2014-15 Metro West Conference Preview

This is the third preview in my 2014-2015 season preview series.  In this preview, a look at the new Metro West Conference.  The Metro West mixes teams from 4 other conferences including the defunct North Suburban and Missota along with the Classic Suburban (now Metro East) and South Suburban.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are done, click here.

Benilde St. Margaret's Red Knights (2013-14 season 15-12, 9-4 North Suburban Conference, 3rd)
The Red Knights were assigned to the league after the North Suburban disbanded.  They will have to replace all 5 starters.  Juniors Sam Baker and Matt Lilienthal along with seniors Luke Possis and Jalen Floyd are the top returnees.  They will have to find size.

Bloomington Jefferson Jaguars (2013-14 season 15-13, 7-11 South Suburban Conference, Tie 6th)
The Jags have to replace most of scoring punch with 2 double figure scorers leaving.  The cupboard isn't bare though.  Tommy Gathje is the top post in the league and he has the ability to pass, handle, shoot it outside and score inside.  Expect plenty of looks for him and plenty of the usual methodical offense from coach Jeff Evens.

Bloomington Kennedy Eagles (2013-14 season 17-10, 12-5 South Suburban Conference, 3rd)
Kennedy was a very pleasant surprise last season finishing 12-5 in the rugged South Suburban in Coach Willie Braziel's first year.  DJ Davis is off to South Dakota after doing everything on both ends of the floor.  His leadership along with 21 points per night will be sorely missed.  CJ Lewis and his 18 points per night depart as well along with all but 1 other player from the rotation.  Guard Darius Bell averaged 6.4 PPG.

Chanhassen Storm (2013-14 season 18-8, 10-3 Missota Conference, 2nd)
This is the year the Storm have been building to.  Joey Witthus and his almost 23 PPG return on the wing.  Floor general Ben Khwice returns along with Maxon Hutton in the starting lineup.  Center Andrew Mattern should nicely slot into the front court banger spot vacated by football star Frank Ragnow.   This group has great chemistry, expect a strong season.

Chaska Hawks (2013-14 season 16-10, 9-5 Missota Conference, 3rd)
The Hawks will need to replace 20 points a night and rebounding from graduated forward Eric West.  Jacob Hansen returns to run the point with his 15.9 PPG.  He runs the show but shoots it like a high level shooting guard.  Soph Myles Hanson returns to a wing while Peyton Sanders takes up another perimeter slot.  Colby Murphy will provide permeter depth.

Richfield Spartans (2013-14 season 3-24, 3-15 Classic Suburban Conference, 8th)
The Spartans lose leading scorer Patrick Dembley to Minneapolis North.  That's from a team that was one of the worst in class AAA (2 of their 3 wins were over doormat South St. Paul).  Junior Tommy Fallon averaged just over 9 points per night.  He'll be the top scoring threat.  Not much size or scoring punch for this roster.

Robbinsdale Cooper Hawks (2013-14 season 9-16, 6-6 North Suburban Conference, 6th)
Leading scorer Taron Pickford returns to the lineup for his junior season.  He averaged almost 14 points a game last year.  The rest of the rotation will need to be replaced.  A couple of transfers should beef up the lineup.  Jayson Edwards visits his 3rd school in 3 years as he comes over from Benilde-St. Margaret's.  Wing Melvin Newburn Jr was in Robbinsdale Armstrong's rotation last year as a sophomore.  Outside of Newburn the lineup is tiny but they will be very quick.
 
St. Louis Park Orioles (2013-14 season 1-25, 1-12 North Suburban Conference, 7th)
The Orioles had to go super young after losing the entire JV and Varsity rosters from their 20 win season of 2 years ago.  They paid for it by being one of the worst teams in all of class AAAA.  The youth movement should pay off this year as the entire rotation returns.  Senior Nick Kjos and junior Ray Whitlock combined for almost 30 points per game last season . Soph Ryan Domres and senior Jason Keller man the front court spots and were the next 2 scorers. 

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Chanhassen
  2. Chaska
  3. Bloomington Jefferson 
  4. Robbinsdale Cooper 
  5. Bloomington Kennedy
  6. Benilde-St. Margaret's
  7. St. Louis Park
  8. Richfield
Conference Overview
It will be interesting to see how long this league lasts as the idea of Chanhassen and Chaska's demographics lining up with Cooper and Richfield is laughable.  With the east half of the Wright County quickly growing (see Waconia, who wanted in the league and wasn't taken for some reason, will cooler heads prevail?

Chanhassen and Chaska are the clear top 2 with the quality they have coming back . Jefferson may not be all that watchable but they knocked Chanhassen out in round 1 last year.  Cooper might be able to push them for third but more likely they stay in front of the teams below them.  Kennedy and Benilde-St. Margaret's are a coin flip since they basically have to replace everything.  St. Louis Park has everything back from a dreadful year last year.  That puts them in front of a Richfield team that looks again like one of the worst in class AAA and loses a ton.

Conference MVP: Joey Witthus - Chanhassen

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Joe Dunn - Benilde-St. Margaret's
  • Markel Aune - Bloomington Kennedy
  • Chris Wandling - Chanhassen
  • Myles Hanson, Alex Strazzanti - Chaska
Conference Games to Watch
  • Chaska at Chanhassen - Jan 9th
  • Chanhassen at Chaska - Feb 7th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Chaska at Apple Valley - Nov 22nd
  • Chanhassen at East Ridge - Nov 22nd
  • Chanhassen at Apple Valley - Nov 25th
  • Chanhassen at Minnetonka- Dec 13th (Breakdown Tipoff Classic)
  • Waconia at Chanhassen - Dec 22nd
  • Eden Prairie at Chanhassen - Jan 3rd
  • Eden Prairie at Chaska - Jan 24th

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