2015-16 Section 5AAAA Preview

This is the 23rd preview in my 2015-2016 season preview series.  Week 5 of the 6 week series concludes with a look at section 5AAAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 5AAAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: Champlin Park

New teams in the subsection
  • Mounds View (4AAAA)
  • Roseville (4AAAA)
  • Spring Lake Park (3AAA)
Teams that left the subsection
  • Maple Grove (8AAAA)
  • Robbinsdale Cooper (6AAAA)
  • Wayzata (6AAAA)
Predicted Seeding
  1. Champlin Park
  2. Osseo
  3. Centennial
  4. Mounds View
  5. Roseville
  6. Park Center
  7. Spring Lake Park
  8. Irondale
Champlin Park looks to hold on to their title with McKinley Wright and Theo John.  I think they plug in enough pieces to make it happen.  Osseo had a down year last year but they have a ton of guys coming back, I expect them to be more like their former identity.  Centennial is dangerous with South Dakota commit Tyler Peterson.  Mounds View and Roseville make up the next tier as they try to reload.  Park Center, Spring Lake Park and Irondale are all in rebuild mode.

Sleeper: Park Center.  New coach and young talent makes them a wildcard.

Section Winner: Champlin Park.  They have the 2 best players in the section.  There's just no matchup for Theo John.  I see them returning to the big dance.

2015-16 Section 4AAAA Preview

This is the 22nd preview in my 2015-2016 season preview series.  The series moves on with a look at section 4AAAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 4AAAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: Roseville

New teams in the subsection
  • Cretin-Derham Hall (3AAAA)
  • East Ridge (3AAAA)
  • St. Paul Central (4AAA)
Teams that left the subsection
  • Mahtomedi (4AAA)
  • Mounds View (5AAAA)
  • Roseville (5AAAA)
Predicted Seeding
  1. Tartan
  2. Cretin-Derham Hall
  3. Stillwater
  4. North
  5. East Ridge
  6. St. Paul Central
  7. Woodbury
  8. White Bear Lake
CDH and Tartan are the 2 clear favorites here.  I think Tartan is better thanks to their 4 stars returning and Jarvis Thomas but a 3A league vs a 4A league gives CDH a chance to be the 1 seed.  Stillwater and North will battle for the 3rd seed.  East Ridge, St. Paul Central and Woodbury all have a chance to sneak into that 4th spot if North's youth hurts them.  Frosh Courtney Brown Jr at East Ridge is a wild card that could bump up the Raptors.  White Bear Lake is rebuilding.

Sleeper: North.  They taken some lumps but now have experience in a year where many in the section are rebuilding.  Add in the success at lower levels and they're a team that could surprise.

Section Winner: Tartan.  A leader and goto guy in Jordan Horn and quality interior play with great depth send another Mark Klingsporn group to state.

2015-16 Section 3AAAA Preview

This is the 21st preview in my 2015-2016 season preview series.  We continue our look at class AAAA with a look at section 3AAAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 3AAAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: Apple Valley (defending state champion)

New teams in the subsection
  • Burnsville (2AAAA)
  • Hastings (1AAAA)
Teams that left the subsection
  • Cretin-Derham Hall (4AAAA)
  • East Ridge (4AAAA)
Predicted Seeding
  1. Apple Valley
  2. Eastview
  3. Burnsville
  4. Rosemount
  5. Hastings
  6. Eagan
  7. Henry Sibley
  8. Park
The 1 major competitor to Apple Valley for the section title (Cretin-Derham Hall) got moved to section 4.  I don't have any other team in the section picked above 5th in their league.  Most of this falls according to South Suburban finish.  Park clearly takes the 8 spot.  Eagan and Sibley fight for 6th.  Rosemount and Hastings battle for the last home game thanks to the South Suburban vs Metro East debate.  Eastview gets the 2 seed over Burnsville based on higher conference finish.

Sleeper: None.  The rest of the section is way down so there's nobody of note to pick here.

Section Winner: Park of Cottage Grove.  OK, maybe not.  With everybody back and the rest of the section down, there's no reason to believe that Apple Valley won't steamroll through this section with the possible exception of a rivalry matchup vs Eastview staying close.  It would not surprise me to see an Apple Valley game in this section go the stall route.

2015-16 Section 2AAAA Preview

This is the 20th preview in my 2015-2016 season preview series.  Now we move on to all the sections in class AAAA.  This starts with a look at section 2AAAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 2AAAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: Shakopee

New teams in the subsection
  • Eden Prairie (6AAAA)
  • Edina (6AAAA)
  • Minnetonka (6AAAA)
Teams that left the subsection
  • Bloomington Kennedy (3AAA)
  • Burnsville (3AAAA)
  • Lakeville South (1AAAA)
Predicted Seeding
  1. Eden Prairie
  2. Shakopee
  3. Edina
  4. Chaska
  5. Minnetonka
  6. Bloomington Jefferson
  7. Prior Lake
  8. Chanhassen
This may be the deepest section in AAAA from top to bottom . Definitely not the firepower at the top like 6AAAA, but there is not a bad team in this section.  Eden Prairie and Shakopee are the 2 clear favorites.  They could meet twice in 4 days over New Year's between the Eden Prairie tourney final on December 30th and their regular meeting at Shakopee on January 2nd.  Chaska will fight with Edina and Minnetonka for a home game.  Jefferson and Prior Lake both with good junior classes looking to move up next year.  No other place to put Chanhassen in a rebuilding year though they will be better than your average 8th seed.

Sleeper: Minnetonka. The Skippers don't have size but then again size in this section is hard to come by.  What they do have is a high powered backcourt with Amar Miller, NDSU commit Seth Coatta and Cedric Boone.  The teams in the section are very sound defensively but Amar Miller can create against most anybody 1 on 1.  That opens up the shooters.

Section Winner: Eden Prairie. After the heartbreak of last year's giveaway vs Hopkins in the 6AAAA final, I think they move on.  Too many solid guards in Rudrud, Geolat, Jacobus and Chose.  They're very sound on defense and they'll always have that football guy to do the interior dirty work.

2015-16 Section 6AAA Preview

This is the 19th preview in my 2015-2016 season preview series.  Week 5 of this 6 week series begins with a glance at the final metro area section in class AAA.  That's the reworked section 6AAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 6AAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: Waconia

New teams in the subsection
  • Delano (5AAA)
  • DeLaSalle (3AAA)
  • Minneapolis Henry (3AAA)
  • Orono (5AAA) 
Teams that left the subsection
  • Holy Angels (3AAA)
  • Holy Family (5AA)
  • Minneapolis Washburn (6AAAA)
  • Richfield (3AAA)
Predicted Seeding
  1. DeLaSalle
  2. Benilde-St. Margaret's
  3. Delano
  4. Orono
  5. Waconia
  6. Minneapolis Henry
  7. Mound-Westonka
  8. Blake
If this isn't the best section in a very down year in class AAA, I don't know what is.  Not only do you have defending champion Waconia, but you have 4 time defending state champ De La Salle and last year's 5AAA champion Orono joining the section.  Add in my Metro West favorite Benilde-St. Margaret, a solid Minneapolis Henry team and up and coming Delano and you have a very good section.  That means it won't be a cakewalk in the drive for 5 for the Islanders.

Waconia loses a ton of size from last year's team but they still have a rock solid backcourt with Joey Kortuem, Josh Rands and Ryan Kutchen plus soph Charlie Gove behind them.  Orono loses 4 of their top 6 scorers (like Waconia) but they still have Sam Sustacek inside with Alex Kill, Coby Stoe and junior Noel Mshihiri around him.  Delano loses their top scorer but the Tigers bring back their next 7.  That includes recent Mary commit Matt Kreklow to provide size.  They also have a young and talented backcourt in soph Calvin Wishart and frosh Derek Techam.  New coach Wade Hokenson takes over for Tyler Biwan at Mound-Westonka.  He has soph Griffin Sage as a piece to build around.  The Wright County East will battle test Delano, Orono and Waconia but I still like Benilde-St. Margaret's at the 2 seed.  They're experienced and have a goto guy in Sam Baker.  3 thru 6 could fall in any direction but whomever comes thru that Wright County East gauntlet will get the 3.  I'm going to pick Delano to be that team and to make a jump up from 500 this year.  That's despite losing to Orono 3 times and Waconia twice last year.  Waconia won't go out easily either thanks to their guards.  Henry is my hard luck 6 seed as they'd probably be no worse than a 3 seed in most other AAA sections.  Late season home games for the Patriots against Waconia and Orono could loom large in their section seeding.  If nothing else the 3 vs 6 and 4 vs 5 games will be very entertaining.

Sleeper: Henry.  They're big and athletic and they have scorers in Julian Jackson and Demetrius Edwards-Brown.  If they take care of the ball and make shots, they have the ability to make it really tough on people.

Section Winner: DeLaSalle.  Is there another choice here?  You have a nationally ranked guy in Goanar Mar who can play inside or out.  Soph Gabe Kalscheur got a ton of time last year and emerged as a goto type guy.  Samm Jones provides the experience at point.  Not to mention they are loaded with young talent.

2015-16 Section 4AAA Preview

This is the 18th preview in my 2015-2016 season preview series.  To end week 4 of this 6 week series, I take a look at another of the metro area's revamped class AAA sections.  This time it's the section 4AAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 4AAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: St. Paul Johnson

New teams in the subsection
  • Columbia Heights (3AAA)
  • Fridley (3AAA)
  • Mahtomedi (4AAAA)
  • St. Anthony (3AAA)
  • St. Paul Como Park (3AAA)
  • Totino-Grace (3AAA)
Teams that left the subsection
  • St. Paul Central (4AAAA)
  • St. Paul Highland Park (3AAA)
  • St. Paul Harding (3AAA)
  • St. Thomas Academy (3AAA)
  • Simley (3AAA)
  • South St. Paul (3AAA)
Predicted Seeding
  1. St. Paul Johnson
  2. Mahtomedi
  3. Fridley
  4. Totino-Grace
  5. Hill-Murray
  6. Columbia Heights
  7. St. Anthony
  8. St. Paul Como Park
Yea!  We are no longer in DeLaSalle's section!  Oh wait, now we get St. Paul Johnson.  Doh!  Not exactly the winning lotto ticket for the former section 3AAA schools.  Johnson and Hill-Murray are the only holdovers from this section.  Johnson has played in 10 straight section finals, including the last 8 years in this section.  They've lost only 2 of those.  Mahtomedi may lack some experience now but by tourney time I can see them as a difficult out.  Hudson transfer Shayne Frost (who I inexplicably left out of my Metro East preview) is a great addition for them at point guard.  Fridley has enough athletes to make a Johnson game interesting.  Totino-Grace vs Hill-Murray makes for a competitive 4 vs 5 game.  I could see Columbia Heights making the league matchup vs Fridley interesting in the 3 vs 6 game.  St. Anthony and Como Park are still in rebuilding mode.

Sleeper: Totino-Grace.  With experienced pieces inside (James Streeter) and outside (Krueser and Jacob) I can see the Eagles jumping up and surprising people come tourney time.

Section Winner: Mahtomedi.  I don't see Johnson as the juggernaut of years past and wonder how they'll score enough in the biggest games.  Mahtomedi loses a ton but they have size and Frost to shore up the backcourt.  Last year's JV guys step up and I'll take the Zephyrs to come out of the section.

2015-16 Section 3AAA Preview

This is the 17th preview in my 2015-2016 season preview series.  In this preview, I start my look at the local AAA sections with section 3AAA.  Thanks to the MSHSL redrawing sections from scratch this year, its an entirely new group of teams from the south and east metro rather than the north metro.  This section is most like last year's 4AAA with 5 teams from that previous group.  In an ironic twist, 5 of last year's teams in this section make up the new section 4AAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 3AAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: DeLaSalle

New teams in the subsection
  • Bloomington Kennedy (2AAAA)
  • Holy Angels (6AAA)
  • Richfield (6AAA)
  • Simley (4AAA)
  • South St. Paul (4AAA)
  • St. Paul Harding  (4AAA)
  • St. Paul Highland Park (4AAA)
  • St. Thomas Academy (4AAA)
Teams that left the subsection
  • Columbia Heights (4AAA)
  • DeLaSalle (6AAA)
  • Fridley (4AAA)
  • Minneapolis Henry (6AAA)
  • Spring Lake Park (5AAAA)
  • St. Anthony (4AAA)
  • St. Paul Como Park (4AAA)
  • Totino-Grace (4AAA)
Predicted Seeding
  1. St. Thomas Academy
  2. Simley
  3. Kennedy
  4. Holy Angels
  5. Highland Park
  6. South St. Paul
  7. Harding
  8. Richfield
I've had my share of comments about the quality in section 7AAAA over the years, but they get a break this year with this section.  If my conference predictions end up accurate (insert your own joke here), you'd have the last 2 from the Metro West, last in St. Paul, 5th, 6th and last in Metro East and a last place finisher in their division of the Tri-Metro.  The bottom 3 were in the last 6 of the CzarPI in all of class AAA at the end of last season.  I see that happening again.  Holy Angels and Highland Park will fight to reach 10 wins.  Holy Angels ultimately gets that home game.  I pick Kennedy 3rd here but I have them 7th in the Metro West.  They only won 9 games last season but had a bunch of close losses in the 2nd half.  I see Simley and St. Thomas Academy as the only teams to finish above the break even mark.  That's after they both lost most of their lineups and each only have 1 notable varsity guy returning.  So even that isn't a given.

Sleeper: Bloomington Kennedy.  This is really a default pick with Kennedy having another year of Markel Aune at the point and Josh Bryant.  They can throw some athleticism in and pressure teams into a helter-skelter kind of game.  If they can get to the final, then they would be across town at Jefferson.

Section Winner: Simley.  Jack Stensgard is the top player in the section so I'll pick his experience and scoring ability to put the Spartans over the top.

2015-16 Section 5AA East Preview

This is the 16th preview in my 2015-2016 season preview series.  In this preview, a look at the east subsection of section 5AA.  The projections are for this section to go east and west vs north and south this season.  Most of these teams played in the south last year and all look to be in the east this year.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 5AA East Subsection (9 teams)
Defending Champion: Breck

New teams in the subsection
  • FAIR (4AA)
  • Holy Family (6AAA)
  • Southwest Christian (4A)
  • Spectrum (5AA North)
Teams that left the subsection
  • Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted (5AA West)
  • Rockford (5AA West)
  • Watertown-Mayer (5AA West)
Predicted Seeding
  1. Brooklyn Center
  2. Southwest Christian
  3. Holy Family
  4. Providence
  5. Breck
  6. Spectrum
  7. Minneapolis Edison
  8. International School
  9. FAIR
I look for Brooklyn Center to be very dangerous in this subsection.  Too much athleticism which I think can force some turnovers to get easy hoops.  Southwest Christian's guard play is good enough to overcome that but a lack of size looms.  Holy Family and Providence have guard experience too and play methodical styles that drive the Centaurs nuts.  I see them battling for the 3 seed.  After that, it drops off drastically.  Breck has a new coach and has to replace almost everyone.  The bottom 3 are also rebuilding while double double guy Zach Knollenberg needs help at Spectrum.  FAIR and International School battle for the home pigtail game

Sleeper: Holy Family.  The Fire are a different team this year without Justin Dahl in the middle.  Plus they lose a bunch of seniors.  So expectations may not be the highest.  But they return a couple of guards who can shoot it and a reserve post.  With their tough 3A Wright County schedule and tradition, that will help them come tourney time.

Section Winner: Brooklyn Center.  I see a breakthrough year for the Centaurs.  Landon Kirkwood and company put it together and make it to the section final.

2015-16 Section 4AA Preview

This is the 15th preview in my 2015-2016 season preview series.  In this preview, a look at section 4AA. For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 4AA (16 teams)
Defending Champion: St. Croix Lutheran (State 3rd Place)

New teams in the section
  • Academy for Sciences & Agriculture (4A)
  • Math and Science Academy (4A)
Teams that left the section
  • FAIR (5AA)
  • Prairie Seeds Academy (4A)
  • St. Paul Prep (4A)
Predicted Seeding
  1. St. Croix Lutheran   
  2. Minnehaha 
  3. St. Paul Academy    
  4. Minneapolis Roosevelt  
  5. Concordia Academy
  6. Trinity 
  7. New Life Academy
  8. St. Paul Washington  
  9. St. Croix Prep
  10. Mounds Park Academy
  11. St. Paul Humboldt
  12. Charter Stars
  13. AFSA
  14. Math and Science
  15. St. Paul Prep
  16. Hmong Academy
Once again the top quarter of the section is very strong.  Defending champ St. Croix Lutheran should be the early favorite for the top seed with everybody back from last year.  The rest of the contenders remain strong as well.  JoVanni Bickham and Jalen Suggs can carry Minnehaha a long way.  SPA has another year of their dynamic duo Dalante Peyton and Kent Hanson.  Roosevelt has to replace their outstanding backcourt but Elijah Hannah and Devon Hannah with Martez Rodgers give them a nice trio to build around.   Trinity and Washington has some pieces coming back as well.  The bottom half remains very weak so don't expect much in the 1st round games. 

Sleeper: Trinity.  Apologies to fellow MCAA South member New Life Academy for not picking them here for the 3rd straight season.  With plenty coming back and a go to guy in Eddie Maruggi, the Tri-Hawks won't be an easy out.

Section Winner: St. Croix Lutheran. While their tough regular season schedule will knock their record down (at Mpls North, Braham, Waseca, at Roosevelt, at SPA, Wayzata, Battle Lake), I still think they earn the top seed.  Size, guard play, shooting and experience are all there

2015-16 Section 4A Preview

This is the 14th preview in my 2015-2016 season preview series.  115 individual team and 12 conference previews are completed.  Now I move on to phase 2 of the previews.  Over the next 3 weeks, I'll take a look at 12 metro area sections plus a couple of outstate class AAAA sections that have local teams.  We start with a look at Section 4A.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 4A (24 Teams)
Defending Champion: Maranatha (2015 state 2nd place)

New teams in the section
  • Chesterton Academy (N/A)
  • Groves Academy (N/A co-op with Champlin Park)
  • Lincoln International (N/A)
  • Metro Schools College Prep (N/A)
  • Prairie Seeds Academy (4AA)
  • St. Paul Prep (4AA)
Teams that left the section
  • Academy for Sciences & Agriculture (4AA)
  • Christian Life (1A)
  • Math and Science Academy (4AA)
  • Southwest Christian (5AA)
Predicted Seeding
  1. Minneapolis North
  2. Heritage
  3. MTS
  4. Legacy
  5. Maranatha
  6. CHOF
  7. Cristo Rey
  8. West Lutheran
  9. Hope 
  10. Community of Peace
Minneapolis North goes on top of the list.  Heritage and MTS are poised for 20 win seasons and should be in a battle for that 2nd seed.  As usual, the bottom of the section has some of the worst teams in the state.  Very little usually happens in the way of surprising seeding wise in this section (only 1 upset in each of the last 3 years).  It starts to get interesting once you get thru the 1st week and down to the final 4.  You also never know who will actually play as many of the bottom teams in the section don't play the MSHSL tournament series.

Sleeper:  Cristo Rey.  Forward Jericho Sims has seen a meteoric rise in his stock.  If he continues to develop you have arguably the most dominant player in the section.  At the small school level, that means a team can go a long way.  After their opener, they play 6 straight games against the MCAA, including section matchups against the entire north division.  That will ultimately determine their seeding as most of the rest of the schedule is very weak.

Section Winner: Minneapolis North.  The Polars are still far and away the favorite here.  Too much talent and too much depth.  The experience of not making the last 2 years has to help at some point.

2015-16 Rest of the Metro Preview

This is the 13th preview in my 2015-2016 season preview series.  In this preview, I conclude my look at the teams around the metro with a look at the local independents and any other teams in The Kingdom that I haven't previewed yet and want to mention.  For a list of all the season previews and how they were generated, click here.  But don't fret, we're not done yet.  Next week, we'll begin a 3 week look at the local sections.

CHOF Lions (2014-15 season 12-12)
Kit Piepkorn led the Lions in scoring again at 19 a night last season and is back for his senior season at shooting guard.  He joins the rest of the starting lineup coming back.  Only 2 role playing seniors depart.  Tim Rohlf also averaged double figures.  Anders Strandlund will once again man the middle.

Cristo Rey Jesuit Pumas (2014-15 season 15-12)
Jericho Sims had a breakout summer on the AAU circuit.  No the junior returns to the Pumas poised for a big season.   He averaged 17.2 PPG last year.  22.8 PPG from Davonte Smith will need to be replaced.  Senior Drakarr Lobley and junior Karlton Gregory return to the lineup.  They should pick up some of that scoring slack.

FAIR Falcons (2014-15 season 6-14)
The Falcons lose 2 top scorers in Armani Scott and Laron Reynolds.  They do have some young pieces returning that saw time last year.  Junior Otis Turner will be the veteran of the group.  Soph Treavon Nystrom and freshmen Kresean Greer and Dameon Jones all saw time last year.  Though Greer may now be at De La Salle. 

Learning for Leadership Mustangs (2014-15 season 1-16)
Abdul Aden departs but the rest of the roster returns.  But still expect a long year in northeast Minneapolis.

Minnesota Transitions Wolves (2014-15 season 23-6)
The Wolves return their top 2 scorers with Isaiah Wade inside and Lewis McCaleb on the outside.  It wouldn't shock me to see Wade have a 20 and 10 season.  Sophomore Charles Gordon returns to the backcourt.  Behind Wade they'll need to find some size.

Prairie Seeds Academy Lycans (2014-15 season 12-10)
6'8" Post Brandon Egge has graduated but everyone else returns.  That includes the top 2 scorers returning as juniors.  Daveon Gibson and Brian Robinson combined for 37+ PPG last year.  Egge was the only size the Lycans had.  The rest of the lineup is very small.

St. Croix Prep Lions (2014-15 season 14-14)
New head coach Keven Seim comes in from Totino-Grace.  But this is closer to his prior gig in Stillwater.  He has to replace 31.5 PPG from PG Michael Gutierrez.  Sophomore Jayton Metcalf figures to take his place.  The other double figure scorer Jared Shea also graduated.  Quinn Fisher and Sam Richardson are the returning starters.  Juniors Austin Have and Matt Kaul saw time last season.  Size and depth are concerns.

Spectrum Sting (2014-2015 season, 12-14)
Senior center Zach Knollenberg averaged 22.5 PPG to go with almost 10 boards a night.  Ben Maki's 11.2 PPG graduated.  Junior Nick Anderson returns after averaging 8.2 PPG.  Freshman Cole Elrod also returns after being part of the rotation last season.  This will be the Sting's last season as an independent.  They'll join the MCAA next season.

2015-16 Eastern Minnesota Athletic Conference Preview

This is the 12th preview in my 2015-16 season preview series.  For the first time ever, I present to you a look at the Eastern Minnesota Athletic Conference (EMAC).  I only saw half of the league last year and information on these tiny schools is hard to find, so the results should be quite interesting.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are done, click here.

Academy for Sciences & Agriculture Eagles (2014-15 season 7-18, 2-10 Conference, 11th)
AFSA is based out of Vadnais Heights.  They once played home games at Bethel before building their new building.  Leading scorer Thomas Ewalt graduated with 15+ PPG.   Nick Germscheid also needs to be replaced.  Freshman Sam Andrews will be a top option.  Soph James Wilfong will be another one of their scoring options.

Calvin Christian Cougars (2014-15 season 9-15, 5-7 Conference, 8th)
The Cougars are based out of Fridley but they will play home games at the Mounds View Community Center.  Nick Bonnema appears to be the biggest loss to the lineup.  Nathan Mateer and Brad Mateer should be 2 primary options this season.

Charter Stars (2014-15 season 9-12, 7-5 Conference, Tie 6th)
You'll also hear this St. Paul team called Great River.  Charter Stars is the technical name for the co-op between Great River and Twin Cities Academy.  In years past, they've had home games at the old St. Paul Washington high school (Wellstone now, not the old Arlington).  Last year they played at Metro Deaf's upstairs gym.  They are a traditionally strong program by league standards.  Romello Wilson gives them a returning scoring option.

Christian Life Academy Hawks (2014-15 season 13-12, 8-4 Conference, 5th)
The Hawks are based out of Farmington.  Coach Kyle Kurz has to replace his top 2 scorers in Kieran Kolb and do everything forward Caleb Wochnick (34 and 22 in the EMAC title game vs Hope last year).  Soph guard Caleb Kurz and Jackson Griffith provide the scoring punch.  Daniel Olson and Luke Swelland will also see rotation time.

Community of Peace Tigers (2014-15 season 12-14, 11-1 Conference, 1st)
CPA is nestled on the east side of St. Paul.  The defending regular season champs have plenty returning to defend that crown.  The perimeter trio of senior Marquez Perry, Edward Milton and Ontario Chapman returns to the starting lineup.  Perry is a high scoring guard who put up almost 23 a night last year.  Milton is the leadership and Chapman is a quality 3rd option.  Forward David Provenczano will be missed.  Steven Parker and Tyler Parker will serve front court roles.

Hmong Academy Warriors (2014-15 season 0-14, 0-12 Conference, 13th)
This St. Paul school once had what was the shortest road trip in the state with Metro Deaf school right next door (even closer than the Osseo at Maple Grove at Osseo Jr High across the parking lot matchup last year).  No seniors and only 2 juniors last year for a group that hasn't had much success.  Hard to see them moving up.

Hope Academy Lions (2014-15 season 19-8, 10-2 Conference, Tied 2nd)
Plenty of hope this season in south Minneapolis for the defending EMAC tourney champs.  They played a run and gun, lots of 3s, 5 in and 5 out rotation style with a super young team last season.  They lose only 1 senior from that rotation.  Junior lefty Johnny Erickson put up 23.9 PPG game from a guard spot.  Tobias Griffin was the only junior.  He almost reached 20 PPG.  He's a big body lefty forward who can handle, shoot and post.  Juniors Nate Elifson and Dashon Holcomb both averaged 10+ per night and combined for 90 3s

International School of Minnesota Huskies (2014-15 season 7-11, 7-5 Conference, Tie 6th)
This Eden Prairie school is a high academic co-op with Eagle Ridge Academy.  They have been a traditional powerhouse in the league.  Rich Berkley and Jason Sheppard give coach Shun Tillman a couple of nice scoring options.

Liberty Classical Academy Lions (2014-15 season 6-13, 3-9 Conference, 10th)
Liberty Classical starts their 2nd year in White Bear Lake after moving from Maplewood.  The Lions were super young last year with only 2 juniors and no seniors.  That should mean 2 years of an upward trend.  Senior Jacob Grill will lead a still young lineup.  Junior Nathaniel Bliss and soph Peter Klarr are 2 more options for scoring.

Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf Trojans (2014-15 season 14-7, 10-2 Conference, Tie 2nd)
Not to be confused with now former EMAC member Metro Deaf School, MSAD is based out of Faribault.  While they do lose a couple of pieces, most of the roster returns.  That should be enough to keep the Trojans in the 2nd tier.

North Lakes Academy Huskies (2014-15 season 1-24, 1-11 Conference, 12th)
North Lakes is at the other end of the EMAC geographical spectrum in Forest Lake.  They went from 1st 2 years to 1 win with a young roster last season.  Such is life at a small school.  The top 2 scorers were 2 of the 3 graduated seniors.  Senior Noah Nei appears to be the top option.  Cole Yeager and David Christopherson are 2 others who saw time as underclassmen last year.

Nova Classical Academy Knights (2014-15 season 15-6, 10-2 Conference, Tie 2nd)
Nova is another small St. Paul school in the league.  They were in the drivers seat for the conference title until losing to Community of Peace and Hope in the final week.  Athletic guard Bakari Jackson graduated after averaging almost 17 a night.  In an unexpected twist, soph Cole Bothun transferred out and one of the Tritabaugh twins inside will not play this season either.  Jeremiah Rodgers and Dominic Bumgarner will have to handle the load.

Shattuck St. Mary's Sabers (2014-15 season 5-8, 4-8 Conference, 9th)
Yes, this is the same school that is the hockey powerhouse down in Faribault.  Their MSHSL teams play in the EMAC.  The Sabers lose their top 3 scorers, 2 of who were 11 PPG scorers.  They do have 3 senior pieces coming back in Shane Hoben, Wesley Sun and Kevin Du.  Junior Parker Reddig should also see plenty of time.
Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Hope Academy
  2. Community of Peace
  3. MSAD
  4. International School
  5. Nova Classical
  6. Charter Stars
  7. Christian Life
  8. Shattuck-St. Mary's
  9. Liberty
  10. Calvin Christian
  11. North Lakes
  12. AFSA
  13. Hmong Academy
Conference Overview
The schedule is like the old MCAA schedules where you play everybody just once.  Then the league does a 2 day end of season tourney with each group of 4 teams getting 2 games.  MSAD doesn't play due to the section 1A playoffs.  That impacts Christian Life too as they moved to section 1A this year from section 4A.  The kids and fans treat the conference title game like its the section championship.  Its a different and really fun atmosphere.

At the top, Hope Academy has so much coming back that they have to be the favorite.  Especially when they get the other 3 top teams at home.  Community of Peace will also make a strong run for the top spot.  MSAD and International School are the clear next tier and could bite the top 2.  I think these are the 4 teams in the championship bracket in February.  ISM gets the brutal draw having the other 3 all on the road in the regular season.  The next bracket for 5th I see Charter Stars, Nova, Christian Life and Shattuck-St. Mary's.  All have pieces coming back and in league play should be respectable.  Nova gets all 3 of those teams at home.  The bottom 5 drop off.  Liberty has the best chance with a bunch of guys coming back but the gap was pretty big.

Conference MVP: Marquez Perry - Community of Peace

Conference Games to Watch
  • Community of Peace at Hope Academy - Jan 15th
  • EMAC Tournament - Feb 20th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • CHOF at Community of Peace - Dec 10th

2015-16 St. Paul City Conference Preview

This is the 11th preview in my 2015-2016 season preview series.  Week 3 of the 6 week preview series starts with a look at the St. Paul City Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Central Minutemen (2014-15 season 13-13, 10-2 Conference, 2nd)
Lefty forward Sam Gubbrud and shooter Jack Beckman return to the lineup after being the top 2 scorers last season.  Abdikalak Muse also returns to the starting lineup.  Guard Charles Smith is one of 2 starters that needs to be replaced.  Combine that with a JV group that won the conference and the Minutemen should be poised to remain near the top of the league.

Como Park Cougars (2014-15 season 7-20, 6-6 Conference, Tie 3rd)
Leading scorer Demetrice Mitchell raised his scoring average to 18.5 PPG and should be good for that this year.  But the lineup around him is very thin.  Shawn Phillips graduated and brother Deland Phillips is now at Cretin-Derham Hall.  Head coach John Robinson comes over from leading the girls program to replace Steve Scroggins.

Harding Knights (2014-15 season 6-18, 2-10 Conference, Tie 6th)
Shooter Essa Adam returns to the Knights lineup after leading the team in scoring last year at 13.8 PPG.  Ben Thompson also returns to the starting lineup.  Everybody else graduated.  Guard Malik Samuel's 11.7 PPG is the biggest loss that will need to be replaced.  No size returns.  While they may take some lumps this year, the freshmen did win the city title last year.

Highland Park Scots (2014-15 season 8-19, 6-6 Conference, Tie 3rd)
Amitri Collins-Westlund leads the way for a tiny lineup.  Dreem Kelly-Jabbar and soph Josh Aune try to give them some semblance of height.  No player averaged in double figures.  Guard Mike Cornelius and Khari Dennis also return.

Humboldt Hawks (2014-15 season 8-17, 2-10 Conference, Tie 6th)
Guard Demond Dawson departs after leading the league in scoring (conference games) the last 2 seasons.  The other double scorer Marion Moore (13.7 PPG) also needs to be replaced.  Jacob Andrew is top returning player.  Junior La'Vonta Bryant joins him in the starting lineup.  Soph Michael King and juniors Guadalupe Tovalin and Patrico Webster also saw time last year.  This is another lineup that is super small.

Johnson Governors (2014-15 season 27-4, 12-0 Conference, 1st)
Johnson has to replace 4 of 5 starters.  That includes star point guard Jalen Mobley (18.2 PPG, 5.6 APG), forward Eric Elliot and center Justus Murphy.  Guard Andre Smith averaged 10.7 PPG and is the top returning player.  They also have rotation pieces returning in Carlin Clarke, Savion Benton and Saivon Parker also return to the rotation.

Washington Eagles (2014-15 season 12-12, 4-8 Conference, 5th)
Washington loses 2 of their 3 double figures scorers.  But leading scorer Curtis Bell (13.8 PPG) and 2 other starters do return.  Keenan Williams mans the center spot after just missing out on double figures.  Xavier Walden returns to back him up.  Guard Courtney Walker should take care of the ball handling duties.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Johnson
  2. Central
  3. Highland Park
  4. Washington 
  5. Como Park 
  6. Humboldt  
  7. Harding 
Conference Overview:
Johnson loses a lot but they are the favorite until beaten.  Central is definitely the best of the rest.  But once again the league is in a serious down turn.  The rest of the league will beat up on themselves and struggle outside of the league.  Washington and Highland Park battle for 3rd.  Como Park, Humboldt and Harding are in for long seasons.

Conference MVP: Andre Smith - Johnson

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Josh Aune - Highland Park
  • Michael King - Humboldt
Conference Games to Watch
  • Johnson at Central - Jan 26th
  • Central at Johnson - Feb 18th
  • Twin Cities Game - Feb 20th (St. Paul Champion)
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Johnson at Cretin-Derham Hall - Dec 5th
  • Central at Minnehaha - Jan 7th
  • Minneapolis North at Central - Feb 4th

2015-16 Tri-Metro Conference Preview

This is the 10th preview in my 2015-2016 season preview series.  Week 2 of the 6 week long series concludes with a look at the Tri-Metro Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Academy of Holy Angels Stars (2014-15 season 8-18, 3-9 Conference, Tie 4th West)
Junior Sam Boehne returns to lead the Stars inside.  He averaged almost 16 PPG last year.  Shooter Charlie Nicklay needs to be replaced.  Robbie Metcalf (9.8 PPG) and Patrick Burke return to the starting lineup.  Joey Oslund and Max Arms look to also see time on the perimeter.
Brooklyn Center Centaurs (2014-15 season 12-13, 3-9 Conference, Tied 4th West)
The Centaurs started 9-1 before off-court issues completely torpedoed a promising season.  Matt McCollister takes over and I see hope for the years of in-season issues going away.  Tedkye Clark and 20.2 PPG has graduated along with Romell Carr (10.7 PPG) but there are a couple of nice athletic pieces to work with.  Landon Kirkwood averaged 15.7 PPG and Devontae Prince averaged 12.9 PPG.  Dashawn Pickford, Reid Chesmer and Sam Duncan are other pieces coming back.

Columbia Heights Hylanders (2014-15 season 13-14, 8-4 Conference, Tie 2nd West)
Columbia Heights returns forward Jarrett Baptiste (13.1 PPG) for what seems to be his 5000th season.  High scoring forward Montroy Scott (19.4 PPG), Ernest Dixon (13.3 PPG) and Tak Anwey (7.9 PPG) all need to be replaced.  Tenzin Kalsang returns in the back court.  Rodney Jones provides size up front.  Ismail Ugas also returns.
Concordia Academy Beacons (2014-15 season 18-10, 6-5 Conference, 2nd East)
Point Guard Roger Moore Jr (21.5 PPG) and forwards Sam Root and Jacob Falk (19.5 PPG combined) all need to be replaced.  Athletic wing Isaiah Maddox returns with 14.5 PPG.  The only other returnee to the rotation is guard Grant Harbo.

De La Salle Islanders (2014-15 season 26-4, 12-0 Conference, 1st West, AAA State Champion)
The 4-time defending state AAA champion Islanders lose 3 D1 players.  That includes their top 3 scores Sacar Anim, Jarvis Johnson and Josh Collins who combined for 46.4 PPG.  Junior star Goanar Mar is the top returning scorer at 8.7 PPG.  Soph Gabe Kalscheur came on as the year progressed.  Samm Jones looks to have a breakout year taking over the point.   The rumor mill says they have a big freshman to play inside too.  Plug in whoever you want at the other spot.

Fridley Tigers (2014-15 season 18-8, 8-4 Conference, Tie 2nd West)
The size of center Jonathan Conyers and his team 13.9 PPG will be missed.  Tessy Pal returns with 13.4 PPG on the wing.   Shyheem Murray also returns with 10.4 PPG.  Tyree Caruthers and Anthony Zarr are a couple of other options.   They'll be plenty athletic with enough size to be a pain.

St. Agnes Aggies (2014-15 season 7-19, 0-11 Conference, 4th East)
Soph Gary Smith was the team leader in scoring last year at 11.6 PPG.  Luther Missoh was their inside presence at 10.4 PPG and needs to be replaced.  Junior guard Darius Lopez and Alula Tesfay also return to the lineup.  They will move into a new gym this year after playing all their games on the road last season.

St. Anthony Huskies (2014-15 season 6-21, 2-9 Conference, 3rd East)
The top 3 scorers return for the Huskies.  Seniors Nick Peterson and Nick Knutson return again after raising their scoring averages to 11.8 and 11.2 PPG respectively.  Junior Rhys Langums just missed the double figure plateau at 9.9 PPG.  Ben Peterson is a significant piece that needs to be replaced.

St. Croix Lutheran Crusaders (2014-15 season 30-3, 10-1 Conference, 1st East, AA 3rd Place)
Last year's section final hero Tommy Metcalf and role guy Josh Arndt depart.  But the Crusaders have all their stars and top scorers coming back.  Athlete Ade Lamu (16.5 PPG) and UMD recruit Trenton Krueger (16 PPG) man the front court.  PG Venkat Valluri and shooter Aage Rovney (14.8 PPG) are also back.  Gunnar Maki also returns to what should be a limited rotation.

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. St. Croix Lutheran
  2. Concordia
  3. St. Anthony
  4. St. Agnes
  1. De La Salle
  2. Fridley 
  3. Brooklyn Center
  4. Columbia Heights
  5. Holy Angels  
Conference MVP: Samm Jones - De La Salle

Conference Overview:
In the west, of course we pick De La Salle in a no brainer selection.  Still plenty of talent there.  Brooklyn Center and Fridley should be a good battle of old Metro Alliance neighbors for the 2nd spot.  Columbia Heights too athletic for Holy Angels for the last spot.

In the east, St. Croix Lutheran has everybody back so they have to be the favorite.  They'll be looking to improve on their 3rd place state finish last year.  Concordia and St. Anthony fit into the middle spots by default.  St. Agnes at least gets a true home game this year.

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Jack Anderson - Holy Angels
  • Sage Booker, Sy Chatman, Gabe Kalscheur - De La Salle
  • Gary Smith, Cahlil Golden - St. Agnes
Conference Games to Watch
  • Fridley at St. Croix Lutheran - Jan 5th
  • De La Salle at Brooklyn Center - Jan 12th
  • Brooklyn Center at St. Croix Lutheran - Jan 15th
  • Fridley at De La Salle - Jan 19th
  • Fridley at Brooklyn Center - Jan 26th
  • De La Salle at St. Croix Lutheran - Jan 28th
  • Brooklyn Center at Fridley - Feb 9th
  • De La Salle at Fridley - Feb 11th
  • Brooklyn Center at De La Salle - Feb 16th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • De La Salle vs Milwaukee Washington (WI) - Dec 5th (Girls Tipoff Classic at Hopkins)
  • De La Salle vs Atascocita (TX) - Dec 11th (St. Paul Johnson showcase)
  • De La Salle vs Champlin Park - Dec 12th (Tipoff Classic at Minnetonka) 
  • St. Croix Lutheran vs Braham - Dec 12th (Tipoff Classic at Minnetonka) 
  • Delano at Fridley - Dec 15th
  • Benilde-St. Margaret's at De La Salle - Dec 23rd
  • De La Salle at Eden Prairie - Jan 5th
  • De La Salle at Cretin-Derham Hall - Feb 13th

2015-16 Suburban East Conference Preview

This is the 9th preview in my 2015-2016 season preview series.  In this preview, a look at the Suburban East Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and how they were generated, click here.

Cretin-Derham Hall Raiders (2014-15 season 25-4, 15-1 Conference, 1st)
Cretin-Derham Hall loses their 3 division 1 guys in Sam Neumann, Joe Rosga and Donnell Gresham.  They combined for 52 PPG last year.  Plus starting center Frank Delaney also graduated.  But the Raiders are more ready to reload than anyone in the league.  Sophomore Daniel Oturu takes over in the middle.  They are loaded on the with Jalan Ousley-Brown, Chris Perry and Jordan Ammons.  Point guard play and outside shooting are question marks.

East Ridge Raptors (2014-15 season 21-7, 11-5 Conference, Tied 3rd)
4 starters graduate including point guard Sid Tomes and 22 PPG.  Football star Seth Green transferred away so all starters need to be replaced.  Kyle Junker returns at center.  Tom Kelzenberg returns at a PF spot.  Luke Coquyt and junior Michael Virgin will see backcourt time.  Carter Dowdle and Sam Schiller should also see front court time.

Forest Lake Rangers (2014-15 season 11-16, 4-12 Conference, Tie 6th)
Forest Lake loses 6 members of their rotation.  That includes 19 PPG from wing Connor Knutson.  PG Noah Alm and 12 PPG returns to the lineup.  Forward Matt Wallner also returns to the starting lineup.  The rest of the rotation will be inexperienced.
Mounds View Mustangs (2014-15 season 19-8, 9-7 Conference, 5th)
4 starters including star forward Ryan Kaczynski need to be replaced.  Kaczynski had a big year averaging 23 PPG and 8 RPG.  Center Max Van De Werken averaged 13 PPG and his length will be missed.  Nate Albers averaged 14.7 PPG and is the lone returning starter.  Tyler Fairchild and Zeke Thompson return to the backcourt.  Luke Swenson will see time up front.  Juniors Nick McMillan and Brian Stone could also be contributors.

Park Wolfpack (2014-15 season 3-23, 2-14 Conference, 9th)
Leading scorer Anthony Juba needs to be replaced along with Bobby Winmill  Tolu Ogurinde and Brandon Alt provides returning scoring options.  Despite a down year in the league, hard to see the Wolfpack moving up.

Roseville Raiders (2014-15 season 24-6, 13-3 Conference, 2nd)
Former St. Paul Academy head coach Kevin McKenzie takes over the program.  He has to replace the top 6 scorers including PG Kobe Critchley, SG Mitch Poss and F Jesper Horsted who combined for 48.5 PPG.  Henry Bensen is the only notable returnee and he'll run the show.  Junior Dre Schwantes takes over inside duties.

Stillwater Ponies (2014-15 season 18-10, 11-5 Conference, Tied 3rd)
Coach Randy Jordan has to replace his 3 headed monster of Connor Gamble, Matt Anderson and Kyle McKinley.  They were worth almost 48 PPG last year.  Wings Wyatt Blinkhorn  and Isaiah Dobson return to the starting lineup. Adam Bruggers and Andrew Warren should see time at guard spots.  Joe Haggard is an option in the middle.

White Bear Lake Bears (2014-15 season 10-17, 4-12 Conference, Tied 6th)
The Bears need to replace the entire rotation.  Shooter Andy Lockwood and Jacob Olson are double figure scorers that depart.  Matt LeMay and Kevin May are a couple of guards who figure to see time.  Kyle Kanipes and Carter Kaun are others who should see rotation time.

Woodbury Royals (2014-15 season 6-21, 3-13 Conference, 8th)
Woodbury went to a youth movement last year.  With only 1 notable loss and a couple of juniors leading the way, the Royals look to move back up in the next 2 years.  Wing Jeremiah Coddon and guards Jake West and Michael Carter are all juniors and averaged double figures last year.  Colin Flanigan provides some height.  Sophomore Michael Jones provides depth on the wing.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Cretin-Derham Hall   
  2. Mounds View   
  3. Stillwater  
  4. East Ridge
  5. Roseville 
  6. Woodbury 
  7. Forest Lake
  8. White Bear Lake
  9. Park
Conference Overview:
Even more than the Metro East, the Suburban East was ravaged by graduation.  5 Division 1 players, 2 D1 football kids, a D2 football kid and 4 division 2 hoops players all left.  CDH has the most coming back so they have to still be the favorite.  After that, good luck figuring it out.  Mounds View's toughness I think serves them well.  Ditto that with Stillwater.  East Ridge and Roseville battle for the top half.  Woodbury has a lot coming back so they are better than the rest but can they jump into the top half?.  Forest Lake has more coming back than White Bear so put them up.  Park stays at the bottom as there's no compelling reason to move them up.

Conference MVP: Daniel Oturu - Cretin-Derham Hall

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Daniel Oturu - Cretin-Derham Hall
  • Michael Jones - Woodbury 
  • Sam Schwartz, Austin Schochet - White Bear Lake
Conference Games to Watch
  • Mounds View at Cretin-Derham Hall - Jan 5th
  • Cretin-Derham Hall at Mounds View- Feb 9th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • St. Paul Johnson at Cretin-Derham Hall - Dec 5th
  • Cretin-Derham Hall at Minnetonka - Dec 12th (Breakdown Tipoff Classic) 
  • Eden Prairie vs Cretin-Derham Hall - Jan 19th (at U of St. Thomas)
  • Cretin-Derham Hall at Hopkins - Feb 3rd
  • De La Salle at Cretin-Derham Hall - Feb 13th

2015-16 South Suburban Conference Preview

This is the 8th preview in my 2015-16 Season Preview Series.  In this preview, a look at the South Suburban Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Apple Valley Eagles (2014-15 season 30-2, 17-1 Conference, 1st, AAAA State Champion)
The defending class AAAA champions return all 5 starters.  That includes junior star wing Gary Trent who averaged 21 and 5 last year.  Soph star Tre Jones returns to run the point.  Senior Brock Bertram averaged 14 and 10 in the middle.  Add in athletic defender Cam Kirksey and the quickness of Jordan Bolton who both put up double figures and you have a loaded lineup.  They'll have to replace role players like Steve Christiansen and Riley Parham.  Aaron Ertz will fill a backup post role.

Burnsville Blaze (2014-15 season 10-17, 6-12 Conference, 7th)
The forward duo of Joe Morris and Brett Shepley were the top 2 scorers last year combining for 25+ PPG.  They need to be replaced.  Point guard Jake Ruffing also graduated.  Jason Gumm returns to the middle with 10 PPG.  Junior Jackson Martens should take over the point guard duties.  Tucker Shepley will slide into a forward spot.  No other experience returns.

Eagan Wildcats (2014-15 season 5-22, 2-16 Conference, 10th)
A season of high-expectations turned into injury riddled disappointment for the Wildcats last season.  The senior trio of Bryndan Matthews, Chase Seiberlich and GT Johnson has graduated.  Sam Schuburg is the top returning player at 8.7 PPG.  Daniel Stahlut, Collin Anderson, Jake Van Wyk and Nathan Kuhn are just a few of the guys who saw many minutes  off the bench last year that return.

Eastview Lightning (2014-15 season 18-9, 12-6 Conference, 3rd)
Sioux Falls recruit Drew Guebert and bull Keegan Dixon depart the front line.  They combined for almost 28 PPG last season.  Athletic forward Obi Ibeneme also graduated.  Plenty of experience returns in the backcourt.  Junior PG Jameson Bryan returns for a 3rd varsity year with 8.3 PPG.  Sean Ryan is the top returning scorer at 12.4 PPG.  Martin Mitchell returns as another guard.  All 3 are effective 3 point shooters.  Senior Connor Stevens provides depth for the small perimeter group.  Mason Carpenter is the only experienced size but he's only 6'3".

Farmington Tigers (2014-15 season 8-19, 5-13 Conference, Tie 8th)
4 starters and 3 of the top 4 scorers need to be replaced including breakout forward Wyatt Ferm (19.9 PPG) and PG Zach Speikers (10.8 PPG).  Forward Alex Hart is the 1 returning starter and he is the top returning scorer at 7.2 PPG.  Alex Zitzmann will join him on the front line.  Seniors Lucas Berg and Gavin Bassett along with junior Sam Wilson return to the backcourt rotation

Lakeville North Panthers (2014-15 season 19-13, 10-8 Conference, Tie 4th)
Oft injured Connor Flack didn't play at state but was the only regular season double figurer scorer at 18.4 PPG.  Forwards Isaac Brooks and Marquise Walker also graduated.  The lineup coming back is still very good though.  David Lindstrand and Cal Pesola are experienced guards.  Drew Stewart is a lefty wing who can score.  Then you have the super versatile forward duo of Carter Brooks and junior Nate Reuvers.  Both can play inside or out, shoot it well enough to guard them, but quick enough to beat you and post you.  Major matchup problems with those 2.  They'll have to find depth behind them.

Lakeville South Cougars (2014-15 season 12-15, 9-9 Conference, 6th)
This is another group that had injury issues last year.  Sophomore coach Nick Gruhlke takes over as head coach.  While the Cougars lose 19.8 PPG from forward Brenon Larson-Gulsvig, there is still plenty of talent on hand.  Junior PG Jack Sorenson returns with 3 years of experience and 19.9 PPG.  Sophomore forward Shae Mitchell is one of the top players in the class and averaged almost 10 PPG last year.  Blake Wacholz and Cade Carlson return to the backcourt rotation as well.  Kyle Martin, Jake Cuddigan and Jack Swanhorst return up front.

Prior Lake Lakers (2014-15 season 16-12, 10-8 Conference, Tie 4th)
Bob Schweim is the new Lakers leader.  He has to replace 6 of the top 7 scorers.  That includes PG Kevin McKiernan, forwards Connor Bair, Austin Heidecker and Sam Schulze.  Jack Kortes and junior Brian Sitzmann return on the perimeter.  Devin Mays will man the middle.  Look for Casey Gustina in the rotation too.  The junior class is talented so I can see the Lakers being better than people think.

Rosemount Irish (2014-15 season 9-19, 5-13 Conference, Tied 8th)
Rosemount loses 4 of their top 5 scorers.  That includes 13.1 PPG from their only double-figure scorer Logan Halvorsen.  Guard Jared Hanson is the top returning scorer at 8.8 PPG.  Defending guard Kelly Muir returns along with twins Luke and Alex Loehr as their size.

Shakopee Sabers (2014-15 season 24-8, 14-4 Conference, 2nd)
All everything forward Steffon Mitchell returns.  He averaged 24.8 PPG and 8.8 RPG.  Booker Coplin and Taylor Triplett provide a little more punch.  They are the type of tough player that Shakopee consistently produces.  The ball handling and shooting of guards Evan Hagen and Tevin Killeen will need to be replaced.  Senior Travis Larsen figures to be one of the main guys to do that.  Mitchell also figures to see plenty of time handling the ball.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Apple Valley
  2. Lakeville North    
  3. Shakopee 
  4. Lakeville South
  5. Eastview   
  6. Prior Lake
  7. Burnsville
  8. Farmington
  9. Rosemount   
  10. Eagan 
Conference Overview:
The top of the league is really good and you could see the top 3 all make it to state.  Apple Valley is the favorite to repeat as state champs in AAAA.  Gary Trent with all that help is just too much firepower to deal with.  Lakeville North and Shakopee are teams that should be ranked all year and they'll battle for 2nd.  Lakeville South is the most talented team and experienced remaining.  But they have a rookie head coach compared to 2 veteran head coaches for the teams behind them.  I expect them to battle Eastview and Prior Lake for a top half spot.  The rest of the league is trying to replace major losses.

Conference MVP: Steffon Mitchell - Shakopee

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Tre Jones, Luke Martens - Apple Valley
  • Shae Mitchell - Lakeville South
  • Garrett Mitchell - Shakopee
Conference Games to Watch
  • Shakopee at Lakeville North - Jan 8th
  • Lakeville North at Apple Valley - Jan 12th
  • Apple Valley at Shakopee - Jan 15th
  • Lakeville North at Shakopee - Feb 9th
  • Shakopee at Apple Valley - Feb 11th
  • Apple Valley at Lakeville North - Feb 16th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Wayzata at Lakeville North - Nov 28th
  • Apple Valley at Chaska - Dec 1st 
  • Chaska at Lakeville North - Dec 3rd
  • Apple Valley vs Iowa City West (IA) -  Dec 5th (Girls Tipoff Classic at Hopkins)
  • Apple Valley, Lakeville South and Shakopee vs TBD - Dec 12th (Tipoff Classic at Minnetonka)  
  • Lakeville North at Eden Prairie - Dec 22nd
  • Apple Valley vs Wayzata - Dec 28th (Granite City at St. Cloud Apollo)
  • Apple Valley vs Maple Grove - Dec 29th (Granite City at St. Cloud State)
  • Apple Valley vs Lausanne (TN) - Jan 2nd (Timberwolves Shootout)
  • Eden Prairie at Shakopee - Jan 2nd

2015-16 Northwest Suburban Conference Preview

This is the 7th preview in my 2015-2016 season preview series.  In this preview, a look at the expanded Northwest Suburban Conference. For a list of all the season previews and how they are done, click here.

Andover Huskies (2014-15 season 16-13, 11-8 Conference, 3rd North)
All 5 starters and most of the rotation have graduated.  Leading scorer Jake McNallan's experience and team leading 14.2 PPG will be missed.  Corbin Johnson averaged 10.5 PPG last year and should be the top offensive threat.  Trevor Siebold is the only other rotation member coming back at 1.3 PPG.  Dylan Echtenkamp and Jeremy Neuman should join the rotation.

Anoka Tornadoes (2014-15 season 3-24, 3-16 Conference, 6th North)
Leading scorer Gunnar Ledin returns to the lineup with 13 PPG.  Jackson Sutton also returns to the starting lineup.  Guard Chase Thomas and junior Joey Lohse will be in the rotation.

Blaine Bengals (2014-15 season 11-16, 8-11 Conference, Tie 4th North)
Blaine again returns a huge lineup with UMD recruit Ben Scherer, Zach Baker, Nik Keller and Tim Leo.  Sam Gerrity, Dakota Neppl, Jared Kaul and soph Byron Bynum all return on the perimeter.  That means 8 of the top 9 for the Bengals are back.   They'll need to consistently make outside shots to take advantage of their size.

Centennial Cougars (2014-15 season 17-11, 14-5 Conference, 2nd North)
South Dakota recruit Tyler Peterson returns after averaging almost 23 PPG.  Expect another big year from him.  Junior Alex Facon put up over 13 PPG on the wing.  Theo Johnson's inside rebounding will be very valuable inside.  The rest of the lineup needs to be replaced.

Champlin Park Rebels (2014-15 season 31-1, 19-0 Conference, 1st North)
3 of the 4 double figure scorers, including Mr Basketball and their heart and soul JT Gibson graduated.  But the Rebels still have tons of talent.  Juniors McKinley Wright at PG and forward Theo John are high major prospects.  Aaron Kloeppner was a critical reserve in the short rotation and he also returns.  Eldridge Joyce provides another big body in the middle.  Brian Smith provides another ball handling option. 

Coon Rapids Cardinals (2014-15 season 2-25, 1-18 Conference, 7th North)
Double figure scorer Sam Carver returns to the lineup.  Timmy Nyugen and Payton Foy also averaged double figures and need to be replaced.   Tyree'on Johnson and Jacob Dujmovic are 2 other returnees who provide experience.

Elk River Elks (2014-15 season 13-15, 8-11 Conference, Tied 4th North)
Only 2 starters return but the Elks do have 3 of their top 4 scorers coming back.  Matt Keller is a major threat from 3.  Trent Pink is a solid player in the post.  They averaged 15 and 12 PPG respectively.  Zeke Delain, Wyatt Morrell and soph Jack Burger also return to the rotation.

Irondale Knights (2014-15 season 7-20, 5-14 Conference, 6th West)
Uwana Etuk-Akpan, Kevin Schramm and Sean Sutherlin all return as double figure scorers from last season.  Soph forward Brendan White returns after seeing lots of time last season.  So the same basic lineup returns.  Will that pay dividends?

Maple Grove Crimson (2014-15 season 23-4, 17-2 Conference, 1st West)
Role players Austin Mathison, Mitchell Rekstad and Timmy Bishop have graduated but all the main pieces return.  That includes all 5 starters in star point guard Brad Davison, guards Tywhon Pickford and Jack Hutchinson plus center Reed Nikko (just committed to Missouri) and forward Kayode Awosika.  Reserve forward Jared Martinson also returns as an alternate 4 for faster lineups.  Cooper transfer Taron Pickford (19 PPG last year), Noah Champion and Bubba Horton are others to provide depth.

Osseo Orioles (2014-15 season 13-13, 12-7 Conference, 3rd West)
Shooter Elliot Kane and 11.6 PPG has moved on to Upper Iowa.  But plenty of guard power remains.  Leading scorer Allen Anderson returns with 11.8 PPG to run the show.  Juniors Mar Mar Hughes and Kyle Williams also return on the outside.  Plus you have athletic Damario Armstrong transferring in from football partner Maranatha.  Kameron Bettie averaged 11.5 PPG out of the middle.  Soph Zach Theisen, Matt Bezdicek and Dontae Jones provide quality depth.  Matt Jenkins may be the guy to provide depth behind Bettie.

Park Center Pirates (2014-15 season 8-18, 6-13 Conference, 5th West)
James Ware takes over the helm of the Park Center program.  He walks into a nice situation with plenty of young talent in the pipeline.  Question mark is if Amani Hooker will play.  He averaged almost 17 a night.  Isaiah Simon returns.  Freshman Khari Broadway averaged almost 7 PPG last year.

Robbinsdale Armstrong Falcons (2014-15 season 21-7, 16-3 Conference, 2nd West)
The Falcons lose 6 seniors from the rotation and 3 double figure guys in Sean Burns, Evan Nolan and Jerome Dixon.  For most teams that would mean a down year, but I see the Falcons reloading.  True Thompson and Jubie Alade return on the wings.  Soph Race Thompson has blown up in the last year and will man the middle.  Plus the Falcons add in guys like Isaiah Rollins and Chance Bowen, tough minded perimeter guys, along with 6'8 flyswatter Isaiah Chatman from an undefeated JV squad.

Spring Lake Park Panthers (2014-15 season 5-22, 4-15 Conference, 7th West)
The Panthers had an unusual down year last year.  But they return their top 4 guys this season  Junior forward Zach Ojile returns after leading the team with 11 PPG.  Shooters Aaron Flink and Mark Raihle combined for 16+ a night.  Jake LeVahn was good for almost 8 PPG in the middle.  Tim Retka will also see rotation time.

Totino-Grace Eagles (2014-15 season 10-17, 9-10 Conference, 4th West)
Minnetonka assistant Rob Ware is the new head coach.  Leading scorer Max Walker graduates but the next 3 scorers are returning.  That includes big 6'10" James Streeter in the middle.  He averaged 11.6 PPG.  Rocky Kreuser averaged 9.2 PPG on the wing.  Sophomore Charlie Jacob returns to run the point guard spot.

Predicted Order of Finish

North Division
  1. Champlin Park 
  2. Centennial    
  3. Blaine    
  4. Elk River 
  5. Andover  
  6. Coon Rapids  
  7. Anoka  
West Division
  1. Maple Grove   
  2. Robbinsdale Armstrong 
  3. Osseo
  4. Totino-Grace
  5. Spring Lake Park
  6. Irondale
  7. Park Center
Conference Overview:
In the west, Maple Grove is stacked and the no brainer favorite.  Armstrong and Osseo will battle for 2nd..  Totino-Grace played Armstrong and Osseo tough last year and has plenty coming back but I can't put them in front of those 2 teams.  Then it drops off to 3 teams who struggled last year.  Spring Lake Park has the most coming back so I'll take them, followed by Irondale.  Park Center is a wildcard as their athletes will give both of those teams trouble.

In the north, I think it goes very similar to last year.  I still like Champlin Park despite losing Gibson, Hill and Johnson.  Wright and John still make them really tough and they'll plug in pieces. Centennial followed by Blaine and Elk River still makes sense with all 3 basically being the same as last year.  Blaine beat Elk River in both meetings last year so they get the nod.  Andover drops since they have to replace everybody.  I'm still showing faith in Coon Rapids outdueling Anoka for the last spot.

Conference MVP: Tyler Peterson - Centennial

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Byron Bynum - Blaine
  • Jack Burger - Elk River
  • Brendan White - Irondale
  • Zach Theisen - Osseo
  • Khari Broadway - Park Center
  • Race Thompson - Robbinsdale Armstrong
  • Charlie Jacob, Sam Hanson, Tyler Kittleson - Totino-Grace
Conference Games to Watch
  • Champlin Park at Armstrong - Dec 4th
  • Champlin Park at Centennial - Dec 10th
  • Maple Grove at Armstrong - Jan 12th
  • Osseo at Maple Grove - Jan 15th
  • Maple Grove at Centennial - Jan 29th
  • Maple Grove at Champlin Park - Feb 2nd
  • Centennial at Champlin Park - Feb 4th
  • Armstrong at Maple Grove - Feb 12th 
  • Armstrong at Centennial - Feb 16th
  • Maple Grove at Osseo - Feb 19th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Robbinsdale Armstrong at Wayzata - Nov 24th
  • Champlin Park, Maple Grove & Centennial vs TBD Dec 12th (Tipoff Classic at Minnetonka)  
  • Hopkins at Champlin Park - Dec 22nd
  • Champlin Park vs Minneapolis North -  Dec 28th (Granite City at St. Cloud Apollo)
  • Champlin Park vs Wayzata - Dec 29th (Granite City at St. Cloud State) 
  • Maple Grove vs Apple Valley - Dec 29th (at St. Cloud State) 
  • Champlin Park vs Council Bluffs Lincoln (IA) - Jan 2nd (Timberwolves Shootout)
  • Maple Grove vs Iowa City West (IA) - Jan 2nd (Timberwolves Shootout)
  • Champlin Park vs Stevens Point (WI) - Jan 16th (at La Crosse, WI) 
  • Maple Grove vs Milwaukee Riverside (WI) - Jan 16th (at La Crosse, WI) 
  • Eden Prairie at Robbinsdale Armstrong- Feb 3rd
  • Eden Prairie at Champlin Park - Feb 10th

2015-16 Minneapolis City Preview

This is the 6th preview in my 2015-2016 season preview series.  Week 2 of the 6 week series starts with a look at the Minneapolis City Conference.  For a list of all the season previews, click here.

Edison Tommies (2014-15 season 3-23, 0-12 Conference, 7th)
Head coach Anthony Hines struggled thru his first year.  But you could see a definite culture change in the program.  There was definitely an extra enthusiasm that showed.  Andre Brown needs to be replaced.  But there are a few returning pieces to work with in Travis Moore, Ronald Britton and Joevon Abram.

North Polars (2014-15 season 24-7, 11-1 Conference, 1st)
The Polars lose in and out of the lineup post Randy Mathews and guard DJ Hunter (transfer to Champlin Park).  After 2 years of youth, most of the rotation is now upperclassmen and its state or bust.  Seniors Tyler Johnson and Jamil Jackson are 2 double figure scorers coming back.  Junior wing Isaac Johnson averaged 15.5 PPG. Soph post Odell Wilson returns for his 3rd varsity year and averaged 10.3 PPG and 6.7 RPG. Juniors Philip Scott and Jaquan Sanders-Smith provide great depth.  The talent is there but their mental state is the biggest question after losing most of their big games over the last 2 season.

Patrick Henry Patriots (2014-15 season 14-14, 6-6 Conference, 4th)
Henry returns a ton on the frontline.  Plus they add a couple of transfers in forwards Lamar Wood and Markest Brown (8.9 PPG at Richfield).  Julian Jackson leads that crew at 14.6 PPG coming back.  Demetrius Edwards-Brown is a shifty lefty who provides scoring punch at 14.4 PPG on the wing.  Junior Savion Scott is another capable wing scorer.  Starting PG Jacarius Ford averaged 15.2 PPG and Stephen Kennedy was a ballhandler and defender.  Replacing those 2 will go a long way in determining the Patriots season.

Roosevelt Teddies (2014-15 season 25-5, 9-3 Conference, 2nd)
What a season for the Teddies moving up to 25 wins before losing a heartbreaker in the 4AA section final.  Over 35 PPG from the guard tandem of Arione Farrar and London Cobbs needs to be replaced.  Elijah Hannah returns with 13.5 PPG and should be the top option.  Lefty Martez Rodgers will take over the point.  Devon Hannah moves up from JV to be the 3rd option.  Size will once again be an issue.

South Tigers (2014-15 season 12-16, 5-7 Conference, 5th)
Payton Bowdry returns to the lineup after leading the team in scoring at 14.4 PPG.  Michael Harris is the other returning starter.  Other double figure scorers Taron Myers and Kyle Lumbar need to be replaced.  Jarrod Beard, Elerson Smith and Cory Johnson should be other rotation options.

Southwest Lakers (2014-15 season 5-22, 3-9 Conference, 6th)
Greg Boone comes over from the sophomore job at Richfield to lead the Lakers program.  He has a ton to replace as the top 4 scorers, including 3 double figure guys, have graduated.  That accounted for 51+ PPG.  Junior forward Brennan Hawkins averaged 8 PPG and 5.8 RPG and should see a much expanded role this year.  Guard Johnny Sykes will be an option averaging 8.6 PPG.  Ash Mkali and Seydi Ba return to the rotation.

Washburn Millers (2014-15 season 20-9, 8-4 Conference, 3rd)
The Millers need to replace their 3 double figure scorers from last year.  That includes wings Evan Shepherd and JoBreil Powell along with PG Kevin Gleason.  They combined for 45 PPG last year.  Cortez Adams and Fortay Johnson return at a guard spots.  7 footer Charlie Irmiger returns in the middle along with power forward Noah Burke.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. North
  2. Roosevelt  
  3. Henry
  4. Washburn   
  5. South
  6. Southwest
  7. Edison
Conference Overview
North is loaded and again they are the clear favorite.  The will be for the near future too as the varsity and JV both won the league last year.  Roosevelt will have perimeter players, Henry will have bigs, Washburn has a couple pieces coming back.  I think they all battle for the rest of the spots in the top half.  Roosevelt played North the toughest last year.  I'll give them the nod for the 2 spot.  South gets the nod for 5 thanks to Payton Bowdry and Joe Hyser.  Southwest loses a ton but the current group of seniors did win the city as freshmen.  I would not be surprised if they gave South a run for 5th.  Edison is still rebuilding.

Conference MVP: Tyler Johnson - North

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Odell Wilson Jr, Tayler Johnson- North
  • Krystian Toliver - South
  • Christian Kelly, Isaac Lotz - Washburn
Conference Games to Watch
  • Roosevelt at North - Dec 18th
  • North at Henry - Jan 12th
  • North at Roosevelt - Feb 1st 
  • Twin Cities Game - Feb 20th (at St. Paul champion)
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Roosevelt vs St. Croix Lutheran - Dec 5th (Southside Showcase at MTS)
  • St. Croix Lutheran at North - Dec 8th
  • North vs TBD - Dec 12th (Breakdown Tipoff at Minnetonka)
  • Roosevelt at Hopkins - Dec 15th
  • North vs Pebblebrook (GA) - Dec 19th (at St. Paul Johnson Winter Showcase) 
  • Tartan at Roosevelt - Dec 22nd
  • North vs Champlin Park - Dec 29th (Granite City at St. Cloud Apollo)
  • Minnehaha at North - Jan 16th
  • Hopkins at North - Jan 19th
  • Wayzata at North - Jan 25th 
  • Roosevelt at Brooklyn Center - Jan 28th 
  • Minnesota Transitions at Roosevelt - Feb 9th
  • Roosevelt at Heritage - Feb 16th

2015-2016 MCAA Preview

This is the fifth preview in my 2015-16 season preview series.  Week 1 of the 6 week series concludes with a look at the Minnesota Christian Athletic Association (MCAA).  For a list of all the season previews and how they are done, click here.

Bethany Academy Eagles (2014-15 season 4-24, 0-13 Conference, 5th South)
Four starters and 7 members of the rotation return for the Eagles.  The junior tandem of Sam Peterson and Sam LeVoir should lead the way.  Seniors AJ Lechtenberg and Ben Wedel also return to the starting lineup.  As of this writing, Bethany is still looking for a new head coach.

Heritage Christian Academy Eagles (2014-15 season 16-12, 7-6 Conference, 3rd North)
Coach Tim Herman returns 3 of his top 4 starters.  That includes 17 PPG and 8 RPG from junior wing CJ Woda.  He figures to be one of the top players in the league.  Junior Jack VanderTop was good for 8.9 PPG and 6.8 RPG from the middle last year.  Senior Tanner Scott returns at a guard spot.  Soph Ben Allen provides shooting from a guard spot.

Legacy Christian Academy Lions (2014-15 season 18-11, 9-4 Conference, 2nd North)
Legacy has to replace 18.4 and 8.4 from shooting guard Nate Bertsch and 11.5 PPG from guard Caleb Johnson.  The next 6 members of their rotation are back.  Juniors Lucas Nelson and Cole Bertsch return to the starting lineup on the perimeter with Michael Stelly in the middle.  Jack Yaeger, Josh Niessen and Jack Bertsch provide depth.

Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity Bulldogs (2014-15 season 8-20, 4-9 Conference, 4th South)
Former player Ben Machemehl takes over the program.  He has lots to replace.  The shooting of Josh Volness, inside play of Jordan Radtke and perimeter guys Jazz Baird all need to be replaced.  It was a senior laden roster so experience will be an issue.

Maranatha Christian Academy Mustangs (2014-15 season 29-3, 13-0 Conference, 1st North)
The end of the Hanson era is here as its the 1st time in 9 seasons of previews (and many years before that), that it won't be a Hanson leading the way.  I see it as the end of their MCAA domination (for now) as well.  With Damario Armstrong's transfer to Osseo, the entire rotation is gone.  Sophomore Wendell Smith takes over inside .  Elisha Coleman will play a wing.  Frosh Julian Cavin looks to see plenty of minutes.  Dyante Jordan, DeAngelo Purnell, Holden Baker and Tristan Rohwer are others who should see time for an inexperienced and small lineup.

New Life Academy Eagles (2014-15 season 16-12, 9-4 Conference, 2nd South)
Star forward Conrad Engstrom and 20 PPG have graduated.  7.4 PPG and 8 RPG from Luke Berger and Jake Wynia also depart the front line. Guard Sam Horner also needs to be replaced.  Energy guy Ebenezer Ketema returns to a wing spot.  He's the top returning scorer at 7.6 PPG.  Simon Killeen returns after putting up 5.5 PPG.  Brad Goulet also returns to the rotation.

PACT Charter Panthers (2014-15 season 15-11, 4-9 Conference, 4th North)
Leading scorer Drew Johnson returns.  The other double figure scorer Derek Stone graduated.  Senior Zach Hagen and Soph Cade Johnson return to the rotation.  Depth is a concern.

Southwest Christian Stars (2014-15 season 18-7, 10-3 Conference, 1st South)
The high powered backcourt of Jack Jenson (20 PPG, top returning scorer in the MCAA) and junior Trey Sandness (12.2 PPG) returns for coach Kit Avery.  Guards Kyle Meinke and Colin Provart also return to the starting lineup.  Drew Schwarz will need to be replaced in the middle.  Juniors Brady Bengston and Spencer Weiss also return to the rotation.  The Stars will play small so rebounding is a concern but they will be able to put up points.

Trinity Tri-Hawks (2014-15 season 11-16, 7-6 Conference, 3rd South)
Forward Jon Lotti departs after averaging 18.5 PPG.  Eddie Maruggi returns at a wing after putting up 15.8 PPG.  He averaged 18 PPG the year before that and I expect him to go for 20 something a night this season.  Everybody else returns.  Guard Josiah Summer is also a double figure returning scorer (10 PPG).  Eamon Naughton and Luke Lodeon are just 2 other members coming back.

West Lutheran Warriors (2014-15 season 9-17, 2-11 Conference, 5th North)
The top 2 scorers Zach Dwyer  (18 PPG) and Tyler Kimmons (7.8 PPG) have graduated.  Junior Ben Biese looks to take over as the top scoring option.  Garrett Anderson, James Ripley, Isaac Groom and Andrew Tolkinen are seniors who return to the rotation and provide experience.  Junior Griffin Ewing will join them.

Predicted Order of Finish

North Division
  1. Heritage
  2. Legacy  
  3. Maranatha
  4. West Lutheran   
  5. PACT  
South Division
  1. SW Christian   
  2. Trinity    
  3. New Life  
  4. Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity   
  5. Bethany
Conference Overview
Heritage, SW Christian and Trinity are all poised for very nice seasons with the best players in the league returning.  Heritage has to go to both SW Christian and Trinity for the single cross-division game in the regular season.  Maranatha has some nice young pieces with but no experience.  Combine that with what Heritage and Legacy have coming back and I don't see them any higher than 3rd.  They'll be mid-level with Legacy (most likely to move up), New Life and West Lutheran.  PACT, LP/HT and Bethany I think will struggle.

Conference MVP: CJ Woda - Heritage

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Ben Allen - Heritage
  • Wendell Smith, Julian Cavin - Maranatha
  • Cade Johnson - PACT
  • Charlie Druffner - Trinity
Conference Games to Watch
  • SW Christian at Trinity - Dec 8th 
  • Heritage at Legacy - Dec 18th
  • Legacy at Trinity - Jan 5th
  • Heritage at SW Christian - Jan 14th
  • SW Christian at Legacy - Jan 19th
  • Heritage at Trinity - Jan 19th
  • Trinity at SW Christian - Jan 28th
  • Legacy at Heritage - Feb 2nd
  • MCAA Tournament - Feb 11 and 13th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • SW Christian at MN Transitions - Dec 15th
  • Trinity at MN Transitions - Feb 4th
  • Minneapolis Roosevelt at Heritage - Feb 16th

2015-16 Metro West Conference Preview

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

Benilde St. Margaret's Red Knights (2014-15 season 10-18, 6-8 Conference, Tie 4th)
Senior guard Jalen Floyd and his 11.8 PPG will be missed.  The rest of the main pieces are coming back.  Winona St recruit Sam Baker mans 1 wing after averaging over 15 PPG last year.  Junior sniper Derek Drees mans the other wing.  Guards Mat Lilienthal and Will Whitmore return as does center Eli Cave in the middle.  Cave had a very nice summer of improvement.  Soph forward Joe Dunn figures to see minutes as well.

Bloomington Jefferson Jaguars (2014-15 season 17-7, 11-3 Conference, 3rd)
All 5 starters graduate including Winona St recruit Tommy Gathje and his 17 and 7 per night.  There's a quality group of juniors waiting in the wings to replace them.  Jack Tillotson and Joe Hird came off the bench last year.  Tyler Riemersma and Peter Gathje appear poised to man the front line.  Senior guards Jake Murray and Cal Elander return as well.

Bloomington Kennedy Eagles (2014-15 season 9-16, 4-10 Conference, Tie 6th)
Lefty shooter Tyson Chase was the top scorer last year at almost 15 a night.  He graduates but the next 2 scorers return.  Soph PG Markel Aune returns to run the show after averaging 13 PPG.  Forward Josh Bryant averaged 11.8 PPG.  Double figures from Darius Bell also need to be replaced.  Junior Andre Alexander will see time as a forward.

Chanhassen Storm (2014-15 season 17-11, 12-2 Conference, 2nd)
Its a rebuilding year after losing a strong senior class.  That class was highlighted by Mankato recruit Joey Witthus and his 22.9 PPG.  Point guard Ben Khwice and Chad Mapes are 2 other contributors that will be missed.  Sophomore Chris Wandling should take over the point guard duties.  Henry Weisman and Trey Prince are 2 juniors who should have major roles.

Chaska Hawks (2014-15 season 22-7, 13-1 Conference, 1st)
Point guard Jacob Hansen and 17.3 PPG will be sorely missed.  Junior Myles Hanson becomes the team's top option after putting up 15.7 PPG last year.  Alex Strazzanti provides quality defense.  Andrew Kallman can run the show and knock down shots.  Luke Hennen, Luke Roskam and Brandon Kraus provide depth.

Richfield Spartans (2014-15 season 2-25, 0-14 Conference, 8th)
Leading scorer Raphael Bilal graduated.  Front court athlete Markest Brown transferred to Minneapolis Henry.  3 players who started as sophomores last year plus senior Tommy Fallon return to the lineup.  Guard Junior Stone is the top returning scorer at 11.6 PPG.  They'll have limited size up front and a small but quick backcourt. 

Robbinsdale Cooper Hawks (2014-15 season 7-19, 6-8 Conference, Tie 4th)
Leading scorer Taron Pickford and almost 19 points a game are gone due to transfer to Maple Grove.  Guard Jayson Edwards graduated after averaging 11.2 PPG.  Wing Melvin Newburn Jr  is the top returning player at 15.2 PPG.  The rest of the lineup featured lots of youth.  Sophs Beijan Newburn and Adam Cook will see plenty of time.  Junior guard Damien Gordon will also have a big role.
St. Louis Park Orioles (2014-15 season 9-18, 4-10 Conference, Tie 6th)
The Orioles improved from 1 win to 9 wins last season.  Senior Nick Kjos and 13 PPG is the most important departing starter.  Leading scorer Ray Whitlock and 16.5 PPG returns along with junior forward Mykal Howard.  Junior Ryan Domres and senior Aron Zheng make up the center tandem.  Juniors Josiah Morrow and Jack Lynch also were rotation members last year.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Benilde-St. Margaret's 
  2. Chaska
  3. Bloomington Jefferson 
  4. St. Louis Park
  5. Chanhassen
  6. Robbinsdale Cooper  
  7. Bloomington Kennedy
  8. Richfield
Conference Overview
Benilde-St. Margaret's has too much coming back to not be the favorite.  Chaska may lose Jacob Hansen but I like what they have waiting in the wings so I'll keep them second.  Jefferson loses too much to be picked higher than 3rd but I think they'll be better than many expect.  St. Louis Park and Chanhassen battle for the last spot in the top half.  I expect that middle section 2-5 to be very competitive.  Cooper and Kennedy are very similar teams.  I think Cooper is a smidge more talented so they get that pick.  Richfield continues to rebuild.

Conference MVP: Sam Baker - Benilde-St. Margaret's

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Joe Dunn - Benilde-St. Margaret's
  • Gavin Lyons - Bloomington Jefferson
  • Markel Aune - Bloomington Kennedy
  • Chris Wandling - Chanhassen
  • Beijan Newburn, Adam Cook - Robbinsdale Cooper
  • Cire Mayfield, Aidan Doherty - St. Louis Park
Conference Games to Watch
  • Chaska at Benilde-St. Margaret's- Jan 5th
  • Benilde-St.Margaret's at Bloomington Jefferson - Jan 8th
  • Benilde-St.Margaret's at Chaska - Jan 26th
  • Bloomington Jefferson at Benilde-St. Margaret's- Feb 4th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Apple Valley at Chaska - Dec 1st
  • Chaska at Lakeville North - Dec 3rd
  • Benilde St. Margaret's and Chaska vs TBD at Minnetonka- Dec 12th (Breakdown Tipoff Classic) 
  • Benilde-St. Margaret's at De La Salle - Dec 23rd