2016-17 Metro East Conference Preview

This is the 8th preview in my 2016-2017 season preview series.  Thanks to the traditional MEA break, we'll end this 2nd week of previews here with a look at the Metro East Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and an explanation of how the previews are generated, click here.

Hastings Raiders (2015-16 season 12-15, 9-7 Conference, 4th)
The Raiders did the best job of rebuilding from major personnel losses last year.  This year most of the roster returns.  20 PPG from forward Brady Gullicks needs to be replaced.  Guard Brandon Haroldson leads the returnees and reached double figures scoring per game last year.  Fellow guard Collin Kummer returns along with junior forward Sawyer Levos.

Henry Sibley Warriors (2015-16 season 7-20, 5-11 Conference, Tie 6th)
Former Tartan assistant John Carrier takes over for Lernell James.  He has to replace most of the rotation.  Junior PG Rieshaun Satar averaged just under 9 a game last year and will be the focus of the offense.  Wing Jack Korte also returns to the rotation.  Antonio Vibar looks like he'll be the new guy in the middle.  Junior Kendall Williams will see a bigger role on the wing as well.

Hill-Murray Pioneers (2015-16 season 6-21, 5-11 Conference, Tie 6th)
Trevor Davis returns to the metro from the southern JUCO ranks to take over.  He spent time coaching here with Wear Out The Net.  He also has a ton to replace with 5 members of the rotation gone.  That includes 16 PPG from center Chris Moore.  PG Simeon Davis returns for a 3rd year at the point for the Pioneers.  He averaged almost 17 PPG.  Junior guard Lance Meniboon will see a much bigger role.  New coach and new players who struggled last year could mean a very long season.

Mahtomedi Zephyrs (2015-16 season 19-8, 12-4 Conference, 3rd)
The Zephrys have unfinished business after a shocking top seed upset in the 1st round of the playoffs last year.  Explosive forward Parker Fox (Northern St recruit) is 1 of 3 returning starters.  PG Shayne Frost and guard Will Tuttle also return.  Fox and Frost combined for 35 PPG last year.  Lincoln Rock is a guard who came off the bench last year.  Forwards Andy Voyen and Kaleb Siekmeyer provide inside depth.  Forward Lucas Buller is the main loss.

North Polars (2015-16 season 24-6, 15-1 Conference, Tie 1st)
It was a magical run to the state tourney for the Fighting Janquarts last season.  No fewer than 6 members of that group have graduated.  The leadership and swiss army knife game of Adreon Wadlington will missed more than people realize.  He was also the leading scorer at 12.3 PPG.  But the cupboard isn't bare.  Juniors Goodnews Kpegeol and Bryce Phillips are back.  Phillips will run the show while Goodnews is the top returning scorer at 11.4 PPG.  Add in the healthy return of shooter Josh Steckler (9.2 PPG) and you have a solid perimeter trio.  There are questions in the middle.
St. Thomas Academy Cadets (2015-16 season 9-20, 5-11 Conference, Tie 6th)
The Cadets have another new head coach this season.  Now alumnus Jason Birr comes in from NDSCS to take over.  Leading scorers Nate Chaffee (17.7 PPG) and guard Joe Harvey (10 PPG) have graduated.  Junior wing Sam Vascellaro is the top returning option at 9.9 PPG.  TJ Wright and Sam Schleper return to the lineup along with Eddie Perry and big man Nolan Sullivan.

Simley Spartans (2015-16 season 14-15, 6-10 Conference, 5th)
Simley was the survivor of section 3AAA least year despite not beating a team with a winning record.  They need to replace guard Jack Stensgard who averaged 27.7 PPG as the focal point of the offense.  Junior Jake Binley returns after putting up 16+ PPG last year.  DeAndre Smith also returns as a double figure scorer.

South St. Paul Packers (2015-16 season 2-25, 0-16 Conference, 9th)
49 straight league home losses now for the Packers.  Most of the rotation including forward Zach Taylor is gone.  But if Boo, The Mini Ref is around, it can't be that bad.  The rebuilding effort continues but expect another struggle to get in the win column.

Tartan Titans (2015-16 season 24-5, 15-1 Conference, Tie 1st)
New hall of fame coach Mark Klingsporn will have a ton of experience coming back.  Jordan Horn runs the point and Joevon Walker will work up front.  Add in shooter Noah Wahlen and defender Kingston Myles as returnees to the starting lineup.  Forwards Elijah Johnson and Jarvis Thomas (now at Orono) need to be replaced.  Defender Denario Jackson missed most of last season but his defense will be missed.  Jordan Thompson and soph Antwan Kimmons also return. 

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Tartan
  2. Mahtomedi
  3. North
  4. Hastings  
  5. St. Thomas Academy    
  6. Simley 
  7. Henry Sibley 
  8. Hill-Murray 
  9. South St. Paul
Conference Overview
To show how down the league was last year, consider these numbers.  Mahtomedi had just 3 wins of their 19 total versus teams with a winning record.  The 6 league teams below them had 50 wins total with only 2 vs winning teams (both in playoffs).  1 of those 2 was Hill-Murray's shocking 8 vs 1 upset of Mahtomedi in the 1st round of the 4AAA playoffs.

Tartan is the clear favorite despite losing Jarvis Thomas.  Mahtomedi and North will battle for 2nd with the teams playing at North on the final night of the regular season.  Very torn on that pick.  Hastings has the most back and was 4th last year so they stay there.  Simley and St. Thomas Academy battle for 5th.  Sibley and Hill-Murray duke it out for 7th as new coaches rebuild.  South St. Paul continues to hold down the final slot.

Conference MVP: Jordan Horn - Tartan

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Malik Spearman-Tschida - Henry Sibley
  • Isaiah Robinson - Simley
  • Antwan Kimmons - Tartan
Conference Games to Watch
  • Tartan at Mahtomedi - Jan 13th  
  • North at Tartan - Jan 27th
  • North at Mahtomedi - Feb 3rd
  • Mahtomedi at Tartan - Feb 10th
  • Tartan at North - Feb 21st
  • Mahtomedi at North - Mar 3rd
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • North vs Chaska - Dec 17th (Metro East vs Metro West Challenge at St. Thomas Academy) 
  • North vs Cristo Rey - Dec 22nd (Hamline Tourney)
  • Mahtomedi at Columbia Heights - Jan 5th
  • Tartan vs Whitefish Bay (WI) - Jan 28th (Border Battle at Apple Valley)
  • St. Anthony at Mahtomedi - Feb 21st

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