2016-17 TCAC Division A and Independents Preview

This is the first preview in the 2016-2017 season preview series.  This 6 week preview series begins with a new order to the madness.  Historically, these previews were posted in alphabetical order by conference name.  This season the previews will be done starting with small schools and working up to the big schools.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are done, click here.

The Twin Cities Athletic Conference is new this year.  It formed due to the Eastern Minnesota Athletic (EMAC) and the Twin Cities Independent Schools (TCIS) conferences deciding to join forces to form a mega conference.  That means 21 teams in the league.  For basketball purposes, the league divides into 3 divisions that are formed based on results from last year.  In this preview, its a look at the top division of the league.  This division is the top 5 teams from last year's EMAC standings plus the top 2 TCIS teams.  Previews of the 2 remaining local independents will also be included here.

Charter Stars (2015-16 season 13-9, 9-3 EMAC, Tie 3rd)
1st team All-EMAC selection Romello Wilson will need to be replaced.  Jordan Fields-Long is the only other departing senior.  Looks like the Stars will have a junior laden lineup.  That should reap benefits for 2017-2018.

CHOF Lions (2015-16 season 20-5)
CHOF has to replace 7 seniors from last year's 20 win squad.  That includes 3 starters with 20 PPG from Kit Piepkorn.  Senior Jacob Bluhm is the top returner with 11.4 PPG.  Senior Dillon Alleman also returns to the starting lineup.  Cullen Okerstrom will provide size inside.

Community of Peace Tigers (2015-16 season 12-13, 8-3 Conference, 5th)
Coach Cornelius Brown returns his top 2 scorers from last year.  That includes EMAC 1st-team forward Ontario Chapman and EMAC 2nd-team guard Edward Milton.  They combined for 27 PPG last year.  Double figure scorer Parris Jones and forward Stephen Parker need to be replaced.
 

Cristo Rey Jesuit Pumas (2015-16 season 20-8, 12-2 TCIS, 2nd)
Coach Stan Clay has Texas commit Jericho Sims returning to the lineup.  He averaged a 20 and 10 double-double last year.  He'll be a do everything guy for the Pumas.  Franklin Doyle and Karlton Gregory are also double figure scorers returning to the starting lineup plus all the main bench guys return.  Gregory is a very active forward who needs to be accounted for.  They've upgraded the schedule in an attempt to move beyond their section quarterfinal exit last year.

Hope Academy Lions (2015-16 season 22-6, 12-0 EMAC, 1st)
The defending EMAC champions return their entire lineup except 2nd team all-EMAC forward Tobias Griffin.  That includes EMAC 1st team members Nate Elifson and Johnny Erickson.  Elifson was a 1st team all-defensive selection due to his shot blocking.  Erickson averaged over 23 PPG and solid all-around numbers elsewhere.  They shortened the rotation late last year but they'll still run and shoot a ton of 3s. 

International School of Minnesota Huskies (2015-16 season 12-6, 11-1 EMAC, 2nd)
The Huskies have to replace their top 3 scorers including EMAC MVP Rich Berkley.  Starters Micah Hjelle and Ethan Dahlen return.  Sophomore Preston Dahlen and junior Zach Breen look to move into starting roles this season. 

Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf Trojans (2015-16 season 15-10, 9-3 EMAC, Tie 3rd)
MSAD has to replace 2nd team all-EMAC selection Matt Sherman and 3rd team all-EMAC selection Josh Strom in their lineup.  Kyrell Cummings returns to the lineup to lead the way.  He also was on the 2nd team All-EMAC list.

Minnesota Transitions Wolves (2015-16 season 10-16)
Former St. Louis Park head coach Larry Ronglien takes over the program.  He's also the principal at the school.  The Wolves have to replace leading scorers Isaiah Williams and Bryce Mills.  That means no double figure scorers return.  Numbers were a problem last year so what kind of depth will they have?  Charles Gordon missed most of the season last year.  He's the top returning player.

Prairie Seeds Academy Lycans (2015-16 season 23-6, 14-0 TCIS, 1st)
The Lycans made a run to the section 4A final last year knocking off Heritage along the way.  They're small but they are quick and can score it.  They return a high-powered trio of guards including seniors Brian Robinson and Daveon Gibson along with junior Jamar Robinson.  Brian Robinson is a 20 point per game guy who is one of the better local players you haven't heard of.  The loss of Bradford Scott inside hurts as there's no noteworthy size returning.  Their St. Paul Johnson like full-court pressure and fast pace style is perfect for this group.
 
Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Prairie Seeds Academy
  2. Cristo Rey
  3. Hope Academy
  4. Community of Peace
  5. MN State Academy for the Deaf
  6. International School
  7. Charter Stars
Conference Overview
This division is a major step up for the EMAC teams.  The league will also have all members play in a conference tournament at the end of the season.  That continues the EMAC Conference Tournament tradition and it expands to 3 games for all members.   The 7 members of this division plus the winner of the 2nd division will play an 8 team tourney during the final week of the season.  That championship game will remain on the final Saturday night of the regular season.

In this division I see 3 tiers of teams.  The old TCIS teams take the top 2 spots.  Hope and CPA clearly in the middle tier.  Then the last 3 could fall in any order.  Cristo Rey is the pick that immediately comes to mind with Jericho Sims.  However, a deeper look reveals that Prairie Seeds beat them twice last year and has most of their roster coming back too.  Cristo Rey didn't win any of their big games last year.  The Pumas were 0-2 vs Prairie Seeds, 0-2 vs Heritage, plus losses to Brooklyn Center, Park and Blake.  All of those losses were by double figures.  Their 2 meetings will be classic matchups of size vs speed.  Expect Prairie Seeds to really pressure the Cristo Rey guards to try to limit the impact Sims has on the game.  In the 2nd tier, Hope and Community of Peace are clearly better than the rest of the EMAC teams in this division.  Their 2 matchups should also be fun games to watch.  The other 3 teams have major pieces to replace.  I give MSAD the edge due to the return of Kyrell Cummings.

Conference MVP: Jericho Sims - Cristo Rey

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Xaveon Smith, Geoncarlos Pujoui - Community of Peace
  • John Williams, Victory George - Cristo Rey
  • Karian Christian, Michael Emery-Minor - Minnesota Transitions
  • Joey Erickson, Caleb Hoilien - Hope Academy 
  • Preston Dahlen, Luke Silburn - International School
  • Isaiah Jones - Prairie Seeds
Conference Games to Watch
  • Cristo Rey at Hope Academy - Jan 6th
  • Prairie Seeds at Hope Academy - Jan 17th 
  • Prairie Seeds at Cristo Rey - Jan 20th
  • Hope Academy at Cristo Rey - Jan 31st
  • Hope Academy at Prairie Seeds - Feb 10th
  • Cristo Rey at Prairie Seeds - Feb 14th
  • TCAC Tournament Championship at Nova - Mar 4th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Prairie Seeds at Robbinsdale Cooper - Dec 9th
  • Cristo Rey at Heritage - Dec 20th
  • Cristo Rey vs North (St. Paul) at Hamline - Dec 22nd
  • Cristo Rey at Tartan Tourney - Dec 28-30th
  • Prairie Seeds at Columbia Heights - Feb 16th

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