Its time to for the full blown kickoff of the 2016 AAU Season with the annual Comets Shootout. Here's some of what I'm watching. Sunday plays out the quarterfinals to the end, good games. The early 2 or 3 games are pigtails, round of 32 and round of 16. Nice to have a bracket, but not having pools means most of Saturday's play is blowout city. But early in the year anything can happen and we did see a couple of early round upsets last year on Saturday.
In the top quarter of the bracket, I expect the hosts Comets Lewis to have no problem reaching Sunday's quarterfinals. Great additions of Wayzata's Ryan Lindberg and Gavin Baumgartner and Hopkins' Simon Wright for that squad. Only question I have is a backup point guard to Bryce Irsfeld. Fury Kallman and WI Playmakers Hjelter are on the other side of the quarter. Fury Kallman vs Comets Lewis in a sleeper quarter final game. Rocky Kreuser for Fury Kallman is going to be a problem matchup for many of their opponents this year.
In the 2nd quarter of the bracket, its D1 Minnesota's top team. Heat Vang and high-flyer Parker Fox are on the other half of this quarter. Expect D1 Minnesota to have no trouble here. Looking forward to see how D1 rotates their front court trio of Nate Reuvers, Goanar Mar and Matthew Hurt. McKinley Wright, Ishmael El-Amin, Jericho Sims, Jack Sorenson and Jack Hutchinson also on display for that loaded team.
Now to the bottom half and quarter #3. Minnesota Warriors and Select Ohnstad are lined up for what I see as the top round of 16 game. That's at 10:00 PM Saturday night. Mitch Ohnstad playing at least 3 sophs from his WOTN 15U squad last year on this team. ECI Prospects are on the other side of this quarter with the 2 top 2017 prospects in North Dakota. That's post Jordan Meidinger and guard Siman Sem. Plus they have more D2 level talent around them in guys like Lucas Mayer and Justin Engg. I like ECI over the Warriors in the quarters. But the Warriors being together for years always makes them a tough out in this tourney.
In the bottom quarter, you have the Fury top group and D1 Minnesota's 2nd team on separate sides. Not a cake walk section as Comets Kirchner, WOTN Nicols and Real Athletics House are also in this quarter of the bracket. Zach Hanson from WOTN is the sleeper kid to watch in this group. WOTN Nicols vs Comets Kirchner is the only real interesting game I see in the round of 32. Fury Zurn vs D1 MN Prospects is a very good quarterfinal. I'll take Fury to barely hang on.
So that leaves Comets Lewis vs D1 Minnesota and ECI Prospects vs Fury in the semifinals. I think Fury's tough game vs a scrambling fast paced D1 MN Prospects squad takes it toll. Give me ECI to take on D1 Minnesota in the final with D1 Minnesota taking the trophy. D1 Minnesota vs Comets sure to gather a ton of interest as it could be the highest profile Minnesota on Minnesota battle we get all year at 17U. That would also be true if Fury Zurn would make the final.
In 16U, I see a pretty wide open event. No top team from D1 (they're in Wisconsin this week), no Pulley, no Powerhouse Hoops etc means you don't have a whole lot of high profile 2018 guys playing. I have to take the home team, Comets Stumpf, as my favorite. Brevyn Spann-Ford gives them a 3/4 combo guy who's a difficult matchup. Cam Jackson and Kyler Kluge make up a small backcourt that can score it.
But there's a group of teams that can jump up here. Heat Reese knocked off D1 last week (granted in a scrimmage with no Race Thompson) but they've rebuilt that group into one that will be much improved. Tayler Johnson and Odell Wilson from Minneapolis North are nice additions there. Select Altenhofen is also a nice group that will be very competitive. They have a very solid perimeter group. Fury Wilde has to be discussed here as well, but they're not quite what they were last year. Matt Todd has moved on to Pulley and that deprives this crew of a major difference maker. ECI has a couple of top 5 North Dakota kids so they'll be solid here as well. Crossfire Swanson and Comets Servaty are other squads that could surprise. So while there's not star power, you have a nice group of very respectable teams.