Prepping for a big season

There were some good big school games in the distant outreaches of the metro.  That made it an easy decision to step back and take a look at my pick to win the Metro Charter, St. Croix Prep.  They opened their season at Bethany Academy.  Weston Berg out of the SCPA lineup with an injured shoulder.  Expect him back midseason.  Bethany featuring a very young lineup with 3 8th graders listed on the JV roster.  A later start time means a late arrival still gives me plenty of time for food.  The 2nd hot dog of the year not bad, but Como Park still takes our top hot dog award so far.  Pepsi always the top beverage on the menu so we'll get that in.  Beverage #6 puts me at 96 oz for the season to date.  Nothing like the mini 12 oz bottle for tonight's container.  Crown College in the building scouting talent.

Game Time
SCPA leading scorer Jakob Schollmeier sat the 1st 4:21 before coming off the Lions bench.    Nick Richardson with a 3 to cap a 7-0 St. Croix Prep run.  9-4 SCPA just outside the 12 minute mark.  Schollmeier didn't take long to be productive as he scored in the post and made a pair of free throws to stretch the lead to 17-8 (15-5 run) at the 8:52 mark.  Bethany would come back with their own 15-5 spurt.  Sam Hagen and Mark Mikhail with triples to cut the lead to 5.  RT Mould with both ends of the bonus, Jared Johnson working on the offensive glass for 2 more Eagles freebies, Mould to the rack with the left hand and Johnson finishes the run with a free throw.  23-22 Bethany with 1:03 left in the half.  Sloppy play from St. Croix Prep.  Fouls hurting the Lions too (11-4 against in the 1st half).  Guard Cameron Mehls on the bench during this stretch with a pair of fouls.  Richardson would go coast to coast to earn himself a trip to the line.  He made the 1st and the Lions ran down the miss of the 2nd.  Soph guard Michael Gutierrez made the Eagles pain with a right wing bomb just before the half. 26-23 St. Croix Prep with the lead at halftime.

Richardson with layup to push the lead to 6 for SCPA before a Hagen 3 cut the lead to 30-29 just over 2 minutes into the 2nd half.  Then the Lions would get an 8-0 to start to break it open.  Richardson with a putback and 3 that sandwiched a Schollmeier 3.  38-29 Lions with 14:20 left.  Schollmeier with 4 FTs around an elbow jumper for 6 in a row.  Hagen matching him with a nice pick and pop for 3 and another bomb inside the 12 minute mark.  Bethany hanging around down 44-39 with 11:35 to play.  Then a critical 7-0 SCPA run.  Seth Johnson with a putback, the best possession and passing of the night tic tack toe from top to the right wing to Schollmeier in the middle to Gutierrez in the left corner vs a trapping defense.  Ring that 3 up.  Bethany turns it over and Mehls knocks down a jumper.  51-39 SCPA with 9:43 left and Bethany needs a timeout.  Bethany would make 1 last run at it.  Seth Cupersmith for 3 after a tough spin move on the right baseline by Hagen scored him a basket.  Hagen with both ends of the bonus with 5:31 to play.  54-47 SCPA hanging on to the lead.  That dead ball brought Schollmeier back in after a breather and that was all the Lions needed.  Seth Johnson with a putback and the foul, Hagen missing 2 free throws, Schollmeier on the offensive glass for 2 more, Mehls with a nice drive for 2.  Those are 7 in a row to stretch the lead to 61-47 with 3:40 left.  St. Croix Prep wouldn't be threatened after that.  Lions go on to win 68-53.

Post Game
For Bethany Academy, Sam Hagen leads with 22 points.  15 of those in the 2nd half and 5 triples for the game. Senior RT Mould with 10 points as the only other Eagles player in double figures.  Eagles definitely played hard.  They continue a soft portion of their schedule with their next 3 games at home against Edison, Randolph and Mounds Park Academy.

For St. Croix Prep, Jakob Schollmeier sat the 1st 4 minutes but came on in the second half.  He scored 14 of his 18 in that half to help put the game away.  He made his 1st 7 free throws and then somehow missed his last 3.  Seth Johnson 13, Nick Richardson 11, Cameron Mehls 10 to round out the double figure scorers.  Johnson active inside despite being undersized.  Richardson played very well making plays all night on both ends.  Mehls very underappreciated as a point guard.  In this section, his play along with Gutierrez as another ball handler can make this club very dangerous.  The Lions have their home opener next against Brooklyn Center on Tuesday.  Then a very interesting game at Target Center on Thursday against St .Croix Lutheran.  After that game, they could be a favorite in every game until February.  But that's why they play the games.

Opening night with Bears in the Park

Its opening night and that's a chance for #3 Blake to make a statement on the road vs St. Paul Como Park.  Also the 1st game for new Blake coach Sean Kruger.  I only saw the last minute of the JV game but it was close enough to force me to wait for the usual quality hot dog.  The 20 oz Sierra Mist raises the season total to 5 beverages and 84 oz.  Pretty quiet crowd.  Always a difficult game to do since there's only public address for the starting lineups.  Hamline in the building along with Concordia Academy.

Game Time
In what may end up being 1 of the surprises of the year, it took over 7 minutes before we saw the 1st flex cut from Blake.  That said, Blake did run their entry into THE WORLD'S WORST OFFENSE on the 1st possession so I suppose that counts for something.  2 big missing pieces for Blake in this one as Sioux Falls commit Kebu Johnson and forward JR Bascom were both on the bench in street clothes.  Blake's 3-2 matchup zone caused some fits early as Como Park couldn't find any offense.  Post Blaine Crawford with a bunny, John Veil with an easy 3 off a simple BLOB set then Alex Smith with a jumper and post layup on a nice lob feed.  11-1 Blake at the 13:01 mark to force a Cougars time out.  Como Park would finally get on the board at the 10:10 mark with their first field goal of the night but the lead was still at double figures.  Veil would go to the bench for a breather and Como Park used that to go on a 7-0 spurt.  Cougars leader Keiron Sauer with a long distance bomb to close that run.  16-10 Blake at the 6:12 mark.  Johnny Curran with one of his clutch triples on the night and 5 in a row from Crawford.  The 8-2 spurt counters the Como Park run for a 24-12 lead at the 4:20 mark.  Veil to Crawford off the nice screen and roll execution at the 3 minute mark and another Curran 3 inside the last minute.  That closes out the Blake offense for a 29-16 halftime lead.

The second half saw Como Park hang around for far too long.  Sauer with back to back buckets to cut the lead to 30-20 inside of 15 to play.  Sauer with a 17 footer inside the foul circle.  Como Park would score again to cut the lead to 9.  Then a Blake turnover but the Cougars missed 2 bunnies for a chance to cut the lead to 7 with more than 11 to play.  Sauer with 2 free throws and Como would tack on another bucket and the lead was cut to 7.  Timeout Blake with a 37-30 lead and 10:17 to play.  Veil with another pretty assist and a Crawford 2 handed dunk after Sauer gambled on the post feed.  Not quite done yet though.  Darnell Elliot with a bucket and a nice spark off the bench.  Como Park hanging around only down 41-32 with 7:45 to play.  Blake back to their matchup zone and that helped put this one away.  Curran and Smith with both ends of the bonus against the Como pressure.  Veil to Curran for a dagger 3, Crawford with a 3 point play and a Veil pullup.  That finally puts the game out of reach.  56-39 inside of 3 to play and its over.  Blake goes on to win 62-46.

Post Game
For Como Park, they're undersized and really don't have much firepower.  Keiron Sauer had plenty of moments with 20 points in the game.  I also had him for at least 6 steals.  Bryon Shaw with 8 points off the bench.  They extended the floor and it actually bothered Blake some.  That was especially true when Veil didn't handle the ball.  But it bothered Veil some too which I didn't expect.  Cougars play at Tartan on Tuesday and that's not a good matchup of personnel for Como Park.

For Blake, Blaine Crawford leads with 22 points and 10 boards on the Blake stat sheet (20 points in the officially posted box score).  John Veil 16 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists on the Blake stat sheet.  Only 4 players in the scoring column for the Bears and that has to be slightly disturbing.  Alex Smith and Johnny Curran with 13 each rounded out the scoring.  Everybody else wanted no part of shooting.  Blake running a lot of pick and roll with Veil and Smith/Crawford out of the left slot area.  That did lead to those nice Veil assists.   For the future, keep an eye on 7th grade guard Jack Moe who's playing JV right now.  The Bears are in the loaded Tartan scrimmage at Prior Lake on Saturday morning before they play at Chaska on Tuesday.  1st 8 games for the Bears are on the road or neutral site.  They won't play a home game until January 5th vs Holy Family

Play of the Day
Today's play is a simple BLOB set from Blake.  2 guards on the blocks with your best shooter backside.  2 posts on the elbows.  Ball side guard on the block pops out to the corner for the catch.  He dribbles to the top where the shooter is coming off the foul double (or the always illegal elevator screen) from the bigs for the straight away 3.  Blake runs this for Veil and for good reason.

Beacons to the New Season

There's a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel of fall basketball and at the other end is the start of the 2012-13 season.  This light just so happens to be a shining beacon which means its a trip to Concordia Academy.  They held their annual scrimmage with 8 teams and 4 games of play.  Nothing like having the parent of a former player of mine doing the cooking.  Chicken sandwich with cheese,mmm good.   Add in a 20 oz Sprite and the season's beverage count is at 64 oz on 4 beverages.

A fairly quite evening of play.  The proverb that defense is ahead of offense early in the year was especially true.

St. Anthony had a late chance at a 3 that was no good.  They fell to Chisago Lakes 34-31 in the early session.

Stillwater and Richfield came down to the wire in game 2.  Stillwater missed a short pullup jumper and putback with 20 seconds left.  Richfield got the ball back and on a BLOB with 2.2 left, they had a good look at a 3 that didn't go in.  Richfield would get a 3 with 5 seconds left in the OT to win 42-41.

In the late game, St. Thomas Academy had no problems with Concordia on their way to a 39-19 win.

Moving back to game 3, see blue as Minnetonka and Woodbury collided.  In my season preview, I wondered what Woodbury would do on the offensive end.  The results are in and the Royals are switching to dribble drive motion this year.  That makes sense with their talent base of Diallo Powell and Robert Claypool to run the show with Renard Suggs and Matt Ambriz to shoot it.  But right now it is a major work in progress.  3 offensive fouls (2 charges and a pushoff) against Renard Suggs in the 1st half showed the frustration on offense.  Defensively, Woodbury appeared almost uninterested.  For a team that I believe is a top team in the Suburban East, I was surprised at the performance.  Tonka did whatever they wished but let's give credit for a tenacity on the defensive end and some good execution on offense.  Riley Dearring with 11 1st half points and Grant Kellogg showing well for the Skippers.  Tonka held a 12 point lead at the half and stretched it to 18 before the starters sat for the last 10 minutes.  51-37 Minnetonka wins.

Czar knows that the game ultimately comes down to Jimmies and Joes but you know I love my Xs and Os.  With that hideous introduction, we bring you the season's 1st...

Play of the Day
Minnetonka coach Tom Dasovich may not have dug a better looking sweater out of the closet but he did find this gem buried in the playbook for this season.  Here's one of their BLOB sets, "Gonzaga"

  • Big post on ball side block (e.g Grant Steele)
  • Leaper on ball side elbow (Mike Fernando)
  • Star on back side elbow (Riley Dearring)
  • Guard at top of key
Dearring dives towards the rim to get his defenders attention.  When he gets to the middle of the lane, he turns and back screens for Fernando's man for the layup or dunk.  The ball side post then pins in for Dearring to come out towards the ball side corner.  If his defender helps on the back screen, that leaves an open baseline catch and shoot.  If the post defender helps, now you have a layup.  Top defender really isn't in a position to help but if he does, you either get a 3 from a guard shooter there and in a great spot.  Worst case, you easily get the ball in.

Overall, a simple but very effective set.  I like the initial action of a dive from a star player as a distraction to the screen the screener action.  A nice twist to a common concept.

Thoughts from Pulley Jamboree and week 1

With Minnesota getting its annual late start, once again I decided to return to The Old Kingdom to start my season.  3 games last week with a surprisingly limited supply of food (no meals at games in Wisconsin) but a worthwhile week anyway.  Here are some thoughts on what I saw.

Pulley Jamboree
The annual jamboree is amongst the best around and didn't disappoint this year.  2 sessions of 10 minutes each comprised the games.  Many teams choose to use the last 5 minutes for their JV guys so the 1st half has far more meaning.  As usual, the pizza was worth the purchase.

Game 1: Minneapolis South vs Braham.  South won both sessions by scores of 19-16 and 23-7.  Braham with their usual running of THE WORLD'S WORST OFFENSE.  The big surprise here was how porous the Braham defense was.  South did whatever they wanted getting to the rim, especially in the 2nd session.

Game 2: St. Thomas Academy vs Orono.  The revamped Cadets won both sessions by scores of 17-16 and 14-11.  Jalen Patterson impressive for the Cadets.  St. Thomas longer and taller than expected.

Game 3: Rosemount vs Tartan.  Tartan releasing the hounds as they blew out the Irish 26-9 in the 1st half.  Brody Jackson getting easy buckets inside thanks to great ball movement from the Titans.  Defensively Tartan showing the expected nastiness.  They will be no fun to play against.  Rosemount going with the dribble drive motion.  They definitely have the guards to shoot it.  Soph Logan Halvorsen looks like he'll be in the rotation after a nice spring and summer season.  Rosemount won the 2nd half 18-9

Game 4: Columbia Heights vs Hill-Murray.  Marshawn Wilson on the bench in street clothes for Hill-Murray was the big news of this game.  Hill-Murray swept both halves 15-14 and 18-15.

Game 5: Osseo vs Cretin-Derham Hall.  CDH featuring a young lineup with 3 sophs and without soph forward Jashon Cornell up front.  Add in an off day from Sam Neumann against a bigtime opponent and you can guess the results.  Ian Theisen had his way inside, Bridge Tusler controlled play and Osseo rolled out those role players.  Orioles roll 23-14 and 27-13.

Game 6: Minnetonka vs Prior Lake.  Coaching pals going at it in this one.  No Andrew Grosz in the building for Minnetonka.  That's a major loss at a guard spot.  Prior Lake jumped out to a 13-1 lead in the 1st half.  Backup center Jeff Probert with a pair of nice hooks inside during that run.  Minnetonka would score the last 11 of the half but never got over the hump.  With the benches seeing lots of time, Minnetonka took the 2nd half 12-7.

Game 7: Hopkins vs Holy Angels.  No Charlie Koontz for the Stars.  Hopkins steamrolled through the 1st half 27-4.  Just way too much defense.  People don't appreciate just how intense they are on that end.  Totally different level than everybody else.   Holy Angels kept the 2nd half close but lost 16-15.

Game 8: Park Center vs Cooper.  Section rivals at it in this one.  Quinton Hooker with a hot 1st half as the Pirates jumped out to a 16-2 lead.  Park Center would win the half 24-15 behind 14 Hooker points.  Rashad Vaughn showed all game he could get any place he wanted with the ball.  He goes for 14 in the 2nd half including a 360 slam on the break.  Lavar McCollough with a huge slam as well as it got out of hand.  Cooper wins 2nd half 30-15.

Game 9: Apple Valley vs De La Salle
Tyus Jones with a quiet 1st half until a late dunk.  He added a couple of clutch assists for 3s late in the 2nd half to seal that half.  Apple Valley wins both halves by identical 18-13 scores.  Reid Travis without a field goal.  Soph Sacar Anim in the starting lineup and played well for the Islanders.  Dustin Fronk struggled with his shot early but hit a pair of big 3s in the 2nd half for Apple Valley.  Frosh Brock Bertram very active on the glass.  Surprised he didn't start this one but I expect that to be remedied sooner rather than later.

The Week in Wisconsin
Earlier in the week I took in 3 games in Wisconsin.  The JustAGame Fieldhouse in Wisconsin Dells may be known to some in Minnesota as it hosts a couple of nice AAU tournaments during the spring and summer.  They use a showcase court for section play and this year's inaugural Iowa vs Wisconsin border battle.  The actual games were absolutely dreadful as Wisconsin Dells pounded Racine Park 90-54 and Kimberly mauled Baraboo 72-16.  SW MN State recruit MJ Delmore 24 of his 29 in the 1st half.

The start of the season was #8 Appleton West at #3 De Pere.  This one will interest local fans as these teams both play in the border battle at Prior Lake on Feb 2nd.  Its a tough road for them as the opponents are Hopkins and De La Salle.  Appleton West star Jake Verhagen (Eastern Illinois recruit) struggled in the 1st half at 0-6 but came back to finish with 17 points and 8 rebounds.  Lefty guard Matt Reader is a junior who is receiving low D1 looks and NSIC attention.  He controlled the game and never changed his speed.  Very impressive control of the game from him. Add in 24 points and that was enough for West to win 64-48 and they had the lead the entire way.  Final score was worse than it appeared as it was a 40-36 game with 7 minutes left.  De Pere's Adam Beyer is an Augustana recruit.  He was held to 10 points.  Soph shooting guard Brevin Pritzl is one to keep an eye on when he comes here.  He had 15 points to lead the Redbirds.

De Pere didn't look good in the game but you can see they'll be a handful for opponents.  You'll see 5 out action from them on offense with some wing ball screens.  Defensively you'll see man but they also showed some 1-3-1 that I was surprised they didn't go back to late in the game.  Appleton West is a 4 out motion team and will play man on defense.

What to watch for in the 2012-13 Season

The Czar's 2012-2013 Season Preview Series concludes after 5 weeks and 25 previews.  In this final preview let's condense everything for the casual fan.  Its who to see, what to see, when and where to see it.

10 Teams You Should Watch
  1. Apple Valley
  2. Hopkins
  3. De La Salle
  4. Osseo
  5. Edina
  6. Roseville
  7. Park Center
  8. Eden Prairie
  9. Blake
  10. Maranatha
Apple Valley and Hopkins are the top 2 teams in AAAA with a gap after them.  De La Salle is a landslide pick to repeat as champions in AAA.  Defending AAAA champs Osseo can't be discounted either.  They'll get a stiff run in the NW Suburban from a potent Park Center squad.  The Lake continues to be completely loaded with Edina and Eden Prairie expected to push for the top 5 all season.  Blake looks to make this their year and section 6AAA has opened up for them.  Roseville has a ton of pieces coming back as they look to get over the hump and reach state out of section 4AAAA.  Maranatha was upset last year but they're loaded as a top 10 team in class A and a yearly powerhouse in section 4.

10 Players You Should See
  1. Tyus Jones (Apple Valley)
  2. Rashad Vaughn (Cooper)
  3. Reid Travis (De La Salle)
  4. Anders Broman (Lakeview Christian)
  5. Riley Dearring (Minnetonka)
  6. Graham Woodward (Edina)
  7. Reggie Lynch (Edina)
  8. Quinton Hooker (Park Center)
  9. Brock Bertram (Apple Valley)
  10. Amir Coffey (Hopkins)
3 of the top 2014 players in the nation (Jones, Vaughn and Travis) top the list.  Next I'll include Anders Broman since he'll be making a few trips to the metro this year.  He's almost certain to have the state scoring record wrapped up by the end of the calendar year.  That means metro fans won't see the record breaker but they'll still get a treat in having multiple chances to see an outstate star.  A Wisconsin commit, yeah that's a no brainer for this list (Dearring).  The Edina duo of Graham Woodward and Reggie Lynch were 2 of the biggest stockraisers of the summer.  Hooker is a hard-nosed point guard who's a pleasure to watch.  The next big thing in Minnesota ends our list as freshmen stars Brock Bertram and Amir Coffey will see plenty of varsity time and are stars in the making.

10 Events You Should Attend (ordered by date)
  1. Breakdown Tipoff Classic at Minnetonka- Dec 8th
  2. Hopkins at Apple Valley - Dec 18th
  3. Park Center at De La Salle - Jan 3rd
  4. Timberwolves Shootout - Jan 5th
  5. Super 60 Showcase at Heritage- Jan 26th
  6. Border Battle at Prior Lake- Feb 2nd
  7. Park Center at Osseo  - Feb 5th
  8. Maranatha at Heritage - Feb 15th  
  9. Apple Valley at Prior Lake - Feb 26th
  10. Tri-Metro Conference Tournament Championship - Mar 1st
The best event of the year is the Breakdown Tipoff Classic.  This year is no exception and a couple of Wisconsin teams are making the trip across the border to join in the fun.  The regular season's toughest ticket will be Hopkins at Apple Valley in a possible state championship preview.  Expect a jam packed raucous atmosphere for that one.  I love the contrast with the run and gun and quick lineup of Park Center having to go to the island jungle to face the defensive minded Islanders and Reid Travis.  Point guard play of Quinton Hooker vs 2015 star Jarvis Johnson on display there too.  There are few environments better than a full house for a big game on the island.  The Timberwolves shootout features the top 2014 players (Tyus vs Rashad is the showcase) but also features Iowa State recruit Matt Thomas vs Anders Broman along with Iowa commit Peter Jok and top 100 player Clayton Custer from Kansas.  Broman returns to the metro for the Super 60 showcase at the end of the month.  That also features St. Paul Johnson vs Edina in a major contrast of styles.

Then a jam packed last month of the season.  The Border Battle is stacked once again.  Apple Valley vs Madison Memorial is the showcase game but there's lots more than that.  I'll see Appleton West take on De Pere to open my season.  That's a pair of Wisconsin conference favorites who will test their luck here against De La Salle and Hopkins in the Border Battle.  Park Center at Osseo is a matchup that could finalize the NW Suburban championship.  When these 2 district rivals get together the intensity is at a higher level.  Unfortunately the 1st meeting at Park Center is the same night as Hopkins vs Apple Valley.  Then a pair of teams expected to be in the top 10 in class A.  Maranatha returns to the scene of last year's bounce out of the playoffs.  This one could have major implications.  The MCAA North Division title, top seed in the conference tourney and top seed in section 4A could all be on the line.  If Apple Valley gets knocked off in league play it might just be at Prior Lake on Feb 26th.  The Lakers gave Apple Valley all they wanted last year in both games.  The point guard and post matchups are enough to make a fan drool.  The inaugural Tri-Metro title game will likely feature a rematch of 2 of the best in class AAA, De La Salle and Blake.  They also meet at Blake on Feb 12th in a game that will almost certainly determine the regular season champion. 

12-13 Section 7AAAA Preview

This is the 24th preview in my 2012-2013 season preview series.  In this 2nd to last preview in my 5 week long look at the metro area conferences and sections, I finish my look at sections with predictions in section 7AAAA.  Tomorrow's final preview will be a list of players, teams and games to watch this season.  For a list of all the season previews, click here.

Defending Champion: Duluth East

Predicted Seeding
  1. Duluth East
  2. Forest Lake  
  3. Anoka 
  4. Blaine
  5. St. Francis 
  6. Andover
  7. Cambridge-Isanti
There are teams and sections that have down years.  Then you have this section which has fallen off a cliff and will be the weakest in class 4A.  Based on my predictions this section includes 7th in the Suburban East, 8, 9 and 11 in the NW Suburban, 9th in the N Suburban and a possible last place finisher in the Mississippi 8.  At the top by default is Duluth East who lost 3 stars (Woodard, Stafford and Manyang) but still has enough to be my pick to win the section.  Guard Shaq Coleman and Forward Mat Lochner give new coach Rhett McDonald some punch.  Forest Lake returns sharp shooting center Noah Davis but has to find pieces around him.  Anoka, Blaine and Andover are all in rebuilding years as I think they are 3 of the bottom feeders in the NW Suburban.  Anoka returns guard Malcolm Seals which gives them the nod for the 3 seed.  St. Francis beat Andover and Cambridge-Isanti last year.  With the improved Jake Johnson back, I think they can stay off the bottom of this section.  Cambridge-Isanti has youth coming up but lost their top 2 scorers from a team that won only 3 games.  This section could provide the always difficult father vs son matchup if the Bluejackets can somehow draw Duluth East.

Sleeper: As down as this section is you could make a case for just about anybody, but I'm going to take St. Francis.  Jake Johnson inside gives them an advantage over most in the section.

Section Winner: Duluth East.  They have a couple of solid starters back from last year's club.  The rest of the section is down and the 1 seed gets a nice advantage with the bye.  At least the Greyhounds will have a chance to get some more fans to the section semis and finals.  Those games this year have been moved to North Branch.  That makes far more sense than the recent site Elk River did.

12-13 Section 6AAAA Preview

This is the 23rd preview in my 2012-2013 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. Edina 
  3. Wayzata
  4. Minnetonka
  5. St. Louis Park
  6. Armstrong
  7. Minneapolis South
  8. Minneapolis Southwest
This will be one of the tougher sections to seed during the season.  You have an Armstrong team who will finish better in the Northwest Suburban than the seed they get in section.  I have St. Louis Park picked for a road game but yet I think they'll win the North Suburban.  That's how deep the Lake is this year.  Hopkins and Edina are top flight teams in AAAA.  Hopkins doesn't have experience but they can throw plenty of athletic bodies at you.  Edina has a goto guy in Graham Woodward at the point and a big time game changer on defense in fly-swatting center Reggie Lynch.  If he stays out of foul trouble, the Hornets will be tough to deal with.  Wayzata has plenty of quality coming back from a squad that was 1-8 vs conference teams but 18-0 against everybody else.  They also beat St. Louis Park last year in the 1st round of the playoffs (revisit that game here).  Minnetonka has Wisconsin commit Riley Dearring back plus plenty of quality youth.  They also just knocked off Hopkins to close out the Minnetonka fall league.  Don't expect Hopkins to forget that.   South and Southwest will fight to stay out of the cellar.  Keep an eye on the Edina holiday tournament for seeding in this section as Edina opens with St. Louis Park with the winner to likely play Armstrong.  Armstrong also plays Wayzata in the tipoff classic in another game that could determine seeding.

Sleeper: Robbinsdale Armstrong.  They return a bus full of players from last year's squad.  They'll get good guard play from the likes of Nick O'Hara, Cyrus Moore-Brown, Evan Nolan etc.  Konner Goettsche is a 4 man that you have to go out on the floor and guard.  They also have athletes on the wing with players like Jerome Dixon.

Section Winner: Hopkins.  Until beaten the Royals are the pick here.  They'll be young but they still defend at entirely different level than everybody else.  They don't have much size but there's not a dominant offensive post player in the section.

12-13 Section 5AAAA Preview

This is the 22nd preview in my 2012-2013 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. Park Center
  3. Champlin Park
  4. Centennial 
  5. Robbinsdale Cooper
  6. Maple Grove
  7. Irondale
  8. Coon Rapids
District rivals Osseo and Park Center take the top 2 spots.  Osseo gets 1 as the existing big dog.  Park Center jumped up on everybody last year.  That won't happen this year as the Pirates should have one of the most high powered offenses in the state.  North Dakota signee Quinton Hooker leads the way but with Isaiah McKay, Treyton Daniels and PSA transfer Devin Buckley on the perimeter with him, they'll be very dangerous.  Champlin Park and Centennial will both be solid.  Cooper is a wildcard.  Maple Grove has some nice pieces coming back with wing Jake Weineke, point guard Bryce Wojta and Eric Olson inside.  That would be interesting to see Champlin Park and Maple Grove in the 3 vs 6 game.  Irondale by default slots in at 7.  Coon Rapids may have another long year so they go 8th.

Sleeper: Robbinsdale Cooper.  Anytime you have a top 20 kid in the country in Rashad Vaughn, that means a team can be dangerous.  Cooper has plenty returning around him.  Remember that the Hawks knocked off Park Center on the road last year in the opening round 2 vs 7 game.  If this group puts it together, don't be shocked to see a run at tourney time.

Section Winner: Osseo.  The Orioles return leadership and clutch play from Bridge Tusler.  They have a quality post in Ian Theisen.  They'll have a scorer in Wheeler Baker.  Add in plenty of supporting pieces and the Orioles have to be the favorite until beaten.

12-13 Section 4AAAA Preview

This is the 21st preview in my 2012-2013 season preview series.  The final week of previews begins with a look at section 4AAAA.  For a list of all the season previews, click here.

Defending Champion: Woodbury

Predicted Seeding
  1. Roseville
  2. Tartan
  3. Woodbury
  4. Stillwater
  5. Mahtomedi
  6. White Bear Lake
  7. North
  8. Mounds View
While section 3AAAA has contenders for the Classic Suburban and Suburban East titles, the favorites for those titles lie here in section 4AAAA. Roseville returns a ton of guard play.  They also return Jordan Burich and have the expected improvement of Derek Magnuson inside.  As the expected Classic Suburban winner, Tartan slides into the 2 seed.  Woodbury and Stillwater are the next 2 best teams as they both return major portions of their rosters.  Mahtomedi and White Bear Lake were hit hard by graduation losses.  I picked both teams 6th in their leagues but thanks to Zach Lindquist, I'll give the Zephyrs the nod.  That seed will force a very different 1st round matchup as Mahtomedi plays more Stillwater's style and White Bear's guards put them more with Woodbury's style.  Its possible Mahtomedi could make a case for the 4 with a win at Stillwater on December 14th.  North is young but has some returning experience.  That gives them the nod over a Mounds View squad that only has 1 returning player from their rotation.

Sleeper: Stillwater.  The Ponies return almost all of last year's roster.   Note that this crew knocked off Roseville in mid-February so they have the potential to beat anybody in this section on any given night.  They have strength up front with Andrew Duxbury and Matt Anderson.  That will be a difficult matchup for the rest of the section.

Section Winner: Roseville.  Heartbreak hotel last year for the Raiders as they lost an overtime thriller to Woodbury last year in the section final.  This year's squad may be even deeper. With depth at every position, I think they clear that hurdle this season.

12-13 Section 3AAAA Preview

This is the 20th preview in my 2012-2013 season preview series.  In this preview, we stay in the southern region of the metro to take a look at section 3AAAA.  For a list of all the season previews, click here.

Defending Champion: Eastview

Predicted Seeding
  1. Apple Valley
  2. Henry Sibley
  3. Cretin-Derham Hall
  4. Eastview
  5. East Ridge
  6. Rosemount
  7. Eagan
  8. Park
Apple Valley is clearly 1 and Park is clearly 8.  CDH and Sibley as challenging teams in the Suburban East and Classic Suburban respectively will fight for the next 2 seeds.  CDH with the more guard oriented lineup while Sibley's size will be their strength.  Eastview has Ben Oberfeld inside and they'll defend so hard to move them down.  East Ridge is young but they have a nice core with point guard Sid Tomes leading the way.  Those 2 teams will battle for the last home game.  I think it would be a terrific 4 vs 5 battle in the first round.  Rosemount and Eagan have major losses from last season.  Rosemount's guards, specifically point guard Garrett Goetz, give them the nod over Eagan for the 6th slot.

Sleeper: East Ridge.  Once again I'll perch out on a limb and pick the Raptors.  I think this group is a year away but they have pieces that could make them dangerous late in the year.  Conrad Sexe gives them size against other bigs in the section.  Sid Tomes is a quality point guard.  Plus they have wing options to provide more offensive punch.

Section Winner: Apple Valley.  This is clearly the Eagles section to lose.  With the additions of freshman Brock Bertram and transfer Deidrick Hubbard on the frontline cure last year's lack of size problem.  They have all the pieces.  You have the best player in the section (and some vote in the nation for his class) in Tyus Jones with plenty of firepower around him.  Dustin Fronk, Harry Sonie and Dennis Austin give them scoring and experience.  In their league, they'll be plenty battle tested.

12-13 Section 2AAAA Preview

This is the 19th preview in my 2012-2013 season preview series.  The final segment of my previews begins here as we finish with previews of 6 of the 8 sections in class AAAA.  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. Prior Lake
  3. Shakopee
  4. Chanhassen
  5. Bloomington Kennedy  
  6. Lakeville South
  7. Bloomington Jefferson
  8. Burnsville
Expect a strong top half of section 2AAAA.  Eden Prairie looks to repeat as section champs after last year's epic performance by Grant Shaeffer in the state quarters.  Shaeffer returns along with junior guard Andre Wallace to provide one of the best backcourts around.  Prior Lake has their own 1-2 punch with Jon Sobaski at the point and Utah State commit Carson Shanks in the middle.  Shakopee is also huge and they return everybody.  Chanhassen loses a ton but they'll have a better year than one may think.  Not to mention the sophomore class is loaded.  That includes Joey Witthus who's poised for a breakout season.  Kennedy will be very interesting to watch under new coach Reggie Perkins.  They have athletes in a section that generally is lacking them.  Lakeville South will be battle tested in the South Suburban but I just don't see how they move up here.  Jefferson could pull a first round upset just by boring their opponent to death.  Burnsville is still in rebuilding mode.  Overall, the teams here (outside of Kennedy) are slower paced grid it out defensive teams.

Sleeper: Bloomington Kennedy.  With Dejon Davis and Jumah'ri Turner on the wings and Travon Hearns to man the inside, the Eagles have some nice pieces.  Add in a coach who's been to the biggest stage and I wouldn't write them off.

Section Winner: Eden Prairie. Their guard duo of Grant Shaeffer and Andre Wallace is too much in this section.  They also have enough size to deal with the big lineups posed by Prior Lake and Shakopee.

12-13 Section 6AAA Preview

This is the 18th preview in my 2012-2013 season preview series.  In this preview, from the east side to the west side for a look at section 6AAA.  For a list of all the season previews, click here.

Defending Champion: Minneapolis Washburn

Predicted Seeding
  1. Blake
  2. Holy Angels 
  3. Washburn
  4. Richfield
  5. Chaska
  6. Holy Family
  7. Benilde-St. Margaret's
  8. Roosevelt
Its another strong year in section 6AAA.  Blake is a top flight 3A team.  Holy Angels and Chaska both look to make runs at the Missota title.  Both have major returnees from last year.  Holy Angels with size (Sullivan and Koontz) along with a star point guard in Jordan Dembley.  They also are one of the top 3A teams in the state.  Minneapolis Washburn is young but talented.  They'll make a run in the Minneapolis City Conference.  Richfield has a beast in Deshawn Jones and a bunch of athletes around him.   Chaska has Eric West inside and a very good guard trio of Justin Arnold, Kolby Seiffert and Jacob Hansen.  Holy Family has plenty of size but struggled last year.  Benilde-St. Margaret's will fall way off this season.  They'll build around Armstrong transfer Jayson Edwards at the point.  Roosevelt will struggle against the rest of these teams.

Sleeper: Holy Family. The Fire was put out last year with only 1 win.  Don't sleep on Holy Family this season.  Their front line will be very good with junior forwards Joe Hanel and Joe Conroy.  Then soph center Justin Dahl is a potential beast.  You know they'll run a disciplined style.  With guard play they can be very dangerous.

Section Winner: Blake.  The Bears have a scorer in Kebu Johnson, length in players like JR Bascom and Blaine Crawford who are both underappreciated.  Add in a quality and experienced point guard in John Veil.  They'll also be battle tested by a very tough non-conference schedule.

12-13 Section 4AAA Preview

This is the 17th preview in my 2012-2013 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. Hill-Murray
  3. St. Paul Central
  4. St. Thomas Academy
  5. St. Paul Highland Park
  6. Simley
  7. St. Paul Harding
  8. South St. Paul
Johnson has won this section 4 consecutive years.  Last year the Govs were down and still won the section.  This year Central returns a talented group.  Hill-Murray has solid guards and adds Marshawn Wilson from Tartan.  Guard play is important against Johnson to handle their pressure defense.  I expect the section once again to see a repeat of recent classics between Hill-Murray and Johnson.  Johnson has gotten the upper hand in all of those.  I see this year as Johnson's biggest challenge to return.  St. Thomas Academy has shooters but not athletes.  Highland Park is solid but they too are a notch down.  Simley is improved but I can't put them above 6.  Harding loses a ton.  South St. Paul sees another year in the cellar.

Sleeper: St. Paul Central.  I said in my season preview that they have enough talent to challenge Johnson in the St. Paul City and I still believe that.  Markus Taylor-Knighten is talented enough to be the MVP of the section.  Malik Durant-Haines gives them a post presence that is hard to find.  Plus they have plenty of athletes.

Section Winner: St. Paul Johnson. I can't pick against the champs until beaten.  The winning tradition is in full force at Johnson and without a no-brainer better team, they have to be the team to beat.  Jalen Mobley and Quashingm Smith-Pugh give them a pair of standouts to lead the way,

2012-13 Section 3AAA Preview

This is the 16th preview in my 2012-2013 season preview series.  In this preview, we begin our look at the large school sections in the metro.  Its off to the north metro for a look at section 3AAA.  For a list of all the season previews, click here.

Defending Champion: De La Salle

Predicted Seeding
  1. De La Salle
  2. Spring Lake Park
  3. Minneapolis Patrick Henry
  4. Columbia Heights
  5. Totino-Grace
  6. St. Anthony
  7. Fridley
  8. St. Paul Como Park
De La Salle is a no brainer at 1.  Como Park and Fridley fill the last 2 slots.  Como Park will likely need to be Fridley in Fridley's holiday tournament to steal the 7th seed.  Spring Lake Park gets the nod from the North Suburban coaches here.  Henry can make that decision difficult if they win the Minneapolis City.  Slots 4-6 could go any direction.  Heights has guards and is athletic.  Totino-Grace has a couple of pieces to build around.  Those neighbors only place once at Heights in late January, winner likely to get the higher seed thanks to the unbalanced North Suburban schedule.

Sleeper: Minneapolis Henry.  They have a goto scorer in Darius Hill and they have athletes.  Those can go a long way in this section.

Section Winner: De La Salle.  With basically everything back from last year's state championship crew plus a player like Sacar Anim breaking into the rotation, they are the easy favorite. Not just here but to win state.

12-13 Section 4AA Preview

This is the 15th preview in my 2012-2013 season preview series.  To end the 3rd week of previews, let's take a look at section 4AA. For a list of all the season previews, click here.

Section 4AA
Defending Champion: St. Croix Lutheran

Predicted Seeding
  1. St. Croix Lutheran
  2. Breck 
  3. St. Paul Academy 
  4. Minnehaha
  5. New Life Academy
  6. Concordia
  7. Trinity
  8. Brooklyn Center 
  9. St. Agnes
  10. Minneapolis Edison
  11. St. Paul Humboldt
  12. International School
  13. Great River
  14. St. Paul Washington
  15. Hmong Academy
  16. Cristo Rey
This section is once again one of the weakest around.  No standout team and a bunch of teams that are even.   St. Croix Lutheran has some pieces back from last year's state team.  Breck's sophomore class can be very competitive here.  Last year they were decimated by injury.  SPA has a nice group coming back.  Minnehaha has some athletes which is a rare commodity in the section.  New Life is well coached and has some talent.  Concordia has size and length.  The bottom half of this section is positively dreadful.  International School and Great River are annual EMAC powerhouses but haven't been competitive with the rest of the section.

Sleeper: New Life Academy.  I think they're as well coached as anybody in the section which is huge come tourney time.  They have some experience.  Conrad Engstrom can be a difficult wing matchup. That's enough to make a run in a weak section.

Section Winner: St. Paul Academy.   This section is way too up in the air and even to think about picking the top seed.  This section will be all about matchups.  Come tourney time have good guards is key.  For SPA, I like their guards with Spencer Egly at the point and Josh Gray on 1 wing.  Frosh Dalante Peyton can score on the other wing and Steven Olson gives them a body up front.

2012-13 Section 4A Preview

This is the 14th preview in my 2012-2013 season preview series.  In the first set of previews, we took a look at 12 metro area conferences and some independents.  In this second set of previews, its time to predict the 11 metro area sections.  We'll begin with a look at Section 4A.  For a list of all the season previews, click here.

Section 4A
Defending Champion: Prairie Seeds Academy

Predicted Seeding
  1. Maranatha
  2. Heritage
  3. West Lutheran
  4. St. Croix Prep
Charter schools have made a run in this section with the likes of Oh Day Aki, Minnesota Transitions and Prairie Seeds qualifying for state in recent years.  Maranatha has been the other section powerhouse.  Home court advantage in the section semis loomed large last year for Heritage.  They shot the lights out in the 2nd half to knock off Maranatha.  Expect those teams to rematch in the section final.  The next tier also has 2 teams.  I expect West Lutheran and St. Croix Prep will battle for the 3rd spot.  St. Croix Prep could have a conference title and better record but the Metro Charter will get no love from the MCAA coaches in the seeding meeting.  St. Croix Prep's non-conference games at St. Croix Lutheran (last year's 4AA qualifier) in December and Concordia in February will make or break their chances at that 3 seed.    I see those 4 teams at another level from the rest of the section.  Minnesota Transitions, Metro Tech and Four Directions will contend for first round home games.  Prairie Seeds and FAIR are wildcards as you never know who will show up.  The EMAC will get even less love in the seeding meeting.

Sleeper:  Metro Tech Academy.  Metro Tech is new on the scene but as a city school and with a couple of players from Prairie Seeds I think they can play with many in the section.  Their schedule of only 3 home games along with games at Minnetonka and Wayzata means they will take their lumps.  They'll get voted down in the seeding meeting but are a top candidate to pull at least 1 upset (at least in terms of seed).  They're as good a candidate as anybody to be that 5th best team.

Section Winner: Maranatha.  The Mustangs return plenty of experience and have tons of firepower.  Add in the best player in the section in Isaiah Hanson.  That's enough to be picked at the top.