2011 Pulley Jamboree thoughts

It was the return of the St. Thomas Jamboree but now out in Eagan at High Performance Academy.  Having 3 pizza choices, including a 3 meat pizza, is definitely worth noting.  Who am I to be unhappy when the Wisconsin/Penn State game was on the TV in the lobby?  Good crowd on hand for the 8 sessions.  Sessions were 2 10 minute halves with regular timing.

Session 1: Orono vs Rosemount
A hot start for Orono's Brady Wohler as he had 3 assists (2 for 3s) and a pair of buckets to be involved in the first 12 Orono points.  Orono took a 17-13 lead midway through the first half but a pair of Rosemount bombs led an 11-3 run to end the half.  24-20 Rosemount at half.  The Irish would score the first 6 of the second half to push the lead to 10.  Orono made a furious comeback.  A putback for a 3 point play cut the lead to 36-35 with 2 minutes left.  Orono would get 3 more chances to take the lead and couldn't convert.  Rosemount hung on for the 36-35 win.  Brady Wohler 11 points for Orono.

Session 2: Minneapolis South vs Hill-Murray
Carnell Sheppard opened the game with a pair of 3s to lead South to a quick 10-2 lead.  Hill-Murray would counter with a 7-0 lead to cut the lead to 1.  Then the teams traded points for a 18-17 South lead at the half.  Hill-Murray would tie the game at 21 and then go to the bench.  South countered with a 7-0 run as the Pioneers would score again until 45 seconds left.  30-23 South wins.  Carnell Sheppard 10 points for South.  Dave Simmet 8 points for Hill-Murray.

Session 3: Braham vs St. Thomas Academy
This game was all about Braham's Tyler Vaughan (MN-Moorhead commit) and seeing some of THE WORLD'S WORST OFFENSE (with all due respect to coach Bob Vaughan).  A bucket followed by a pair of 3s for Vaughan as Braham opened a 13-3 lead.  15-8 Bombers at the half.  The Bombers hold St. Thomas star Thomas Sjoberg without a field goal and go on to win 32-25.  Vaughan finishes with 5 3s and 19 points.

Session 4: DeLaSalle vs Holy Angels
Holy Angels played without their front line of Danny Sullivan and Mike Hudson in this one.  5 all midway thru the first half before a 15-4 run to take control.  22-16 DLS at the half.  All Islanders in the second half as they pull away for a 47-25 win.  Shawn Fitzgibbons very productive and Reid Travis showing a burst inside and quality play.  12 points for Travis on my sheet.  Jordan Dembley 11 points for the Stars.

Session 5: Osseo vs Minnetonka
Behind the post play of Latrell Love, Minnetonka jumped out to a 10-4 lead.  Bridge Tusler would counter with 5 in a row for Osseo in the last minute of the first half.  14-12 Minnetonka at the half.  An overall run of 13-4 by Osseo across halftime would give them a 21-16 lead with 5 minutes left.  Then both teams went deep into their benches, especially Osseo.  Andrew Turnblad with a great hustle play for a bucket with 3:16 left would put Tonka back on top and they would pull away for a 31-25 win.  8 points for Latrell Love.

Session 6: Hopkins vs Apple Valley
No Harry Sonie for Apple Valley so a major piece missing for the Eagles.  But Tyus Jones would control the half for Apple Valley.  He had anywhere from 4 to 7 assists in the first half along with 6 points.  Those passes not just for points, but mostly for layups.  In the half court, in transitions, right handed, left handed, all the passes were there.  26-23 Apple Valley at the break.  Apple Valley would extend the lead to 7 but Zach Stahl tried to bring Hopkins back.  He makes a pair of layups and a free throw to cut the lead to 36-34 with 4:20 left.  Totally looked like the Hopkins run to put them over the top but not to be.  Apple Valley pulls away late and wins 52-38.  Tyus Jones 13 points and anywhere from 8-12 assists.  So as expected he was factor in a large majority of their points.  11 points for Zach Stahl and Siyani Chambers.  Great day for the Apple Valley supporting cast who played extremely well.

Session 7: Park Center vs Tartan
Park Center played without star guard Quinton Hooker who was visiting family in Nebraska.  That would make one think this would be a blowout.  Not to be the case.  Park Center's athletes were effective and overcame some moments from Darrion Strong to have the lead most of the way.  Tartan would get a putback to take the lead for good with 2:37 left.  A late Strong bucket pushed the lead to 4.  Tartan hung on 40-38.

Session 8: Armstrong vs Columbia Heights
Ben Glover on the bench in street clothes for the game.  Coach Greg Miller doesn't have much in the way of seniors so Armstrong will rely on juniors and youth.  3 freshman moved up to JV and 3 more to the sophomore squad in a class that the Falcons are very excited about.  As you can tell, not much to mention from the game itself.  18-11 Heights at the half and they roll to a 34-21 win.

Watching a future Badger

Welcome to The Old Kingdom!  It's The Czar's 2011-12 Season Opener at Green Bay Northeast Wisconsin Lutheran (GB or NEW for short).  The Crown Prince and a cousin of mine and his wife join me for this one.  Never a bad thing to be within shouting distance of The Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field.  Tonight's attraction is 6'7" F Sam Dekker of Sheboygan Lutheran.  He's a top 40 kid nationally who will play at Wisconsin next season.   He averaged 29 and 10 last season and Sheboygan Lutheran lost 4 starters so he's primed for a HUGE season (hint, foreshadowing).  The game itself has plenty of meaning too.  GB NEW comes into the season as the 2-time defending section champions and these 2 are in the same sub-section.  Both are picked second preseason in their leagues so don't be surprised if they meet again in March.  Had to duck into the game before halftime to make sure we all got a seat as a full house of 1 side of bleachers was on hand for this one.  I had to get a picture of the GB NEW Lutheran Blazer mascot as it was one of the more unique ones I've seen in a while.

Upon arriving, we find that the school's cafeteria is used for concessions and that's never a bad thing.  There's chili on the menu so I can't let that pass.  A little thick but had some kick to it which isn't a bad thing.  Add in a 24 oz Pepsi to wash it down and that's a good enough dinner for me.  As to game fare, I didn't have the popcorn but the rest of my posse said it may have been the worst they've ever had.  Big thumbs down to that from the peanut gallery.

Game Time
This was the season opener for both teams and the first quarter showed it.  NEW gets the first 5 of the game and Dekker misses his first 2 free throws.   Dekker would come back with a 3 point play off of a turnover.  That was the only Sheboygan Lutheran field goal of the quarter.  Dekker missed a pair of bunnies but was fouled to make a pair of free throws for a 7-5 lead at the 5:33 mark.  Freshman Jacob Jurss with a pair of freebies at the 1:52 mark for Sheboygan Lutheran and we're tied at 9.  Dekker's touches totally gone as there were a pair of instances where he was wide open and teammates didn't even look at him.  Very surprising.  Sheboygan Lutheran falls apart in the last 2 minutes with turnovers.  NEW converts that into an 11-0 run to close the quarter.  NEW's Travis Voigt with a pretty up and under to get it started and a bucket at the buzzer to end it.  20-9 GB NEW after the first quarter.  Dekker 5 points and 4 rebounds (2 of them offensive boards on the same play).

Dekker comes out as a man on a mission to start the 2nd quarter.  He drives from the high post against a NEW zone for 1 free throw and puts back the miss of the other.   Then he scores on the post followed by a pullup for 3.  He tips in a miss for a personal 10-0 run.  After a NEW bucket, he gets out for a huge dunk at the 4:50 mark.  22-21 NEW.  NEW not phased as they get a floater, a triple from Voigt and a putback for a 7-0 run.  29-21 NEW.  Then a big swing as NEW missed a pair of bonus front ends that could have pushed the lead to 12.  Dekker drives at the 1:20 mark for what was almost his 3rd charge of the night (his 2 charges in the half were very questionable).  Jurss nails a 3 and converts a steal for 2 more in the last 30 seconds of the half.  Those were the only field goals by somebody other than Dekker in the half.  NEW gets the last hoop of the half and takes a 35-28 lead to halftime.  Easily could have been double digits as Dekker got almost no help and NEW with great balance.  Dekker's line at halftime 19 points and 9 rebounds.

To the 3rd quarter we go.  Dekker inside on the post countered by a Voigt 3.  40-30 NEW at the 6:52 mark and they take the classic Momentum Killer timeout after the Voigt 3. Whatever was said got the rest of Dekker's teammates going.  Dekker gets a continuation call at 5:47 for the And 1 to cut the lead to 42-35.  Soph lefty Tyler Zastrow knocks down a 3.  Dekker on the post and another Zastrow jumper.  Add on 2 more Sheboygan Lutheran free throws and they're within 46-44 at the 2:21 mark.  14-6 spurt in 4:31 since the NEW timeout.  Dekker with a putback and a coast to coast 3 point play around a Josh Wheeler 3 and that's a 4 point Sheboygan Lutheran lead (22-8 run since the timeout).  Junior Tyler Schaut hits his 2nd 3 of the night for NEW just before the end of the quarter.  52-51 Sheboygan Lutheran going to the final stanza.  Dekker's line after 3, 33 points and 13 boards.

Sophomore Dakota Zinser with a foul line jumper as NEW won't go away to start the 4th.  59-55 NEW with 5:40 remaining.  Dekker 4 straight free throws, last 2 on an offensive board.  Zinser for 3 and a turnover goes the other way for a Voigt layup.  64-59 NEW with 4:10 to go and Sheboygan Lutheran appears to be on the ropes.  66-62 NEW inside of 3 minutes when Zastrow comes up with a huge 3.  NEW counters with a bucket and they get a stop with 2:30 to go up 68-65.  Then a pair of costly turnovers for NEW and Jurss converts both with a jumper for 2 and then a pass from Dekker for a huge 3 with 1:40 left.  70-68 Sheboygan Lutheran.  NEW fouled and they miss another front end with 1:35 left.  Dekker fouled and makes 1 of 2 and NEW turns it over again.  Sheboygan Lutheran takes a timeout inside a minute to just barely avoid a turnover of their own and Dekker converts it into a driving layup with 35 seconds left.  Nathan Claflin buries a 3 for NEW with 27.7 left to cut the lead to 73-71.  But to no avail.  Dekker makes 2 more freebies and after a turnover adds a layup.  Sheboygan Lutheran gets a hard fought road win 77-71.  12-3 run over the last 2:30 put the Crusaders over the top.

Post Game
For GB NEW, lefty Travis Voigt leads a balanced attack with 16 points.  Tyler Schaut 14, Grant Glodoski 10, Dakota Zinser and Nathan Claflin 9 each.  Their big senior center was in foul trouble for a large chunk of the night and wasn't a good matchup.  That means most of the contributions were by non-seniors which is impressive.  Take Dekker out of the Sheboygan Lutheran lineup and I thought top to bottom NEW had more talent.  Nothing fancy from them on either end.  Very interesting that they didn't really throw any bag of tricks at Dekker (e.g Box and 1).  Definitely expect them to be a tough out come tourney time in D5.  Playing in the larger school Packerland definitely helps too.

For Sheboygan Lutheran, Sam Dekker finishes with 45 points and 15 boards on my sheet (paper says 13 but I'll take my 15).  Most of that damage was inside as his outside shot wasn't falling.  I had him 1-6 from 3 point range, 14-26 overall.  16-21 from the charity stripe.  Only 1 shot that I would say was forced and a very willing passer.  Jacob Jurss 13 points.  Tyler Zastrow 7 of his 9 points in the second half were big. 

GB NEW Lutheran will definitely come away from this one feeling they let one slip away.  Considering they had a 5 point lead with 4 minutes to go and had some costly turnovers and missed free throws, I would definitely love to see these 2 teams hook up again in March.  I'd expect Sheboygan Lutheran's youth to show strides since this game and NEW to come out with something to at least try to slow Dekker down a tad while they lock down on the other guys.

More Czar ramblings on conference realignment

Starting next season, you've got New London-Spicer and Holy Family joining the Wright County to make 11 teams.  Becker leaves the Mississippi 8 dropping that league to 6 teams.  So I figured while teams are moving teams around I'd fix some other issues that are out there.  Here are some realignment thoughts I had.  These should be viewed through the prism of current situations and not overall ideals where the entire map could be redrawn.  That said all of my proposed leagues have been checked for enrollments and the numbers do mostly make sense.

Thought 1A: It seems obvious that the Mississippi 8 won't exist for long as a 6 team league and has already talked to the St. Cloud area schools about joining.  So that is the big elephant in the room that needs to be addressed first.  Here's what I'd do for a new league.

Mississippi Lakes East - Cambridge-Isanti, Buffalo, STMA, Rogers, Elk River, St. Francis
Mississippi Lakes West - Rocori, Tech, Apollo, Sartell, Sauk Rapids, Willmar

The St. Cloud schools want in?  I can oblige them.  The league wants Elk River?  I can do that too despite Elk River's past refusals.  Teams would play 16 league games in a divisional schedule with home and home against your division and 1 game against the other division split 3 home and 3 away.  This puts the 4A teams on 1 side and 3A teams on the other with Tech as the exception.  Look at the rivalries in this league.  CI vs St. Francis, Buffalo vs STMA, Rogers vs Elk River in a district game, Tech vs Apollo, Sartell vs Sauk Rapids.  Even Rocori and Willmar.  Those pairs of teams would be the "travel partners" for purposes of balancing out travel each year.  That means you would have only 1 bad cross-division trip a year.  i.e. West teams would travel to St. Francis or Cambridge-Isanti but not both.  East teams would travel to Rocori or Willmar, but not both.  The long travel games would be scheduled for Friday nights.

There are plenty of other benefits to this proposal as well and they impact the immediate metro. 
  • It chops the North Suburban and Northwest Suburban down to a manageable 10 teams from the obnoxious number of 11.  
  • It takes away an outlying member to limit travel in those leagues that they're leaving.  
  • It would allow the North Suburban to go back to a balanced league schedule.
Thought 1B: My proposal destroys the Central Lakes as we know it today by taking away 6 of the 9 teams.  I take care of the 3 remaining teams by creating a new league of larger outstate schools.

North Central Lakes - Alexandria, Moorhead, Fergus Falls, Bemidji, Brainerd, Detroit Lakes, Grand Rapids

This gives 3 independents a place to play (Grand Rapids, Moorhead and Bemidji) with travel that isn't all that bad.  Each team has 2 others that are close enough to play on a Tuesday night (Detroit Lakes to Bemidji is borderline though).  So league play would be 4 Tuesday nights (2 in January and 2 in Feb against the 2 close schools) and the last 8 Fridays of the season for long trips.  A 12 game league schedule and a holiday tournament means these teams only have to find 8 to 10 other games.  Here are the pairings for the Tuesday games.

Alexandria - Brainerd & Fergus Falls
Bemidji  - Grand Rapids & Detroit Lakes
Brainerd - Alexandria & Grand Rapids
Detroit Lakes - Moorhead & Bemidji
Fergus Falls - Moorhead & Alexandria
Moorhead - Detroit Lakes & Fergus Falls

Thought 1C: I didn't forget about Monticello and Big Lake from the Mississippi 8.  The Wright County needs a 12th team so we'll add Monticello (largest school in the league) and put them in the east division with the other growing schools from the western fringes of the metro.  That would make the Wright County look like this.

Wright County East - Holy Family, Delano, Orono, Waconia, Mound-Westonka, Monticello
Wright County West - New London-Spicer, Annandale, Litchfield, Glencoe-Silver Lake, Dassel-Cokato, Hutchinson

Thought 1D: Big Lake would go with neighbor Becker to the Granite Ridge.  With Melrose likely being placed in the Granite Ridge by the MSHSL, that would put that league at 11 teams.  Of course I can't allow that.  Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it so from the history of the old Rum River Conference, I add Pine City from the Great River to make 12 teams.  That would cut the Great River down to a perfect size of 8 teams.  They'd split as follows with same scheduling rules as my new Mississippi Lakes Conference.  Becker and Big Lake go west because of proximity  to the interstate and to keep traditional Rum River rivalries in the east.

Granite Ridge East - Foley, Milaca, Mora, Princeton, Zimmerman, Pine City
Granite Ridge West - Little Falls, St. Cloud Cathedral, Albany, Melrose, Becker, Big Lake

11-12 Sections 4A-4AA Preview

This is the 23rd and final preview in my 2011-2012 season preview series.  We finish with a look at the little guys.  Its time to preview sections 4AA and 4A.  For a list of all the season previews, click here.

Section 4AA
Defending Champion: Minnehaha

Predicted Seeding
  1. Concordia
  2. Minnehaha
  3. Trinity
  4. St. Croix Lutheran
  5. St. Agnes
  6. Breck
  7. St. Paul Academy
  8. New Life Academy
  9. Minneapolis Edison
  10. St. Paul Humboldt
  11. Brooklyn Center
  12. Mounds Park Academy
  13. International School
  14. Great River
  15. Hmong Academy
Another down year in section 4AA, especially with Blake moving up to 6AAA.  For sake of this preview, I'll assume Minneapolis Roosevelt stays in 6AAA.  The bottom 7 all figure to seriously stuggle this season.  EMAC gets the short end of the stick with the last 3 seeds.  New Life will be better than I expected (I messed up their preview) but the MCAA schedule won't do them any favors in seeding.  4-7 fall into place based on Tri-Metro finish.  Trinity wins their half of the MCAA and gets a 3 seed.  Concordia and Minnehaha are the 2 favorites.  I like Concordia with 9 seniors but don't count out the defending champs with one of the best scorers in the section, Gerald McCarver.

Sleeper: Breck.  Coach Matt McCollister has a group of 4 talented freshmen.  They'll take some lumps early but with a year under their belt, come tourney time they will be a tough out.

Section Winner: Concordia. Post Cutler Finneman is too much inside and he'll have help.

Section 4A
Defending Champion: Maranatha

I won't bother with seeding predictions because you never know who will actually play come section time.  23 teams are listed but I'll be surprised if more than 19 actually play.   Big story is the move of Minneapolis North into the section from 6AAAA.  The 2 favorites have to be Maranatha and Prairie Seeds Academy.  Garrison Gillard joins an already talented class at Maranatha and should have a big year.  Gage Deis joins Prairie Seeds and will be the top post in the section.  Heritage and Minnesota Transitions are 2 other teams I'm keeping an eye on.  Heritage has plenty returning from a 19-9 squad.  MTS won't be a juggernaut likes years past but will still have plenty to work with in forward David Wallendorf, wing Terrence Lofton and post Tevin Simms.  North, Legacy, CHOF, West Lutheran, Four Directions, FAIR, PACT and St. Croix Prep should make up the best of the rest in no particular order.  Ben Freeby (Legacy), Kyle Roy (Four Directions) and Tyler Strandlund (CHOF) are posts that will need to be prepared for.

Sleeper: Minnesota Transitions.  I see most sleeping on the Wolves with a Noreen no longer on the roster.

Section Winner: Maranatha.  I see too much talent and tradition there to pick against the Mustangs.

11-12 Section 3AAA Preview

This is the 22nd preview in my 2011-2012 season preview series.  In this preview, we look at our final class AAA section.  Its off to the north metro for a look at section 3.  For a list of all the season previews, click here.

Defending Champion: Columbia Heights

Predicted Seeding
  1. DeLaSalle
  2. Spring Lake Park
  3. Columbia Heights
  4. Minneapolis Patrick Henry
  5. St. Anthony
  6. Totino-Grace
  7. St. Paul Como Park
  8. Fridley
Plenty of talent in the top half of this section.  DeLaSalle leads the way in that department and with a whole season to educate the youth, I like them on top.  Spring Lake Park's run and easy schedule in the North Suburban gives them the 2 seed.  Sean Scott very dangerous for the Panthers and they have plenty of experience.  Ben Glover and Columbia Heights can't be discounted with their athletes.  Henry is a huge wildcard with Darius Hill, Shawn Atkins, Wunell Beard and Tim Gill (I'm hearing Deonte Blakemore is no longer there).  The recent coaching search there was botched badly in my opinion.  Hopefully they finally ended up with a quality new coach to lead a program that has taken a huge tumble in recent years.  St. Anthony's Anthony Brama is one of the top scorers in the section.  Totino-Grace fits into the next slot by default.  Como Park and Fridley fill the last 2 slots.  The Fridley tournament has St. Anthony, Fridley and Como Park so keep an eye on that for seed theft. 

Sleeper: St Anthony.  Coach Dave Bratland gets his guys to play as hard as anyone and makes sure his top guys get the shots.  Add in a goto scorer who can get points inside against a section that has very little size and I see a sleeper.

Section Winner: DeLaSalle.  They come out of another tough game to win the section.  But don't ignore the experience at Spring Lake Park.  Columbia Heights is a serious threat with a big time scorer and a ton of athletic bodies.  If they can force opponents to play their frenetic style, they'll have a great shot to return to state.

11-12 Section 4AAA Preview

This is the 21st preview in my 2011-2012 season preview series.  In this preview, we 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. St. Paul Central
  4. Hill-Murray
  5. St. Paul Highland Park
  6. Simley
  7. St. Paul Harding
  8. South St. Paul
Minor changes in 4AAA with Mahtomedi moving up to AAAA.  St. Paul Central moves in along with Simley to put the section back at 8 teams.  This is still Johnson's section to lose as they are the 3 time defending champs.  St. Thomas Academy has enough experience and discipline to give the Govs a run but I think Johnson is too deep in the end.  Central, Hill-Murray and Highland Park all fit in the middle.  With Marcus Taylor-Knighten, Will McDonough and Montrell Williams I see Central as the best of those 3.  Central can possibly steal the 2 seed with a win at St. Thomas Academy over the holidays.  Hill-Murray won't be any fun to play with center Dave Simmet.  Highland Park's guards Deon Bradley and Ty'Shaun Williams give them enough to scare in a first rounder.  Hill-Murray hosts the season opener with Central and then visits Highland Park (size vs speed in that one) before Christmas in a pair of games that will be big in the seeding process.  The bottom 3 are all in rebuilding modes.  I'll put Simley as the best of the rest with wing John Spillane, Dillon Kaup inside and shooter Sam Stensgard.  Simley and Harding will determine their seeds at the Trinity holiday tournament.   

Sleeper: Hill-Murray. I totally missed on Hill-Murray last year picking them 5th in league (went 16-0).  Nobody in the section has a matchup for center Dave Simmet.  Their 2-3 zone gives people fits and Dick Ghizoni is a very underrated coach.  Beating good Tartan teams 4 straight times isn't to be ignored.  Side Note: Johnson has knocked Hill-Murray out of the playoffs the last 4 years but at least 2 of those have been very good games.  Could very likely happen again this season.

Section Winner: St. Paul Johnson. They've been there and done that with 3 straight titles.  I think they're too athletic for the rest of the section.

11-12 Section 6AAA Preview

This is the 20th preview in my 2011-2012 season preview series.  In this preview, we move down a class and start looking at class AAA.  We'll start with section 6.  For a list of all the season previews, click here.

Defending Champion: Waconia

Predicted Seeding
  1. Benilde-St. Margaret's
  2. Washburn
  3. Richfield
  4. Holy Family
  5. Blake
  6. Chaska
  7. Holy Angels
  8. Roosevelt
Big changes in 6AAA with Blake and Minneapolis Roosevelt moving up from section 4AA (though I see Roosevelt still in 4AA elsewhere on MSHSL site so stay tuned).  But we still get 6 conference represented (depending on how you want to count Holy Family).  Chaska moves down from 2AAAA after playing in the title game there last year.  No surprise there as the move almost happened last year when Chanhassen was moved out.  Defending champion Waconia leaves for section 2AAA and Mound-Westonka moves west to section 5.  Benilde-St. Margaret's is the no brainer favorite on paper even without Kyle Washington but as last year upset in the section final vs Waconia showed, that's why they play the games.  Washburn wins the Minneapolis City and takes the 2 seed.  The Holy Family and Richfield debate will once again rage with Richfield winning it, but at least they won't have a 1st round game at Richfield.  Big Ryan Dahl will a handful for anybody in the section.  Remember he went off for 36 last year in the Breakdown Tipoff Classic against a very good Braham team.  On the same theme, Blake gets knocked down due to the weak Tri-Metro but they would have had a real chance to win 4AA.  The Bears will get their chance to move up with road games at Holy Family and Richfield in February or to move down with post new year's games against Chaska and at Roosevelt.  Bottom 3 teams figure to struggle but Holy Angels is never an easy out at tourney time.  Forward Danny Sullivan is solid and guards Jordan Dembley and Delshawn Strickland are sound as well.  Their annual rivalry game with Richfield moves back from its annual last game before Christmas slot to the last day of February and should be a great preview for how the Stars will do in section play.

Sleeper: Blake. As mentioned, I think they would have been a real contender in 4AA.  Junior forward Kebu Johnson is back for what seems like his 700th season as the goto guy.  Soph point guard John Veil is under the radar now but won't be for long.

Section Winner: Benilde-St. Margaret's. I like the matchup against Washburn or Richfield so that's a part of it.  Main reason is to make up for last year's loss in the section final.  There's still 3 D1 kids there and they'll always be able to find quality role kids.

11-12 Section 3AAAA Preview

This is the 19th preview in my 2011-2012 season preview series.  In this preview, a look at section 3AAAA.  For a list of all the season previews, click here.

Defending Champion: Lakeville South

Predicted Seeding
  1. Eastview
  2. Apple Valley
  3. Cretin-Derham Hall
  4. Eagan
  5. East Ridge
  6. Rosemount
  7. Henry Sibley
  8. Park
A year of major change in section 3.  Defending champ Lakeville South and Burnsville leave for section 2.  Lakeville North leaves for section 1 and becomes the immediate favorite there.  Section 4 provides the replacements with East Ridge, Henry Sibley and the defending champ Cretin-Derham Hall.  Eastview as my pick to win the tough South Suburban has to also be picked the 1 seed.  CDH has a tough schedule and injuries to deal with so I'll drop them to 3 but can see them making it to 2.  The middle group of East Ridge, Eagan and Rosemount is very even, but I'll give the edge to Eagan for the final home game.  Sibley and Park are the 2 bottom teams with Sibley clearly being the better of the 2.

Sleeper: East Ridge.  With shooter Justin Pahl and the development of freshman Sidney Tomes at the point there's enough here to pay attention to.  Plus they have no games against the South Suburban which makes them a better sleeper than Rosemount (who would play those teams twice).

Section Winner: Eastview.  I think they're too big across the front line and they have a star to ride in  Joey King.  Apple Valley is scary with Tyus Jones able to go off on any given night but come section final time, teams will make others beat them and I'm not sure the Eagles have enough other firepower to do that in a big time game.

11-12 Section 2AAAA Preview

This is the 18th preview in my 2011-2012 season preview series.  In this preview, a look at section 2AAAA.  For a list of all the season previews, click here.

Defending Champion: Eden Prairie

Predicted Seeding
  1. Eden Prairie
  2. Chanhassen
  3. Bloomington Kennedy
  4. Lakeville South
  5. Shakopee
  6. Prior Lake
  7. Bloomington Jefferson
  8. Burnsville
After losing in the section championship, Chaska is off to section 6AAA.  Edina moves to section 6.  They are replaced by Burnsville and Lakeville South who join from section 3.  Don't get me started on why Lakeville South and Lakeville North (happiest team in the state with their new and illogical placement) were placed in sections 2 and 1 respectively.  Eden Prairie is young but more talented top to bottom than anybody else in the section.  Chanhassen as a conference champ can't fall below 2 but its a down year in the Missota so I can't put them first.   Toughest call here was where to put Shakopee.  They lose basically everything but they'll have size and Bruce Kugath does a great job year in and year out.

Sleeper: Prior Lake.  They have a quality point guard in Jon Sobaski and a pair of twin towers in Carson Shanks and Jeff Probert to throw at you.  Add in experience with Jack Harrison and an entire season of playing together and come tourney time I think they have a chance against anybody in the section.

Section Winner: Eden Prairie.  The tradition rolls on and they're the most complete team.  They defend, have quality guard play with Grant Schaeffer and Sander Mohn, and enough size and athletes to go with that to put together another state run.

11-12 Section 4AAAA Preview

This is the 17th preview in my 2011-2012 season preview series.  In this preview, a look at section 4AAAA.  For a list of all the season previews, click here.

Defending Champion: Cretin-Derham Hall

Predicted Seeding
  1. Tartan
  2. Roseville
  3. White Bear Lake
  4. Woodbury
  5. Stillwater
  6. North
  7. Mahtomedi
  8. Mounds View
This section will have a new champion as Cretin-Derham Hall moves to section 3.  East Ridge and Henry Sibley also move to section 3.  The replacements are Mahtomedi who moves up from class 3A and Mounds View who moves over from section 5.  As usual this is the battle of the Suburban East and Classic Suburban conferences.  Tartan as a predicted conference champ gets the 1 seed.  2-4 will fall right into line with the top half of the Suburban East standings.  I could see those shuffling in any order.  Stillwater and North will fight for the 5 and 6 seeds.  Strength of schedule goes to the Ponies.  Mahtomedi is better than the average 7 seed with Zach and Andrew Lindquist but I can't put them in front of North who I picked to finish ahead of them in league play.  That leaves Mounds View as the 8th seed in the last year for coach Ziggy Kauls.

Sleeper: Woodbury.  I had to pick them 4th here because of my conference selections but I'm already reconsidering that pick.  I'm very high on the Royals.  They have 4 top kids from last year returning plus a pair of transfers who can immediately contribute.  They have plenty of offensive firepower and if they can get out and run where Ricky Suggs is a scorer, they'll be tough to handle. 

Section Winner: Tartan.  The Titans have lost heartbreakers to Cretin-Derham Hall the last 2 years and haven't made a state trip since 2005. With CDH out of the section and no post factor in the section besides Zach Meyer to exploit them inside, I see Tartan getting back to state.

11-12 Section 5AAAA Preview

This is the 16th preview in my 2011-2012 season preview series.  In this preview, a look at section 5AAAA.  For a list of all the season previews, click here.

Defending Champion: Osseo  

Predicted Seeding
  1. Osseo
  2. Maple Grove
  3. Champlin Park
  4. Robbinsdale Cooper
  5. Centennial
  6. Park Center
  7. Irondale
  8. Coon Rapids
Changes for this season include Maple Grove (section 8 champ last year) and Coon Rapids (section 7) replacing Mounds View (off to section 4) and Spring Lake Park (down to 3AAA).  This is a deep section.  You have the top 4 teams from the quality Northwest Suburban including 2 defending section champs who return plenty of talent.  Add in Park Center with star guard Quinton Hooker and Cooper with super soph Rashad Vaughn and there's plenty of talent to go around.  The storyline to follow is how the 3, 4 and 5 seeds fall into place.  Cooper can really help their seed with 2 wins in the 2nd session of the Bethel holiday tournament on Dec 29/30.  Those wins would be against Champlin Park and very likely Centennial.  All 3 of those teams also play a good Spring Lake Park club and have other tough non-conference games.  Cooper ends up with the toughest schedule in the North Suburban as they play all 4 other contenders twice and only 2 of the 6 bottom teams twice.   Not to mention rival Armstrong, DeLaSalle and Hopkins on the non-conference slate.  Centennial has a bit of size and their starting guards are back.  Park Center has Hooker and 2 other athletes returning but in this section I think 6 is the exact slot for them.  Irondale drops off from last year and Coon Rapids continues to rebuild.

Sleeper: Centennial.  Lots of teams who could surprise but who ever the 5 seed ends up being is very dangerous.  Mitchell Kuck when hot can get 30 from deep.  Jared Nelson returns to run the point and they have size.  If its Cooper, Rashad Vaughn could put the team on his back.  Champlin Park would be far more talented than the average 5 seed.   

Section Winner: Osseo.  Too much talent, experience and tradition.  Ian Theisen and Bryan Gichaba inside.  Bridge Tusler is a warrior on the wing.  Michael Brush can knock down shots.  DJ Hebert and Will Johnson from the football are tough.

11-12 Section 6AAAA Preview

This is the 15th preview in my 2011-2012 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. Minnetonka
  3. Edina
  4. St. Louis Park
  5. Wayzata
  6. Armstrong
  7. Minneapolis South
  8. Minneapolis Southwest
Minor changes in this section with Edina coming over from section 2 to replace Minneapolis North (now in section 4A).  I see no changes at the top and bottom of the section with Hopkins and Minneapolis Southwest.  Minnetonka is the clear second seed with their new additions giving them more depth than any of the remaining teams.  The next group of 4 or 5 teams gets very interesting.  The Edina holiday tournament could be a major seeding factor with Armstrong, Edina and St. Louis Park all participating.  Wayzata is good enough to be a top 4 team but I can't see a last place team in a league being rewarded with a home game when St. Louis Park will make a run in the North Suburban (would also apply to Edina if they finish last in the Lake).  South and St. Louis Park may have better records but end up with lower seeds because of playing weaker conference opponents.  I wouldn't be shocked to see the coaches stick them in that 4 vs 5 game again so they get Hopkins in the semis.  South won't be a bad 7 seed but the Minneapolis City conference is that weak.  St. Louis Park gets a very favorable schedule in the North Suburban as they only have 1 game each against the 2 favorites and double up against 4 of the 6 teams in the bottom half.  I think 3 thru 6 is very even and any combination in the 3 v 6 and 4 v 5 game would be very good games.

Sleeper: St. Louis Park.  With a no-brainer favorite, picking a sleeper is a bit crazy but if I have to pick one its the Orioles.  With Kashif Hayes running the dribble drive and another scorer in DJ Pollard on the wing they can be a handful to defend.  The other Lake teams are dangerous but too much familiarity to pick Wayzata or Edina as a sleeper.

Section Winner: Minneapolis Southwest.  Who else is there?  Of course Hopkins is the pick here.  As the preseason favorite to repeat anything less than a return to defend their crown would be a disappointment.  Too much firepower at the guard slots, too well coached and their intensity is just at another level.

11-12 Section 7AAAA Preview

This is the 14th preview in my 2011-2012 season preview series.  In this preview, I start my look at the metro area sections.  For variety sake, we'll do these in reverse order starting with section 7AAAA.  For a list of all the season previews, click here.

Defending Champion: Duluth East

Predicted Seeding
  1. Blaine
  2. Anoka
  3. Duluth East
  4. Forest Lake 
  5. Andover
  6. Cambridge-Isanti
  7. St. Francis
Thanks to new section realignment, this section is down to 7 teams from 9 last year.   The new combination of Duluth Central/Denfeld was the 8th team here but recently got pushed down to section 7AAA.  This section pretty clearly comes down to Duluth East and Blaine.  The losses in most of the rest of the section are just too big and too much coming back for these top 2.  Biggest wildcard is the health of Johnny Woodard and where the Greyhounds get seeded.  With Woodard out for the 1st half or so of the season and a tough schedule especially while's he out, I think that knocks their seed down (not to mention the NW Suburban coaches possibly ganging up on them unless the section uses the QRF which is another discussion for another time).  I'm already going to upset my conference preview picks as I'm going to take Blaine over Anoka despite my preview having Anoka higher.  The Bengals are deeper than I originally thought.  Cambridge-Isanti at St. Francis on January 28th could decide the last seed in the section.  Andover stays out of the bottom 2 with home wins over Cambridge-Isanti and St. Francis.  Cambridge could really help themselves with a home win over Forest Lake on December 13th.  Forest Lake will get their chances to move up at Blaine on January 12th and at home against Duluth East on February 11th.

Sleeper: Anoka.  The Tornadoes as my 2 seed normally wouldn't qualify here but since Duluth East gets knocked down I'll make an exception.  Quality guard play is never a bad thing come playoff time and Anoka has that.  Malcolm Seals should have a breakout year and be able to run the offense.  Marcus Tyus is talented enough to carry an offense so if he gets it going he could lead them through the section.  

Section Winner: Duluth East.  Assuming Johnny Woodard is healthy for the tournament, him and Taylor Stafford are the best duo in the section.  Just too much for the rest of the section to handle.  Add in 2 straight years in the section final and last year's win and I won't pick against the champs.

11-12 The Rest Preview

This is the 13th preview in my 2011-2012 season preview series.  In this preview, I conclude my look at the teams around the metro with a look at a couple of local independents and then some quick thoughts on the EMAC, Wright County and Mississippi 8.  Did you miss any of the conference previews?  For a list of all the season previews, click here.  Coming next week predictions for the metro area sections.

CHOF Lions (2010-11 season 5-17)
Senior center Tyler Strandlund remains one of the top 1 bands in the state.  Last year he averaged 21 points and 15 boards a night.  But he's the only person with any size on a tiny roster.  Guard Adam Rohlf is gone but the rest of a short rotation returns.  Shooting guard Tate Piepkorn put up 14 a night last season.  Junior Kendall Strandlund missed time last year with an injured wrist but almost reached double figures in scoring.   Soph Nate Johnston will run the point and his play will be a major barometer for the Lions.

Four Directions Wolves (2010-11 season 16-8)
They lose a couple of high scoring guards including 26.2 a night from James Red Eagle.  But 6'9 big man Kyle Roy returns in the middle as a major double-double threat and soph guard Gus Christianson and Marcus McDade return.

Eastern Minnesota Athletic Conference Thoughts
Apologies to the EMAC as I don't have enough to go on to even begin to look at the little guys but 2 quick bits from the 1 league game I saw last year.  International School does have 2 of their top 3 back including soph guard Ethan Forney.  Loss of Omar Bushara will hurt but coach Shun Tillman figures to keep the Huskies in contention for the league crown along with Great River.  Calvin Christian was 13-9 and in the middle of the EMAC pack.  They return their top player center Ben Stephens.

Wright County Conference Thoughts
Big losses in the Wright County as Jordan Smith (Orono), Mike Yahnke (Delano) and Shelby Moats (Waconia) all moved up to the D1 level.  Most of Orono's rotation except Brady Wohler is gone.  Anthonie Tholey will play a much bigger role.  Waconia has some nice pieces returning with Wylie Ferron, Alex Chandler, Tommy Gove, Matt Rachey and Alex Schmitt.   Schmitt being the only senior in that group.  Delano also returns a nice core despite losing Yahnke.  Grayson Pulis is a big body in the middle.  Junior Zach Checkal had a nice season for them last year along with Toby Hanson.  Then you have the league's top player Nate Kratch (Santa Clara signee) returning at Watertown-Mayer as 3 of their top 5 scorers return.   So I think that has to be the top group of teams.  Annandale loses star forward James Fort but returns shooter Brett Ahsenmacher.  Mound-Westonka needs to replace the duo of Matt Daoust and Dan Flesher but returns shooter Collin Host.  Ethan Maass returns to lead Glencoe-Silver Lake.  Zach Miner returns for Hutchinson but they lose their top 4 scorers including guards Adam Hjelter and Trent Kucera.  Litchfield returns their top 3 scorers so they look to jump into the top half.

Mississippi 8 Conference Thoughts
The league takes a hit with state qualifier Zimmerman and Princeton leaving for the new Granite Ridge Conference.  Defending champ Buffalo loses their top 2 scorers including sniper Andy Ortmann but junior Ethan Freer and Dominic Gilmer are 2 core pieces coming back along with Caleb Ruter. St. Michael-Albertville loses their star Joe Carpenter (top scorer and rebounder) and his sick athleticism.  The starting guards Michael Wiese and Michael Mooney both return and center Herbert Tarpeh should give them productive minutes.  Continuing down the road toward the metro, Rogers loses post Rory Donovan (16 a night), forwards Trevor Morlock and Trevor Berkley and point guard RJ Dean.  Post Michael Schreiber will be the goto guy after a nice summer.  Forward Josh Turnquist is a nice fit with him to stretch the defense.  Austin Barbeln and Chase Cleveland will man guard spots.  Big Lake loses their top 3 scorers including point guard Michael Stevens.  Soph Austin Poe is the top returning scorer.  The top 5 scorers at Monticello are gone including posts Kevin Flesch and Anthony Svaavedra.  Junior guards Ryan Tuffs and Hayden Laimer will lead the way.  Becker leaves for the Granite Ridge next year and looks to go out with a bang behind forward Damien Reinke and his 19 a night.  But they lose a ton of people after him Ryan Rosenberg returns to lead Cambridge-Isanti.  They lose shooter Ted Lutterman who was their only double figure scorer last season.  Soph Matt Swanson saw action in over 20 games last year.

11-12 Tri-Metro Preview

This is the 12th preview in my 2011-2012 season preview series.  In this preview, a look at the Tri-Metro Conference.  For a list of all the season previews, click here.

The league welcomes Providence Academy and can go back to the full divisional schedule.  DeLaSalle has the talent but not the experience.  Concordia is the favorite on the other side.  Blake, Minnehaha, St. Agnes, St. Anthony, St. Croix Lutheran all have enough returning to beat most anybody in the league on any night.

Blake Bears (2010-11 season 19-9, 10-5 Conference, 2nd West)
Forward Tim Zellmer is the biggest loss but he sat out big minutes last year anyway due to injury.  Junior forward Kebu Johnson returns for his 4th season on varsity (seems like 500).  He led the team at 11.9 PPG last season.  Soph point guard John Veil was the 2nd leading scorer.  Paul Blake and Conner Kline return inside.  Soph JR Bascom also saw major minutes last season.

Breck Mustangs (2010-11 season 11-16, 6-9 Conference, 4th West)
The Mustangs lose 4 of their top 5 scorers including 17+ a night from Jeff Lurie.  But lots of youth saw big minutes last season.  Junior point guard Tilyn Hollis, frosh forward Will Culliton and forward Michael Marzec all return after seeing big minutes last year.  Keep an eye on the Mustangs freshman class as they have a group of 4 quality kids there to build around.

Brooklyn Center Centaurs (2010-11 season 3-24, 2-13 Conference, 6th West)
How long a year was it for the Centaurs?  They gave up a 46-0 run to Tartan over the holidays.  Expect another long season. Sophs Deandre Bell and DeAndre Shipp are 2 of the notable returnees. 

Concordia Academy Beacons (2010-11 season 20-9, 11-3 Conference, Tied 1st East)
The Beacons lose scorers 2-5 but don't sleep on them.  Sioux Falls commit Cutler Finneman returns to man the front line.  He was the team scoring leader at 17 a night last year.  4 other players from the rotation including guard Christian Koehn return for a squad that has 9 seniors.  6'6' Junior forward Jared Schneidermann gives them another lanky athlete on the front line.  Junior Charlie Kennelly should also see minutes. 

DeLaSalle Islanders (2010-11 season 25-4, 15-0 Conference, 1st West)
The Islanders enter the season on a 27 game conference winning streak.  With 6 seniors gone including beast Jonah Travis (Harvard) and the transfer of Riley Dearring to Minnetonka, this roster has very little varsity experience but is very talented.  The point guard position will be shared between senior Tyler Moore (the 1 experienced returnee) and talented frosh Jarvis Johnson (one of the top 2015 kids in MN).  Shooter Luke Scott and Shawn Fitzgibbons will see wing minutes.  Soph Reid Travis will see inside and out minutes.   Except for Moore this group will see a couple of years together so expect a huge year next year.  As is usual at D, the freshman class is absolutely loaded with talent.

Minnehaha Academy Redhawks (2010-11 season 17-14, 9-6 Conference, 3rd West)
One of disappointments of last year was not getting to one of my favorite buildings to see the Redhawks.  They got hot late and won 8 out 9 to make a run through weak section 4AA before losing to Redwood Valley in the state quarters (big game from Mankato commit Mike Busack was the difference).  They lose 1 of their 2 weapons Matt Prior (18 a night) but 19 a night from power guard Gerald McCarver returns.  Junior guard John Prior figures to jump into double figures this season after just missing out last season.  Junior Marcellous Hazzard also saw major minutes last season.

Mounds Park Academy Panthers (2010-11 season 3-21, 0-14 Conference, 5th East)
The Panthers are on a 53 game conference losing streak.  Since the league went to the 2 division format in 2006-2007, their league record is 3-74.  A shame too because recently built Lansing Center is a quality facility.  Undersized forward Nate Burstein is the top returnee with guard Eddie Freier.

Providence Academy Lions (2010-11 season 11-13, 2-7 MCAA Conference, 9th)
The Lions move into the league from the MCAA and while its means some great girls games vs DeLaSalle.  The boys program isn't at that level yet.  5 of the 7 members of the rotation are back and only 1 of them is a senior. Junior Jackson Canfield averaged over 17 a night last year.  Joe Heck put up 14 a night. 

St. Agnes Aggies (2010-11 season 13-16, 5-9 Conference, 4th East)
Now for the all saints portion of the preview.  The Aggies lose wing Mario Franco and his 9.9 a night to Woodbury.  The top 2 scorers Dakari Davison (15 PPG) and Antonio Hartfeld-McGhee (11 PPG) return.  McGhee is an athletic power wing who can be a handful to defend and is willing to take over a game. Guards Nick Bennett, Charlie Turch and Jordan Delaney also return to the rotation.

St. Anthony Huskies (2010-11 season 18-9, 11-3 Conference, Tied 1st East)
Forward Anthony Brama was a major revelation last year averaging 21 a night.  He's unorthodox but very effective.  3rd leading scorer Dustin Iannazzo also returns. Junior Nick Kampa will run the point after seeing big minutes last season.  Jordan Wiggins and forward Mike Studer will see more minutes as well.

St. Croix Lutheran Crusaders (2010-11 season 16-12, 8-6 Conference, 3rd East)
Top scorer and interior player Kyle Prelgo is gone from his forward spot.  The guard trio of power guard Wesley Tucker, point guard Cameron Cummings and lefty shooter Mark Lawrence all return after each averaged close to double figures.  Guard Dominic Cambrice also saw significant time last season and returns.  Size will be a major question mark.

St. Paul Academy Spartans (2010-11 season 7-21, 3-12 Conference, 5th West)
Leading scorer and post Sam Dicke departs but the next 4 scorers return.  That includes the guard duo of point guard Spencer Egly and athletic wing Josh Gray.  Post Andrew Bullard is also gone so the Spartans will have to find some size.  Expect junior Steve Olson to fill that role.  Story to follow is where 8th grade guard Dalante Payton fits in.  He played with the freshmen last year and the Spartans are very high on him.

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. DeLaSalle
  2. Blake 
  3. Minnehaha
  4. Breck 
  5. Providence Academy 
  6. Brooklyn Center
  1. Concordia Academy
  2. St. Anthony
  3. St. Croix Lutheran 
  4. St. Agnes  
  5. St. Paul Academy 
  6. Mounds Park Academy
Conference MVP: Cutler Finneman - Concordia

Underclassmen to watch:  
Roger Moore Jr - Concordia
John Veil, JR Bascom - Blake
Dalante Payton - St. Paul Academy
Will Culliton, Mo Lawal - Breck
Jarvis Johnson, Sacar Anim, Reid Travis, James Lawson, Drayton Carlburg, Wheeler Baker - DeLaSalle

Games that will determine the conference title
  • DeLaSalle at Blake - Dec 6th
  • Concordia at St. Anthony - Dec 9th
  • St. Anthony at Blake - Jan 19th
  • DeLaSalle at Concordia - Jan 24th
  • Blake at DeLaSalle - Feb 2nd
  • St. Anthony at Concordia - Feb 17th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Trinity at Concordia - Dec 2nd
  • DeLaSalle vs Robbinsdale Cooper - Dec 10th (Breakdown Tipoff Classic at Minnetonka)
  • Concordia at St. Cloud Cathedral tournament - Dec 28-30 
  • DeLaSalle at Mike Miller Classic - Dec 29-30 (Mitchell, SD)
  • DeLaSalle at Eden Prairie - Jan 17th
  • DeLaSalle vs Waunakee, WI - Feb 4th (Border Battle at Sun Prairie, WI)
  • Benilde-St. Margaret's at DeLaSalle - Feb 7th
  • Blake at Holy Family - Feb 8th
  • DeLaSalle at Cretin-Derham Hall - Feb 18th
  • Blake at Maranatha - Feb 21st
  • Blake at Richfield - Feb 25th
  • Moorhead at DeLaSalle - Mar 3rd