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

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.

2017 5AAAA Semifinals Thoughts

To Maple Grove for another early 5 PM weeknight start of section semifinals.  This time section 5AAAA is on display.  Jet's pizza not a bad thing plus more Gatorade to wash it down.  No bands tonight is a surprise and disappointment.  JMOA on duty for the late game.  Appalachian State in the building to watch the games along with St. Olaf, Bethel and Hamline just to name a few.

Game 1: Osseo vs Park Center
Osseo not rattled at all early by Park Center's athleticism and half court man pressure.  John Bezdicek (Matt didn't play) with an early 3.  Mar Mar Hughes and Zach Theisen also drain triples and Osseo jumps out to a 13-3 lead at the 14:22 mark.  Frosh post Dain Dainja with 2 inside hoops for Park Center.  Losini Kamara adds a 3 and the lead is down to 4.  Marice Nelson counters with 2 triples for Osseo taking inside out passes and knocking it down.  Bezdicek adds 3 free throws right before the halftime buzzer for a 37-24 Osseo lead at the break.

Osseo would stretch the lead to 15 but no further.  Park Center would get to 13 but not get any closer.  Finally the Pirates start to cut the margin.  Khari Broadway with a putback for 2 free throws and he turns a turnover into a 3 point play.  52-46 Osseo with 7:28 left but they're losing momentum.  Theisen with 4 free throws and the lead is back to 58-48 with 4:11 left.  Kamara with 1 free throws and eventually puts back the miss of the 2nd.  He adds another free throw after a terrible call inside against Osseo on a flop.  That cuts the lead to 6 before 2 more Osseo turnovers.  Xavier Bonner banks in a 3 with 1:50 left to cut the lead in half.  Osseo makes 3 of 4 free throws around a Dainja bucket.  Then a crazy offensive foul call on Theisen gives Park Center the ball back.  The Pirates promptly go to Dainja on the inbounds and he cuts the lead to 2 with 31 seconds left.  He fouls out on the Osseo possession.  Osseo makes 1 of 2 to give Park Center 1 last chance.  They miss and the putback at the buzzer is meaningless.  Osseo wins 62-61.  Zach Theisen with 18 points.  Marice Nelson came up big with 15 of his 18 in the 1st half for Osseo.  John Bezdicek added 13.  Losini Kamara 14, Khari Broadway with 17 to lead Park Center.  Dain Dainja added 12.  Osseo held Kamara mostly in check and mostly handled the pressure (until the end).  Their experience was a difference in hanging on.

Game 2: Champlin Park vs Mounds View
Mounds View did everything they could to try to slow the pace.  They walked it up after misses and played zone extensively.  But a bad early omen for Mounds View when DJ Hunter knocks down 2 3s and Champlin Park jumps out to a 10-3 lead.  Nick McMillan with back to back triples to pull Mounds View within 19-15 at the 6 minute mark of the half.  That gets their crowd energized.  But Champlin Park finishes the half on an 11-2 run.  McKinley Wright and Brian Smith with 3s in that run.  Most of that without Theo John who sat the last 5:04 with 2 fouls.  30-17 Champlin Park at the half.

John picks up a quick 3rd and sits for 6:35 before playing 23 more seconds and getting his 4th.  But it doesn't make a huge difference.  A McMillan hoop pulls Mounds View within 32-22.  But Champlin Park spreads the zone out and finally puts McKinley Wright in the middle.  He hits a 3 off a BLOB vs the 2-3 zone and then catches in the middle and finishes.  41-22 Rebels with 12:03 left.  Mounds View has to go man after that and that's not good.  Champlin Park outscores Mounds View 37-8 over the final 14:40.  Champlin Park wins 69-40 and will play Osseo for the section title in Rogers on Friday night.  McKinley Wright leads all scorers with 21 points.  Marcus Hill chips in with 11.  Brian Smith with 9.  Nick McMillan leads Mounds View with 16 points and 3 triples.  Brian Stone with all 13 of his points in the 2nd half.  But nobody else had more than a bucket.  Theo John with only 4 points and was in foul trouble for a large chunk of the game.

2017 4AAA Semifinals Thoughts

Its semifinal Saturday Night for the big school metro teams with 4AAA, 6AAA, 1AAAA, 2AAAA, 4AAAA and 6AAAA all playing semfinals Saturday night plus 8AAAA having the afternoon session at St. Cloud State.  I took in the 4AAA games.

Semifinal 1: 2 Columbia Heights vs 6 St. Paul Johnson
Very light crowd for the early part of this one.  Johnson with the strong start thanks to a Shemar Tucker-Adams 3 ball.  9-4 Govs just under 5 minutes in.  Columbia Heights would go on a 20-4 run to take control after that.  The Heights lead would stretch to 16 thanks to Wendell Matthews inside.  Johnson would cut a 20 point margin to 13 at the break with the last 7 of the 1st half.  Add in the 1st bucket of the 2nd half for a 9-0 run but Johnson would never get the lead to single digits in the 2nd half.  Columbia Heights wins 88-76.  Too much Quentin Hardrict as he goes for 31 to lead Columbia Heights and all scorers.  Wendell Matthews with 19 inside.  Justin Yang with 16 to lead Johnson.  But ultimately not enough firepower for the Govs.  Both teams end with 5 players in double figures.  Heights played without leading scorer Deaundra Roberson due to injury.

Semifinal 2: 1 Mahtomedi vs 4 Totino-Grace
Tied at 6 early but TG would knock down 4 straight bombs to open an 18-8 lead.  Rocky Kreuser doing the rest for TG.  Parker Fox struggling for Mahtomedi.  That allows TG to take a 28-22 lead to halftime.  They add 6 in a row to stretch the lead to 45-31 with 11:59 left.  Then the Parker Fox show began.  Shuffle cut for a 3 point play, reverse dunk and a quick technical, drive off and inbound and tip in a miss.  He scores 13 straight Mahtomedi points.  TG keeps the lead with a Nathan Kavolak for 3, Charlie Jacob for 3 and Kavolak scoring the quick inbounds lob.  58-44 TG with 6:45 left.

Then it all falls apart for TG.  Jacob sits with his 4th foul and Mahtomedi turns up the press.  Lincoln Rock converts a turnover and Fox with a strong dunk.  Jump ball to Mahtomedi and Fox with the tough 2 on Kreuser inside.  Another TG turnover leads to Mahtomedi free throws.  They miss a front end but get it back for another Fox dunk.  61 all with 2:13 left.  Braeden Mischke with a free throw and a clutch triple around a Fox hoop and TG is up 2 with 1:13 left.  Crowd on their feet.

That Mischke triple is the only TG FG in the last 6:45.  Fox spins for a 3 point play and Andy Voyen runs for 2 after a TG miss.  68-65 Mahtomedi inside 30 seconds left.  TG runs a set to get Kavolak a look for 3 but its no good inside 10 ticks left.  Fox makes 1 of 2 free throws to seal it.  Mahtomedi wins 69-65.  The Zephyrs trailed by 14 with 6:45 left and finish the game on a 25-7 run.  Parker Fox goes for 29 of his 37 in the 2nd half.  TG had absolutely no answer for him.  Nobody in double figures for Mahtomedi.  Rocky Kreuser with 21 points, 16 in the 1st half.  No points in the last 13 minutes which was very surprising considering his dominating 1st half.  Nathan Kavolak with 5 triples and 22 points to lead Totino-Grace.  16 of those points in the 2nd half.  Charlie Jacob added 13.

2017 3AAA Semifinal Thoughts

To Bloomington Jefferson for the brand new Friday night edition of local section semifinals.  Its 3AAA taking the court for the incredibly early 5 and 6:45 PM starts.  What's the hurry?  Very vocal crowds for the late game.

Game 1: 1 St. Thomas Academy vs 4 Simley
Early on we're tied at 8 as DeAndre Smith and Jake Binley work inside for Simley.  But St. Thomas Academy blows this one open quickly.  Sam Thompson with 3 triples and  2 other jumpers.  Sam Vascellaro takes a blocked shot for a layup and later dunks a turnover.  The Cadets run is 22-4 in just over 6 minutes. 30-12 St. Thomas at 8:15.  Simley scores the next 5.  But after a Cadets timeout, they score 8 in a row to push the lead to 21. Binley would have a hoop and a 3 point play early in the 2nd half to cut the margin to 13.  But the Spartans get no closer.  St. Thomas Academy wins 71-52.  Soph SG Jack Thompson with 20 of his 22 in the 1st half including 4 triples.  Eddie Perry with 3 triples in the 1st half for 9.  Louis Baillon scores the last 10 for St. Thomas to get to 12 points.  Jake Binley with 15, DeAndre Smith 13 for Simley.  Simley had chances to get back in the game but they only made 2 field goals from 13:40 left until the final minute of the game.  They had some good looks that just didn't want to go in.

Game 2: 2 St. Paul Highland Park vs 3 Richfield
The start of this one was a struggle.  Kids charging over people and throwing the ball all over.  Amitri Collins-Westlund picks up 2 charges and has to sit just under 3 minutes into the game.  Big loss for Highland Park.  Coach DePerry would go offense/defense with him for at least the last 6+ minutes of the half which was a critical decision that paid off.  Highland Park would be up 16-11 before the game started to swap back and forth.  Antonio Maddox for 3 to put Richfield up 17-16.  Dreem Kelly-Jabbar with a steal for a dunk to put Highland Park up 5.  29-25 Scots at the break.

After the opening hoop, Richfield goes on a 12-0 run.  Maddox for 3.  Devin Wade-Henderson with the steal for 2 free throws.  A technical on the play adds a Maddox FT.  Richfield converts the possession and steals the next possession for a hoop as well.  37-31 Spartans with 14:50 left.  Richfield dominated Highland Park on the offensive glass in the 2nd half but never could pull away.  Collins-Westlund  with a hoop and Kelly-Jabbar with another steal and hoop.  Soph Evan Brodtman was terrific off the bench for the Scots.  He hits a jumper, Collins-Westlund scores and then adds a 3.  Highland Park from 7 down takes a 46-44 lead with 8:44 to play.  Collins-Westlund coast to coast countered by a Maddox putback.  50 all with 6:30 left.  Down to the end we go.  Brodtman for 3 with 1:50 left to put Highland Park up 59-57. Scots force a turnover but they can't handle the ball at the end.  Jabari Atiim with a steal to tie it and Wade-Handerson converts after another Scots turnover.  Scots have a chance to tie in the last 30 seconds but a jump ball switches the possession to Richfield with 22.4 left.  Jake Hartke steps up and knocks down both ends of the bonus with 10.2 to seal it.  Richfield wins 63-59.  This game may not have been a visual masterpiece but it was highly entertaining.  Devin Wade-Henderson with 19 points to lead Richfield.  Amitri Collins-Westlund with 23.  Evan Brodtman adds 16.

So that means top seed St. Thomas Academy takes on 3-seed Richfield for the section title at Jefferson next Thursday.

The 4A 4 vs 5 matchup

The first 4 days of the local playoff schedule feature early round games in all classes.  That's before 3 game days of semis (Fri, Sat, Tues) and the final 3 days of section finals.  Those early round games are chance to catch some very competitive games.  Every year you get games where the teams appear to be better than those seeds.  No different this year.  So with that in mind I took in a pair of 4 vs 5 games in AAAA on Tuesday/Wednesday.   Logical options.

Tuesday: Eagan at Burnsville
Burnsville had won both head to head meetings and was 2 games better in the South Suburban.  All of that played out again.  Burnsville would go on a 1st half 22-6 run to break open a tight game.  Matt Baisch would help the Blaze keep that moment going to half with a buzzer beating 3 that kept the lead at 14.  Baisch with 2 more 3s early in the 2nd half to push the lead to 20.  It gets as large as 24 and Burnsville coasts from there.  Blaze win 88-68.  Matt Baisch 6 3s and 25 points to lead Burnsville.  Soph Julian Quiroz-Hutchinson and center Abdijabar Mural add 17 each.  Darby Sorenson's 1st half offense keep Eagan hanging around.  He finished with 11 of his 17 in the 1st half.  Burnsville plays Apple Valley in the 3AAAA semifinals at Farmington on Friday night.

Wednesday: Prior Lake at Edina
The first half of this one had Edina's star guards producing. Anders Nelson and Walt McGrory combining for 28 of the 40 points for Edina in the half.  But Jacob Fredrickson was a load inside for Prior Lake with 10 points.  Their star Brian Sitzmann added 12.  So Prior Lake down 40-35 at the break in a very tight first half.  A sloppy stretch for Prior Lake starting at about the 7 minute mark of the half gave Edina some momentum.

Second half more of the same.  Entertaining stretch starting at the 10 minute mark and Edina up 3.  Luke Glenna off the Edina bench for 3. Alex Preston off the Prior Lake bench with the catch and shoot on the BLOB.  Glenna again from deep, Preston 2 free throws.  Sitzmann and Preston with triples around a Nelson 3 and Sitzmann sticks back a miss.  61-59 Edina with 6 left.  But 3 late offensive rebounds for Edina really destroyed Prior Lake's chances.  McGrory converts 1 for a triple.  Jack Middleton sticks back a miss.  Those keep Edina up 8 between 3 and 4 minutes to go.  Then Edina up 4 with 49.8 left and they convert a missed front end into a McGrory layup.  Jimmy Connell with both of the offensive boards leading to those McGrory buckets.  Edina wins 75-69.  Edina's Walt McGrory leads all scorers with 26 points in front of Elon, Maine and Brown.  Anders Nelson with 21.  Jake Fredrickson 25 points dominating the paint for Prior Lake.  Brian Sitzmann adds 20. Trent West held to 4.  Alex Preston adds 11 off the bench.  Edina plays Chaska on Saturday at Hopkins in the 2AAAA semifinals.

2017 Section Predictions

Its time for 2017 section predictions.  Last year I had my best season ever of predictions.  For those who don't know, when we refer to "chalk" that means taking high seeds.  When I measure my results, I don't reference a percentage as any one can get 80-90% picking only chalk.  I measure it in terms of how many games I have right compared to picking just the high seeds.

Section 1A
Czar takes the free center square by picking Lyle/Pacelli over Christian Life (Lyle won big).

Section 2A
Only 1 game to pick here and that's the 3/6 North matchup between Mayer Lutheran and Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity.  LP/HT with 5 straight wins coming in.  But Mayer Lutheran won the regular season meeting on neutral turf by 14.  They get the home game this time and advance.

Section 4A 

Pigtails (3/6): 1st rule of 4A pigtails, take chalk.  So give me Learning for Leadership, Calvin Christian and Chesterton.  Chesterton and Groves split their games this season.  Chesterton won the 2nd game late in the year at home while the loss was on opening night.  Give me the home team.

Round of 16 (3/9): I take chalk here with nothing all that compelling. 

Quarters (3/11): Chalk again here with Cristo Rey vs Maranatha as the only game that tweaks interest.

Semis (3/14 ARCC): North over Cristo Rey in 1 semifinal as North has too much depth.  Their pressure will be a major problem against the young Pumas guards.  Prairie Seeds beat Heritage last year in the semis in a surprise to many.  This year its no surprise.  Prairie Seeds can pressure Heritage which is the difference.  but CJ Woda is a problem for the Lycans.

Final (3/17 ARCC): North too deep again but Prairie Seeds will be up for the game.

Section 4AA
Lots of interesting tiebreaker scenarios played out here making for some interesting games.   Lots of teams dropping out so only 15 teams playing.
Round of 16 (3/9): No problems for Roosevelt, New Life or St. Croix Lutheran in round 1.  St. Paul Prep moved up in tiebreaks and I think they beat Humboldt.  Math and Science also moved up in tiebreaks as the lower seed but St. Agnes beats them.  The last 2 games are very interesting rematches.  In the 7/10 game, Washington beat Trinity on the road by 2 .  In the 8/9 game game, St. Croix Prep won at St. Paul Academy by 3 in January.  High seeds get the rematches at home so I stay with them.

Quarters (3/11): I see the top 4 seeds moving on without trouble. 

Semis (3/14 Washington): Minnehaha over St. Croix Lutheran.  I'll take the upset in the other semifinal with New Life taking out Minneapolis Roosevelt.

Final (3/17 Washington): New Life kept the regular season meeting with Minnehaha close thanks to Jalen Suggs foul trouble.  This time New Life isn't at home and I picked Minnehaha all the way at the start of the season.  Can't change now.

Section 5AA
Another deep section at the top.  I'll go out on a limb and predict all of these games even though they include lots of teams west of the metro that I don't know.

Pigtails (3/7): I'll take Heritage Academy being athletic and Paynesville having to make the long trip.  I'll go against better judgement and pick the upset in the other game with Cade Johnson being the difference for PACT going into Edison and getting a win.

Round of 16 (3/9): I see the top 5 seeds moving on without trouble.  I take chalk in the other 3 games but they are more interesting.

Quarters (3/11 STMA): I see the top 3 seeds moving on without trouble.  EV-W beat Annandale, Annandale handled Breck last Friday.  Give me EV-W in the other game.

Semis (3/14 STMA): Brooklyn Center is battle tested but their run ends here with a loss to EV-W.  Annandale and Watertown-Mayer split the regular season.  Annandale's only loss since the EV-W loss is a 1 point loss to Hopkins.  They're playing too well right now.  Give me Annandale.

Final (3/17 SCSU): Annandale gets revenge in the section final over EV-W.

Section 3AAA
Quarters (3/7): No surprises here as the top 3 seeds roll.  Kennedy after a 4-1 start went 3-17 so give me Simley in the 4/5 game.

Semis (3/10 Jefferson):  St. Thomas beats Simley but its closer than you may think.  Richfield lost 9 of 10 to end the season.  Highland Park won 11 of their last 12 (loss cost them a trip to the Twin Cities Game).  Scots move on.

Final (3/16 Jefferson):  Guards everywhere in the final.  Highland Park will try to use their quickness to speed St. Thomas up.  But I think St. Thomas moves on.

Section 4AAA
Quarters (3/8): Mahtomedi gets a revenge chance against Hill-Murray after being knocked out in this same 1/8 game last year.  They've won both regular season meetings by 40, expect the same here.  St. Paul Johnson's pressure makes for an interesting matchup vs St. Anthony but too much Rhys Langums means the Huskies advance.  Totino-Grace gets the Moore Lake rivalry game vs Fridley.  TG too good.  And don't get me started on TG getting the 4 seed.  Columbia Heights too much for Como Park.

Semis (3/11 Washington):  This should be a fantastic night of games.  TG vs Mahtomedi in 1 semifinal is worth of a final.  TG may have 12 losses but 7 of them are to top 10 teams in 4A QRF and all to 4A opponents.  Give me Mahtomedi in a great game.  Columbia Heights is a bad matchup for St. Anthony and beat the Huskies by 16 in the regular season.  Heights moves on.
Final (3/16 Washington):  Columbia Heights beat Mahtomedi in the regular season on one of the craziest shots you'll ever see (my recap here).  Heights pressure will bother Mahtomedi but since they've already seen it and the game is neutral site, give me Mahtomedi to win a close one.

Section 6AAA
Quarters (3/8): Delano with a late season collapse falls from a possible 2 seed down to 4.  That makes for a compelling rematch with Waconia in the 4/5 game.  The teams split the regular season with wins on road.  Waconia won by 16 at Delano last Monday and has won 8 of 9 since their loss to Delano.  Waconia is disciplined and Delano's defense has been troublesome.  Give me the 5 seed here.  Like last year Henry is a bad matchup for BSM.  BSM has lost 10 of their last 13.  Henry has won 11 of 12 with the only loss to North.  Top 3 seeds advance without trouble.

Semis (3/11 High Seed):  Can't pick against De La Salle at home.  They handle Waconia.  Orono too much shooting at home advances against Henry.

Final (3/16 Chanhassen):  State championship level game here.  Barry Wohler will throw the kitchen sink at the Islanders.  De La Salle advances in a great game.

Section 1AAAA
Quarters (3/8): Top 3 seeds in blowouts.  Lakeville South over Owatonna in the 4/5 game.  But Owatonna will keep that interesting and would not be a shock if they win.

Semis (3/11 Mayo Civic Arena):  Nothing like going all the way to Rochester for the battle of Lakeville.  Can we borrow Farmington for a night?  Lakeville North moves on.  In the other semi, Rochester JM has won 20 in a row and steamrolled thru the Big 9.  New Prague plays a suffocating slow down defensive style.  That's in major contrast to the 3 uptempo games that JM lost in December.  Give me JM here.

Final (3/17 Mayo Civic Arena):  Kryptonite strikes for the 5th straight year as Lakeville North moves on.  But god forbid Rochester folks that we have a 64 team format so JM doesn't run into this every year.

Section 2AAAA
Quarters (3/8): Top 2 seeds move on without trouble.  Tough to find a better pair of 3/6, 4/5 games.  Minnetonka and Eden Prairie split their 2 meetings on home court.  Eden Prairie squeaks by at home.  Edina hosting Prior Lake may be the best 4 vs 5 game out there.  I've been consistent picking against Edina in this game, but I'm going to break that string here and go with the high seed.

Semis (3/11 Hopkins):  Great semis here.  Edina beat Chaska in the regular season but that was without Andrew Kallman.  Chaska wins a tight one.  Eden Prairie beat Jefferson in the regular season at Jefferson.  Its a classic size (Jefferson) vs guards (EP) matchup.  Eden Prairie can get into the Jefferson guards and get them out of their stuff.  I like Eden Prairie again. 

Final (3/17 Hopkins): Chaska won the regular season meeting by 2.  I expect a terrific game here.  But ultimately a team that relies on shooting will run into defense.  I think that Chaska defends the arc well enough here and too much Myles Hanson.  Chaska moves on.
Section 3AAAA
Quarters (3/7): Czar Pal John Carrier turns Rieshaun Satar into Phil Ford and Sibley shocks the world with a double figure 20-10 win over Apple Valley.  OK maybe not.  AV the only team above 500 in this section.  Yikes.  Top 3 seeds move on without trouble.  Burnsville beat Eagan twice in the regular season.  They do it again to allow the high seeds to hold serve.

Semis (3/10 Farmington):  Apple Valley no problem in the semifinal either as they handled Burnsville twice during the regular season.  Eastview has 2 5 point wins over Rosemount.  They advance again in a case of guards over bigs.

Final (3/16 Farmington): City of Apple Valley rivalry game here but Apple Valley won both games easily.  I don't see that changing.

Section 4AAAA
Quarters (3/8): Top 3 seeds move on without trouble.  North St. Paul at Cretin-Derham Hall is an unexpected 4 vs 5 game.  But I like CDH here at home.

Semis (3/11 Hastings):  Fun night of semifinals.  East Ridge is banged up right now.  The teams split but Daniel Oturu was out when CDH lost.  I like CDH here with too much Oturu.  High level guard play in the Woodbury vs Tartan game.  Tight game and I'll take Tartan to move on.

Final (3/16 Hastings): Quality matchup here.  CDH has been Jekyll and Hyde this year proving they can win big games (SPASH, Iowa City West) but a 37 point loss at East Ridge even without Daniel Oturu and a blowout at Apple Valley show another side.  Tartan with a long period to game plan moves on.

Section 5AAAA
Quarters (3/8): I'll take chalk here.  Roseville has been much improved down the stretch but not enough to beat Osseo.  Mounds View will play Centennial tough but the Cougars have too much firepower.

Semis (3/14 Maple Grove):  Champlin Park took care of Centennial twice in the regular season.  No problems here.  Then the rivalry game Osseo vs Park Center.  Very interesting regular season meetings with Osseo losing by 21 at home and then winning by 29 at Park Center.  Park Center's athleticism is a problem for Osseo.  Park Center has won 9 straight coming into the tourney.  But Osseo was 11-3 down the stretch with the 3 losses by 4 points each to Armstrong and twice to Maple Grove.  Park Center's time will come, but Osseo gets them here.

Final (3/17 Rogers): Champlin Park beat Osseo by 17 in the regular season.  They are an even bigger matchup problem for the Orioles than Park Center.

Section 6AAAA
Quarters (3/8): The top 3 seeds move on without trouble.  Cooper vs Armstrong rivalry factor makes the 3 vs 6 interesting.  Cooper's guards can pressure Armstrong but too much Race Thompson.  St. Louis Park won at Washburn in the regular season.  They win at home this time to keep chalk intact.

Semis (3/11 Osseo):  Wayzata beat St. Louis Park by 17 in the regular season.  Very similar dribble drive styles from both teams.  But too much Wayzata firepower.  Hopkins is a very different team the last month or so of the season.  Armstrong gives them a tough test but Hopkins advances.

Final (3/15 Osseo): The 3rd meeting between Hopkins and Wayzata is a worthy section final.  The high low style that Hopkins has gone to is a problem for Wayzata.  Hopkins wins a tight one.

Section 7AAAA
Quarters (3/9): The most wide open section of all so let's go wild with picks. Forest Lake won at Cambridge by 5 in the regular season and that's a 1/8 game.  Forest Lake advances and that's most confidence I have in any pick here.  Duluth East beat St. Francis by 12 on home court, they do it again in the 4/5 game.  In the 2/7, Blaine beat Andover twice but by a total of only 9 points.  In the 3/6, Coon Rapids and Anoka split with road wins.  Total coin flips there.  Logan Rezac getting hot could carry Andover to the section final.  But I think Blaine sneaks thru at home.  Coon Rapids gets by in their home game.

Semis (3/14 North Branch?):  Tough picks here too.  Forest Lake beat Duluth East by 2 in the regular season.  But I'm going all upsets here.  Too much Cody Carlson carries East.  Coon Rapids split with Blaine and won the last meeting by 16.  Give me the Cards here.  Their 1-3-1 zone and athletes are a bad matchup for Blaine.

Final (3/17 North Branch): One of the few head to head matchups that didn't happen during the year.  Duluth East moves on with Carlson again being too much. Coon Rapids with a much improved season but a lack of big game experience hurts them here.

Section 8AAAA
Quarters (3/7): Top 3 seeds no trouble here.  STMA beat Elk River by 15 in the regular season . They've also beaten Edina, had Chaska beat until the final play and played Rogers tough in the last month of the season.  Give me STMA to win on the road.

Semis (3/11 SCSU):  Maple Grove handled STMA in the regular season, that happens again.  St. Cloud Tech beat Rogers by 1 in the regular season.  Great rematch but its in St. Cloud and Tech is too deep.  Give me Tech.

Final (3/16 Monticello/Neutral):  Tech's depth and size presents some challenges for Maple Grove.  But Brad Davison won't let the Crimson lose.  Maple Grove advances.