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
- St. Thomas Academy
- Henry Sibley
- South St. Paul
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
- Mahtomedi at Tartan - Dec 18th
- Tartan at Mahtomedi - Jan 29th
- 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