2016-17 MCAA Preview

This is the third preview in my 2016-17 season preview series.  Week 1 of the 6 week series moves on 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 (2015-16 season 11-16, 3-10 Conference, Tie 3rd South)
Leading scorer Sam Peterson averaged over 19 PPG and he returns for his senior season.  Soph Ben Lechtenberg and frosh Michael Reader are the next 2 top scorers coming back.  They combined for just over 10 PPG. 

Heritage Christian Academy Eagles (2015-16 season 21-8, 13-0 Conference, 1st North)
The Eagles ran the table in the league last year.  Forward CJ Woda leads the way at 19.1 PPG.  Shooting guard Zach Johansen had a breakout season with 14.7 PPG.  Jack VanderTop averaged 9 PPG as the center.  All 3 of them return to the lineup.  Plus junior guard Ben Allen looks to a full season after missing significant time with injury last year.  Beyond that, its a very thin roster so depth is a significant concern.

Legacy Christian Academy Lions (2015-16 season 12-16, 7-6 Conference, Tie 2nd North)
Josh Barsness takes over the head coach job from JP Lindgren.  The backcourt duo of Lucas Nelson and Cole Bertsch returns.  They combined for over 29 PPG last year.  No one else returning averaged more than 5 PPG.  Josh Niessen provides the interior presence.

Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity Bulldogs (2015-16 season 5-23, 2-11 Conference, 5th South)
Nat Boyer takes over as the 3rd head coach in 3 years for the Bulldogs.  He sees the return of the top 5 scorers and 7 of the top 8.  That includes soph guard Michael Ziermann who was tops on the team at 12.9 PPG.  Adam Heigl mans another guard spot at 10.1 PPG.  Rees Schuette and Todd Johnson give them size.

Maranatha Christian Academy Mustangs (2015-16 season 10-16, 7-6 Conference, Tie 2nd North)
From 29 wins down to 10 as coach Jeff Wall decided to go with a big time youth movement.  Former assistant and now AD John Szwaja takes over the head coach job.  The top 3 scorers from last season are all freshmen now.  The only double figure scorer of that group Austin Andrews has transferred to Eden Prairie.  Cornell Richardson and Hakim Daniels almost reached 10 PPG from that 2020 group.  Senior Dyante Jordan is the top upperclassman coming back.  Wendell Smith is the only size.

New Life Academy Eagles (2015-16 season 24-5, 12-1 Conference, 1st South)
Coach Doug Linton has to replace 2 starters from last year's 24 win team.  Those were the only 2 double figure scorers, Brad Goulet and Ebenezer Ketema.  They combined for almost 29 PPG.  Overall 6 of the 9 members of last year's rotation are back for the Eagles.  They don't have a scorer who wows you but they will be very balanced.

PACT Charter Panthers (2015-16 season 10-18, 5-8 Conference, 4th North)
Drew Johnson and Zach Hagen combined for over 33 PPG a game and have graduated.  They're part of a group of 11 seniors that are gone.  Junior Cade Johnson returns after putting up 17.2 PPG last season.  The question remains how much help will he have?

St. Croix Prep Lions (2015-16 season 16-12, 5-2 vs MCAA teams)
St. Croix Prep returns 3 of their top 4 scorers.  That includes quick junior point guard Jayton Metcalf who averaged over 17 PPG last year.  Matt Kaul and Austin Have are the other returners of note.  The lineup doesn't provide any size.

Southwest Christian Stars (2015-16 season 18-7, 10-3 Conference, 2nd South)
Coach Kit Avery has to replace 2 seniors and that includes almost 27 PPG from guard Jack Jenson.  Expect a large chunk of that load to be picked up by senior guard Trey Sandness.  He averaged almost 11 PPG last year and I can easily see 20 PPG this year.  Spencer Weiss and Kyle Meinke return to the starting lineup with Meinke manning the interior.  3 seniors and a junior who saw extensive rotation time also return.  Not much scoring punch there except for the shooting of Zach Winters.

Spectrum Sting (2015-16 season 10-15, 2-4 vs MCAA teams)
The Sting return their entire roster except 1 graduated senior.  Problem is that the senior was 6'7" all everything forward Zach Knollenberg and 22.7 PPG.  Soph guard Cole Elrod is a quality shooter who averaged 10.5 PPG.  Soph Fisher Marberg also returns to the starting lineup. Soph Matthew Kruse and senior Kelton Sundstrom each averaged over 7 PPG. 

Trinity Tri-Hawks (2015-16 season 8-19, 3-10 Conference, Tie 3rd South)
Trinity needs to replace 3 of their top 4 scorers.  That includes their only double figure scorer Eddie Maruggi and 13.2 PPG.  Luke Lodoen, Charlie Druffner and Mason Calcutt are the top returners.  The Tri-Hawks gave youngsters plenty of time last year.

West Lutheran Warriors (2015-16 season 11-17, 3-10 Conference, 5th North)
Bruising forward Ben Beise returns to man the middle with 11.7 PPG.  Griffin Ewing is the only other returning starter with just over 8 PPG.  No one else returning averaged more than 5 PPG.  Lefty Josh Englert looks to help change that.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Heritage
  2. New Life
  3. Southwest Christian
  4. Legacy
  5. Maranatha 
  6. St. Croix Prep
  7. Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity   
  8. Bethany
  9. Trinity     
  10. West Lutheran  
  11. Spectrum 
  12. PACT 
Conference Overview
St. Croix Prep and Spectrum join the league to make 12 teams.  Rather than add 1 to each division, the league is going back to the old single round-robin schedule and no divisions.  They'll also go back to a 3 game conference tournament schedule held the second to last week of the season.  That allows any league members in sections 1 or 2 to be able to play in early state tournament series games without interference with the conference tourney.

I see 3 tiers in the MCAA.  Heritage is the clear favorite with New Life and SW Christian right behind fighting for 2nd.  SW Christian gets the home game with New Life and both have to visit Heritage.  Maranatha, Legacy and St. Croix Prep make up the next group.  All have quality guard play.  The bottom half is going to struggle to get to double figure wins.  I see a lot of movement possible here.  LP/HT with most everybody back is my pick to make a jump up the standings.

Conference MVP: CJ Woda - Heritage

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Ben Lechtenberg, Michael Reader - Bethany
  • Julian Cavin, Justin Mason, Jeff Ekiyor, Cornell Richardson, Hakim Daniels - Maranatha
  • Cole Elrod, Matthew Kruse, Fisher Marberg - Spectrum
  • Michael Ennis - Trinity
  • Brett Volrath - West Lutheran
Conference Games to Watch
  • New Life at SW Christian - Jan 12th
  • SW Christian at Heritage - Jan 17th
  • New Life at Heritage - Jan 31st
  • MCAA Tournament Championship - Feb 25th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Cristo Rey at Heritage - Dec 20th
  • Minnehaha at New Life - Jan 3rd
  • Breck at Heritage - Feb 17th

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