2015-16 Metro East Conference Preview

This is the third preview in my 2015-2016 season preview series.  In this preview, I move to the east metro for a look at the Metro East Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and an explanation of how the previews are generated, click here.

Hastings Raiders (2014-15 season 21-6, 13-3 Conference, 1st)
After a banner season where the Raiders won the conference title, 4 starters need to be replaced.  Forwards Sam Skoyen and versatile Craig Nielsen combined for 33 a night.  Guards Christian Bronner and Joe Dittrich combined for almost 21.  A pair of reserve bigs also graduated.  Forward Brady Gullicks is the top returning player.  Guards Austin Bayne and Colin Kummer will take over in the backcourt.  After that, there's no experience.

Henry Sibley Warriors (2014-15 season 2-24, 1-15 Conference, Tie 8th)
From 18 wins 2 years ago, to 13 wins last year and down to rock bottom with only 2 wins last year.  That was in part due to a youth movement where the Warriors only had 1 senior.  Senior Zach Edwards averaged 9.4 PPG to lead the team.  He's 1 of 5 senior starters returning.  Soph PG Rieshaun Satar also returns.  He averaged 8.4 PPG.

Hill-Murray Pioneers (2014-15 season 21-8, 11-5 Conference, Tie 2nd)
The Pioneers have to replace all everything guard Marshawn Wilson (now at Northern Illinois).  He averaged 26 pts and a ridiculous 10.9 rebounds per game last year.  Double figure shooters Jack Fahey and Sam Westby also graduated.  Starting point guard Simeon Davis was the 2nd scorer last year at 11.2 PPG and 7.6 RPG.  Center Chris Moore also returns with 10 points and 6 boards per game.  Sam Carlson and Nathan Donatell also figure to see time for a guard dominated lineup.

Mahtomedi Zephyrs (2014-15 season 19-10, 10-6 Conference, Tie 5th)
The top 4 scorers including center Sean Hjelle's 15 and 10 are gone.  Hjelle is the hardest to replace of the group.  But more than the other depleted rosters in the league, the Zephyrs are equipped to reload.  That includes junior forwards Andy Voyen and Parker Fox up front.  Seniors Gus Farrell and Jacob Martin also provide frontcourt depth.  Senior lefty Joe Rock and junior Will Tuttle will step in to help replace the departed trio of Sam Muster, Jackson Bell and Sam Newman.  Leading returning scorer Lucas Buller averaged 7.4 PPG and will be a primary option on the wing.

North Polars (2014-15 season 6-21, 4-12 Conference, 7th)
The Polars took their lumps against a veteran league last year.  Now they return 6 of their top 7 scorers and appear poised to make a big jump.  Soph forward Goodnews Kpegeol is the only double figure scorer at 11.7 PPG.  Josh Steckler, Jake Weber, Thomas Acoqui, Adreon Wadlington and Termaine Daniels all return to the rotation.  Wadlington is a JT Gibson lookalike who has the ability to be a defensive stopper.  Steckler provides perimeter punch.  Playing many of the top teams in the league tough last year will prove valuable this season.
St. Thomas Academy Cadets (2014-15 season 19-9, 11-5 Conference, Tie 2nd)
New coach Tyler Biwan has to replace 4 starters.  He has forward Nate Chaffee and his 12.7 PPG to man the front line.  No one else averaged more than 5 PPG.  Joe Harvey, TJ Wright and John Myran figure to fill perimeter slots.  Nolan Sullivan should see time in the middle.

Simley Spartans (2014-15 season 19-9, 10-6 Conference, Tie 5th)
Guard Jack Stensgard and his team leading 16.6 PPG returns.  He can play both guard spots.  But the rest of the rotation will need to be replaced.  Andrew Leeder and Blake Scheffkneckt should man forward spots.  Soph Jake Binley should see plenty of time on the wing.  (Czar's Note: I've since been informed Scheffkneckt was a senior, oops)

South St. Paul Packers (2014-15 season 5-22, 1-15 Conference, Tie 8th)
South St. Paul broke a 72 game conference losing streak by winning at Sibley to start the new year.  That win gave them a split for last place.  Now they just have to break that 41 game conference losing streak at home.  4 starters and all but 2 members of the rotation are gone.  Senior forward Zach Taylor returns with 10.8 PPG.  But he may be best known as the uncle of Boo, The Mini Ref.  Guard Nate Totino is the 1 other member of the rotation returning.

Tartan Titans (2014-15 season 21-7, 11-5 Conference, Tie 2nd)
While everyone is trying to figure out how to fill out a lineup, Tartan is loaded.  They return 4 junior starters including their catalyst PG Jordan Horn (17.7 PPG).  Forward Joevon Walker also averaged double figures.  Kingston Myles returns in a defensive wing role along with forward Emanuel Humphrey.  Then as an added bonus star soph Jarvis Thomas will join the lineup.  Add in shooter Noah Wahlen from Ellsworth, WI and depth with DeNario Jackson, Jordan Thompson and Elijah Johnson.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Tartan
  2. Mahtomedi
  3. North
  4. Hill-Murray
  5. St. Thomas Academy    
  6. Simley 
  7. Hastings 
  8. Henry Sibley
  9. South St. Paul
Conference Overview
Both leagues in the east metro suburbs were ravaged by graduation.  Tartan is loaded but beyond that huge losses across the rest of last year's contending teams.  Mahtomedi has pieces they can plug in.  I'm going to pick North to make a big jump with their experience. Hill-Murray, St. Thomas Academy and Simley all have a couple of pieces to play with.  Sibley has everybody back so they have to go above South St. Paul for the last spot.  I could see Sibley's experience allowing them to battle Hastings for the spot above.

Conference MVP: Jordan Horn - Tartan

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Sawyer Levos - Hastings 
  • Rieshaun Satar - Henry Sibley
  • Goodnews Kpegeol, Bryce Phillips - North St. Paul  
  • Jake Binley - Simley
  • Jarvis Thomas - Tartan
Conference Games to Watch
  • Mahtomedi at Tartan - Dec 18th
  • Tartan at Mahtomedi - Jan 29th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Mahtomedi at Chisago Lakes - Nov 24th
  • Tartan vs TBD - Dec 12th (Breakdown Tipoff Classic at Minnetonka)
  • Centennial at Tartan - Dec 30th (Projected Tartan tourney final)
  • Edina at Tartan - Feb 19th

2015-16 Lake Conference Preview

This is the second preview in my 2015-2016 season preview series.  In this preview, a look at the Lake Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are done, click here.

Eden Prairie Eagles (2014-15 season 24-5, 6-2 Lake Conference, Tie 1st)
Despite losing their top 3 scorers, Eden Prairie will rebound from a crushing loss to Hopkins in the section final.  The backcourt is loaded with seniors Brady Rudrud, Ryan Jacobus and Nick Geolat plus junior Owen Chose.  All 4 can knock down 3s and are very interchangeable.  They combined for almost 30 PPG last year and I expect them to do the bulk of the Eagles scoring this year.  The leadership and intangibles of Blake Cashman will be seriously missed.  Jake Ruppert and soph Kyler Kluge provide depth.  Look for Jack Vermedahl to provide size upfront.

Edina Hornets (2014-15 season 18-9, 2-6 Lake Conference, 5th)
Interior presence Max Lynch, wings Ben Boone and John Swanke all need to be replaced.  The high scoring perimeter duo of junior point guard Walt McGrory (17 PPG) and senior sharpshooter Will Moreton (14.2 PPG) returns.  Junior Jimmy Connell returns and soph Anders Nelson will join the rotation.  Size and depth are issues to address.

Hopkins Royals (2014-15 season 23-7, 6-2 Lake Conference, Tie 1st)
Hopkins struggled to find their way after Amir Coffey's injury last year, but once they figured out it, they were very dangerous.  Now Coffey returns to the lineup with a scholarship to Minnesota in hand and fits right into the spot John Warren vacated.  Everyone else returns so expect an even better season this year.  The perimeter play is the deepest in the state with Xavier Johnson, Ishmael El-Amin, Vinnie Shahid and Anthony Davis joining Simon Wright and Coffey.  Erik Davis will see time as a forward.  Its an explosive lineup with many matching parts.  Expect them to be a serious contender for another Gold Ball.

Minnetonka Skippers (2014-15 season 19-8, 3-5 Lake Conference, Tie 3rd)
Chris Carr takes over at the helm of the Skippers program after Tom Dasovich left to become the Watertown-Mayer athletic director.  He has a group that is very well suited to his dribble drive style. PG Amar Miller put up 21 a night and this style should be perfect for him.  It should also help wings Seth Coatta (NDSU recruit) and Cedric Boone who combined for 30 a night last year.  Both will have plenty of chances to knock down 3s or attack the rim.  The Skippers put up 85 a night last year so scoring won't be a problem.  The biggest question is defense.  They gave up 105 to Minneapolis South in an opening round section upset last year.  Size is also a question behind Max Cooper.

Wayzata Trojans (2014-15 season 21-8, 3-5 Lake Conference, Tie 3rd)
Here's one I got completely wrong last year.  The Trojans improved from 8 wins to 21 wins and did it without a single senior.  That means they return no fewer than 10 guys who saw meaningful minutes.  That includes leader Johnny Beeninga (17 PPG, MN-Moorhead recruit), sharpshooters Jack Sowada (14.2 PPG) and junior Ryan Lindberg along with Sioux Falls recruit Austin Slater (11.4 PPG) inside.  They're deep, experienced, and they have players for every position and role.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Hopkins
  2. Wayzata
  3. Eden Prairie
  4. Minnetonka
  5. Edina
Conference Overview
There's not a bad team in the league. Edina is no worse than a 500 team.  Minnetonka can outscore anybody on any given night.  The other 3 teams are all top 5 caliber teams.  I take Hopkins as the favorite with Wayzata and Eden Prairie not far behind.  Minnetonka has more coming back than Edina so I'll take the Skippers to stay out of the cellar.  Should be a really fun year to watch as all teams have at least 2 kids that are minimum D2 caliber.  High level play all around.

Conference MVP: Amir Coffey -  Hopkins

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Max Steensland, Kyler Kluge - Eden Prairie
  • Anders Nelson- Edina
  • Anthony Davis, Joe Hedstrom, Andrew Dahnke - Hopkins 
Conference Games to Watch
  • Hopkins at Wayzata - Dec 11th
  • Wayzata at Eden Prairie - Jan 8th
  • Hopkins at Eden Prairie - Jan 15th
  • Wayzata at Hopkins - Jan 29th
  • Eden Prairie at Wayzata - Feb 12th
  • Eden Prairie at Hopkins - Feb 19th
 Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Robbinsdale Armstrong at Wayzata - Nov 24th
  • Wayzata at Lakeville North - Nov 28th
  • TBD at Hopkins - Dec 5th (Girls Tipoff Classic)
  • All league members vs TBD at Minnetonka - Dec 12th (Boys Tipoff Classic)
  • Lakeville North vs Eden Prairie - Dec 22nd
  • Hopkins at Champlin Park - Dec 22nd
  • Wayzata vs Apple Valley (at St. Cloud Apollo)- Dec 29th (Granite City)
  • Wayzata vs Champlin Park (at SCSU) - Dec 30th (Granite City)
  • Eden Prairie at Shakopee - Jan 2nd
  • De La Salle at Eden Prairie - Jan 5th
  • Hopkins at Minneapolis North - Jan 19th
  • Eden Prairie vs Cretin-Derham Hall (at UST) - Jan 19th
  • Wayzata at Minneapolis North - Jan 25th 
  • Minnetonka vs Stevens Point (WI) at Onalaska (WI) - Jan 30th (Border Battle)
  • Eden Prairie at Robbinsdale Armstrong - Feb 3rd
  • Cretin-Derham Hall at Hopkins - Feb 3rd
  • Eden Prairie at Champlin Park - Feb 10th

2015-16 Independent Metro Athletic Conference Preview

This is the first preview in my 2015-2016 season preview series.  We start the 6 week preview series with a look at the Independent Metro Athletic Conference (IMAC).  For a list of all the season previews and how they are done, click here.

Blake Bears (2014-15 season 2-25, 2-8 Conference, 5th)
The Bears fell off hard from 22 wins to 2-25 last season.  Both wins were league wins over Mounds Park Academy.   Sophomore sniper point guard Jack Moe returns after leading the team with 14.8 PPG.  Most of the rest of the rotation graduated.  Charlie Levitt graduates after being one of the other offensive threats.  Expect another long season on top of the hill. 

Breck Mustangs (2014-15 season 20-9, 8-2 Conference, Tie 1st)
Former star PG Marcus Hill takes over the reins of his alma mater after 1 year as an assistant.  He has a ton to replace.  Guards Will Culliton and Mo Lawal with forward Henry Cousineau combined for over 51 PPG.  Those 3 plus athletic wing Kwaku Bodom all graduated.  6'8" Senior Justin Bergerson returns in the middle.  Senior Miles Olowu provides front court depth.  Junior Garrett Opperman should have a much expanded role.

Minnehaha Academy Redhawks (2014-15 season 19-9, 8-2 Conference, Tie 1st)
Coach Lance Johnson returns his top 3 scorers.  Sophomore forward JaVonni Bickham averaged almost a double-double with 17.5 PPG and 9.7 RPG per game last year.  8th grader Jalen Suggs saw limited time due to injury but was still the 2nd scorer at 11 per night.  Plenty of guard depth returns with 10.9 PPG from Jake Richardson.  Toughness and defense from Benny Larry along with 7.1 PPG also return.  Reserve bigs behind Bickham are a question mark.

Mounds Park Academy Panthers (2014-15 season 6-19, 0-10 Conference, 6th)
Dan Haase returns to the boys head coach seat after spending 3 years leading the Panthers girls program and a year off.  He previously led the program from 1999-2011.  The Panthers have currently lost 79 straight conference games since Feb 1, 2008.  Everybody returns so that means another year of junior Brendan Connolly (11.8 PPG) and senior Cole Montour (7.4 PPG) leading the way.

Providence Academy Lions (2014-15 season 16-12, 4-6 Conference, 4th)
The top 2 scorers, wing Matt Richelsen and PG Dominic Miller return for the Lions.   Bruising football prospect Gavin Blomberg will anchor the front line.  He'll replace Sebastian Brown up front.  Drew Lahr provides experience up front.  The bench will need to be more productive.

St. Paul Academy Spartans (2014-15 season 19-10, 8-2 Conference, Tie 1st)
The Spartans won the obscure points allowed tiebreaker to win the conference title.  Seniors Dalante Peyton and Kent Hanson return as a potent 1-2 punch averaging almost 34 points a game.  Role playing guards Ryan Peacock, Emerson Egly  and Angel Smaller also return.  They will need to find replacements for the size of Abdul Osman (9 and 6 last year) and Sam Suzuki.  The defensive stopper role of Dean Isaacson took some burden off of Peyton last year, but won't be there this year.  Head coach Kevin McKenzie left to take the Roseville head job.  Macalester assistant Isaiah Walfred takes over the program.  He was previously a head coach at North St. Paul.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Minnehaha
  2. St. Paul Academy
  3. Providence
  4. Breck
  5. Blake
  6. Mounds Park Academy
Conference Overview
The league splits into 3 clear tiers.  Minnehaha and SPA should battle for the conference title.  Providence looks to have the inside track for 3rd with Breck maybe jumping in there.  Blake and Mounds Park Academy are a notch below the 2nd tier and will battle each other to stay out of the cellar.

Conference MVP: Dalante Peyton - St. Paul Academy

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Jack Moe - Blake
  • Riley Burger- Breck
  • JoVanni Bickham, Jalen Suggs - Minnehaha
  • Nick Flottmeier, Braeden Mischke - Providence 
Conference Games to Watch
  • St. Paul Academy at Minnehaha - Jan 19th
  • Minnehaha at St. Paul Academy - Feb 5th
 Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Minnehaha at St. Croix Lutheran - Dec 1st
  • St. Paul Academy at Cristo Rey - Dec 5th
  • St. Croix Lutheran at St. Paul Academy - Dec 10th
  • Minnehaha in Breakdown Tipoff Classic at Minnetonka - Dec 12th
  • St. Paul Academy vs Minneapolis Henry (at Hamline) - Dec 22nd
  • Minnehaha at Minneapolis North - Jan 16th

Welcome to Czar Season 9

Its Labor Day weekend and that means its time to turn the page to the 2015-2016 season.  All of the 2014-15 pages can be found on the Previous Seasons archive page.  That has all the player signings, previews and pools from the previous seasons I've covered.

As to 2015-16, this is season number 9 online and I've passed the 1000 total games watched mark.  All of the pages you're used to seeing are back.  The notable leagues and camps of the 2015 fall season are on the Fall Ball page.  I'll be doing my usual 6 week long season preview series where I look at all of the metro area conferences and sections.  Team previews will be done in the 13 working days leading up to MEA.  After the MEA break, we'll take you right up until the start of practice with section previews and a wrap of games and events to see.  The full schedule for when those previews will be posted is on the Season Previews page.  With a handful of players from the class of 2016 already making their college choices, the Signings page has been flipped over to 2016 as well.  I also have a start on the local holiday tournament schedule on the Holiday Tourneys page.  I'll update that page as we approach the holidays with the actual schedules.

This year also marks a new set of section assignments and classifications.  As part of a 6 year cycle, not only were teams moved around based on class, the MSHSL did a full review of every team's section location across all sports.  That meant some rather major changes.  You can find all of those on the updated Section Maps and Section Assignment links.

The Rankings page has been updated with all of the latest national rankings from the end of the 2015 AAU season.  Players from the top 150 from the 4 major ranking services (Rivals, Scout, ESPN and 247Sports) are included.  For those of you who are Northstar Hoops Report subscribers, it also includes links for the Minnesota rankings in 2016-2018 as well as the 2019 watch list for incoming freshmen.  For you recruiting diehards, the fall recruiting period opens this week.  Links to the D1 and D2 recruiting calendars have been updated in the Recruiting Links menu.

While we're in the spirit of changes, here's a link to the NFHS rules changes for this season.  Biggest one is hand-checking which is going to be very interesting how consistently this is called over the course of the season.