Weekly 360 Windmill - Nov 29 2015

Its the Weekly 360 Windmill.  Time to look back on the week that was and look ahead to the 1st complete week of games in the 2015-16 season.

Week 2 Review
  • Upset alerts sent out with 4 results that caught my eye.  Minneapolis South pulling off 2 of those with wins over Benilde-St. Margaret's and St. Francis.  Highland Park getting the best of Hill-Murray on Tuesday was an eye opener.  I'll see South and Highland Park battle on Wednesday.  Then Jason Gumm beats the buzzer on Saturday to give Burnsville the win over #4AAAA Eden Prairie.
  • We've seen some crazy scoring numbers to start the season.  Gary Trent 43.5 PPG in 2 games for Apple Valley.  Apple Valley offense averaging over 100 a night in 2 games.  Zach Knollenberg 36 PPG in 2 Spectrum wins.  Nate Reuvers 29.5 PPG in 2 Lakeville North wins.  Junior Stone with 44 in Richfield's opening win over Harding. 
  • How about the holiday weekend for Osseo as they go up to Duluth and curbstomp both Duluth East and #6AAA Hermantown by 45+.
  • Solid week for Waconia as they take care of Prior Lake and a quality road win at Superior, WI.
  • Chisago Lakes with a quality win over Mahtomedi (who was ranked before that loss) and they played Orono to a 2 point loss in the Monticello tourney. 
Week 3 Look Ahead
Its the first full week of games on the schedule.  This is what catches my attention.
  • #2AA Minnehaha at #3AA St. Croix Lutheran on Tuesday night (mother nature permitting).  This is a huge matchup in section 4AA.  It also begins a nightmare stretch of the schedule for St. Croix Lutheran.  #2AA Minnehaha, at St. Thomas Academy, Roosevelt (showcase), at #1A North, at #6AA SPA, #4AA Braham (tip off classic), Waseca.  All in the 3 weeks before Christmas, yikes.  Ade Lamu and Trenton Krueger provide a strong test for Minnehaha's JaVonni Bickham inside.  But the bevy of perimeter guys for Minnehaha will be a challenge for Crusader guards Aage Rovney and Venkate Valluri.
  • Thursday has a couple of out-state games of note.  #7AA Esko at #6AAA Hermantown and #6A Rushford-Peterson at Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau (WI).  G-E-T ranked #4 in the preseason division 3 poll in Wisconsin.
  • #6AAAA Champlin Park at Armstrong on Friday.  Hope to see a McKinley Wright vs Jubie Alade matchup there.  Theo John vs Race Thompson inside is a battle of 2 very good young big men.  The rest of the rosters are largely inexperienced at the varsity level.
  • The Southside Showcase kicks off Saturday at 12:30 at MTS with 5 games.   #5A MTS vs Superior, WI is the opener and a good challenge for the hosting Wolves.  UMD commit Brandon Myer vs Isaiah Wade is a fun matchup there.  Then Washburn vs Minnehaha and Roosevelt vs St. Croix Lutheran in the 4-7 PM window is a pair of entertaining games. 
  • The Girls Breakdown Tip-Off Classic features 4 boys games on Saturday.  They are all on the main court starting at 2:15 PM. 
    • Minnetonka takes on Madison East in the 1st boys game.  Deang Deang leads the #6 Division 1 preseason Purgolders.  He is the 9th ranked senior in Wisconsin.  Madison East appeared in the Wisconsin state tournament last season.
    • Milwaukee Washington takes on #1AAA De La Salle.  Washington is #3 in the preseason Division 2  rankings.  Washington features Illinois commit Te'jon Lucas (#2 ranked senior in WI) at the point guard spot.  If you can't see Washington on Saturday, they play at #4AAA Johnson on Friday night.  
    • Then the big showdown between #1AAAA Apple Valley and powerhouse Iowa City West.  West features Iowa commit Connor McCaffrey and UNI commit Tanner Lohaus just to name a couple in the stacked lineup.  
    • State qualifier Des Moines Hoover and guard Chris King take on #2AAAA Hopkins in the late game.  The Hopkins girls will play before that game.
  • A couple of important Saturday games will be outside of those 2 events.  #8AAA Waconia visits Benilde-St. Margaret's in an important section 6AAA matchup.  #4AAA Johnson visits Cretin-Derham Hall in a matchup of the 2 teams that have dominated St. Paul City basketball over the last 25 years.  1 of those teams has shared or won the league title outright in 23 of the last 25 years.  
  • One other Saturday game that catches my eye is North St. Paul at Woodbury.  Almost everybody in the east metro was decimated by graduation.  These 2 teams on the other hand have a bunch of young kids returning from teams that struggled last year.  This game is a benchmark for who is further ahead in making the next step in section 4AAAA.

A South Suburban Saturday

Off to the south metro to see 3 South Suburban teams in quality non-conference games.  No concessions or JV games today, just solid hoops and good hoops at that.  OK, some Chick-Fil-A was snuck in before the late game but who's counting.  Our song of the day is in honor of The Iron Bowl played today.

Song of the Day
Lynryd Skynrd - Sweet Home Alabama

Number of Teams I've Seen: 17 (8 courts, 2 new, 1 TV game)
10 days (8 possible game days), 9 games, 2 scrimmages added on, 1 TV replay included

Beverage Ticker: 24 ounces (190 calories) + 500 ml (210 calories) + 2 liters (0 calories)
  • Pepsi: 12 ounces (150 Calories) + 500 ml (210 Calories)
  • Sprite: 12 ounces (140 Calories)
  • Water: 2 Liters (0 Calories)
Hot Dog Ticker: 0
Pizza Ticker: 3
Walking Taco Ticker: 1
Game 1: #5AAAA Wayzata at #8AAAA Lakeville North
This was the 1st matchup of ranked teams in AAAA this season and it did not disappoint.   Wayzata gives up the 1st 4 before going on a 14-2 run.  Jack Sowada with a slick up and under in the post to finish that.  14-6 Wayzata at 9:45.  Austin Slater over Nate Reuvers inside and a stickback at 7:45 for a 21-12 Trojans lead.  Then Reuvers inside out for 3 and buries another after a nice backscreen and then scores off the drive.  Reuvers with another drive and then he takes a rebound coast to coast for 2 more and drives for 2 free throws.  But Wayzata keeps the lead thanks to 4 guys with 4 3s in the last 1:30 of the half.  Sowada's 3 beats the horn for a 42-38 Wayzata lead at the half. 

Reuvers opens the 2nd half with a pair of nice assists to spark a 10-1 Lakeville North run.  It takes Wayzata over 8 minutes to get their first field goal of the half.  But they're still within 3 when that field goal (a putback) scores with 9:34 left.  Slater with a pair of free throws to keep Wayzata within 4 with 3 minutes left.  Then its Reuvers in transition for 3 countered by Ryan Lindberg for 3.  Then Cal Pesola with a back-breaking oh no, whew it went in transition 3 to push the lead to 9 with 2 minutes left.  Sowada with a transition 3 of his own cuts the lead to 3 with 55 seconds left.  But Wayzata can't get another quick score.  Lakeville North seals it with 7 of 8 at the charity stripe.  Panthers win 81-73.  Nate Reuvers was a offensive monster (shoot, create, pull, attack rim etc) and finished with 29.  Carter Brooks adds 19, Cal Pesola with 3 triples and 17.  Gavin Baumgartner 4 1st half triples on his way to 18 points to lead Wayzata.  Jack Sowada adds 16, Austin Slater 13.

Game 2: Chaska at Eastview
We join the previously scheduled game already in progress with 4 minutes to play in the 1st half.  Sean Ryan and Mason Carpenter in foul trouble for Eastview but Martin Mitchell makes up for it with 21 in the 1st half.  41 all at the break.   The 2nd half was a great show for Chaska center Luke Roskam.  He scores the 1st 10 of the half for the Hawks. His post effort with 6:14 left would result in 1 of 2 free throws.  Chaska up 70-61.  Eastview would score the next 7 ending with a Connor Stevens 3 with 4:32 left.  But its Roskam who runs the floor for 2 layups and grabs his own miss for 2 more.  He is fouled on that putback with 1:34 left, misses that but Chaska gets the always criminal offensive rebound of a free throw and makes 2 more free throws to push their lead back to 7.  Chaska hangs on from their to win 85-83.  Luke Roskam all 19 of his points in the 2nd half and it was all pure hustle.  Running the floor rim to rim for layups (4 of them by my count) or pounding people inside and being unafraid of contact. You wish all your guys would play that hard.  Somebody put that 2nd half on a highlight reel, show it to the entire team on Monday and then give it to him at the team banquet.  Jameson Meyer leads the Hawks with 14 of his 20 in the 1st half.  Myles Hanson adds 16.  Martin Mitchell leads all scorers with 31 for Eastview.  Mason Carpenter adds 23 for the Lightning.

Game 3: Minnetonka at #1AAAA Apple Valley
To the nightcap across Cedar Ave.  Gary Trent had a school record 46 for Apple Valley vs Chanhassen in the season opener.  He picked right up where he left off with the 11 of the 1st 13 for the Eagles.  Cam Kirksey with an easy pick and roll hoop and a pair of dunks as Apple Valley pulled out to a 30-17 lead just inside the 10 minute mark.  Seth Coatta gets loose for a pair of 3s and nails a pullup and the lead is down to 36-32 just 3 minutes later.  Amar Miller trying to offset Trent's offense as there's no answer for him off the high screen.  52-42 Apple Valley at the half

Apple Valley up 12 before an 11-2 Minnetonka run.  Miller with a pair of bombs as he scores 8 points in that run.  Kirksey with a 3 and a drive to the hoop but Coatta puts back a miss and Max Cooper grabs a miss for 2 free throws.  69-62 Apple Valley with 10:15 left.  But its too much Gary Trent from there.  3 straight pindowns for Trent result in 3 triples and he adds a pair of free throws.  Just like that Apple Valley is back up by 15, 80-65 with 8 minutes left.  Trent adds a nice tip dunk of a Tre Jones miss and Apple Valley goes on to win 96-79.  Gary Trent leads Apple Valley with 41 points and 9 rebounds.  Tre Jones 16 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists as he played very well again.  Amar Miller 33 points to lead Minnetonka.  Seth Coatta added 20 points.  I can understand giving up a big night to Miller.  But I didn't like the defense against Coatta, too many good looks for him.  Also, Apple Valley tended to give up on defense as soon as Miller cleared the screen.  That needs to be cleaned up before they play Hopkins in 2 weeks.  The idea of staying with Boone and Coatta and making Miller finish over a guy like Bertram is an idea that teams might be able to steal from.

Play of the Day
This is BLOB action courtesy of the always creative Eastview head coach Paul Goetz.  Box set.  Backside elbow comes off ball side elbow to catch.  Inbounder comes off the ball side post and elbow (double zipper) and flares away.  Ball is dribbled toward him.  Eastview will do 1 of 2 things here.  The backside block is a shooter, they'll either elevator him behind the dribble lead in quality misdirection action.  They'll also have that shooter set a diagonal upscreen for the remaining elbow guy for a post feed.  Always nice to see something different out of a box set rather than the throw it in and throw it back to the inbounder for a shot in either corner.

Ponies mash the Spuds

After a brief holiday trip to The Old Kingdom, I hustle back to my domain for the quiet Friday after Thanksgiving schedule.  The choice is a trip to The Stable to see Moorhead take on host Stillwater.  A quality walking taco on the menu.  Something different about the beef, but no complaints.  Since it is the season of calorie intake, I did grab my 1st Pepsi of the regular season as well.  The holiday does keep a big crowd from showing up.  The scouts were out in full force though including CDH, Mahtomedi and Tartan all there to see Stillwater.

Song of the Day
CCR - Travelin' Band

Number of Teams I've Seen: 12 (5 courts, 2 new, 1 TV game)

Beverage Ticker: 24 ounces (190 calories) + 500 ml (210 calories) + 2 liters (0 calories)
9 days (7 possible game days), 6 games, 2 scrimmages added on, 1 TV replay added

  • Pepsi: 12 ounces (150 Calories) + 500 ml (210 Calories)
  • Sprite: 12 ounces (140 Calories)
  • Water: 2 Liters (0 Calories)
Hot Dog Ticker: 0
Pizza Ticker: 3
Walking Taco Ticker: 1

Game Time:
Early on its all Matt Bye for Moorhead.  He starts with a putback.  Then adds a 3 point play and drives for a pair of freebies.  Then he takes a defensive rebound coast to coast for 2 more free throws and converts a steal for a layup.  That's all part of a 9-0 Bye run while Stillwater couldn't throw it in the ocean.  11-6 Moorhead at the 13:06 mark.  Bye picks up his 2nd foul right after that.  While he didn't go to the bench it did take away from his aggressiveness.  Stillwater struggled with rebounding on this night but a tip out for an Isaiah Dobson 3 and a Joe Haggard putback spark a 7-0 run to put the Ponies back on top.  Post Leif Engen breaks the press for a 3 point play at the 7:40 mark and the Spuds are still within 1.  But that is the only Moorhead field goal in the last 13 minutes of the half.  Turnovers and poor shooting are the culprits.  A quick 9-0 late in the half finally allows the Ponies to pull away.  29-18 Stillwater with the lead at the break

Halftime doesn't help Moorhead.  Wyatt Blinkhorn starts the 2nd half after not starting the game.  He attacks the rim for a free throw and an easy hoop.  Plus he adds a transition triple.  Dobson with a steal and jumper to end a 17-2 spurt across halftime.  37-20 Stillwater with 15:25 left.  Engen still attacking inside for Moorhead as they try to hang around.  Stillwater slams the door with Dobson knocking down 3 straight bombs.  Ben Ratte adds a layup on a backdoor set and hits a 3 to push the lead to 26 with 9:20 left.  Matt Jenkins aggressive for Moorhead as they try to generate offense but its cruise control for Stillwater the rest of the way.  Stillwater wins 62-36.
Post Game
Matt Bye scores the 1st 11 points of the game for Moorhead.  But he would not score again the rest of the night.  That leads to major problems for the Spuds as they don't have much in the way of other offensive options.  Matt Jenkins would earn his way to the charity stripe 9 times on his way to 11 points.  They did hurt Stillwater on the offensive board but that was really the only offense they generated.  Moorhead falls to 0-2.  They have a pair of critical section games coming up.  They'll play Elk River tomorrow in the ARCC Showcase.  Then Buffalo makes the trip north on Friday.

Isaiah Dobson makes 3 of his 4 triples in the 2nd half on his way to a game high 17 points.  Wyatt Blinkhorn added 13 in limited minutes due to foul trouble.  He was very productive attacking off the bounce.  Forward Adam Bruggers with only 6 points but he was effective rebounding and challenging shots inside.  Ben Ratte also chipped in with 10 points.  They won't be happy with their defensive rebounding and they did give up some easy buckets via their trap.  But the pressure more than paid off as they really took Moorhead out of any good offense.  I liked their old school Shuffle Offense look out of transition.  One thing that becomes evident though is having guard able to play in the post.  If its not a layup when the guard catches off that cut, then what.  Can that guard make a play there?  Very often, play bogs down from there.  For you local Rodent fans, the name Shikenjanski is back.  Freshman Nick Shikenjanski plays JV for the Ponies and saw some garbage Varsity minutes tonight.  He'll be a very productive player for Stillwater in the years to come.  The Ponies play Marshall in the ARCC Showcase tomorrow night and then host Rogers on Tuesday.  On Friday they'll open Suburban East play at Forest Lake.

Play of the Day
Stillwater uses a lot of side dribble handoffs and ball screens.  They'll get into that Euro ball-screen action via a Horns look.  One thing they'll do out of the Horns set is run a side guard-guard DHO.  Then come off 2 high ball screens from the bigs and then look for the backdoor on the opposite side while the 2 bigs pin down for a throw back 3.  Look for the regular Horns signal turned sideways as the call.

Wayzata vs Armstrong, what we learned

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.  It may be a holiday week, but thanks to technology I still took the day to review last night's Armstrong at Wayzata game.  Wayzata coming in ranked #5 in the AAAA poll.   No Isaiah Chatman in the middle for Armstrong, he was in street clothes.

  • The blowout score 83-65 is a little deceptive.  While Armstrong did get down 15 in the 1st half, they did cut it all the way down to 5 with 12 minutes left.  It was only a 9 point game with 5 minutes left.  Then a couple of defensive breakdowns to leave shooters for open 3s and it gets out of hand in a hurry.
  • Both teams will play a ton of guys.  That means a minimum of 10 both ways.  That depth not only does the obvious to keep the starters fresh, but it also provides a ton of options to mix and match based on who they're playing.  Wayzata gets a chance to show that on Saturday with how they choose to play Carter Brooks and Nate Reuvers.
  • Armstrong definitely has 2 guys who can provide the bulk of the offense in Jubie Alade and Race Thompson (37 combined).  As a 3rd guy, Simon McManus had 8 off the bench in the first half.  Nobody else besides the big 2 had more than 1 field goal in the 2nd half though.  14 total field goals for Thompson/Alade, 9 for the rest of the roster.
  • Speaking of Race Thompson, he continues to impress.  He did what you expect inside and added a couple of threes to boot.  Not to mention, a nifty push of the ball in transition, behind the back dribble and finish.  I worry about the rest of roster being too reliant on him though when they have other guys who are also able to step up.
  • Wayzata didn't shoot it well in the first half but hit 6 of their 9 3s in the 2nd half.  There is no team in the state more dangerous from 3. 
  • For Wayzata's offense, I really like what they do with a post player as a foul line screener.  They'll start 2 guard with it, 1st guard passes and cuts, 2nd guard Hawk cuts off the high post.  Post pops and they can get into offense from there.
  • For Armstrong's offense, they're now using the Blur screen idea on passes to the wing.   Will be interesting to watch that as the season progresses.  
  • Great Wayzata balance and unselfishness on offense.  4 starters in double figures with 10, 12.13 and 14 points.  Plus Ryan Lindberg leading the way with 15 off the bench.
  • MN-Moorhead commit Johnny Beeninga quiet in the 2nd half, but his attacking was very productive in the first half.  Showed he could hit the pull up off of that too.  That's a shot that in the modern lexicon can be highly criticized (based on points per shot data and shooting percentages).  However, if teams need to stick with shooters, that's a going to be an available quality shot that a point guard needs to hit.
  • Armstrong will learn a lot from this first game.  Sloppy play early got them behind 26-11.  Then down the stretch, leave Lindberg on a kick out for a 3, miss a dunk and give up a 3 point play, then leave Sowada for 3.  Game goes from down 9 to 17 in about a minute and any chance is lost.  Lesson there is that the little details add up quickly against high quality competition.
  • Armstrong did try some 1-2-2 3/4 court pressure and run and jump.  That did show some success.  If you can really get after it on the defensive side, you might be able to force some mistakes from Wayzata.

Delano visits the city

Late change of plans takes me to St. Paul Central to see their home opener against Delano.  The night starts badly as I think I'm being smart waiting for the concession to clear out before the JV game.  So right after its starts, its empty.  Brilliant!  Only to find out, they have to do a new batch of hot dogs.  I settle for the popcorn instead and let's just say that trade was a FAIL!  Another half liter of water adds to the beverage ticker.  Maybe Thanksgiving will mean I'm thankful this water idea is over.  Who knows.

Song of the Day
None - All songs played are too inappropriate for here

Number of Teams I've Seen: 8 (4 courts, 2 new)

Beverage Ticker: 24 ounces (190 Calories) + 2 liters (0 calories)
6 days (5 possible game days), 4 games, 2 scrimmages added on

  • Pepsi: 12 ounces (150 Calories)
  • Sprite: 12 ounces (140 Calories)
  • Water: 2 Liters (0 Calories)
Hot Dog Ticker: 0
Pizza Ticker: 3

Game Time:
Guard Jack Beckman on the bench with crutches for the Central and that's a big loss.  That leaves Sam Gubbrud to carry their offense and he does that. A putback, score and a spin for 2 put Central up 10-9 at 10:45.  Central giving me my first taste of THE WORLD'S WORST OFFENSE for the season.  Soph Calvin Wishart attacking the paint for Delano with a pair of drives and splitting 2 free throws.  Central counters with 2 hoops to tie the game at 16 at the 6:35 mark.  From there its all Delano.  Wishart still atacking, Matt Kreklow with a hoop and bonus free throws.  24-17 as Delano takes time at the 3:22 mark.  At that point they go to a 2-3 zone the rest of the game.  Central immediately gets a nice kickout for 3 against it.  That's the only FG for the Minutemen in a 12-4 Delano run to end the half.  28-20 Tigers at halftime.

Delano stays with the zone and slams the door with the 1st 10 points of the 2nd half.  Mitchell Kurtz with a bunny, then a nice triple off inside out action from Kreklow to end that run.  It all elementary from there.  Central getting outside looks that won't go in.  They did have a fairly easy time getting the ball to the high post.  But that was no help against Kreklow in the middle.  He was swatting shots inside all night against the smaller Central lineup.  A couple of inbounds sets push the lead to 21.  Central get as close as 13 with 6:30 left thanks to a banked in 3.  This one was really in no danger thought.  Delano wins 54-39.
Post Game
Sam Gubbrud leads Central with 15 points all of those in the 1st 30 points before garbage time.  Shawn Blanchard Jr with 7 off the bench.  Jack Beckman's shooting would have been a definite factor for them against the zone.  Interesting that they tried to Ice the side euro ball screen offense but they gave up a number of easy baseline drives to the rim on it.  No backside help and no resistance from the big who would normally sag to take that away.  The tough opening schedule continues next week with St. Paul Academy and Orono.

Calvin Wishart leads Delano with 19 points.  Could have had 25 as he left a bunch at the charity stripe.  Very aggressive trying to get to the rim and drew a ton of fouls.  Matt Kreklow adds 10 points and may very well have had 10 blocks.   I counted 1 possession where he had 3 alone.  He definitely will need to get stronger at U of Mary but you can't discount his length. The other 3 starters add 8, 8 and 9 points to provide great balance.  Though they got 0 points from the bench.  They host Sauk Rapids-Rice on Saturday.  Lots of underclassmen getting quality minutes in that game.

To the Southern Fringe

Monday night is often an opportunity to venture in the unknown,  Whether that's a team or a location, it provides a nice change of pace.  On this night, its a trip to Farmington so see St. Agnes take on host Christian Life.  Quality home crowd as expected for the EMAC squad.  Quality concessions include pepperoni pizza and another half liter of water (WHAAAAAAT!).  But to make up for that offense, I did spy the large individually wrapped brownies.  Well worth the investment too once I unwrapped the rubik's cube like puzzle that was the plastic wrap around it.  Yum. 

Song of the Day
Alabama - Song of the South

Number of Teams I've Seen: 6 (3 courts, 2 new)

Beverage Ticker: 24 ounces (190 Calories) + 1.5 liter (0 calories)
5 days (4 possible game days), 3 games, 2 scrimmages added on

  • Pepsi: 12 ounces (150 Calories)
  • Sprite: 12 ounces (140 Calories)
  • Water (Aquafina): 1 Liter (0 Calories)
  • Water (Kirkland): 500 ml (0 Calories)
Hot Dog Ticker: 0
Pizza Ticker: 3

Game Time:
Gary Smith 6 quick points for St. Agnes in this one as he was attacking the rim with no answer.  2 of those 3 hoops in a 9-0 run for an early 11-3 Aggies lead at 11:35.  He'll sit the rest of the half due to a technical foul.  Christian Life with 8 turnovers already.  The lead balloons to 27-8.  Then Christian Life spurts behind 10 straight from Jakson Griffth.  His 2 drives are enough for Aggies coach Frank Webster.  He brings back his starting crew with the lead down to 31-20.  Christian Life coughs it up 3 straight possessions and the lead is quickly back to 19.  The margin is 50-27 St. Agnes at the half thanks to 25 St. Agnes turnovers.

Smith is back to start the 2nd half but only for 3 seconds.  Defending the inbound on the tight sideline, he slaps the ball while in the inbounders hand.  That's an automatic T and he's gone.  Tough break as it's not malicious but correct by rule.  His absence doesn't hurt the Aggies.  The lead is 26 before Christian Life gets a field goal that's not a layup.  4 more turnovers for layups and a Brandon Plasch triple push the lead to 32.  We hit the running time margin just before 9 minute mark and its done from there.  St. Agnes wins 87-48.

Post Game
Jakson Griffith very aggressive attacking the rim for Christian Life.  He leads the Hawks with 22 points.  Caleb Kurz with 8 on 6-6 free throws (half of those 8 pts, technicals).  Definitely a lineup that I can see struggling to score.  The big number of the night is turnovers as I had the Hawks for 40 of them on the night.  That number speaks for itself.  They are off for 2 weeks before hosting Math and Science Academy.  That's their only game between now and December 15th.  Very rare for a team to have that open of a stretch in the schedule.

Brandon Plasch with 4 triples on his way to 22 points to lead St. Agnes.  Liam Skulley chips in with 17.  Center Alula Tesfay too athletic to deal with.  He adds 12 inside.  The man to man pressure was too much for Christian Life.  However, the Aggies will need to address the number of fouls as they gave up 34 free throws.  The soft EMAC part of their schedule next week continues as they have 3 more games vs the EMAC.  All of those are at home in their new gym.  That includes Community of Peace, Charter Stars and North Lakes.

Weekly 360 Windmill - Nov 22 2015

Introducing the Weekly 360 Windmill.  Its my look back on the week that was and a look ahead to the week that will be.  Of course the only 360 I know is to go all the way around the buffet table, but we'll give this a shot anyway.  So with that in mind, here goes.

Week 1 Thoughts
Farmington opened their season with a pair of easy wins against the 2 weaker Rochester teams.  Good confidence builder for that group vs a couple of section 1AAAA foes and it shows they belong outside of the dreaded 1st round game vs Lakeville North or Rochester John Marshall

Staying in section 1AAAA, a very good win for Lakeville South on the road at New Prague.  Especially when you consider they did it without PG Jack Sorenson in the box score.  That gives the Cougars the very early inside track on the 3 seed in 1AAAA.

St. Paul Academy is getting used to a new coach.  They start 2-0 with road wins at St. Croix Prep and Rochester Lourdes.  But it took them a while to pull away at SCPA, where a blowout was expected.  Expectations are high there, I'm watching to see what they look like come the tough stretch in mid-December vs St. Croix Lutheran and Mountain Iron-Buhl.

Statement win for Orono at #2AAA Marshall as the Spartans are off to a 2-0 start.  Expect them to jump into this week's AAA poll and stay there.

Good home wins for Cristo Rey over Concordia and North St. Paul over Chisago Lakes as those teams look to take the next step.

Week 2 Look Ahead
Monday has a light schedule.  The Post-Hanson era at Maranatha begins as they host Como Park.  Its also the beginning of the John Robinson era on the boys side at Como Park.  With a talented feeder school, I think they can start keeping some kids and he had success on the girls side.  Things looking up for the Cougars.  Also a rivalry matchup as PACT visits Spectrum in the first of 2 meetings this year between future MCAA foes.

Tuesday is the first night of the season where we have a full slate of games.  It has a pair of games that immediately stick out.  First is Armstrong at Wayzata.  Stiff test for Armstrong to start the season as they look to plug in last year's undefeated JV guys with 3 returning guys.  In the other game of note, #6AAA Mahtomedi visits Chisago Lakes in what could be a state tournament preview.  Chisago Lakes was the top seed in 7AAA last year and they have their top 3 back to get there again.  Forward Carter Duncan was not in the box score vs North St. Paul.  His size will be needed against Mahtomedi.  Sleeper games, Park Center at Brooklyn Center, Prior Lake at Waconia and Simley at Byron.  Soph Mike Coble vs senior Jack Stensgard in that last game is a very compelling matchup.

Wednesday night has 1 game.  St. Paul Harding at Richfield.  The drama that is the battle for the 8th seed in section 3AAA.

Friday is quiet in the metro but Osseo and Bloomington Jefferson will be at the Duluth East tourney for the weekend.  Jefferson vs #8AAA Hermantown and Osseo vs Duluth East are a couple of interesting games there.

Saturday has the 1st showcase of the season at Anoka-Ramsey.  6 games there including Marshall vs Stillwater and Moorhead vs Elk River in an 8AAAA battle.  But the biggest game of the day is #5AAAA Wayzata at #8AAAA Lakeville North in the afternoon.  Skill and shooters all over the place in that game.  If Lakeville North can keep Reuvers and Brooks both on the floor, I think that forces Wayzata to play bigger rather than a more comfortable 4 out group.  Later in the south metro #1AAAA Apple Valley has their home opener against Minnetonka.  Sleeper game: Sauk Rapids-Rice at Delano in a game full of talented underclassmen.  Cam Jackson vs Calvin Wishart and Cody Landwehr vs Keegan O'Neill are a pair of quality matchups of sophomores in that game.

New Mustang helps topple Heritage

On the first part of the journey, I was looking at all the games.  There were parents and birds and game clocks and things.  Its off to Breck for their opener against #8A Heritage.  Biggest crowd I've ever seen in my games at Breck.  Very vocal for the freshman and JV games too.  No food and I continue to try the water theme for beverage.  The Emperor and Her Majesty are in town so The Emperor makes a special guest appearance with me.   Like any nobility, horses are a part of The Czar's culture.  So between that, seeing Mustangs on this night and for Her Majesty who never gets enough credit here, here is today's tune.

Song of the Day
America - Horse with No Name

Number of Teams I've Seen: 4 (2 courts)

Beverage Ticker: 24 ounces (190 Calories) + 1 liter (0 calories)
2 days, 2 games, 2 scrimmages added on

  • Pepsi: 12 ounces (150 Calories)
  • Sprite: 12 ounces (140 Calories)
  • Water (Aquafina): 500 ml (0 Calories)
  • Water (Kirkland): 500 ml (0 Calories)
Hot Dog Ticker: 0
Pizza Ticker: 2

Game Time:
Breck sets the tone inside and does it immediately.  Center Justin Bergerson with 2 hoops, frosh David Roddy for 2.  Breck 6-0 in the 1st 1:35.  Roddy with a putback and 2 free throws.  Backup center Sam Willey off the pick and roll for 2 more.  Timeout Heritage at 10:26. Roddy goes coast to coast with a rebound for 2 free throws.  19-7 Breck at 9:18.  Heritage star CJ Woda finally gets a shot to go in as he banks in a 3 and Ben Allen follows that with a bomb of his own to force a Breck timeout.   19-13 Mustangs at the 8:28 mark.

That timeout works as the Mustangs go on a 11-2 run.   Roddy still doing work inside with a putback and post score.  During that run Woda had to sit with his 2nd foul.  That run forces him to come back in as Heritage trails 30-15 just inside the 5 minute mark.  Bergerson ended the run with bonus free throws and then adds 6 of the next 8 as the Breck lead balloons to 38-20 just before the half.  New coach Marcus Hill goes deep into his bench to end the half.  Heritage takes advantage and a turnover becomes a Zach Johansen 3 just before the buzzer.  The 8-1 Eagles run cuts the Breck lead to 39-28 at the half.  Bergerson and Roddy combine for 28 inside.

Woda puts back a miss with 14:40 left to cut the lead to 9.  He puts back another miss as Heritage hangs around but then he has to sit with his 4th foul with 11:17 remaining.  The lead goes back up to 16 thanks to Roddy.  He makes a free throw off an offensive rebound and a nice dive vs the zone and Bergerson finds him for the layup.  Textbook playing vs the zone.  Tanner Scott makes a 3 and Johansen follows it.  He has another 3 go in and out which would have cut the lead to 7.

Roddy hits the high post jumper to beat the zone again.  Woda returns at the 6:23 mark and Heritage has only lost a point on the scoreboard but time is running out.  54-42 Breck leading at that point.  Woda scores the next 8 Heritage points as the Eagles try to rally.  Johansen with a drive for 2 more and the lead is down to 8 with 1:11 left.  Breck runs out after a Heritage timeout and its a hard foul on the break.  Breck will get free throws but they get a technical in the process.  Breck makes 1 and we shoot at the other end.  Johansen makes both technical free throws.  Heritage with the ball down 7 and still 1:06 left.   But Breck plays 30 seconds of great defense and Johansen misses a tough 3.  Breck doesn't close it out well by missing 3 front ends in the last 30 seconds (plus a couple of turnovers and missed dunk after Woda came back) but they hang on to win 61-57,

Post Game
CJ Woda leads Heritage with 25 points.  He had 11 of the last 15 Heritage points after coming back in with 4 fouls.  He struggled to finish against the Breck size early in the game but attacked late to keep Heritage in it.  Zach Johansen with 4 3s and 16 points.  Ben Allen and Jack Vander Top combine for 9.  The Eagles will need more from those 2 to be the section contender that they expect to be.  Heritage struggled with their shooting and had no match for the size or athleticism on Breck's front line.  The Eagles are off until after Thanksgiving.  They'll host Concordia and Maranatha to open December.  Then a big matchup with #2A Central MN Christian on Dec 12th which unfortunately is not part of the Tip Off Classic.

Freshman David Roddy leads Breck with 16 of his 27 points in the first half.  Not sure how well he projects long term in the basketball world, but the 6'3" forward showed he can play.  He had an early rejection of a drive, a couple nice touch passes inside, handled the ball out on the floor and attacked the rim off the dribble and via offensive rebounding.  He was their QB in football too and you'd never believe it by looking at him (built like a TE or LB).  Center Justin Bergerson added 18 points.  Both challenged shots at the rim, grabbed most of the rebounds and were far too much to handle.  The Mustangs host Rochester Lourdes on Tuesday before starting a tough stretch where they have 6 out of 7 away from home during the rest of the calendar year.  3 of those are neutral site games.

Spartans steal the Magic trick

Its the start of the 2015-16 season.  Once again it takes me to the Wright County Conference for a non-conference opener.  This year its Monticello at Orono.  But we get the Intermediate School gym thanks to a concert at the high school.  Its jersey night in the Orono student section and we get some classic McGrady and Carter original Raptors jerseys.  Plus an old school Larry Bird Indiana State jersey to boot.  Cheese pizza from Dominos and I bypass the Gatorade (WHAT????) for a healthy bottle of water.  Today's tune comes to us courtesy of the sound system.

Song of the Day
X Ambassadors - Jungle

Number of Teams I've Seen: 2 (1 court)

Beverage Ticker: 40.907 ounces (190 Calories)
1 day, 1 game, 2 scrimmages added on

  • Pepsi: 12 ounces (150 Calories)
  • Sprite: 12 ounces (140 Calories)
  • Water (Aquafina): 500 ml (0 Calories)
Hot Dog Ticker: 0
Pizza Ticker: 2

Game Time:
The start is slow but Tommy Schyma puts back a miss just over 3 minutes in to break the ice for the season.  Orono finally gets their offense going.  Sam Sustacek with a pair of jumpers.  Soph Thomas Lecy off the "Badger" BLOB for 3, Cody Stoe with a bomb and Max Bjorklund to the rim.  Sustacek goes to the post spin move to finish the 14-2 run over 5 and a half minutes.  14-4 Orono just outside the midway point of the half.  Schyma with a stepback 3 to break that run.  Lecy with back to back bombs and Stoe converts a steal.  22-9 Orono at the 6:17 mark.  Orono's 1-1-3 zone causing some grief.  Monticello star PG Matt Todd ignites a 7-0 Magic run with a triple and a layup off a turnover.  Orono lead down to 22-16 at 5:10.  Noel Mshihiri with a nice cut for 2 a drive for 2 more.  Orono takes a 33-22 lead to halftime.  Lecy with 4 bombs for 12 points off the Orono bench.

Schyma carrying the Magic offense to start the 2nd half.  He makes a free throw, a 3 and 2 more all in the 1st 2 minutes.  Stoe with a nice post feed and follows it baseline side and gets it back for an easy deuce.  Then Monticello misses a layup and Mshihiri converts a bunny on the other end in a critical 4 point swing.  Jack Anderson with a 3 and 2 easy drives with no help D coming over.  Monticello coach Jason Schmidt not happy with his squad's defense.  44-30 Orono with 12:45 left.  Lecy then adds his 5th and final 3 of the night to push the lead to 17.

Todd tries to bring the Magic back with a slick assist to Schyma and 4 free throws in an 11-2 run.  49-41 Orono with 10:05 left.  Stoe with a bomb to push the lead back to 13.  Schyma with a steal and score before Sustacek picks up his 4th foul.  54-43 Orono with 8:29 left at that point and maybe there's 1st last chance.  But the Magic defense doesn't hold up.  Bjorklund give and go for 2, Nick Perinovic off the Princeton chin cut for a layup, Stoe runs for a layup after a bad Magic miss and Bjorklund another cut for a bunny.  Then an offensive rebound is tipped out to the foul line, 1 more pass to Stoe on the right wing.  That 3 is the final backbreaker.  65-49 Orono with 3:30 left and they are out of danger.  Orono wins the season opener 70-55
Post Game
Monticello gets 21 points from their soph point guard Matt Todd.  He struggled from the field (I had him 6-19 or so) and had some moments where he was clearly pressing trying to bring his team back. But when he turns it on, he is really fun to watch.  Tommy Schyma gave him some help with 16 points.  Beyond that, the Magic really struggle to find offense.  Defensively, they didn't get stops to get themselves back in it.  The schedule doesn't get easier as they host #3AAA Rocori next weekend in their Thanksgiving tourney.  Then a trip to #6AAA Mahtomedi looms in 2 weeks.

Orono gets great balance from their crew.  Cody Stoe 3 triples on his way to 17 points to lead the Spartans.  Soph Thomas Lecy 5 3s off the bench for 15 points.  Sam Sustacek 11 points inside.  He took a nasty spill in the 2nd half and had his head bounce off the floor but did return.  Jack Anderson gives them an inside/outside threat at the 4 spot, Noel Mshihiri gives them an athletic defender.  Colton Codute was in foul trouble trying to guard Matt Todd but he gives them another shooter and ball handler.  Scary to think that the only senior in their rotation is Sustacek.  That 8 man crew includes 3 sophomores.  While the offensive execution wasn't there on opening night, the Spartans still showed plenty of cutting acumen for easy hoops.  Cody Stoe also was able to sneak out in transition too.  They visit #2AAA Marshall on Saturday then a matchup over Thanksgiving vs under appreciated Chisago Lakes in the Monticello tourney.

Play of the Day: Badger
Orono BLOB
Start 4 low with a shooter on the backside block.  Ballside block spins out and screens across, ballside corner screens in for the shooter.  Screeners slip as needed.  Simple and very effective.

They'll also get you on SLOBs with a double backscreen for their big after he inbounds it  They can also get their post over the top on the ballside block or have him flash to the ball for a blind pig look.

2015 Spring Lake Park Jamboree Thoughts

Off to the annual Spring Lake Park Jamboree.  This north metro fest brings 12 teams together for 1 regularly timed half of a game.  Shirt of the night award goes to the shirt with "Trust the Weather Man" on it, brilliant  In addition to a Sprite for the Beverage Ticker, our food is Sausage Pizza Pizza!  Very nice crowd on hand.

Beverage Ticker: 24 ounces (190 Calories)

Pepsi: 12 ounces (150 Calories)
Sprite: 12 ounces (140 Calories)

Jamboree Results:
Session 1: Osseo def Columbia Heights 40-17
Session 2: Mounds View def Irondale 23-21
Session 3: Spring Lake Park def St. Francis 19-17
Session 4: Blaine def Totino-Grace 26-25
Session 5: Maple Grove def Fridley 41-23
Session 6: Forest Lake def Coon Rapids 23-17

Mounds View will be a grind it out, struggle to score type team which fits coaches Dave Leiser and Dave Bratland well.  After seeing their JVs last year (before enjoying some amazing root beer floats I might add), I expected more offensive punch.  I don't read much into Spring Lake Park's upset of St. Francis.  St. Francis played a ton of guys and I think their traps over the long haul would turn this game into a rout.  A couple of fun inside battles with Ben Scherer and James Streeter in 1 session and Tessy Pal and Reed Nikko (Net Gain teammates in the summer) in another.  Maple Grove was up 24-4 in an 8 minute layup drill before their bench gave some of it back.  Brad Davison slowed a touch by the late end of the football season.  Fridley will bother people with their athletes and running, but halfcourt offense will be harder to come by.  Their 2 games against neighboring rival Brooklyn Center promise to be quite entertaining with the same style of play on both sides.  Coon Rapids practice jerseys red with the white retro stripe across the chest was a nice blast from the past look.

2015 CDH Jamboree Thoughts

Its the first of 2 jamborees on The Czar's preseason schedule.  The first is the usually impressive Cretin-Derham Hall/Howard Pulley/St. Thomas Jamboree.  8 contests on the schedule with a lower group of 4 in the upstairs gym.  I took in the big 4 in the main gym.  These were 2 10-minute halves of hoops.  Now from the sublime to the ridiculous, we bring back the world famous Beverage Ticker.  This year we add in calories.

Beverage Ticker: 12 ounces (150 Calories)

Pepsi: 12 ounces (150 Calories)

Scrimmage 1: Minnehaha vs Hopkins
Hopkins started slow which allowed Minnehaha to jump out to a small lead.  But after that Hopkins awoke and ran away.  31-15 at half on the way to a 54-26 win.  JaVonni Bickham and Jalen Suggs had the production for Minnehaha but didn't get much help.  Solid all around performance from Hopkins.  They played their young guys the last 6 minutes or so and have plenty coming up behind their current group.  Guys like Blaise Beauchamp, Joe Hedstrom, Anthony Davis etc will be the next building blocks.

Scrimmage 2: Cretin-Derham Hall vs Maple Grove
This one was tight all the way.  Fun battle inside between CDH's soph Daniel Oturu and Missouri commit Reed Nikko.  Nikko's length did bother Oturu but the youngster was not deterred.  CDH would be within 2 with about 3 minutes left.  But after a quiet night, Crimson PG Brad Davison would close it out with 3 free throws, a 3 point play, assist and defensive rebound.  Maple Grove has gone more 4 out which I like.  CDH will be interesting to watch as they don't have a point guard and don't dribble, pass or shoot all that well.  But they are so much more athletic than most teams they play.

Scrimmage 3: Apple Valley vs Eden Prairie
No Owen Chose for Eden Prairie due to injury.  They started a super small lineup of Ryan Jacobus, soph Kyler Kluge, Nick Geolat and Brady Rudrud on the perimeter.  That means no answer for Brock Bertram inside and he was all over the offensive glass.  Eden Prairie had a heck of a time generating offense and trailed 11-2 before back to back Rudrud 3s.  17-11 Apple Valley at half.  They played their young guys most of the 2nd half and won 26-18.  Very quiet night for Gary Trent.  Tre Jones continues to impress.

Scrimmage 4: Minnetonka vs De La Salle
Nice to see Dan Rubischko back on the De La Salle bench as an assistant.  He spent the last 3 years as the head coach at St. Thomas Academy and Prior Lake.  The always stout Islander defense was all over Minnetonka early.  DLS jumped out to an 11-2 lead and looked like they could run away against the Tonka bench.  But Minnetonka would come back and hold De La Salle to 1 hoop the rest of the half.  15-2 to end the half for a 17-13 Skippers lead at half .  De La Salle would go on a 7-0 run capped by a Goanar Mar 3 point play.  Islanders 26-24 with 3:14 left.  Amar Miller took over down the stretch scoring the last 10 Minnetonka points.  A pair of difficult 3 point plays in that stretch.  Minnetonka wins 34-31.  Minnetonka used some half court run and jump to bother De La Salle a bit.

2015-16 Season Preview in a Nutshell

The 2015-2016 Season Preview Series concludes with an overview of what and who you need to see and when and where you can find it.  This is a higher level preview for the more casual fan who doesn't eat, sleep and breathe hoops like many of us do.  So with that in mind, we distill the season down to some high points.

Events to Watch
  • Nov 28 - Anoka-Ramsey Showcase
  • Dec 5 - Breakdown Girls Tipoff Classic at Hopkins (4 premier boys games)
  • Dec 11-12 - Johnson Winter Showcase 1
  • Dec 12 - Breakdown Boys Tipoff Classic at Minnetonka 
  • Dec 18-19 - Johnson Winter Showcase 2
  • Dec 29-30 - Granite City Classic at St. Cloud Apollo
  • Jan 2 - Timberwolves Shootout at Target Center
  • Jan 18 - Dream Classic at Minneapolis Roosevelt and Minneapolis Washburn
  • Jan 18 - MLK Classic at Minneapolis Patrick Henry
  • Jan 30 - Super 60 Showcase at Hopkins
  • Feb 21 - Twin Cities Game at St. Paul champion
Anoka-Ramsey provides a chance to see Perham who's always a tough out in 8AA.  The section battle there between Moorhead and Elk River that could determine seeding later on.  This one was decided on a long buzzer beater last year.  4 great boys games in the Girls tipoff with Iowa City West vs Apple Valley as a huge game.  Johnson has Atascoctia (TX) and Purdue commit Carsen Edwards coming to town on Breakdown boys weekend.  They'll play De La Salle on December 11th followed by Milwaukee King and Michigan commit Jordan Poole vs Johnson in the late game.  Then Georgia 6A runner up Pebblebrook comes to town on December 18th to play back to back days vs Johnson and Minneapolis North.  Pebblebrook features Auburn commit Jared Harper.  The Timberwolves Shootout gives locals their best chance to see Michael Hurt (Minnesota commit) and younger brother Matthew from Rochester John Marshall.  Minneapolis will be busy on Martin Luther King day with 3 schools hosting games all day.  Hopkins vs 2A power Caledonia and St. Croix Lutheran vs Battle Lake highlight the Super 60 Showcase at the end of January.  As always the Twin Cities Game/EMAC Championship duo finishes off the regular season.

Other Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Wayzata at Lakeville North - Nov 28th
  • Minnehaha at St. Croix Lutheran - Dec 1st
  • Milwaukee Washington (WI) at St. Paul Johnson - Dec 4th
  • St. Croix Lutheran at Minneapolis North - Dec 8th
  • St. Croix Lutheran at St. Paul Academy - Dec 10th
  • Waseca at St. Croix Lutheran - Dec 22nd
  • Benilde-St. Margaret's at De La Salle - Dec 23rd
  • Eden Prairie at Shakopee - Jan 2nd
  • De La Salle at Eden Prairie - Jan 5th
  • Hopkins at Minneapolis North - Jan 19th
  • Wayzata at Minneapolis North - Jan 25th
  • Eden Prairie at Champlin Park - Feb 10th
I didn't include conference games because those are covered in the conference previews.  Not to mention I wanted the list to be somewhat manageable.

Players to Watch
  • Amir Coffey (Sr) - Hopkins (Minnesota)
  • Theo John (Jr) - Champlin Park
  • Tre Jones (So) - Apple Valley
  • Goanar Mar (Jr)- De La Salle
  • Steffon Mitchell (Sr) - Shakopee
  • Reed Nikko (Sr) - Maple Grove (Missouri)
  • Nate Reuvers (Jr) - Lakeville North
  • Jericho Sims (Jr) - Cristo Rey
  • Gary Trent (Jr) - Apple Valley
  • McKinley Wright (Jr) - Champlin Park
Teams Looking to Win It All
  • Apple Valley
  • De La Salle
  • Eden Prairie
  • Hopkins
  • Lakeville North
  • Maple Grove
  • Minneapolis North  
  • Minnehaha Academy
  • St. Croix Lutheran
  • St. Paul Academy
  • Shakopee
  • Tartan
  • Wayzata
Season Thoughts
This year I see Apple Valley and Hopkins as the 2 top contenders for the 4A Gold Ball.  But there's a long line of very good teams behind them.  The teams are also balanced across sections so I think the 4A tourney should be very good.  3A is way down and that gives De La Salle as good a chance as any to win their 5th straight title.  The final 4 in section 4AA could be state tourney semifinal quality with St. Croix Lutheran, SPA, Minnehaha and Roosevelt.  Is this the year that Minneapolis North finally gets to state under Larry McKenzie?  With the Hanson clan gone at Maranatha and the entire rotation turning over, what does the next generation look like for the Mustangs?

We had the annual coaching turnover.  A number of the coaching changes seemed strange at a glance.  There appears to be a very disturbing trend of talented young coaches not getting a shot.  Some of the jobs you wondered why there weren't more high profile applicants.  Maybe more proof that parents are getting crazier every day.

National officiating points of emphasis for the year include post play, rebounding and protecting the free throw shooter.  Displacement is the word of the day.  More emphasis on arm bars, continued hand checking etc is back on this year.  As always we'll see how long it actually lasts.

2015-16 Final Section Previews

This is the 26th preview in my 2015-2016 season preview series.  This final section preview covers miscellaneous metro teams not yet mentioned but we'll do it in brief form.  We'll focus on sections 1AAAA and 8AAAA with a couple small schools thrown in for completeness.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Lakeville North (1AAAA)
The Panthers are one of the favorites in the section thanks to their versatile forward duo of Carter Brooks and Nate Reuvers.  Their toughest test will come from likely Big 9 champ Rochester John Marshall.  Minnesota commit Michael Hurt and younger brother Matthew (a national level 2019 player) lead the way for the Rockets.  Add in Albert Lea transfer Dedoch Chan to fill the middle and take away some of the banging for the Hurt brotthers.  Coach Kirk Thompson has experience getting to the big dance from his days at Plainview-Elgin-Millville.  If there's any year for the Rockets to beat their Lakeville North curse, this is it.

Prediction: 1 seed and Section Champs

Lakeville South (1AAAA, moved from 2AAAA)
The Cougars have a couple of talented pieces to build around in junior point guard Jack Sorenson and soph Shae Mitchell.  But they have a new inexperienced head coach in Nick Gruhlke.  They should have a fun seeding battle with New Prague.  New head coach Bryce Tesdahl has Augustana commit Lucas Walford to build around this season.  The tough South Suburban 4A schedule gives Lakeville South the nod over the tough 3A Wright County East schedule.  Also don't discount Northfield with forward Luke Harris returning.  (Czar's Note 11/4: Northfield has moved to section 1AAA)

Prediction: 3 seed

Maple Grove (8AAAA, moved from 5AAAA)
The Crimson are stacked with their entire group from last year returning plus the addition of Cooper transfer Taron Pickford.  Moving to a section where no other team will be ranked means Maple Grove is the clear favorite.  Defending champ St. Michael-Albertville and traditionally strong Buffalo are both down.

Prediction: 1 seed and Section Champs

Elk River (8AAAA)
The Elks have a couple of nice building blocks in shooter Matt Keller and post Trent Pink to make a run in the section.  I think they battle with Rogers for the 2nd seed.  But Rogers has 3 quality wings in Steffan Musoke, Will Alexander and Allen Wilson.  Moorhead has a couple of guys returning including Matt Bye to put them in the next group behind Maple Grove discussion as well.

Prediction: 3 seed

Christian Life (1A West Subsection, moved from 4A)
Christian Life has a ton of guys to replace and no major star returning.  That's going to make the long trip south for the opening pigtail game more painful.  As MN State Academy for the Deaf has shown in this section, no respect for the EMAC.  Those schools get the bottom 2 seeds. 

Prediction: Subsection 11 seed (MSAD gets 10 seed due to higher EMAC finish)

Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity (2A North Subsection)
The Bulldogs should be in the same spot as last year where they barely avoided having to play a pigtail game.  I think they don't avoid that fate this year.

Prediction: Subsection 7 seed

2015-16 Section 7AAAA Preview

This is the 25th preview in my 2015-2016 season preview series.  Our final full section preview is of section 7AAAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 7AAAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: St. Francis

Predicted Seeding
  1. St. Francis
  2. Blaine
  3. Duluth East
  4. Andover
  5. Forest Lake
  6. Cambridge-Isanti
  7. Coon Rapids
  8. Anoka
Now to our old friend, section 7AAAA.  The section where I can't find the last time they won a game at state.  This is the only section in this set of previews where there are no changes in the group of teams participating.  Defending champ St. Francis loses 4 of their top 5 scorers.  That includes leading scorer and rebounder Blake Moreno.  Double figure scorer Robbie Whitney returns along with guards Tanner Carlson and Hunter Trautman plus forward Ryan Svihel.  So don't expect that much of a dropoff from the Saints.   Duluth East improved from 4-23 to 15-13 last year.  They lose valuable contributors Kahlil Green and Will Heyer.  Joey Zwak, Quentin Miller and Cody Carlson give coach Rhett McDonald a nice group to build around.  Cambridge-Isanti has to replace their top 7 scorers including Kyle McDonald and Collin Terwilliger.  Leading returning scorer is forward Luke Johnson at 3.3 PPG.  Blaine's size will make them a tough out in the section.  Their guard play determines how far they go.  The next 4 all have major losses to replace.  I see Andover and Duluth East slightly ahead and battling for 3.  Forest Lake and Cambridge-Isanti fill the other 2 spots.  Coon Rapids and Anoka continue to rebuild.  Nik Keller's transfer to Coon Rapids puts them out of the cellar.

Sleeper: Duluth East.  Coach Rhett McDonald saw his group make a jump last year.  He has some guys who took lumps for a couple of years and may lead the Greyhounds to turn the corner.

Section Winner: St. Francis.  I'll take the safe pick here and not underestimate them as I've done previously.

2015-16 Section 6AAAA Preview

This is the 24th preview in my 2015-2016 season preview series.  The final week of the 6 week season preview series begins with a look at the always tough section 6AAAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 6AAAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: Hopkins

New teams in the subsection
  • Minneapolis Washburn (6AAA)
  • Robbinsdale Cooper (5AAAA)
  • Wayzata (5AAAA)
Teams that left the subsection
  • Eden Prairie (2AAAA)
  • Edina (2AAAA)
  • Minnetonka (2AAAA)
Predicted Seeding
  1. Hopkins
  2. Wayzata
  3. Robbinsdale Armstrong
  4. St. Louis Park
  5. Robbinsdale Cooper
  6. Minneapolis Washburn
  7. Minneapolis South
  8. Minneapolis Southwest
This section is pretty straight forward.  Hopkins is one of the top 2 teams in AAAA.  Wayzata is loaded with everyone returning.  Armstrong is clearly better than the other 5.  Metro West teams better than the Minneapolis City teams.  Though Washburn does have a shot to overtake Cooper for that 5 spot.

Sleeper: Robbinsdale Cooper.  Bo Powell takes over and they have some talented youngsters.

Section Winner: Hopkins.  They're basically an upgraded version of last year's team with Amir Coffey back in the lineup for John Warren's spot.  Its a loaded lineup with the top player in the state.  Hard to bet against that.