Apple Valley Eagles (2015-16 season 30-2, 18-0 Conference, 1st, AAAA 3rd place)
The Eagles continue the Jones era with PG Tre Jones returning for his junior year. He averaged 16.5 PPG last year. He'll have to carry a much bigger share of the offense this year. Star wing Gary Trent is now at Prolific Prep in California. Starters Cam Kirksey and Brock Bertram are now playing in college (combined 28 PPG). Luke Martens returns to the lineup. Spencer Rolland will see minutes inside. The rotation will largely be a junior class that has played a ton together.
Burnsville Blaze (2015-16 season 5-22, 1-17 Conference, 10th)
Top scorer Jason Gumm has to be replaced on the front line. Aloung Kang gives the Blaze an athletic option. Matt Baisch and Jackson Martens also return to the lineup. Sophomores Marcus Shepley and Julian Hutchinson saw lots of time last year.
Eagan Wildcats (2015-16 season 10-19, 5-13 Conference, 8th)
The Wildcats see 2 of their top 3 scorers, Collin Anderson and Sam Schuberg graduate. Guard Dan Shahlhut and forward Jaren Tschetter are 2 of the top options. Lots of players saw some time last year.
Eastview Lightning (2015-16 season 13-14, 7-11 Conference, 6th)
PG Jameson Bryan and wing Mason Carpenter return to lead the Lighting. They do have to leading scorer Sean Ryan (20 PPG) and double figure scorers Martin Mitchell and Connor Stevens. Expect the 11+ PPG each from Bryan and Carpenter to go up noticeably. Brady Miller will see his role increase. Freshman Tate Machacek takes over in the middle.
Farmington Tigers (2015-16 season 12-15, 6-12 Conference, 7th)
Assistant Tharen Johnson takes over the Tigers program this year. He has 1 double figure scorer returning in Sam Wilson (11 PPG). Guard Kole Hinrichsen also returns to the rotation. But that's about it. A ton of experience graduates. They do have a group of sophomores that should see significant minutes.
Lakeville North Panthers (2015-16 season 26-6, 14-4 Conference, Tie 2nd, AAAA State Runner-Up)
The Panthers should be one of the class AAAA contenders once again. Wisconsin commit Nate Reuvers and 20 PPG leads the way. Forward Carter Brooks and guard Cal Pesola are the biggest loses. Trevor Schermann and Ethan Igbanugo will also be big factors. Reid Saarela will be a depth option.
Lakeville South Cougars (2015-16 season 18-10, 12-6 Conference, 4th)
The Cougars are poised to have another quality season. 3 of the top 4 scorers are returning. That includes PG Jack Sorenson (23.2 PPG), wing Shae Mitchell (16.5 PPG) and shooter Cade Carlson. There's limited experience up front. Nick Cuddigan and Boston Mast are the top 2 options there.
Prior Lake Lakers (2015-16 season 13-14, 10-8 Conference, 5th)
Brian Sitzmann is the top returning player at almost 15 PPG. 9.2 PPG from Devin Mays inside and 15.9 PPG from wing Jack Kortes need to be replaced. Jack Nusbaum, Alex Preston, Jake Fredrickson, Trent West and Casey Gustina are a nice group to compliment Sitzmann.
Rosemount Irish (2015-16 season 7-21, 3-15 Conference, 9th)
Rosemount returns 3 of their 4 double figure scorers. Twin forwards Luke and Alec Loehr combined for 31 PPG. Guard Myka Edmond chipped in with 10 PPG. Ethan Engdahl also returns to the rotation. Luke Siwek should be another backcourt option.
Shakopee Sabers (2015-16 season 22-6, 14-4 Conference, Tie 2nd)
Expect a dropoff for coach Bruce Kugath's crew. Star forward Steffon Mitchell and almost 25 and 10 per night graduated. The Sabers also lose 3 of their next 4 scorers. Forward Jake Kutina should emerge into the top option. Jacob Adelman provides an inside option. Junior forward Garrett Mitchell also returns.
Predicted Order of Finish
- Lakeville North
- Apple Valley
- Lakeville South
- Prior Lake
The league was top heavy last year and I expect the same this year. Lakeville North and Apple Valley are favorites to return to state and in the AAAA title discussion. I like Lakeville North by a hair over Apple Valley due to experience. Lakeville South is clearly the best of the rest with a very good perimeter trio returning. Eastview and Prior Lake are both solid teams that should battle for the next spots. Then a major drop off to the rest of the league. Rosemount on paper is an easy pick but they were 9th last year. Shakopee will battle them despite being in a rebuilding year. Burnsville's youth movement last year moves them up this year. Eagan remains down and Farmington's youth movement means a long year.
Conference MVP: Tre Jones - Apple Valley
Underclassmen to watch:
- Mark Possis - Apple Valley
- Marcus Shepley, Julian Hutchinson, Caleb Druvenga - Burnsville
- Tate Machacek - Eastview
- Adam Weed, Brady Bean, Miles Mendes, Jameson Shrum - Farmington
- Dawson Garcia - Prior Lake
- Zeke Harris - Rosemount
- Apple Valley at Lakeville North - Dec 20th
- Apple Valley at Lakeville South - Jan 17th
- Lakeville North at Apple Valley - Feb 7th
- Lakeville North at Lakeville South - Feb 14th
- Apple Valley vs Minneapolis North - Dec 3rd (Girls Tipoff Classic at Hopkins)
- Lakeville North vs Cretin-Derham Hall - Dec 10th (Tipoff Classic at Hopkins)
- Apple Valley vs Champlin Park - Dec 10th (Tipoff Classic at Hopkins)
- Cretin-Derham Hall at Apple Valley - Dec 13th
- Lakeville North at Chaska - Dec 13th
- Lakeville North at Woodbury - Dec 22nd
- Milwaukee Riverside at Apple Valley - Jan 28th (Border Battle)
- Lakeville North vs La Crosse Central - Jan 28th (Border Battle at Apple Valley)