2011-12 Classic Suburban Preview

Its that time as I begin my 5th annual season preview series.  As is tradition, we'll go through the metro area conferences in alphabetical order followed by a look at the metro area sections.  Let's get started with a look at the Classic Suburban.  For a list of all the season previews, click here.

I like Tartan, St. Thomas Academy and Richfield as the clear top 3 due to the top returnees and all have tradition.  Give me the top 2 because they really get after it defensively.  Hard to think that a Hill-Murray squad could drop that far but their losses are huge.  The next 4 teams are all better than 7th, but somebody has to finish there.  Simley and South St. Paul once again fill the bottom 2 slots.

Henry Sibley Warriors (2010-11 season 6-17, 5-11 Conference, 7th)
The first year for coach Lernell James was a rough year.  The Warriors lost 11 of their last 14 with a 45-44 rivalry win at home over St. Thomas Academy to highlight that stretch.  Defensive bulldog Bobby Wills and forward Jake Goldberg are gone.  Dajoun Davis transferred in for the 2nd half of the season and led the Warriors with 11.6 PPG.  He's also gone as is role playing forward Chris Bultena.  But the Warriors should be improved this year.  Center Alex Stafford made great strides last season.  Junior guard Adam Huessner is a knockdown shooter and Dante Grant provides scoring punch on the wing.  Junior forwards Zach Haas and Nick Goldberg saw significant minutes last year.

Hill-Murray Pioneers (2010-11 season 23-6, 16-0 Conference, 1st)
The Pioneers lose a ton from the best frontline in the league.  Rob Dahl, Jim Remke and John Duxbury were 3 of the top 4 scores and graduated.  That trio scored 44.5 points a game and accounted for more than 60% of the Pioneers points.  But the Pioneers do have 1 BIG presence left up front with 6'9" mountain Dave Simmet returning to man the middle.  He averaged 13.5 points last year and should lead the way this season.  He's got good hands and if you front him, you can't get around to keep him off the offensive glass.  Guards Eric Weimar, Lucas Glomb and Jerry Butler will need to fill the guard slots.  I look for forwards Jay Zoborowski and Cullen Ogren to play much bigger roles.  Coach Dick Ghizoni won his 400th career game last year during the playoffs.

Mahtomedi Zephyrs (2010-11 season 15-12, 7-9 Conference, 6th)
The Zephyrs look to rebound from a disappointing 6th place finish last season.  They lose 6'9" center Dane Schmid and his 10.1 PPG.  The Lindquist duo of Andrew (Sr) and Zach (Jr) return to lead the way.  Andrew is a shooter and averaged 13.6 PPG last season.  Zach is a matchup problem on the wing with his ability to play away from the basket and play against bigger defenders while overpowering smaller ones in the lane.  Forwards Sean Baumgard and Mike Harris saw big minutes last season and should man the front court.  Starting guards Cody Gerver and Dan Ferrazzo need to be replaced.

North Polars (2010-11 season 12-15, 10-6 Conference, 4th)
Guard Johnny Economy, wing Chris Duede and leading scorer Hunter Books (13.7 PPG) at forward are 3 starters returning from last year.  Soph Joe Messerole also returns to bang inside.  Guards Rex Johnson and JJ Abrego graduated.  21.6 PPG between those 2 needs to be replaced.  That's big because the Polars only averaged 53.4 PPG last season.  Look for Korey Dean to step into that role after 8.2 PPG last year along with Economy.  Despite a 3 game losing streak late (including a really ugly 42-40 loss to Hudson that I saw), the Polars did win 9 of their last 13 including home wins over Richfield and St. Thomas. 

Richfield Spartans (2010-11 season 17-10, 11-5 Conference, 3rd)
When it comes to uptempo play in the metro, the first team that comes to mind is Richfield.  Coach Omar McMillan came in last year and turned the Spartans from a defensive minded team into the fastest paced team in the metro.  It was all about a crazy fast tempo for the Spartans with 81.4 PPG in their 17 wins vs 62.2 PPG in their 10 losses.  Jared Noonan averaged 16.2 PPG last season and can explode for 25 or 30 in a hurry if he gets hot.  When he's going well, the Spartans are a handful.  The other double figure scorer also returns and that's PG Shawn Bear.  The lefty has 3 point range and averaged 11.2 PPG.  Most of the rest of the roster is a group of interchangeable athletes that complement the running style.  That includes players like Eric Jimson, Lorenzo Evans and Louis Williams.  Can they stop people and win low scoring playoff type games?

St. Thomas Academy Cadets (2010-11 season 16-10, 8-8 Conference, 5th)
It was a down year for the Cadets with only a 5th place finish.  But it was a very young roster with only 3 seniors.  Of those, Jordan Kruger was the 2nd leading scorer at 11.6 PPG.  So expect an uptick from the Cadets. Senior lefty wing Thomas Sjoberg is the team leader at 21.2 PPG and he can shoot it.  Nick Valdvogel (7.5 PPG) , John Gould and Paddy Clancy man the guard spots.  6'4" Will Johnson (7.3 PPG) is the leading returner inside. Biggest question is do they have enough firepower on offense outside of Sjoberg?

Simley Spartans (2010-11 season 7-19, 2-14 Conference, 8th)
Simley loses their leading scorer Shinoby Yang and his 12.9 PPG.  Expect John Spillane to step right into that role on the wing.  He averaged 12.7 PPG in a handful of games after transfering from St. Thomas Academy late in the season.  6'5" Dillon Kaup returns to man the inside at 10.6 PPG.  5'11" guard Sam Stensgard saw action in 25 games last year as an 8th grader and was one of the 2015 shooters I saw all year.  He averaged 5.5 PPG.

South St. Paul Packers (2010-11 season 2-25, 0-16 Conference, 9th)
A new coach will come into a rough gig at South St. Paul as Matt Fletcher left to be an assistant at D2 Kentucky Wesleyan.  The Packers are a combined 3-93 over the last 6 seasons in the league with 3 years winless and 3 other years with just 1 win.  No player averaged double-figures last season.  13 different players saw varsity action in double digit games.  8 of the top 9 scorers are gone so it figures to be a brand new look all the way around for the Packers this season.   

Tartan Titans (2010-11 season 25-4, 13-3 Conference, 2nd)
The Titans lose a ton with centers Ryan Burns and Joel Awich (Cal Poly) graduating along with their leaders Drew and Luke Preiner.  That's 4 of the top 6 scorers.  But Tartan doesn't rebuild, they reload.  Darrion Strong returns at the point at 11.1 PPG to lead the way.  Kyle Von Schmidt Pauli averaged 7.1 PPG as a wing shooter.  Junior Xavier Hall returns as one of the elite on ball defenders in the state.  Junior wing Kharie Kirkland figures to make a bigger contribution as well.  The Titans will need to find some size to defend inside.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Tartan
  2. St. Thomas Academy
  3. Richfield 
  4. North
  5. Hill-Murray 
  6. Mahtomedi
  7. Henry Sibley 
  8. Simley
  9. South St. Paul
Conference MVP: Darrion Strong - Tartan

Underclassmen to watch:  
Eric Weimar - Hill-Murray
Jacob Steckler, Joe Messerole - North
Louis Williams - Richfield
Sam Stensgard, Ben Scheffley - Simley
Ben Fiers - St. Thomas Academy
Marshawn Wilson - Tartan

Games that will determine the conference title
  • Richfield at St. Thomas Academy - January 3rd
  • St. Thomas Academy at Tartan - January 6th
  • Richfield at Tartan - January 20th
  • St. Thomas Academy at Richfield - Feb 3rd
  • Tartan at St. Thomas Academy - Feb 7th
  • Tartan at Richfield - Feb 21st
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Tartan vs Apple Valley - Dec 10th (Tip Off Classic at Minnetonka)
  • St. Thomas Academy vs Perham - Dec 10th (Tip Off Classic at Minnetonka)
  • Cretin-Derham Hall at St. Thomas Academy - Dec 17th 
  • Holy Family at Tartan - Dec 20th
  • Richfield at Grand Rapids Tournament Dec 29-30th
  • Duluth East at Tartan - Jan 14th
  • Tartan vs Waunakee, WI - Feb 4th (Border Battle at Sun Prairie, WI)
  • Duluth East at St. Thomas Academy - Feb 17th

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