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

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