice wins last year.  That included wins over Johnson, Edina and Minnehaha along with a league win over Henry.  Jalan Jones and Malachi Lossow should step up into starting roles.

Southwest Lakers (2015-16 season 6-20, 5-7 Conference, Tie 4th)
The Lakers have to replace 2 of their top 3 scorers.  They do return forward Brennan Hawkins and 11.7 PPG.  Stretch forward Niko Polydorou returns after averaging 7.5 PPG.  Caine Knuckles will see time at the point.

Washburn Millers (2015-16 season 10-15, 5-7 Conference, Tie 4th)
7 foot center Charlie Irmiger and his 11.8 PPG have departed along with Fortay Johnson.  Plenty of guards return with Terrell Adams, Cortez Adams and Issac Lotz all returning to the lineup.  Brandon Charles is the main returning size.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. North
  2. Henry
  3. Roosevelt  
  4. Washburn   
  5. Southwest 
  6. South
  7. Edison
  8. FAIR
Conference Overview
North and Henry are the best 2 teams in the league and expect them to be highly ranked all year in A and AAA respectively.  Their matchups this season should be as high level as they've been in long time.  Roosevelt and Washburn make up the next tier.  Roosevelt here in a coin flip.  Southwest and South make up the next level.  I like Brennan Hawkins more than any returnee at South so I take the Lakers there.  Edison and FAIR bring up the rear after rough seasons last year.

Conference MVP: Isaac Johnson - North

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Eli Campbell, Nasir El-Amin - North
  • Luke Barnes, Bilal Rainey- Roosevelt
Conference Games to Watch
  • Henry at North - Jan 6th
  • North at Henry - Feb 7th
  • Twin Cities Game - Mar 4th (at Minneapolis champion)
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • North vs Apple Valley - Dec 3rd (Breakdown Girls TipOff Classic at Hopkins)
  • North vs Minnehaha - Dec 10th (Breakdown TipOff Classic at Hopkins)
  • Henry vs Marshall - Dec 10th (Breakdown TipOff Classic at Hopkins)
  • North at Hopkins - Dec 17th
  • Henry vs Orono - Dec 22nd (Hamline Tourney)
  • Hopkins at Henry - Jan 16th (MLK Classic)
  • Delano at Henry - Feb 21st

2016-17 St. Paul City Conference Preview

This is the 6th preview in my 2016-2017 season preview series.  We've looked at suburban schools and private schools.  Now we move to the city schools.  That means Week 2 of the 6 week preview series starts with a look at the St. Paul City Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Central Minutemen (2015-16 season 18-8, 10-2 Conference, Tie 1st)
The Minutemen lose their entire starting 5.  That includes 21+ PPG from wing Sam Gubbrud.  Top shooter Jack Beckman and top forward Abdi Muse also graduated.  Those 3 were worth 45 PPG.  Shawn Blanchard and Re'Twan Balenger are the top returnees.  Kelson Valentine looks to see time in the middle.  Ja'Quantay Winston and Erving Stewart will see backcourt minutes.

Como Park Cougars (2015-16 season 11-16, 5-7 Conference, Tie 4th)
The league's scorer Demetrice Mitchell graduated after 23.8 PPG (25.8 in league games).  The Cougars do have 1 double figure scorer returning in Jason Jett (10.1 PPG).  Donald Ventelli will see more inside minutes.  Kyrin Woodward and Cornell Chandler also return to the lineup.

Harding Knights (2015-16 season 8-17, 4-8 Conference, 6th)
Top scorer Essa Adam and Jamarcus Johnson are 2 departed double figure scorers.  Soph Jovan Christian returns after averaging 11 PPG.  Chris English returns to the starting lineup as a forward.  They will have some bench guys returning as well.

Highland Park Scots (2015-16 season 16-12, 8-4 Conference, 3rd)
Coach Jon DePerry has to replace 2 double-figure scoring guards including 19+ per night from Mike Cornelious.  Amitri Collins-Westlund returns with 16.7 PPG.  Returnees Dream Kelly-Jabbar and Josh Aune also saw major rotation minutes last year.

Humboldt Hawks (2015-16 season 8-17, 0-12 Conference, 7th)
The Hawks also have to replace 2 of their double figure scorers.  La'Vonta Bryant returns after averaging 11.1 PPG.  Soph Michael King and guard Patrico Webster also return to the rotation.

Johnson Governors (2015-16 season 15-13, 10-2 Conference, Tie 1st)
The Govs just barely held on to their 13 year reign at the top of the league.  That was the 1st time since the 2007-08 season. that they hadn't won the title outright.  Coach Vern Simmons has to replace most of the rotation.  That includes Lorenzo Smith who would have been the top returnee but is now at Minnehaha.  Dan Foster and Keylan Jackson will be bangers inside.  Xavier Roberts is one of the top returnees.  Their JV team did win the St. Paul City so those pieces will have to step up.

Washington Eagles (2015-16 season 13-13, 5-7 Conference, Tie 4th)
3 of the Eagles 4 double-figure scorers from last season are back.  That includes Curtis Bell and 17.3 PPG.  James Boua-Taylor and Maurice Carter also averaged about 11 PPG last year.  Soph Da'Quan Grimes will take over duties inside.

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Johnson
  2. Central
  3. Highland Park
  4. Washington
  5. Como Park
  6. Harding  
  7. Humboldt 
Conference Overview:
The league lays out very much the same as last year.  That means its as down as its been in a long time.  Johnson and Central battle it out for the top spot.  My gut says Central but I can't pick against Johnson until beaten despite Central taking them to the limit last year.  Highland Park and Washington split last year and I think they have a good battle for 3rd.  Como Park finishes above Harding and Humboldt who battle for the last spot.

Conference MVP: Amitri Collins-Westlund - Highland Park

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Daveonte Davis - Central
  • Jovan Christian - Harding
  • Michael King - Humboldt
  • Da'Quan Grimes - Washington
Conference Games to Watch
  • Central at Johnson - Jan 17th
  • Johnson at Central - Feb 9th
  • Twin Cities Game - Mar 4th (at Minneapolis champion)
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Columbia Heights at Central - Dec 2nd
  • Cretin-Derham Hall at Central - Dec 3rd
  • Johnson at Woodbury - Dec 6th
  • Central at Delano - Dec 13th
  • Central at Orono - Dec 17th
  • Johnson at Augsburg Holiday Tournament - Dec 28-30
  • Minnehaha at Central - Feb 16th

2016-17 Tri-Metro Preview

This is the 5th preview in my 2016-2017 season preview series.  Week 1 of the 6 week long series concludes with a look at the Tri-Metro Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Academy of Holy Angels Stars (2015-16 season 9-16, 4-8 Conference, 5th West)
Assistant BJ Etzold takes over the program.  Sam Boehne once again returns to lead the Stars inside.  He averaged 16.8 PPG last year.  Junior guard Ryan Mazurek (4.9 PPG) looks to fill the void left at 2 guard by the graduated Rob Metcalf (14.1 PPG).  Dan Voxland and Jack Anderson also return to the rotation.
Brooklyn Center Centaurs (2015-16 season 14-12, 5-7 Conference, 4th West)
Leading scorer Landon Kirkwood and 15.2 PPG is gone.  But the Centaurs went with a youth movement last year and see most of the rest of the rotation return.  Davonta Price gives them an athletic wing (13 PPG).  Soph Lu'Cye Patterson (11.4 PPG) takes the point and Deshawn Pickford (13 PPG) takes the other wing spot.  Size will be a problem.

Columbia Heights Hylanders (2015-16 season 16-9, 8-4 Conference, 2nd West)
Willie Braziel returns to the helm after spending 3 years at Bloomington Kennedy.  Top 2 scoring forwards Jarrett Baptiste (after what seems like 6000 years) and jumping jack Rodney Jones graduate.  That's almost 25 PPG.  But 3 juniors return to the starting lineup.  Guard Deaundra Roberson reached double figures.  Raw center Wendell Matthews was just behind that.  Guard Quentin Hardrict also returns to the starting lineup.
Concordia Academy Beacons (2015-16 season 3-24, 1-10 Conference, Tie 3rd East)
The top 3 scorers for the Beacons graduated.  That leaves 4.7 PPG from Brandon Lively as the top returning scorer.  They do have experience returning but not much firepower.  But coach Schutte is still the best dressed coach in the metro so at least that beacon burns brightly (with apologies to the white coat of Brooklyn Center head coach Matt McCollister).

De La Salle Islanders (2015-16 season 24-4, 11-1 Conference, 1st West, AAA State Champion)
The 5 time defending class AAA champs look to repeat again.  The 1 major loss is PG Samm Jones.  George Mason commit Goanar Mar (19.5 PPG) mans the front line.  Gabe Kalscheur is a go to player on the wing at over 20 PPG.  Soph Tyrell Terry will take over at the point.  Add in high level role guys like Sage Booker, Dominic Bledsoe, Christian Dickson and Will Irvin and you have another great season ahead.

Fridley Tigers (2015-16 season 13-14, 6-6 Conference, 3rd West)
Athletic forwards Tessy Pal (16.8 PPG) and Shyheem Murray (9.3 PPG) have graduated.  3 starters including Tyree Caruthers (12.6 PPG) and Tirik Reeves return to the lineup.  3 bench players including shooter Evan Nelsen also return to the rotation

St. Agnes Aggies (2015-16 season 11-16, 1-10 Conference, Tie 3rd East)
Former Hamline and Edina assistant Chris Hopkins takes over the program.  With his previous association to Michigan coach John Beilein, expect donut pivots galore.  Guard Cahlil Golden is gone to North St. Paul.  Also gone is 13.1 PPG from Liam Skulley.  Leading scorer Gary Smith (13.3 PPG) gives the Aggies an athletic forward to build around.  The return of Darius Lopez to the lineup is a boost.

St. Anthony Huskies (2015-16 season 19-8, 5-6 Conference, 2nd East)
The Huskies beat up on a very weak non-conference schedule to the tune of 14-1 on their way to a surprising 19 win season.  Guard Aaron Smith and forward Rhys Langums lead the starting lineup.  Freshman Tait Nelson also returns to the rotation.  Lots of experience from last year's balanced lineup departs.

St. Croix Lutheran Crusaders (2015-16 season 29-3, 11-0 Conference, 1st East, AA 3rd Place)
After 2 consecutive state 3rd place finishes and a 59-6 record, the Crusaders move on to a new era.   The top 4 scorers have graduated after combining for almost 60 PPG.  Forward Jamaris Johnson was a revelation once added to the starting lineup last year.  Junior forwards Garett Maag and Stephen Kletscher also return to an area of strength . The guards will be inexperienced.

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. St. Anthony 
  2. St. Croix Lutheran
  3. St. Agnes
  4. Concordia
  1. De La Salle
  2. Columbia Heights
  3. Brooklyn Center 
  4. Holy Angels   
  5. Fridley
Conference MVP: Gabe Kalscheur - De La Salle

Conference Overview:
The west is by far the stronger of the 2 divisions.  De La Salle of course is the favorite.  I like Columbia Heights over Brooklyn Center for 2nd as Heights won both meetings last year.  Holy Angels and Fridley battle for 4th and can surprise the 2 in front of them on any given night.

The east on the other hand leaves much more to be desired.  St. Anthony and St. Croix Lutheran will battle for the 1st spot but both are down from last year.  They look to be at about the level of the bottom teams in the west.  St. Agnes and Concordia will struggle to win a game against anybody else in the league besides themselves.

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Lu'Cye Patterson, Quentrell Douglas, Ridwan Tahir - Brooklyn Center
  • Barnabas Preble - Concordia
  • Tyrell Terry, Malik Lamin - De La Salle
  • Thomas Shelstad - Holy Angels
  • John Prokop, Terrell Jones - St. Agnes
  • Tait Nelson - St. Anthony
Conference Games to Watch
  • De La Salle at Columbia Heights - Jan 13th
  • Columbia Heights at De La Salle - Feb 14th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • De La Salle vs Des Moines Hoover - Dec 3rd (Breakdown Girls Tipoff at Hopkins)
  • De La Salle vs Maple Grove - Dec 10th (Breakdown Tipoff at Hopkins)
  • Osseo at De La Salle - Jan 4th
  • Mahtomedi at Columbia Heights - Jan 5th
  • De La Salle vs Kaukauna (WI) - Jan 28th (Border Battle at Apple Valley)
  • Cretin-Derham Hall at De La Salle - Feb 11th 

2016-17 Independent Metro Athletic Conference Preview

This is the 4th preview in my 2016-2017 season preview series.  Week 1 of the 6 week series fully transitions to local class AA and higher schools with a look at the Independent Metro Athletic Conference (IMAC).  For a list of all the season previews and how they are done, click here.

Blake Bears (2015-16 season 5-22, 2-8 Conference, 5th)
The Bears had another long season.  That included head coach Sean Kruger being replaced mid-season in a major surprise.  His former assistant Tyler Biwan comes over from St. Thomas Academy to take over the program.  Junior PG Jack Moe scored 18.5 PPG is the piece they'll build with.  The next 6 scorers are also back.  None of them averaged more than 9 PPG.

Breck Mustangs (2015-16 season 17-11, 7-3 Conference, 2nd)
Soph David Robby was the leading scorer for the Mustangs last year at almost 16 PPG.  He'll hold down the power forward spot.  The next 3 scorers depart including centers Justin Bergerson and Miles Owolu.  Sam Willey will man the middle.  Garrett Opperman mans a guard spot.  Junior Eric McDavid will also man a guard spot.

Minnehaha Academy Redhawks (2015-16 season 22-7, 10-0 Conference, 1st)
The star duo of forward JaVonni Bickham (18.4 PPG) and super frosh PG Jalen Suggs (17.2 PPG) returns to lead the Redhawks.  Freshman reserves Kaden Johnson and Terry Lockett were in the rotation last year.  The toughness of wings Benny Larry and Jake Richardson will be missed.  Lorenzo Smith and his 10 PPG at Johnson transfer in as the top replacement option for those 2.

Mounds Park Academy Panthers (2015-16 season 5-21, 0-10 Conference, 6th)
Leading scorer Cooper Olson departs.  The Panthers do return 1 double figure scorer in Brendan Connolly at 11.9 PPG.  Beyond that there's not much offense coming back.  Juniors Nick Guiang and Tom Fitzgerald are 2 options to pick up the slack.

Providence Academy Lions (2015-16 season 12-15, 5-5 Conference, 4th)
Former Gopher star and Providence assistant Arriel McDonald takes over the head job.  Most of the rotation graduated including the top 4 scorers and 6 of the top 7 scorers.  Soph Mark Richelsen is the leading returner at 5.9 PPG.  Guard Jackson Baird averaged 4.3 PPG.  Football star Gavin Blomberg would be a major boost to the lineup.  He missed last year with an ACL injury.

St. Paul Academy Spartans (2015-16 season 18-10, 6-4 Conference, 3rd)
A new era begins for coach Isaiah Walfred.  The dynamic duo of Dalante Peyton and Kent Hanson has graduated after many years of success.  Guard Emerson Egly's 12 PPG is top's amongst returning players.  Tommy Dicke also returns to the starting lineup.  Junior Ryan Kuntz saw bench time last year.  Mark Ademite and Matt Jaeger look to provide the size inside.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Minnehaha
  2. Breck
  3. St. Paul Academy
  4. Providence
  5. Blake
  6. Mounds Park Academy
Conference Overview
Minnehaha is a state title contender and therefore the clear favorite here.  Their non-conference schedule reflects that as it is absolutely stacked.  Breck is the best of the rest.  The bottom 4 I don't see reaching 500.  St. Paul Academy is the best of the group.  Providence will be down but I'll still take them over Blake and Mounds Park.  Blake won both meetings last year with Mounds Park.  They are the best candidate from the bottom 4 to make a run up the standings.

Conference MVP: Jalen Suggs - Minnehaha

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • David Roddy, Elijiah Zachery, Kerwin Walton- Breck
  • Jalen Suggs, Kaden Johnson, Terry Lockett - Minnehaha
  • Mark Richelsen - Providence
Conference Games to Watch
  • Breck at Minnehaha - Jan 20th
  • Minnehaha at Breck - Feb 7th
 Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Totino-Grace at Minnehaha - Dec 6th
  • Brooklyn Center at Breck - Dec 6th
  • SW Christian at Breck - Dec 8th
  • Minnehaha vs Minneapolis North - Dec 10th (Breakdown Tipoff Classic at Hopkins) 
  • Breck vs Minneapolis Henry - Dec 21st (Hamline Tourney)
  • Breck vs Wayzata - Dec 22nd (Hamline Tourney)
  • Monticello at Minnehaha - Dec 22nd
  • Minnehaha at Augsburg Tourney - Dec 28-30th 
  • Minnehaha at New Life Academy - Jan 3rd
  • Minnehaha at Caledonia - Jan 13th
  • Minnehaha vs Onalaska (WI) - Jan 14th (Midwest Players Classic, La Crosse, WI)
  • Minnehaha vs Prescott (WI) - Jan 28th (Border Battle at Apple Valley)
  • Breck at Heritage - Feb 17th
  • Minneapolis North at Minnehaha -  Feb 23rd

2016-17 MCAA Preview

This is the third preview in my 2016-17 season preview series.  Week 1 of the 6 week series moves on with a look at the Minnesota Christian Athletic Association (MCAA).  For a list of all the season previews and how they are done, click here.

Bethany Academy Eagles (2015-16 season 11-16, 3-10 Conference, Tie 3rd South)
Leading scorer Sam Peterson averaged over 19 PPG and he returns for his senior season.  Soph Ben Lechtenberg and frosh Michael Reader are the next 2 top scorers coming back.  They combined for just over 10 PPG. 

Heritage Christian Academy Eagles (2015-16 season 21-8, 13-0 Conference, 1st North)
The Eagles ran the table in the league last year.  Forward CJ Woda leads the way at 19.1 PPG.  Shooting guard Zach Johansen had a breakout season with 14.7 PPG.  Jack VanderTop averaged 9 PPG as the center.  All 3 of them return to the lineup.  Plus junior guard Ben Allen looks to a full season after missing significant time with injury last year.  Beyond that, its a very thin roster so depth is a significant concern.

Legacy Christian Academy Lions (2015-16 season 12-16, 7-6 Conference, Tie 2nd North)
Josh Barsness takes over the head coach job from JP Lindgren.  The backcourt duo of Lucas Nelson and Cole Bertsch returns.  They combined for over 29 PPG last year.  No one else returning averaged more than 5 PPG.  Josh Niessen provides the interior presence.

Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity Bulldogs (2015-16 season 5-23, 2-11 Conference, 5th South)
Nat Boyer takes over as the 3rd head coach in 3 years for the Bulldogs.  He sees the return of the top 5 scorers and 7 of the top 8.  That includes soph guard Michael Ziermann who was tops on the team at 12.9 PPG.  Adam Heigl mans another guard spot at 10.1 PPG.  Rees Schuette and Todd Johnson give them size.

Maranatha Christian Academy Mustangs (2015-16 season 10-16, 7-6 Conference, Tie 2nd North)
From 29 wins down to 10 as coach Jeff Wall decided to go with a big time youth movement.  Former assistant and now AD John Szwaja takes over the head coach job.  The top 3 scorers from last season are all freshmen now.  The only double figure scorer of that group Austin Andrews has transferred to Eden Prairie.  Cornell Richardson and Hakim Daniels almost reached 10 PPG from that 2020 group.  Senior Dyante Jordan is the top upperclassman coming back.  Wendell Smith is the only size.

New Life Academy Eagles (2015-16 season 24-5, 12-1 Conference, 1st South)
Coach Doug Linton has to replace 2 starters from last year's 24 win team.  Those were the only 2 double figure scorers, Brad Goulet and Ebenezer Ketema.  They combined for almost 29 PPG.  Overall 6 of the 9 members of last year's rotation are back for the Eagles.  They don't have a scorer who wows you but they will be very balanced.

PACT Charter Panthers (2015-16 season 10-18, 5-8 Conference, 4th North)
Drew Johnson and Zach Hagen combined for over 33 PPG a game and have graduated.  They're part of a group of 11 seniors that are gone.  Junior Cade Johnson returns after putting up 17.2 PPG last season.  The question remains how much help will he have?

St. Croix Prep Lions (2015-16 season 16-12, 5-2 vs MCAA teams)
St. Croix Prep returns 3 of their top 4 scorers.  That includes quick junior point guard Jayton Metcalf who averaged over 17 PPG last year.  Matt Kaul and Austin Have are the other returners of note.  The lineup doesn't provide any size.

Southwest Christian Stars (2015-16 season 18-7, 10-3 Conference, 2nd South)
Coach Kit Avery has to replace 2 seniors and that includes almost 27 PPG from guard Jack Jenson.  Expect a large chunk of that load to be picked up by senior guard Trey Sandness.  He averaged almost 11 PPG last year and I can easily see 20 PPG this year.  Spencer Weiss and Kyle Meinke return to the starting lineup with Meinke manning the interior.  3 seniors and a junior who saw extensive rotation time also return.  Not much scoring punch there except for the shooting of Zach Winters.

Spectrum Sting (2015-16 season 10-15, 2-4 vs MCAA teams)
The Sting return their entire roster except 1 graduated senior.  Problem is that the senior was 6'7" all everything forward Zach Knollenberg and 22.7 PPG.  Soph guard Cole Elrod is a quality shooter who averaged 10.5 PPG.  Soph Fisher Marberg also returns to the starting lineup. Soph Matthew Kruse and senior Kelton Sundstrom each averaged over 7 PPG. 

Trinity Tri-Hawks (2015-16 season 8-19, 3-10 Conference, Tie 3rd South)
Trinity needs to replace 3 of their top 4 scorers.  That includes their only double figure scorer Eddie Maruggi and 13.2 PPG.  Luke Lodoen, Charlie Druffner and Mason Calcutt are the top returners.  The Tri-Hawks gave youngsters plenty of time last year.

West Lutheran Warriors (2015-16 season 11-17, 3-10 Conference, 5th North)
Bruising forward Ben Beise returns to man the middle with 11.7 PPG.  Griffin Ewing is the only other returning starter with just over 8 PPG.  No one else returning averaged more than 5 PPG.  Lefty Josh Englert looks to help change that.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Heritage
  2. New Life
  3. Southwest Christian
  4. Legacy
  5. Maranatha 
  6. St. Croix Prep
  7. Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity   
  8. Bethany
  9. Trinity     
  10. West Lutheran  
  11. Spectrum 
  12. PACT 
Conference Overview
St. Croix Prep and Spectrum join the league to make 12 teams.  Rather than add 1 to each division, the league is going back to the old single round-robin schedule and no divisions.  They'll also go back to a 3 game conference tournament schedule held the second to last week of the season.  That allows any league members in sections 1 or 2 to be able to play in early state tournament series games without interference with the conference tourney.

I see 3 tiers in the MCAA.  Heritage is the clear favorite with New Life and SW Christian right behind fighting for 2nd.  SW Christian gets the home game with New Life and both have to visit Heritage.  Maranatha, Legacy and St. Croix Prep make up the next group.  All have quality guard play.  The bottom half is going to struggle to get to double figure wins.  I see a lot of movement possible here.  LP/HT with most everybody back is my pick to make a jump up the standings.

Conference MVP: CJ Woda - Heritage

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Ben Lechtenberg, Michael Reader - Bethany
  • Julian Cavin, Justin Mason, Jeff Ekiyor, Cornell Richardson, Hakim Daniels - Maranatha
  • Cole Elrod, Matthew Kruse, Fisher Marberg - Spectrum
  • Michael Ennis - Trinity
  • Brett Volrath - West Lutheran
Conference Games to Watch
  • New Life at SW Christian - Jan 12th
  • SW Christian at Heritage - Jan 17th
  • New Life at Heritage - Jan 31st
  • MCAA Tournament Championship - Feb 25th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Cristo Rey at Heritage - Dec 20th
  • Minnehaha at New Life - Jan 3rd
  • Breck at Heritage - Feb 17th