2014-15 South Suburban Conference Preview

This is the 11th preview in my 2014-15 Season Preview Series.  To begin week 3, a look at the South Suburban Conference.  The Bloomington schools have departed for the new Metro West Conference.  Farmington and Shakopee replace them from the disbanded Missota Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Apple Valley Eagles (2013-14 season 27-2, 18-0 Conference, 1st)
Apple Valley has won 38 straight games in league play and 24 straight at home in South Suburban play.  Duke commit Tyus Jones (26.3 PPG, 8.7 APG) and forward Dennis Austin (11.4 PPG) need to be replaced.  Defender and shooter Robert Tobroxen will also be missed.  But the Eagles are still loaded and a contender to bring home the gold ball.  Junior center Brock Bertram and soph wing Gary Trent return to the starting lineup as double figure scorers.  Freshman Tre Jones will take over for brother Tyus at the point.  Those 3 are at or very close to the top of their class, not to mention the rest of the program is loaded throughout the levels.  The development of Trent's all-court game will be important to the Eagles success.  Forwards Cam Kirksey and Steve Christiansen have experience up front.  Junior Jordan Bolton provides guard depth.  Scary part is that Christiansen is the only senior of that group.

Burnsville Blaze (2013-14 season 8-19, 3-15 Conference, 9th)
The Blaze improved by 5 wins last season.  The forward duo of Joe Morris and Brett Shepley is back along with point guard Jake Ruffing.  Junior Jason Gumm provides more front court depth.  Guard Zach Smith departs after leading the team in scoring at 14.9 PPG last season.  Donny Parsons is another returning guard.

Eagan Wildcats (2013-14 season 12-14, 8-9 Conference, 5th)
Eagan returns a very good nucleus of PG Bryndan Matthews, SG Chase Seiberlich and swiss army knife forward GT Johnson.  The guards were both double figure scorers last season.  Senior forward Michael Gorder is off to University of Mary.  His 18.4 PPG is the major loss along with some role players up front.  Cole Hibbard will provide guard depth.

Eastview Lightning (2013-14 season 6-21, 2-16 Conference, 10th)
Lanky center Jordan Machacek departs but that's it.  The top 5 scorers and sophomore guard Jameson Bryan all return.  Obi Obeneme was the team's top scorer at 11.7 PPG.  Sioux Falls commit Drew Guebert and Keegan Dixon also averaged double digits last year.  They have experience and shooters. This is a team I don't want to play come playoff time.  I think the Lightning are much better this season.

Farmington Tigers (2013-14 season 19-8, 8-5 Missota Conference, 4th)
The return of senior point guard Zach Speikers will determine much of the Tigers season.  He blew out a knee last last season but averaged 19.2 PPG before that.  Wyatt Ferm is the only other member of the rotation returns.  Forwards Nick Varner and Eli Rockett are gone up front.  Guards Johnny Dittman and Mac Bassett were the rest of the perimeter starters.  The program was strong at the rest of the high school levels last year.  Matt Anderson should step up from the JV to be an important piece.

Lakeville North Panthers (2013-14 season 27-5, 16-2 Conference, 2nd)
Also 33 a night and the clutch play of JP Macura will be impossible to replace.  But the Panthers still have enough to make a run back to state.  Wing Connor Flack is the lone double figure scorer returning at 13.1 PPG.  Look for a breakout campaign from junior wing Drew Stewart.  The lefty has the ability to put up big numbers.  Isaac Brooks and Carl Engwall will fill in for the loss of Bronson Bruneau up front.  Junior guard Cal Pesola will fill the role of departed Alex Reiland.

Lakeville South Cougars (2013-14 season 10-16, 7-11 Conference, Tied 6th)
The Cougars have a nice trio to build around in sophomore point guard Jack Sorenson (20.7 PPG), bruising forward Brenon-Larson Gulsvig and freshman wing Shae Mitchell.  Defender Grant Mosser, forwards Ryan Kretzschmar and Kyle Martin also return with guard Blake Wacholz.  15.4 PPG from Cody Kairis and 4 other rotation members need to be replaced.

Prior Lake Lakers (2013-14 season 16-12, 9-9 Conference, 4th)
The 4 year leadership of Jon Sobaski at the point and his team high 19.5 PPG will be missed.  Kevin McKiernan averaged 7.2 PPG last year and will fill that PG role.  Forward Connor Bair is the top returner at 15.4.  He provides a dangerous versatility of inside scorer and outside skill/quickness.  Austin Heidecker is another frontline returnee.  Seniors Sam Schultz and Lucas Olson and junior Jack Kortes all saw meaningful minutes last year.

Rosemount Irish (2013-14 season 15-13, 7-11 Conference, Tied 6th)
The Irish need to replace the guard trio of PG Garrett Goetz and shooters Cole Northwick and Matt Stephenson. That group combined for 40+ points per game last year.  Shooter Logan Halvorsen and forward Kyle Kaupa return to the starting lineup.  Kaupa has the body to bang but you have to find him at the 3 point line.  Those 2 along with Tyler Hartigan are the top 3 returning scorers.  Gavin Rudoll, Jack Kessler and junior Jared Hanson will look to step into bigger roles

Shakopee Sabers (2013-14 season 24-7, 12-1 Missota Conference, 1st)
Junior forward Steffon Mitchell averaged 12.8 PPG last year.  With the loss of fellow forwards Tyler Weiss (15.8 PPG) and Jake Maiers, expect Mitchell to have a much bigger role.  The lefty continues to evolve into one of the top 2016 players in the state.  Senior point guard Evan Hagen returns to run the point for the 4th year.  Booker Coplin and Tevin Killeen also return on the perimeter. 
  
Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Apple Valley
  2. Shakopee 
  3. Lakeville North   
  4. Prior Lake
  5. Eagan
  6. Eastview  
  7. Lakeville South
  8. Rosemount  
  9. Farmington
  10. Burnsville
Conference Overview:
Apple Valley is so loaded that they are the clear favorite.  After that I see a big jumble in the top half.  Shakopee, Lakeville North, Prior Lake and Eagan all have plenty of important pieces returning but lost their top player.  Shakopee's tradition and last year's finish too much to ignore.  Can't move Lakeville North down much either.  Prior Lake and Eagan also very solid.  That group of 4 I could see in any order.  Eastview and Lakeville South also have plenty coming back but I don't see them at the same level as the others.  They'll battle for 6th.  Rosemount and Farmington have major pieces to replace.  Burnsville will be competitive but hard to see them moving up much.  Those last 3 I could see in any order.

Conference MVP: Steffon Mitchell - Shakopee

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Gary Trent Jr, Tre Jones - Apple Valley
  • Jameson Bryan - Eastview
  • Jack Sorenson, Shea Mitchell - Lakeville South
  • Garrett Mitchell - Shakopee
Conference Games to Watch
  • Lakeville North at Shakopee - Jan 9th
  • Apple Valley at Lakeville North - Jan 13th
  • Shakopee at Apple Valley - Jan 16th
  • Shakopee at Lakeville North - Feb 10th
  • Apple Valley at Shakopee - Feb 13th
  • Lakeville North at Apple Valley - Feb 17th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Chanhassen at Apple Valley - Nov 25th
  • Apple Valley at Minnetonka - Nov 29th
  • Shakopee vs East Ridge - Nov 29th (Anoka-Ramsey Classic)
  • Hopkins at Shakopee - Dec 4th
  • Apple Valley vs Waukee (IA) -  Dec 6th (Girls Tipoff Classic at Hopkins)
  • Shakopee at Waconia - Dec 9th
  • Prior Lake at St. Paul Johnson - Dec 12th
  • Apple Valley vs De La Salle - Dec 13th (Tipoff Classic at Minnetonka) 
  • Eagan vs Orono - Dec 13th (Tipoff Classic at Minnetonka) 
  • Lakeville North vs Minneapolis North - Dec 13th (Tipoff Classic at Minnetonka)  
  • Eden Prairie at Lakeville North - Dec 20th

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