Concordia Jamboree Thoughts

Here are my thoughts from the Concordia Jamboree.  15 minute halves, 1 free throw to score 2 on shooting fouls during running time.  Stop time for the last 2 minutes of each half

St. Agnes vs Richfield
St. Agnes is depleted with Antonio Hartfield-McGhee leaving for Roseville.  Richfield has no size whatsoever.  It was surprising to still see Matt Mullenbach as an assistant.  I thought after the Jim Dimick fiasco he would have left.  Richfield jumped out to a 12-0 lead and then 31-6 at the half.  This game definitely needed the scoreboard reset that we saw at Columbia Heights.  Richfield gave the bench plenty of time in the second half which cut the final score to 45-23.

Tartan vs Minnehaha
8-6 Tartan early then the fun begins.  Great press break gives Joel Awich a dunk on a 2 on 1 give and go.  Then pretty high-low passing against the 2-3 zone for another Awich dunk.  Much better zone offense tonight than I saw last season from the Titans.  That was the start of a 10-0 run.  Minnehaha with the last 5 of the half to close within 24-15 at the break.  They continue to pick apart the Minnehaha defense for a 50-27 win.  Minnehaha really down with nothing of note.  Drew Preiner really orchestrates things well for Tartan.  Ryan Burns effective with the big body inside and the quote of the night.  In the early game, there was a violation called for stepping on the end line when inbounding after a made basket.  Burns "Nobody calls that!".  Right on.  Darrion Strong played only the last 6:45 and struggled.

St. Anthony vs Simley
St. Anthony pulling out the old Johnny Orr Michigan offense.  Or if you prefer, Al McGuire's Humpty Dumpty look.  Simley with Shinoby Yang given the perpetual green light.  He scores 10 of the 18 Simley points for a 18-15 halftime lead.  He gets held down in the 2nd half as St. Anthony uses a 10-0 run to break the game open.  33-22 with 4:30 left and the Huskies win 36-29.  The non-conference schedule for Simley is pretty soft, but if Yang doesn't score they're in a world of trouble.

Hill-Murray vs St. Croix Lutheran
This one was at least close and it was back and forth the entire way.  21-18 St. Croix Lutheran at the half.  St. Croix with 1 of 2 freebies with 28 seconds left to cut the lead to 1 and after a missed front end by Hill-Murray with 18 seconds left they had a chance to win it.  But they turned it over with 5 seconds left and Hill-Murray hangs on 34-33.  Hill-Murray looks like they'll struggle against pressure as St. Croix's traps were effective.

Stillwater vs Concordia
Stillwater adjusting to a new 5 out system on the offensive end.  They had a 15-9 lead late in the 1st half before leading 15-13 at the break.  Concordia up 34-33 going to a late timeout then a 3 point play at 1:23 that is counted as 4 points on the board.. Stillwater then turns it over on back to back trips for layups.  That pushes the lead to 9 with 55 seconds left and seals the deal.  Concordia wins 44-37.  Cutler Finneman has grown and is a longer more athletic looking player than years past.

What is a Lycan anyway?

It's opening night at Prairie Seeds Academy as the Lycans hosted St. Paul Prep.  Very interesting sidelight to this one as the season isn't supposed to open until Thursday night yet Prairie Seeds has this game and Four Directions tomorrow.  You'd have to believe this would disqualify all 3 of the teams from section play.  Not to mention Prairie Seeds has 29 or 30 games listed on their schedule.  That's over the 26 game MSHSL limit.

Song of the Night
November Rain - Guns N Roses

Simple concessions of water, candy and chips.  Being bitter from a soaking in the rain, I didn't partake.  Nice gym of 8 rows of bleachers on 1 side, cheerleaders on the stage on the other side.  Scorekeepers were a little asleep.  Of note, only 1 scoreboard so you better go that way in the 2nd half.

Game Time
As to the game, it was a mismatch from the start.  13-0 Lycans before St. Paul Prep makes a free throw.  The 1st Falcons field goal comes at 9:14 but its 19-4 at that point.  That stops a 7-0 run all by guard Trent Pollard.  The lead is cut to 24-10 before Pollard nails 2 more bombs to extend the lead to 30-11.  Then an assist for a dunk that sparks a 14-0 late in the first half.  55-24 at the break.  Tack on 23-1 to start the 2nd half.  Pollard nails a 3 with 12 minutes left to push the lead to 81-28 and that's all I can stand to watch.

Pollard with 17 points in the first half as he surprisingly came off the bench.  8th grade star Jarvis Johnson played through a bum knee.  If Johnson is 5'9 and Pollard is 5'11, then I'm Santa because Johnson looks far bigger.  Not the player I remember seeing in July at the Grassroots tournament.  Both Pollard and Johnson did a nice job pushing the ball ahead with the pass instead of the dribble.  And Pollard's passes were especially crisp.  Prairie Seeds will have some success against section opponents because they do have athletes and good guard play.  But as you expect from an opening game, there were plenty of things to work on.  Transition defense, zone offense and too many fouls are things coach Williams will likely take a look at.

As to St. Paul Prep, they'll have a very very long season.  Only 1 player of note as the rest of the talent pool is very bare.

So what is a Lycan
A Lycan is not to be confused with a werewolf.  A werewolf is a permanent transformation.  A lycan can transform between man and wolf at will.  In January when they play MTS, I'd love to see the MTS wolf there.  They both look nasty and I'd like to determine which one is more prone to mange.

Columbia Heights Jamboree and opener thoughts

I got to see the last 6 matchups of the day at the Columbia Heights Jamboree after returning from opening night in The Old Kingdom last Tuesday .  Games were 2 halves of 10 minutes each.  Running time and only 1 free throw shot on shooting fouls.  2nd half was usually reserves in all of the games.  Here are some thoughts.

Quality upgrade to the Taco in a Bag.  And at coach Braziel's direction, you can't bypass the pizza either.  But Coke products instead of Pepsi products, not sure about that one.

Mpls South vs Orono
Wow did South look bad.  Though I don't think they had Carnell Sheppard.  Nothing but 3s, no real direction on the offensive end.  Orono jumped on them 18-3 to win the 1st half 27-7.  14-3 of that was with the starters.  South did come back with a late 3 point play to win the 2nd half 11-9.  Orono didn't use any of their usual kitchen sink defensive schemes, we'll see if they pull any of them out on Thursday at St. Michael-Albertville. 

Southwest vs North St. Paul
North looked to get out and run but then devolved into THE WORLD'S WORST OFFENSE.  Though I did like their simple secondary break to get in to it.  Hunter Books with a productive day in the post.  Wild end to the 1st half as Southwest survived 2 turnovers in the last 30 seconds to get the ball back and make a layup at the horn to split the half at 10.  Southwest down 7-5 before an 8-0 run over the next 5+ minutes.  2 late layups for the Lakers put this one away.  SW wins the second half 17-13.

Como Park vs Henry
Nothing like city battles.  Deonte Blakemore on the bench in street clothes for this one for Henry.  Como Park has better athletes and more size than Central but they're far more dysfunctional than Central.  Terrance Williams quiet for Como in this one until a late run in the 2nd half blew that half open.  Despite all that, Como wins the 1st half 12-9 and then runs away 20-7 in the second half with the last 11 points.  Quiet days for Tim Gill and Latrell Love inside for Henry.  Wunell Beard is undersized but he'll be a productive guard for the Patriots.

DeLaSalle vs Holy Angels
No Melvin Collins for DeLaSalle.  20-2 DLS to start the 1st half, 10-0 Islanders to start the 2nd half.  Too much defense and Holy Angels is rebuilding.  Total mismatch.  But freshman guard Jordan Dembley was one of the few bright spots for Holy Angels.  The lefty was one of the few who didn't wilt under the defensive pressure.   There was one very interesting bit from the game and that was Riley Dearring playing point guard.  That would get him the ball at the end of the same secondary break set that DLS ran last year.  D wins the halves 24-8 and 22-8.

Benilde-St. Margaret's vs St. Paul Central
BSM coach John Moore experimenting with different alignments. Isaiah Zierden played all point guard in the 1st half with Danon Briggs and Isaiah Gray not playing at all.  Then he moved to the 2 in the 2nd half.  Central got out to a 7-0 lead in the 1st 5 minutes before Will Dunn (he came off the bench with Sanjay Lumpkin in the 1st half) brought the Red Knights back.  Dunn's 3 point play tied the game at 1:50 and his floater just before halftime won the 1st half 17-15.  Battle/Washington/Zierden all start the 2nd half on the bench. Central again even in the 1st 5 minutes but a Zierden floater pushed the lead to 2 possessions.  BSM wins the 2nd half 14-10.

Minnetonka vs Columbia Heights
Major missing pieces in this one as Tommy McDermott (bad hammy) sat out for Tonka.  No Zach Lofton for Columbia Heights.  Tonka still working on basic defensive stuff as coach Dasovich looks like a traffic cop on the sidelines directing his defense.  Nick Latzke with a couple of triples out of the 4 out-1 in motion.  Tonka wins 11-9 in the 1st half.  All 9 Heights points from Keanu Glover.  Sleeper player who's a strong guard who can rebound and score.  2nd half was cancelled just 19 seconds in due to an injury. 

Wisconsin Opening Night
As to the opening night in Wisconsin last Tuesday, the game was what was expected.  Stockbridge got hammered 91-36 by Green Lake.  Green Lake star wing Matt Van Sycoc with 26, 10 and 6 on 12-14 shooting in 26:02 of playing time.  66-20 Green Lake going to the 4th quarter and Van Sycoc was put back in for another 5+ minutes.  Very disappointing.  That was against a team with only 7 on the bench who started 3 sophs and a freshman.  I know Green Lake only had 9 on the bench, but sit the star down.  Great setup of 8 rows of nice bleachers, nice entrance area and big concession stand (though I only had a Pepsi).  And a quality job by the Stockbridge pep band too.  We need more pep band appearances here.

Some Complaints about Fall Basketball

So after watching 9 weeks of fall league basketball, I realized that I longed for summer ball which was far more watchable.  Some venting about what I saw.
  • The number of bad games was astronomical.  In the Minnehaha league, unless DeLaSalle was playing Duluth East or the random St. Paul Central game, bad hoops.  Eastview and Lakeville South were all there was to watch at Concordia and when they played each other, even that was a blowout (granted a surprise Lakeville South blowout win without Alex Richter).  The other MYAS session at Forest Lake, yuck.  But there was some talent there with Conner Miller and Zach Romashko just to name a couple.  The second session Breakdown league was much better than what I mentioned but overall, not the high quality of teams I expected.  It was not an uncommon theme among college coaches I saw on the road that they really didn't get much of the games.
  • I was disappointed at the amount of whining to officials .  And now I'm starting to see players stay behind the play to complain, even after weeks of playing in the same league where they should already be used to the officiating.  Its fall so the officiating isn't that good, but it really wasn't that awful this year either.
  • Along the same lines, the language.  My goodness.  I was very disappointed at the amount of swearing by players and the fact that it was tolerated by the officials and the few coaches that were there.  Seeing a player miss a layup and then yell an obscenity at the top of his lungs is something that doesn't belong in the high school game and needs to cracked down on in a big time way.  That said, I'm not saying that emotion is not allowed.  I won't turn it into the No Fun League. 
  • Do we really need more three point shots?.  I even saw kids spotting up outside the arc at open gym when the 3 point line wasn't even in play (3s were eliminated).  When a player shoots 5 threes, misses them all badly and then banks in a 6th one, all you can do is shake your head because you KNOW the 7th and 8th ones are going up.  When will we teach our players that a cold shooting day means you can put the ball on the floor and drive, defend, rebound etc and do the little things to still help your team.
  • Along those lines, why do most players still think they're shot blockers.  It amazes me the number of HUGE swings players take at shots on drives inside.  I swear they were trying to play volleyball.  Not to mention the number of times players either give up position or measure a kid for a block instead of getting into position to take a charge.
  • I said this on my twitter page (and if you're not following me, why not) a while back but I'll mention it again.  I hated seeing JV teams in varsity divisions.  I understand why the JV team's coach does it and if you can get away it with, fine.  But it does a serious disservice to the league you're playing in and to the opponent.  Imagine if I'm some team like Waterville-Elysian-Morristown (an elite 2A team this year) and I sign up to play in a league like the Minnetonka league.  Then I arrive only to find out, I'm playing the Osseo JVs (for the record their varsity was there, this is just an example).  If I'm WEM, I'm calling the tourney director and asking what in the world is going on, I didn't sign up to play a JV team.  I'll also include teams in the early period who had none of their main roster due to football.
So all of this leads me to this basic question, what's the point of fall ball? Did the kids learn anything besides bad habits?  Does anybody really think that teams like Minnetonka, BSM, Tartan etc are going to play the same way during the season as they did in the fall?  Of course not.  The last thing the kids need to be doing is playing games.  They play all winter for their high school team in a state that allows more high school games than any state in the region (and its not close, Wisconsin's 22 games is next vs our 26).  Then they spend most of the spring and summer running around the state/country playing for a AAU team.  That team is lucky to get all of their guys together for practice 2 or maybe 3 times a week.  Neither group has the time to do skill work.  The AAU guys are lucky to get all of their necessary stuff in and high school coaches are always worried about the next game (maybe too much so).  So here are my proposals.

#1) Outlaw fall leagues, open gyms etc but allow the high school coaches a given number of hours a week (officially optional to the players, but de facto they'd still be mandatory, just like fall ball is) for skill work in small groups.  Something like the D2 coaches have where they can work with groups of no more than 4 at a time.
#2) Move the 3 point line back to the NBA line or further.  With any luck, this will improve spacing, allow more drives and have only the true shooters shooting it from deep.
#3) Another possible thought, fall is really the only time the kids get off these days, do we black out that period entirely?  This would keep the kids from burning out and possibly be the time to "sharpen the saw" and be refreshed for the regular season.

    2010-2011 What to Watch For

    This is the 24th and final preview in my month long 2010-2011 season preview series.  I finish the previews with a high-level look at the season for the not so intense fan.  Its my lists of the top players, teams, events and storylines of the 2010-2011 season.  Click here to view a list of all the previews and read any you may have missed

    12 Players You Should See
    • Lucas Brown (Sr - Roseville)
    • Joe Coleman (Sr - Hopkins)
    • Tyus Jones (Fr - Apple Valley)
    • Shelby Moats (Sr - Waconia)
    • Kyle Noreen  (Sr - Minnesota Transitions)
    • Marvin Singleton (Sr - Hopkins)
    • Jonah Travis (Sr - DeLaSalle)
    • Ross Travis (Sr - Chaska)
    • Estan Tyler (Sr - St. Paul Johnson)
    • Jake White (Sr- Chaska)
    • Johnny Woodard (Jr - Duluth East)
    • Isaiah Zierden (Jr - Benilde-St. Margaret's)
    All of the 2011 kids above are Division 1 signees except Noreen who is a division 1 talent.  Woodard and Zierden are 2 of the state's top prospects in 2012.  And any list would be incomplete without Tyus Jones.  Moats isn't in the 11 conferences I officially follow, but I did give the Wright County a look this year and he's a high-major player close enough to the metro so he has to be mentioned.  Another mention has to go to Lakeview Christian's sophomore guard Andres Broman who's 500 points ahead of Kevin Noreen's state scoring record pace.  Like Johnny Woodard, he has a group of games in the metro this season despite being stuck in the Duluth area.

    12 Teams You Should See
    • Apple Valley
    • Benilde-St. Margaret's
    • Chaska
    • Cretin-Derham Hall
    • DeLaSalle
    • Eastview
    • Eden Prairie 
    • Hopkins 
    • Lakeville South
    • Osseo
    • St. Paul Johnson
    • Tartan
    These are the creme de la creme, best of the best in the metro.  9 conference champions by my picks here which makes them obvious adds.  As to the rest, Eden Prairie gets added because they would win most of the other leagues and because their schedule almost always has them playing a big game.   Lakeville South has a very good core group of Alex Richter, Riley West and Spencer Pankonin returning.  Apple Valley with Jones and Thomas Schalk will make a run in the South Suburban as well.

    12 Events You Should See
    • St. Paul Johnson at Lakeville South - Fri Dec 3rd
    • Breakdown Tipoff Classic - Sat Dec 11th at Minnetonka
    • Eden Prairie Holiday Tourney Semifinals-  Tu Dec 28th
    • Granite City Classic Semifinals - Wed Dec 29th at St. Cloud Apollo
    • Best Buy Holiday Tourney Finals - Th Dec 30th at Augsburg
    • Timberwolves Shootout - Sat Jan 8th at Target Center
    • St. Paul Johnson at Eden Prairie - Th Jan 13th
    • East Metro Showcase - Fri/Sat Jan 21/22nd at St. Paul Johnson
    • Border Battle - Sat Jan 29th at St. Cloud Tech
    • DeLaSalle at Benilde-St. Margaret's - Tu Feb 8th (Boys/Girls doubleheader)
    • Super Saturday in St. Cloud - Sat Mar 13th at St. Cloud State
    • Class AAA State Quarterfinals - Wed Mar 23rd at Williams Arena
    Johnson opens the season with one of their toughest games of the season at Lakeville South.  That along with the game at Eden Prairie will be one of their few challenges.  The Breakdown Tipoff Classic is the event of the year with talent upon talent.  Eden Prairie's tournament is only 4 teams but loaded with Chaska, Waconia, Benilde-St. Margaret's and the hosts.  The Breakdown makes the list again with the Granite City Classic.  The semis could be Apple Valley vs Duluth E or Rocori and Orono vs St. Cloud Apollo.  All of those teams will be looking at the state tournament as a destination.   The projected Hopkins vs Johnson rematch highlights championship day at Augsburg in what would be the game of the year.

    Moving to the new year, Marcus Paige vs Tyus Jones in a duel of high major point guards highlights another down year at the Timberwolves Shootout.  Wisconsin standouts Wally Ellenson and Bronson Koenig are Wisconsin highlights in the East Metro Showcase and Border Battle.  Hopkins represents Minnesota in both events.  DeLaSalle at BSM gets moved to during the week which is a shame, but this boys/girls double dip highlights 2 of the best teams in all of 3A.  March 13th in St. Cloud features not 1, not 2 but 3 pairs of section semifinals.  With teams like Rocori, Apollo, Orono, Rogers, Tech and Buffalo just to name a few, its an outstanding day of basketball in a great building.  Finally, the 3A quarterfinals could feature 5 outstanding teams and 2 of them unfortunately have to matchup in round 1.  Whoever gets left out is not going to be happy and a team you don't want to see in that quarterfinal matchup.

    5 stories worth following

    Can the champs repeat?
    Hopkins, Johnson and Minnesota Transitions all lose a major player (Peterson, Rosenbloom, Noreen) from their championship teams but all of them return multiple significant pieces in their quests to repeat.  Hopkins and Johnson are clear favorites to repeat and don't count out MTS either as they added a couple of valuable pieces and still feature Kyle Noreen and Rodney Owens.

    Who's the best team in the state?
    In national polls, the vote generally goes to Hopkins but ESPN has given Johnson due recognition.  December 30th will put a definitive stamp on who the best team in the state is.  That will be the team wins the Best Buy Holiday Classic at Augsburg.   The hope is for a Johnson vs Hopkins rematch but if MTS can knock off Hopkins and Johnson to win the title, one has to think they have a legit claim to the throne too.

    Who steps up in Class AAAA?
    Hopkins is the clear favorite again in 4A, but after that who is there?  Half of last year's 4A bracket suffered heavy losses and that doesn't count Owatonna who wasn't one of the elite teams in 4A.  Is it Eastview with most of their roster back or is their guard play an issue?  Does Tyus Jones lead Apple Valley to another level or is their lack of size too much to overcome?  Does Osseo's addition of Terez Van Pelt put them in the mix?  Does Joel Awich's dramatic improvement give Tartan an inside presence they haven't had in years and put them at another level?  Those are just some of the questions.

    Success of the realigned teams
    With all of the conference realignment falling into place this season, a couple of teams look to take advantage.  Chaska moves to the Missota where they're one of the favorites.  That beats playing the tough former Lake Conference schedule night in and night out.  But Chaska still has Eden Prairie and Apple Valley on the schedule so they still get a couple of those tough games.  Chanhassen will definitely be happy to see the bottom half of the Missota.  Robbinsdale Armstrong gets away from the huge schools in the former Classic Lake.  They look to make a run in the NW Suburban.  Eden Prairie gets thrown in with Minnetonka and Hopkins and has a ridiculously tough non-conference schedule.  Prior Lake steps up to the South Suburban which could be a rough introduction.  But with the talent coming up, it'll be good experience for them in a couple of years.

    The Saga at Minneapolis North
    The sad story of the decline of Minneapolis North came to a head with a vote to close the school.  Then it was we aren't going to admit any more freshmen.  What ultimately happens on the north side still is unknown but does any of the off-court discussion translate to on the court.

    10-11 Section 7AAAA Preview

    This is the 23rd preview and second to last preview in my 2010-2011 season preview series.  In this preview, a final look at the metro sections with a trip to Section 7AAAA.  For a list of all the season previews, click here.

    Defending Champion: Forest Lake

    Predicted Seeding
    1. Duluth East
    2. Blaine
    3. Andover
    4. Anoka
    5. Forest Lake
    6. Cambridge-Isanti
    7. Duluth Central
    8. Coon Rapids
    9. St. Francis
    This is the other section in 4A with 9 teams in it.  This one is caused by the combination of Duluth Central and Duluth Denfeld.  Next year those schools will combine under the Denfeld name.  Johnny Woodard leads Duluth East to the top spot in the section.  In addition to 2012's top prospect (in my opinion), Ian Nelson mans the post and junior Taylor Stafford had a breakout fall at the point guard spot.  He's lightning quick and should continue his big improvement this season.   I picked Anoka ahead of Blaine and Andover in my NW Suburban picks but losing Marcus Tyus until at least January is a huge blow.  They will be one of the hardest teams in the state to seed thanks to that injury.  And with a lower seed, they have bracket buster written all over them.  Forest Lake is the best of the rest with their open-post offense.  Cambridge-Isanti loses a ton but returns shooter Ted Lutterman.  The Duluth combo jumps in next.  Coon Rapids and St. Francis are my picks for the pigtail game.

    Section Winner: Duluth East.  I think they'll be better than years past defensively.  But unlike last year where they could use Woodard as a defensive stopper and let Dyami Starks score, they'll need to get Woodard off the star on defense.  The other 2 stars I think are the nominees for the runner up spot.  That's forward Zach Romashko at Blaine and Tyus if healthy.

    10-11 Section 6AAAA Preview

    This is the 22nd preview in my 2010-2011 season preview series.  In this preview, a look at Section 6AAAA.  For a list of all the season previews, click here.

    Defending Champion: Hopkins

    Predicted Seeding
    1. Hopkins
    2. Robbinsdale Armstrong
    3. St. Louis Park
    4. Minnetonka
    5. Wayzata
    6. Minneapolis North
    7. South
    8. Southwest
    Minneapolis Southwest is improved and I think they shock the world by running through the section and making state.  Enough nonsense, the top team in 4A resides here and that's Hopkins.  After that, Armstrong's guard play and finish in the NW Suburban puts them second.  St. Louis Park with everyone back will have a nice year and take 3.  Minnetonka will be much improved by the end of the year but learning a new system for coach Dasovich and the always difficult schedule, especially in December while learning that system, will knock down their seed.  Wayzata's front line of Eric Robertson and Chris Burt puts them at #5.  The Minneapolis City standings determine the rest.  Expect a big fight for the 3 seed because the 4/5 winner would play Hopkins in round 2.  South's guard play led by Carnell Sheppard and lack of Armstrong bigs could make for an interesting 2 vs 7 game.

    Section Winner: Hopkins.  While the Royals aren't the perfect team, they still have an elite point in Siyani Chambers, the top prospect in the state Joe Coleman and a beast up front in Marvin Singleton.  They're still one of the top 2 teams in the state at worst and the other team is in 3A (Johnson).

    10-11 Section 5AAAA Preview

    This is the 21st preview in my 2010-2011 season preview series.  In this preview, I move to the north metro for a look at Section 5AAAA.  For a list of all the season previews, click here.

    Defending Champion: Champlin Park

    Predicted Seeding
    1. Osseo
    2. Irondale
    3. Mounds View
    4. Robbinsdale Cooper
    5. Champlin Park
    6. Spring Lake Park
    7. Centennial
    8. Park Center
    Osseo is the clear favorite but after that, this section is a real tossup.  Bryan Sprang makes me take Irondale for the 2 spot.  But they may have to win at Mounds View on Dec 10th to get it.  Cooper will have plenty of athletes and is dangerous at 4.  Champlin Park with TJ Okafor can scare at #5.  Spring Lake Park can really help themselves with home games against Mounds View and Centennial in early December and Champlin Park in February in addition to the 4 league games with Irondale and Cooper.  Not sure they beat Mounds View or Champlin Park but I think they beat Centennial to swipe the 6 spot.  Park Center falls to 8 via my NW Suburban picks but a rivalry game with Osseo makes the 1 vs 8 slightly more interesting.  The Bethel holiday tourney features 4 of these teams (Mounds View, Champlin Park, Cooper and Centennial) so a strong showing in that tournament could go a long way in section seeding.

    Section Winner: Osseo.  Too talented for the rest of a very average section.  Orioles shouldn't have any trouble moving through.  Individual performances from players like Bryan Sprang, Jordan Van Eps, TJ Okafor and Terrance Averyheart will go a long way in determining who the Orioles will face in the section final.

    10-11 Section 4AAAA Preview

    This is the 20th preview in my 2010-2011 season preview series.  In this preview, I move to the east metro for a look at Section 4AAAA.  For a list of all the season previews, click here.

    Defending Champion: Henry Sibley

    Predicted Seeding
    1. Tartan
    2. Cretin-Derham Hall
    3. Roseville
    4. Henry Sibley
    5. Stillwater
    6. White Bear Lake
    7. North St. Paul
    8. East Ridge
    9. Woodbury
    This is the 1 of the 2 AAAA sections that will have an 8 vs 9 pigtail game this season.  East Ridge moves in as the 9th team.  As usual this is the Classic Suburban vs Suburban East showcase with the top teams in each league highlighting the bracket.  The conference winners and runners-up get the top 4 seeds.  Roseville has enough talent to over come the 2 teams in front of them.  Lucas Brown is a handful for anybody in the section.  The rest falls in line with league results.  White Bear Lake gets a rough draw as the 6 seed but they could scare Roseville in that 3 vs 6 game.  East Ridge gets the home pigtail game.  I wonder with them moving in to the section if the section site eventually gets moved as it would be possible for East Ridge to play 3 games at home to make state (if they were a top 4 seed).  The rest of the sections are setup to avoid section semis/finals at home.

    Section Winner: Tartan.  Last year's semifinal loss to Cretin-Derham Hall was really tough to swallow and I think the Titans get revenge.  These are 2 teams that are similar with Awich vs Newman up front and Strong/Preiners vs Tillman/Kelly/Montero on the outside.  I think Tartan is better defensively and has the top difference maker in this game, Darrion Strong.  Combine that with the defensive options Tartan can throw at Raijon Kelly and I think that puts Tartan over the top in a quality section final.

    10-11 Section 3AAAA Preview

    This is the 19th preview in my 2010-2011 season preview series.  In this preview, I stay in the south metro for a look at Section 3AAAA.  For a list of all the season previews, click here.

    Defending Champion: Eastview

    Predicted Seeding

    1. Eastview
    2. Apple Valley
    3. Lakeville South
    4. Eagan
    5. Lakeville North
    6. Rosemount
    7. Burnsville
    8. Park
    This is the easiest section to seed but only because Park puts themselves at the bottom.  The South Suburban standings determine the rest.  Top to bottom you won't find a tougher bracket, especially in the top 6.  Rosemount and Matt Nelson is not a 6 seed I would want to draw if I'm a 3 seed.  The top 3 are absolutely stacked and Eagan is as good a 4 seed as you'll find.  Lakeville South can have a big say with their front line of Alex Richter, Spencer Pankonin and Jon Christensen.  Eagan has plenty of firepower to scare and if Jameson Parsons gets hot, they can definitely pull an upset.

    Section Winner: Eastview.  The Lightning are stacked with perimeter and inside players.  If they get quality point guard play, watch out.  Their 2 regular season games last year with Apple Valley were decided by a combined 7 points before Eastview won the section title by 12.  Expect another classic in a section final rematch.  Don't be shocked if it turns out to be the best section final in AAAA.

    10-11 Section 2AAAA Preview

    This is the 18th preview in my 2010-2011 season preview series.  In this preview, I start my week long look at the 6 metro area sections in class AAAA with a look at Section 2AAAA.  For a list of all the season previews, click here.

    Defending Champion: Eden Prairie

    Predicted Seeding
    1. Chaska
    2. Eden Prairie
    3. Shakopee
    4. Bloomington Jefferson
    5. Edina
    6. Chanhassen
    7. Prior Lake
    8. Bloomington Kennedy
    This section breaks down into 3 very good teams at the top and then blah below.  Chaska gets the top seed based on winning the Missota.  I think Eden Prairie is the best team here but their schedule is so insanely difficult I can't see them getting through all of it.  Shakopee is heads and shoulders above the rest with Petrill, Ulferts and Perkins all returning.  Jefferson gets the 4 seed with the best remaining player, Marcus Alipate.  But any game with Jefferson in this section is sure to either be a blowout or a cure for insomnia.  5-8 could fall anywhere.  Edina's guard play puts them at 5.  Chanhassen falls in at 6 thanks to some wins against the bottom of the Missota and Kevin Jensen.  Prior Lake's tough schedule and youth puts them at 7.  Kennedy comes in at 8 after a rough season.  But they've surprised in fall ball with wins over Chaska and a nice performance in a loss to Johnson.  We'll see if that translates to the regular season.  The Eden Prairie vs Shakopee semifinal will be a defensive struggle.  It wouldn't surprise me to see that game in the 40s.

    Section Winner: Eden Prairie.  While I think Chaska has the most talent in the section, its hard to pick against the defending champs. I think Eden Prairie slows the tempo and plays the game at their pace.  That will minimize the impact of Ross Travis.  While EP isn't an offensive juggernaut, their defense is stout and in a slow game I see that as potential frustration for the Hawks.  Chaska's Jake White vs Eden Prairie's Conner Nord inside is a matchup to watch in that one.

    10-11 Section 6AAA Preview

    This is the 17th preview in my 2010-2011 season preview series.  In this preview, I venture to the west metro to look at Section 6AAA.  For a list of all the season previews, click here.

    Defending Champion: Benilde-St. Margaret's

    Predicted Seeding
    1. Benilde-St. Margaret's
    2. Waconia
    3. Minneapolis Washburn
    4. Holy Family
    5. Holy Angels
    6. Richfield
    7. Mound-Westonka
    Nothing like a 7 team section with 6 conferences represented.  Makes for an interesting seeding challenge.  Chanhassen leaves the section to move up to AAAA.  Benilde-St. Margaret's has the most firepower in the section.  Winning the North Suburban and a tough non-conference schedule should get them the top seed.  If Shelby Moats and his back are healthy enough to lead Waconia to the Wright County title, the Wildcats will also make a strong case for the top seed.  Waconia has lost as the 2 seed in the 1st round the last 2 years though.  Washburn will build on last season and finish strong in the Minneapolis City to get the 3 seed.

    Holy Family returns junior center Ryan Daul and guard Jeff Soule for new coach Joe Burger.  He's a former assistant for the Fire so expect much of the same disciplined system.  The 2A conference schedule hurts them in seeding but they have Braham in the tipoff classic and a home game with Minnetonka to help.  The biggest game might be the last game of the year at St. Thomas Academy.   Holy Angels wins the battle of Richfield for the 5/6 seeds.  If these seeds hold, I would expect the 4/5 Holy Angels rematch with Holy Family to be very different than their regular season meeting before Christmas.  Both of coach McKenzie's teams at AHA have started slow and made big runs late in the year.  With a young squad this season, expect them to be very different in early March than in December and January.  Mound-Westonka lost a group of seniors but still has guard Matt Daoust and center Dan Flesher returning to provide experience.  But I think they drop to the lower half of the Wright County.

    Section Winner: Benilde-St. Margaret's.  The Red Knights will have another year of experience for their talented junior class and will have roles sorted out by then.  Too deep and talented to lose the section.  An off shooting night against a team like Waconia who defends well and plays slow is the only way I see them not advancing.  But I don't see Waconia getting there as I think Washburn takes them out in the semis.

    10-11 Section 4AAA Preview

    This is the 16th preview in my 2010-2011 season preview series.  In this preview, I continue my look at the metro area sections with a look at Section 4AAA.  For a list of all the season previews, click here.

    Defending Champion: St. Paul Johnson

    Predicted Seeding
    1. St. Paul Johnson
    2. St. Thomas Academy
    3. Hill-Murray
    4. Mahtomedi
    5. St. Paul Highland Park
    6. South St. Paul
    7. St. Paul Harding
    In the St. Paul City vs Classic Suburban tournament, the Classic Suburban is stronger top to bottom, but Johnson is the defending state champs and still loaded.  Johnson rolls through most of their schedule with only a couple of tests.  The Classic Suburban falls into line next though I flip Hill-Murray and Mahtomedi due to Justin Pahl leaving Mahtomedi for East Ridge.  Highland Park falls to 5th thanks to the weak St. Paul City and they have to play at Hill-Murray and Mahtomedi.  As to the bottom 2 teams, the number of their seed will be greater than their number of wins.

    Section Winner: St. Paul Johnson.  With the star perimeter trio of Tyler, Scott and Marshall back, no way I can pick against the champs. Hill-Murray vs St. Thomas will be an interesting semifinal but I think St. Thomas wins a close one.  St. Thomas is very disciplined and will keep the title game with Johnson close for a while.  But on city turf at Arlington (practically Johnson's backyard) and with all that depth, Johnson pulls away late with defensive pressure and makes another run at a state title. If Hill-Murray falls to 4 they could be looking at a 2nd round rematch at Johnson where they led by 3 at the half last year before falling 70-63.