2016-17 Section 4A Preview

This is the 14th preview in my 2016-2017 season preview series.  120 teams and 13 conferences have been previewed.  Now its time to move on to section previews.  I'll take a look at 12 metro area sections plus a couple of out-state class AAAA sections that have local teams.  As is tradition, we do these from small to big.  That means this 1st section preview is a look at Section 4A.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 4A (21 Teams)
Defending Champion: Minneapolis North (2016 state champion)

Predicted Seeding
  1. Minneapolis North
  2. Prairie Seeds
  3. Heritage
  4. Cristo Rey
  5. Legacy
  6. Hope Academy
  7. Maranatha
  8. CHOF
Minneapolis North is the clear top seed again.  Prairie Seeds gets the nod over Heritage for second.  The winner of Cristo Rey at Heritage on December 20th is in line for 3rd.  The 3rd level of teams also sees an important regular season non-conference matchup with Legacy vs Hope Academy on January 28th.  That could determine the next spot in the seeds.  Maranatha and CHOF round out the round of 16 home games.  It will be very interesting to see how the rest of the seeding goes down.  On 1 hand, you have a bottom team from Division A with a bad record against a better division.  On the other hand, you have the winner of Division C who's going to have an inflated record against a lesser division.  That could make for some interesting seeding debates.

Sleeper:  Hope Academy.  The schedule is tougher this year which I think helps them come tourney time.  If they get going with all the 3s they shoot, they can be a tough out.  Question will be can they get enough stops in those games.

Section Winner: Minneapolis North.  The defending champs are still the favorite despite heavy losses.  Their athleticism will create too many turnovers and easy buckets.

2016-17 Suburban East Conference Preview

This is the 13th preview in my 2016-2017 season preview series.  In this preview, we reach the mid-point of this 6 week series.  The conference previews end here with a look at the Suburban East Conference.  Next week, we start looking at the metro area sections.  For a list of all the season previews and how they were generated, click here.

Cretin-Derham Hall Raiders (2015-16 season 20-8, 14-2 Conference, Tied 1st)
The Raiders return most of their lineup.  Wings Jordan Ammons and Chris Perry need to be replaced.  Braham transfer Ryan Larson fills the point guard spot.  Forward Daniel Oturu returns after leading the team in scoring at 16.8 PPG.  Jake Prince, Ray Sean Treadwell and Deland Phillips return on the perimeter.  Griffin Gamble also returns in a shooters role.

East Ridge Raptors (2015-16 season 15-12, 9-7 Conference, Tie 4th)
2 double figure scorers graduate.  Shooting guard Nick Christenson is the top scoring returnee at 10.2 PPG.  Soph Courtney Brown also returns and will be a much bigger part of the offense.  Lefty forward Zach Bennett also returns to the rotation.  The size of Tom Kelzenberg and Kyle Junker inside will be missed.

Forest Lake Rangers (2015-16 season 16-13, 9-7 Conference, Tie 4th)
Leading scorer Noah Alm (17 PPG) has graduated.  Jake Larson (11.7 PPG) figures to fill some of his scoring.  Mitch Jerde and soph John Schrader return to the starting lineup.  Jack Breitbach returns as an interior option.  Juniors Thad Ball and Connor Hale look to join the backcourt rotation.
Mounds View Mustangs (2015-16 season 22-7, 12-4 Conference, 3rd)
The Mustangs have 2 major pieces to replace as part of losing most of the rotation.  That's star Nate Albers (24.8 PPG) and wing Zeke Thompson (13.3 PPG).  Shooting guard Nick McMillan (10.5 PPG) figures to pick up a big chunk of that scoring.  Nate Varberg is the main other option returning to the rotation.  Brian Stone should step into an interior role.

Park Wolfpack (2015-16 season 10-17, 2-14 Conference, 8th)
Leading scorers Brandon Alt and Brendan Beaulieu both averaged double figures last year and return to the lineup.   Soph Charlie Gorres also returns to the rotation.  Michael Griffin and Tolu Ogunrinde are 2 notable guys who need to be replaced.

Roseville Raiders (2015-16 season 7-20, 4-12 Conference, 7th)
Roseville enters the season on a 9 game losing streak.  3 starters depart including Henry Bensen.  Leading scorers Terrell James (10.5 PPG) and Joe Wright return.  They have a group of seniors who saw plenty of time last year but limited scoring punch.  Roseville was the 2nd lowest scoring team in AAAA at 49.9 PPG.

Stillwater Ponies (2015-16 season 13-14, 7-9 Conference, 6th)
Former Hill-Murray head coach Brady Hannigan takes over for the Ponies.  He has to replace wings Isaiah Dobson and Wyatt Blinkhorn who combined for 33 PPG.  Adam Bruggers also needs to be replaced inside.  Shooting guard Manny Jingco and forward Joe Haggard return to the starting lineup.  Devontae Hatcher provides another inside option.  Soph Nick Shikenjanski is a point guard option.

White Bear Lake Bears (2015-16 season 4-23, 1-15 Conference, 9th)
Like Roseville, the Bears also struggled to score last year (1 more total point than Roseville).  The top 2 scorers have departed but only combined for 16.3 PPG.  Soph Sam Schwartz is the top returning scorer at 7.5 PPG.  Junior Austin Schochet was right behind him at 7.1 PPG.  Junior Blake Charles leads the front line.

Woodbury Royals (2015-16 season 24-4, 14-2 Conference, Tie 1st)
You knew Woodbury would be better last year but a jump from 6 wins to 24 wins, even in a down year for the Suburban East, was beyond expectations.  This year will be no surprise.  5 of the top 6 scorers including a very talented perimeter trio of Jeremiah Coddon, Jake West and junior Michael Jones.  They all averaged double figures and combined for over 40 PPG.  Ike Thilgen (6.8 PPG) provides depth as a shooter.  Nate Bursch returns as the main size after the graduation of Collin Flanagan.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Cretin-Derham Hall   
  2. Woodbury  
  3. Mounds View   
  4. Forest Lake
  5. East Ridge 
  6. Stillwater  
  7. Roseville 
  8. White Bear Lake
  9. Park
Conference Overview:
At the top its a big time battle between Cretin-Derham Hall and Woodbury.  Woodbury struggled to handle Daniel Oturu last year.  That's still a problem this year.  Then a significant dropoff to the next 4.  Pick this group any way you wish.  Each has a couple of players coming back.  Then its another dropoff to the bottom 3.

Conference MVP: Daniel Oturu - Cretin-Derham Hall

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Courtney Brown - East Ridge
  • John Schrader, Hunter Damon - Forest Lake
  • Charlie Gorres - Park
  • Yohanes Gebeyehu - Roseville
  • Nick Shikenjanski - Stillwater
  • Sam Schwartz - White Bear Lake
Conference Games to Watch
  • Woodbury at Cretin-Derham Hall - Jan 20th
  • Cretin-Derham Hall at Woodbury - Feb 24th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Cretin-Derham Hall vs Lakeville North - Dec 10th (Breakdown Tipoff Classic at Hopkins) 
  • Woodbury vs Chaska - Dec 10th (Breakdown Tipoff Classic at Hopkins)
  • Cretin-Derham Hall at Apple Valley - Dec 13th
  • Lakeville North at Woodbury - Dec 22nd
  • Cretin-Derham Hall vs Stevens Point - Jan 28th (Border Battle at Apple Valley)
  • Cretin-Derham Hall at De La Salle - Feb 11th
  • Woodbury at Hopkins - Feb 18th (Breakdown Community Clash)
  • Cretin-Derham Hall vs Iowa City West - Feb 18th (Breakdown Community Clash at Hopkins)

2016-17 South Suburban Conference Preview

This is the 12th preview in my 2016-17 Season Preview Series.  In this preview, we head south for a look at the South Suburban Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

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
  1. Lakeville North   
  2. Apple Valley
  3. Lakeville South
  4. Eastview    
  5. Prior Lake 
  6. Rosemount
  7. Shakopee 
  8. Burnsville
  9. Eagan
  10. Farmington
Conference Overview:
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
Conference Games to Watch
  • 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
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • 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)

2016-17 Northwest Suburban Conference Preview

This is the 11th preview in my 2016-2017 season preview series.  In this preview, a look at the Northwest Suburban Conference. For a list of all the season previews and how they are done, click here.

Andover Huskies (2015-16 season 10-18, 6-13 Conference, 5th North)
Leading scorer Logan Rezac (16.9 PPG) and Jacob Paul return to the starting lineup.  Rezac had a productive summer on the AAU circuit.  Expect a big season from him.  Taylor Rooney should see time on the front line.  With most of the rotation graduating, experience will be a concern.  Biggest loss is 13.1 PPG from Corbin Johnson.

Anoka Tornadoes (2015-16 season 8-19, 4-15 Conference, 6th North)
Former Maranatha head coach Jeff Wall takes over the program.  Double figure scorers Gunnar Ledin and Jackson Sutton combined for over 28 PPG but have graduated.  Junior center Jake Phipps takes over for Sutton in the middle.  He is the top returning scorer at just under 10 PPG.  He looks to take yet another step in a nice development progression.  Joey Lohse and Josh Larson return to the starting lineup as perimeter players.  Guard Caleb Sieben also returns to the rotation.

Blaine Bengals (2015-16 season 19-11, 10-9 Conference, 3rd North)
The Bengals are coming off a state trip.  They'll have to replace UMD recruit Ben Scherer who was their only double figure scorer at 15.7 PPG.  4 other members of the rotation are also gone.  But the cupboard isn't bare.  Kurtis Weigand and Tim Leo are experienced post players who will step up.  Byron Bynum and Sam Gerrity return to the perimeter rotation.

Centennial Cougars (2015-16 season 10-17, 9-10 Conference, 4th North)
South Dakota recruit Tyler Peterson averaged 17.5 PPG last year and was the focus of the offense.  But he was injured for most of the season which meant an early season youth movement.  That should help coach Travis Bledsoe's crew this year.   Forward Josh McGreal had a breakout season with 15 PPG and he's back.  Shane Taleen returns to the perimeter rotation.  Their fortunes may ultimately rest on how much wing Alex Facon plays.

Champlin Park Rebels (2015-16 season 21-7, 16-3 Conference, 1st North)
Coach Mark Tuchscherer has another state championship contender this season.  Seniors McKinley Wright and Theo John make up a great inside out duo.  Wright averaged almost 20 PPG running the show while John patrolled the paint to the tune of 13.9 PPG.  Wing Aaron Kloeppner is the only notable loss.  Depth is plentiful with Josiah Strong and Brian Smith as ball handlers.  DJ Hunter is a versatile wing.  Marcus Hill and Chris Davis are quality front court options.

Coon Rapids Cardinals (2015-16 season 3-24, 0-19 Conference, 7th North)
Coach Mike Ogorek has to replace leading scorers Nik Keller and Jacob Dujmovic.  But he has Dayo Lawal and Tyree'on Johnson returning.  They should put up double figures each.  Guard Brandon Pratt returns to the starting lineup.  Sam Carver returns as an inside body with soph Reese Mahn and Logan Severson on the perimeter.

Elk River Elks (2015-16 season 23-6, 14-5 Conference, 2nd North)
Sharpshooter Matt Keller and forward Trent Pink are major losses for the Elks.  The duo combined for over 35 PPG leading Elk River to an impressive 23 wins.  Zeke Delain and his 10.7 PPG lead the returnees.  Wyatt Morell, Blake Hills and Jack Burger are other significant returning players.  No big time scorer so expect the Elks to be very balanced.

Irondale Knights (2015-16 season 10-17, 5-14 Conference, Tie 6th West)
Double figure scorers Uwana Etuk-Akpan and Kevin Schramm are gone with over 29 PPG combined.  Guard Sean Sutherlin is the top returning player with 14.4 PPG.  He'll need to be the catalyst for the offense while scoring a ton.  Sonam Paichang also returns to the perimeter rotation.  Junior forwards Daudi Simon and Brendan White will be the main interior guys.

Maple Grove Crimson (2015-16 season 25-5, 16-3 Conference, 2nd West)
Mr. Basketball candidate Brad Davison (20.4 PPG) returns to run the show for the Crimson.  They'll also get wing Tywhon Pickford back from injury (18.3 PPG).  Maple Grove was a totally different team with him in the lineup.  His ability to create for himself off the dribble and be another scoring option took a ton of pressure off of Davison.  Jack Hutchinson also returns to the starting lineup after being 1 of 5 players in the lineup to average double figures last year.  Center Reed Nikko and wing Taron Pickford need to be replaced.  Bubba Horton and Ryan Bredensteiner are productive role players coming back.  Max McNellis looks to take over the middle. 

Osseo Orioles (2015-16 season 30-2, 19-0 Conference, 1st West)
The Orioles started out a shocking 30-0 before falling in the state semis and 3rd place game.  Despite a truckload of graduating players, there is still plenty of talent remaining.  Twins John and Matt Bezdicek are just winners and seem to be in the right place at the right time.  Mar Mar Hughes and Zach Theisen are a pair of scoring guards coming back.  Theisen was the leading scorer at 12.9 PPG.  Replacing Kameron Bettie inside is a concern.

Park Center Pirates (2015-16 season 17-11, 10-9 Conference, 4th West)
James Ware's 1st year was impressive taking the Pirates to 17 wins.  He has to replace 3 starters but has plenty coming back.  PG Losini Kamara averaged over 18 PPG.  Derrick Ogechi averaged over 13 PPG as another weapon.  Xavier Bonner, Isaiah Simon and Khari Broadway all return to the rotation.  The younger levels are full of talent.

Robbinsdale Armstrong Falcons (2015-16 season 15-13, 11-8 Conference, 3rd West)
Don't be fooled by the record as Armstrong lost 5 games by 3 points or less plus an overtime game.  Double figure scoring wings Jubie Alade and athlete True Thompson need to be replaced.  Junior forward Race Thompson is the monster for the Falcons.  He's a bruiser inside who can also step out and play like a guard.  DaVonte Said returns at the point.  Isaiah Rollins returns to a guard spot

Spring Lake Park Panthers (2015-16 season 12-15, 8-11 Conference, 5th West)
Coach Grant Guzy has to replace 4 starters.  But he has big forward Zach Ojile and his 12.4 PPG to build around.  He'll need to carry a heavy load as the rest of the rotation is gone.  The shooting of  Mark Raihle and Aaron Flink will be missed.  Ben Whann and Mark Buley are guard options.  Sam Gregerson is an inside option.

Totino-Grace Eagles (2015-16 season 13-16, 5-14 Conference, Tie 6th West)
Center James Streeter put up 10.1 PPG and needs to be replaced inside.  The Eagles do have a ton coming back.  NDSU commit Rocky Kreuser 16.1 PPG and can play inside or out.  Nate Kavolak is a big 2 guard who averaged double figures.  The key is the health of junior PG Charlie Jacob.  He averaged 12.5 PPG but the Eagles season took a tumble when he got hurt (3-13 to end regular season).  Granted the brutal west division schedule didn't help that either.

Predicted Order of Finish

North Division
  1. Champlin Park 
  2. Blaine 
  3. Elk River
  4. Centennial    
  5. Andover
  6. Coon Rapids  
  7. Anoka  
West Division
  1. Maple Grove   
  2. Osseo 
  3. Totino-Grace  
  4. Park Center  
  5. Robbinsdale Armstrong 
  6. Irondale
  7. Spring Lake Park
Conference Overview:
In the west, the top is brutally tough.  Maple Grove is the clear favorite with most of their crew returning.  Osseo and Totino-Grace will battle for 2nd.  I think Park Center maintains their momentum from last year.  Plus I think they matchup well with the rest of the division.  Armstrong is the best of the rest with Race Thompson.  Irondale and Spring Lake Park will struggle.

In the north, Champlin Park is clearly the class of this division.  Blaine is the best of the rest with Elk River not far behind.  Centennial is the hardest one to pick but regardless I think they end up in the next group with Andover fighting for a middle spot.  Rebuilding continues at Anoka and Coon Rapids.

Conference MVP: Brad Davison - Maple Grove

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Bennett Otto, Kato Seley - Champlin Park
  • Riley Van Buskirk - Centennial
  • Reese Mahn - Coon Rapids 
  • Ian Lim - Maple Grove
  • Khari Broadway, Emmanuel Tamba - Park Center
  • Cole Priem - Robbinsdale Armstrong 
  • Walker Steward - Spring Lake Park
Conference Games to Watch
  • Maple Grove at Totino-Grace - Jan 10th
  • Osseo at Maple Grove - Jan 20th
  • Champlin Park at Blaine - Jan 20th
  • Champlin Park at Maple Grove - Feb 6th
  • Totino-Grace at Maple Grove - Feb 14th
  • Champlin Park at Elk River - Feb 21st
  • Maple Grove at Osseo - Feb 24th
  • Elk River at Maple Grove - Feb 28th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Champlin Park vs Rochester John Marshall - Dec 3rd (Girls Tipoff Classic at Hopkins)
  • Champlin Park vs Apple Valley - Dec 10th (Breakdown Tipoff Classic at Hopkins)
  • Maple Grove vs De La Salle - Dec 10th (Breakdown Tipoff Classic at Hopkins)
  • Maple Grove at Hopkins - Jan 14th (Super 60 Showcase)
  • Champlin Park at Hopkins - Jan 26th
  • De La Salle at Champlin Park - Feb 23rd

2016-17 Lake Conference Preview

This is the 10th preview in my 2016-2017 season preview series.  In this preview, week 3 rolls on with a look at the Lake Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are done, click here.

Eden Prairie Eagles (2015-16 season 16-14, 2-6 Lake Conference, Tie 4th)
The Eagles lost a bunch of close games early and then 4 out of 5 to end the regular season.  But they rebounded from all those losses to great competition to make a run to state.  They lose a very good perimeter trio of Brady Rudrud, Nick Geolat and Ryan Jacobus.  But they should reload there.  Junior Kyler Kluge and freshman Drake Dobbs should step right into the lineup as replacements.  Owen Chose returns there as well after putting 18 PPG.  Freshman Austin Andrews will fill in on the front line.  He was Maranatha's top scorer last season.

Edina Hornets (2015-16 season 18-11, 3-5 Lake Conference, 3rd)
Senior PG Walt McGrory (17.8 PPG) returns to the lineup for another season. Junior Anders Nelson averaged 13.2 PPG.  Soph Jack Middleton will look to fill in some of the 20 PPG left behind by the graduation of Will Moreton.  Jimmy Connell is another experienced returnee.

Hopkins Royals (2015-16 season 31-1, 7-1 Lake Conference, 1st, AAAA State Champs)
The defending state champs have to replace 3 double figure scorers including Minnesota recruit and Mr. Basketball winner Amir Coffey.  Elon commit Simon Wright and Ball State commit Ishmael El-Amin return to the lineup and combined for more than 26 PPG last year.  Juniors Anthony Davis and Joe Hedstrom will more time.  Freshman Blaise Beauchamp and soph transfer Zeke Nnaji are 2 of the most talented players in their classes.

Minnetonka Skippers (2015-16 season 14-11, 2-6 Lake Conference, Tie 4th)
Ryan Freeberg takes over after a tumultuous season.  He has to start over after losing 4 double figure scorers who combined for well over 60 PPG.  Lefty Burt Hedstrom is the top offensive option.  Matt Haas returns as an interior banger.  Isaiah Carver-Bagley is another returning perimeter option.  Soph Jalen Dearring looks to have an expanded role.

Wayzata Trojans (2015-16 season 21-7, 6-2 Lake Conference, 2nd)
Coach Bryan Schnettler has to replace his top 2 scorers and most of his size.  The biggest loss is the team's leader Johnny Beeninga who averaged 15.4 PPG.  Austin Slater, Parker Hlavacek and Troy Louwagie were the main options inside and all graduated.  But there is still plenty coming back.  Sniper Ryan Lindberg and fellow wing Gavin Baumgartner both were double digit scorers last year.  Alex Jensen is a top returning option inside.  Soph Jacob Beeninga and junior Drew Galinson figure to see time as guards.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Hopkins
  2. Wayzata
  3. Eden Prairie
  4. Edina
  5. Minnetonka
Conference Overview
Hopkins is once again a state title contender and the clear pick here.  Wayzata won't be as deep as last season but they're still going to be very good and a clear 2nd for me.  Eden Prairie and Edina battle for 3rd with their guard play.  Minnetonka will have a down year as they look to build going forward.

Conference MVP: Simon Wright - Hopkins

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Drake Dobbs, Austin Andrews - Eden Prairie
  • Jack Middleton - Edina
  • Zeke Nnaji, Blaise Beauchamp - Hopkins
  • Jalen Dearring - Minnetonka
  • Jacob Beeninga - Wayzata
Conference Games to Watch
  • Hopkins at Wayzata - Jan 13th
  • Wayzata at Hopkins - Feb 17th
 Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Cedar Falls (IA) at Hopkins - Dec 3rd (Breakdown Girls Tipoff Classic)
  • Rochester John Marshall at Hopkins - Dec 10th (Breakdown Tipoff Classic)
  • Minneapolis North at Hopkins - Dec 17th
  • Wayzata vs North St. Paul - Dec 21 (at Hamline)
  • Wayzata vs Cretin-Derham Hall - Dec 29th (at U of St. Thomas)
  • Bloomington Jefferson at Wayzata - Jan 3rd
  • Cristo Rey at Hopkins - Jan 6th
  • Maple Grove at Hopkins - Jan 14th (Super 60 Showcase)
  • Hopkins at Minneapolis Henry - Jan 16th (MLK Classic)
  • Champlin Park at Hopkins - Jan 26th 
  • Sioux Falls Washington (SD) at Hopkins - Feb 3rd
  • Sioux Falls Lincoln (SD) at Wayzata - Feb 3rd
  • Woodbury at Hopkins - Feb 18th (Breakdown Community Clash)

2016-17 Metro West Conference Preview

This is the 9th preview in my 2016-2017 season preview series.  This 3rd week and final week of conference previews will cover mostly class AAAA schools.  Then we'll move on to the 2nd half of the preview series by looking at the metro area sections.  In this preview, a look at the Metro West Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are done, click here.

Benilde St. Margaret's Red Knights (2015-16 season 17-10, 9-5 Conference, Tie 3rd)
Double figure scorers Sam Baker and Eli Cave need to be replaced.  Wing Derek Drees and PG Will Whitmore return to the lineup.  Joe Dunn will see time up front.  Shooter Michael Wexler will also see an expanded role.  Soph Jamison Battle is a big wing who has a chance to break out with this group

Bloomington Jefferson Jaguars (2015-16 season 17-9, 11-3 Conference, 2nd)
The Jags return their top 3 players from last year.  Versatile forwards Tyler Riemersma and Jack Tillotson return with PG Joe Hird.  That trio all averaged double figures and a combined 36+ PPG.  The only other returnee is forward Peter Gathje.  Depth will come from a solid group of juniors including Mike Evens and Gavin Lyons.

Bloomington Kennedy Eagles (2015-16 season 0-27, 0-14 Conference, 8th)
Kennedy has lost 31 straight and 37 of their last 39 games.  Raheem Simmons takes over for Willie Braziel who returned to Columbia Heights.  PG Markel Aune returns to run the show after averaging 18.5 PPG.   Josh Bryant returns with 10.5 PPG.  There's a group of juniors led by Dimarco Johnson that figure to make up most of the rest of the rotation.

Chanhassen Storm (2015-16 season 6-20, 4-10 Conference, 6th)
Leading scorer Trey Prince returns with 12.1 PPG.  Plenty of other experience returns despite losing 3 top scorers.  Jordan Bonk is another top returnee.  Keagan Williams is an option on the wing.  Chris Wandling gives the Storm a ballhandler.

Chaska Hawks (2015-16 season 21-6, 12-2 Conference, 1st)
The Hawks have won both Metro West Conference titles and are the favorites again this year.  Columbia commit Myles Hanson (24.1 PPG) returns on the wing.  PG Andrew Kallman (12.4 PPG) is also back.  Alex Strazzanti should be back after missing last year due to injury.  Soph Cole Nicholson will see time on the front line.

Richfield Spartans (2015-16 season 11-17, 2-12 Conference, 7th)
2 of the 3 leading scorers for coach Omar McMillan have graduated.  Antonio Maddox should be a top option after putting up 11.4 PPG last year.  Malik Hunter gives the Spartans size and 8.9 PPG.  Davis Miles and Jabari Atiim also return to the rotation.

Robbinsdale Cooper Hawks (2015-16 season 18-8, 9-5 Conference, Tie 3rd)
Coach Bo Powell's squad was the pleasant surprise of the league last year.  Melvin Newbern departs after a big season.  His play inside will be sorely missed.  But brother Beijan Newbern returns on the wing with 14.6 PPG.  Plus double figure scorers Nate Hill and Damien Gordon return.  Devin Mosby and Jalen Miller also return to the rotation.  Small and quick and they'll get after it in the full court.
St. Louis Park Orioles (2015-16 season 18-9, 9-5 Conference, Tie 3rd)
The Orioles improved from 1 win 3 years ago to 9 wins 2 years ago to 18 wins last season. Leading scorer Ray Whitlock graduated but everybody else is back.  Junior Cire Mayfield runs the show with Mykal Howard on the wing as double figure scorers.  Ryan Domres and Jack Lynch are the inside guys.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Chaska
  2. Bloomington Jefferson 
  3. St. Louis Park
  4. Robbinsdale Cooper  
  5. Benilde-St. Margaret's  
  6. Chanhassen
  7. Richfield
  8. Bloomington Kennedy
Conference Overview
You have 5 teams at the top who won 17 or more games last year.  You could make a case that all of them expect to do the same this year.  I won't bet against the defending champs.  Jefferson has their top trio back and always plugs guys in so I expect them to be right there as well.  The next section is orange and black.  St. Louis Park and Cooper should battle with BSM for the next 3 spots.  But any of that group could knock off the top 2 at any time.  Then there's a big drop off.  Chanhassen gets my vote for best of the rest with their experience coming back.  Richfield and Kennedy will struggle in league.

Conference MVP: Myles Hanson - Chaska

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Jamison Battle, Dylan Drees, Maciah Harut - Benilde-St. Margaret's
  • Regan Tollefson - Chanhassen
  • Cole Nicholson - Chaska
  • Jalen Miller, Jalen Justice - Robbinsdale Cooper
  • Josh Rogers - St. Louis Park
Conference Games to Watch
  • Chaska at St. Louis Park - Jan 17th 
  • Bloomington Jefferson at Robbinsdale Cooper - Jan 17th
  • Bloomington Jefferson at Chaska - Jan 20th 
  • Chaska at Benilde-St. Margaret's - Jan 24th 
  • Bloomington Jefferson at St. Louis Park - Jan 24th
  • Chaska at Robbinsdale Cooper - Feb 7th
  • Robbinsdale Cooper at Bloomington Jefferson - Feb 10th
  • Chaska at Bloomington Jefferson - Feb 14th 
  • Bloomington Jefferson at Benilde-St. Margaret's - Feb 21st
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • St. Louis Park at Minnehaha Academy - Dec 9th
  • Chaska vs Woodbury - Dec 10th - (Breakdown Tipoff Classic at Hopkins)
  • Lakeville North at Chaska - Dec 13th
  • Chaska vs North St. Paul - Dec 17th (Metro East vs Metro West Challenge at St. Thomas Academy)
  • Bloomington Jefferson at Wayzata - Jan 3rd
  • Chaska at Orono  - Jan 10th

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

2016-17 Minneapolis City Preview

This is the 7th preview in my 2016-2017 season preview series.  Week 2 of the 6 week series stays in the city with a look at the Minneapolis City Conference.  For a list of all the season previews, click here.

Edison Tommies (2015-16 season 1-24, 0-12 Conference, 7th)
The Tommies ended up forfeiting the last month of their season.  Monteff Dixon takes over as the new head coach.  They played a bunch of young kids last year so they'll still struggle.  Larrion Davis is a notable returnee.

FAIR Falcons (2015-16 season 5-18, 5-6 TCIS 4th)
Now that FAIR is under the Minneapolis schools umbrella, they join the Minneapolis City Conference.  Former Prairie Seeds and Metro School College Prep head coach Tim Williams takes over the program.  Juniors Dameon Jones and Treavon Nystrom lead the way.

North Polars (2015-16 season 29-5, 11-1 Conference, 1st, Class A State Champion)
The defending class A state champs lose the dynamic trio of Tyler Johnson, Jamil Jackson and Patrick Dembley.  They combined for 45 PPG.  But coach Larry McKenzie's cupboard isn't bare.  Isaac Johnson and 14.9 PPG returns on the wing.  12.2 PPG from junior center Odell Wilson is back in the middle.  Guards JaQuan Sanders-Smith and Tayler Johnson return along with a loaded JV squad.

Patrick Henry Patriots (2015-16 season 20-8, 9-3 Conference, 2nd)
Forward Julian Jackson (21.3 PPG) and guard Demetress Edwards-Brown (12.4 PPG) have graduated.  The Patriots still have a ton coming back.  Lamar Wood is a long lanky interior player.  Savion Scott and Jordan Lynn both averaged double figures in the backcourt last year.  That trio plus quality reserves makes them one of the better teams in AAA.

Roosevelt Teddies (2015-16 season 17-12, 5-7 Conference, Tie 4th)
Coach Rob Mestas has to replace his 2 top 2 scorers.  That's Elijah Hannah (17.4 PPG) and Martez Rodgers (14.2 PPG).  Devon Hannah is the top returning scorer at 8.6 PPG.  Junior Devon Wade-Henderson added 8.3 PPG.  Soph Luke Barnes will look to be a front line contributor.

South Tigers (2015-16 season 14-13, 7-5 Conference, 3rd)
Most of the rotation is gone from a squad that had some very nice wins last year.  That included wins over Johnson, Edina and Minnehaha along with a league win over Henry.  Jalan Jones and Malachi Lossow should step up into starting roles.

Southwest Lakers (2015-16 season 6-20, 5-7 Conference, Tie 4th)
The Lakers have to replace 2 of their top 3 scorers.  They do return forward Brennan Hawkins and 11.7 PPG.  Stretch forward Niko Polydorou returns after averaging 7.5 PPG.  Caine Knuckles will see time at the point.

Washburn Millers (2015-16 season 10-15, 5-7 Conference, Tie 4th)
7 foot center Charlie Irmiger and his 11.8 PPG have departed along with Fortay Johnson.  Plenty of guards return with Terrell Adams, Cortez Adams and Issac Lotz all returning to the lineup.  Brandon Charles is the main returning size.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. North
  2. Henry
  3. Roosevelt  
  4. Washburn   
  5. Southwest 
  6. South
  7. Edison
  8. FAIR
Conference Overview
North and Henry are the best 2 teams in the league and expect them to be highly ranked all year in A and AAA respectively.  Their matchups this season should be as high level as they've been in long time.  Roosevelt and Washburn make up the next tier.  Roosevelt here in a coin flip.  Southwest and South make up the next level.  I like Brennan Hawkins more than any returnee at South so I take the Lakers there.  Edison and FAIR bring up the rear after rough seasons last year.

Conference MVP: Isaac Johnson - North

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Eli Campbell, Nasir El-Amin - North
  • Luke Barnes, Bilal Rainey- Roosevelt
Conference Games to Watch
  • Henry at North - Jan 6th
  • North at Henry - Feb 7th
  • Twin Cities Game - Mar 4th (at Minneapolis champion)
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • North vs Apple Valley - Dec 3rd (Breakdown Girls TipOff Classic at Hopkins)
  • North vs Minnehaha - Dec 10th (Breakdown TipOff Classic at Hopkins)
  • Henry vs Marshall - Dec 10th (Breakdown TipOff Classic at Hopkins)
  • North at Hopkins - Dec 17th
  • Henry vs Orono - Dec 22nd (Hamline Tourney)
  • Hopkins at Henry - Jan 16th (MLK Classic)
  • Delano at Henry - Feb 21st

2016-17 St. Paul City Conference Preview

This is the 6th preview in my 2016-2017 season preview series.  We've looked at suburban schools and private schools.  Now we move to the city schools.  That means Week 2 of the 6 week preview series starts with a look at the St. Paul City Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Central Minutemen (2015-16 season 18-8, 10-2 Conference, Tie 1st)
The Minutemen lose their entire starting 5.  That includes 21+ PPG from wing Sam Gubbrud.  Top shooter Jack Beckman and top forward Abdi Muse also graduated.  Those 3 were worth 45 PPG.  Shawn Blanchard and Re'Twan Balenger are the top returnees.  Kelson Valentine looks to see time in the middle.  Ja'Quantay Winston and Erving Stewart will see backcourt minutes.

Como Park Cougars (2015-16 season 11-16, 5-7 Conference, Tie 4th)
The league's scorer Demetrice Mitchell graduated after 23.8 PPG (25.8 in league games).  The Cougars do have 1 double figure scorer returning in Jason Jett (10.1 PPG).  Donald Ventelli will see more inside minutes.  Kyrin Woodward and Cornell Chandler also return to the lineup.

Harding Knights (2015-16 season 8-17, 4-8 Conference, 6th)
Top scorer Essa Adam and Jamarcus Johnson are 2 departed double figure scorers.  Soph Jovan Christian returns after averaging 11 PPG.  Chris English returns to the starting lineup as a forward.  They will have some bench guys returning as well.

Highland Park Scots (2015-16 season 16-12, 8-4 Conference, 3rd)
Coach Jon DePerry has to replace 2 double-figure scoring guards including 19+ per night from Mike Cornelious.  Amitri Collins-Westlund returns with 16.7 PPG.  Returnees Dream Kelly-Jabbar and Josh Aune also saw major rotation minutes last year.

Humboldt Hawks (2015-16 season 8-17, 0-12 Conference, 7th)
The Hawks also have to replace 2 of their double figure scorers.  La'Vonta Bryant returns after averaging 11.1 PPG.  Soph Michael King and guard Patrico Webster also return to the rotation.

Johnson Governors (2015-16 season 15-13, 10-2 Conference, Tie 1st)
The Govs just barely held on to their 13 year reign at the top of the league.  That was the 1st time since the 2007-08 season. that they hadn't won the title outright.  Coach Vern Simmons has to replace most of the rotation.  That includes Lorenzo Smith who would have been the top returnee but is now at Minnehaha.  Dan Foster and Keylan Jackson will be bangers inside.  Xavier Roberts is one of the top returnees.  Their JV team did win the St. Paul City so those pieces will have to step up.

Washington Eagles (2015-16 season 13-13, 5-7 Conference, Tie 4th)
3 of the Eagles 4 double-figure scorers from last season are back.  That includes Curtis Bell and 17.3 PPG.  James Boua-Taylor and Maurice Carter also averaged about 11 PPG last year.  Soph Da'Quan Grimes will take over duties inside.

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Johnson
  2. Central
  3. Highland Park
  4. Washington
  5. Como Park
  6. Harding  
  7. Humboldt 
Conference Overview:
The league lays out very much the same as last year.  That means its as down as its been in a long time.  Johnson and Central battle it out for the top spot.  My gut says Central but I can't pick against Johnson until beaten despite Central taking them to the limit last year.  Highland Park and Washington split last year and I think they have a good battle for 3rd.  Como Park finishes above Harding and Humboldt who battle for the last spot.

Conference MVP: Amitri Collins-Westlund - Highland Park

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Daveonte Davis - Central
  • Jovan Christian - Harding
  • Michael King - Humboldt
  • Da'Quan Grimes - Washington
Conference Games to Watch
  • Central at Johnson - Jan 17th
  • Johnson at Central - Feb 9th
  • Twin Cities Game - Mar 4th (at Minneapolis champion)
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Columbia Heights at Central - Dec 2nd
  • Cretin-Derham Hall at Central - Dec 3rd
  • Johnson at Woodbury - Dec 6th
  • Central at Delano - Dec 13th
  • Central at Orono - Dec 17th
  • Johnson at Augsburg Holiday Tournament - Dec 28-30
  • Minnehaha at Central - Feb 16th

2016-17 Tri-Metro Preview

This is the 5th preview in my 2016-2017 season preview series.  Week 1 of the 6 week long series concludes with a look at the Tri-Metro Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Academy of Holy Angels Stars (2015-16 season 9-16, 4-8 Conference, 5th West)
Assistant BJ Etzold takes over the program.  Sam Boehne once again returns to lead the Stars inside.  He averaged 16.8 PPG last year.  Junior guard Ryan Mazurek (4.9 PPG) looks to fill the void left at 2 guard by the graduated Rob Metcalf (14.1 PPG).  Dan Voxland and Jack Anderson also return to the rotation.
Brooklyn Center Centaurs (2015-16 season 14-12, 5-7 Conference, 4th West)
Leading scorer Landon Kirkwood and 15.2 PPG is gone.  But the Centaurs went with a youth movement last year and see most of the rest of the rotation return.  Davonta Price gives them an athletic wing (13 PPG).  Soph Lu'Cye Patterson (11.4 PPG) takes the point and Deshawn Pickford (13 PPG) takes the other wing spot.  Size will be a problem.

Columbia Heights Hylanders (2015-16 season 16-9, 8-4 Conference, 2nd West)
Willie Braziel returns to the helm after spending 3 years at Bloomington Kennedy.  Top 2 scoring forwards Jarrett Baptiste (after what seems like 6000 years) and jumping jack Rodney Jones graduate.  That's almost 25 PPG.  But 3 juniors return to the starting lineup.  Guard Deaundra Roberson reached double figures.  Raw center Wendell Matthews was just behind that.  Guard Quentin Hardrict also returns to the starting lineup.
Concordia Academy Beacons (2015-16 season 3-24, 1-10 Conference, Tie 3rd East)
The top 3 scorers for the Beacons graduated.  That leaves 4.7 PPG from Brandon Lively as the top returning scorer.  They do have experience returning but not much firepower.  But coach Schutte is still the best dressed coach in the metro so at least that beacon burns brightly (with apologies to the white coat of Brooklyn Center head coach Matt McCollister).

De La Salle Islanders (2015-16 season 24-4, 11-1 Conference, 1st West, AAA State Champion)
The 5 time defending class AAA champs look to repeat again.  The 1 major loss is PG Samm Jones.  George Mason commit Goanar Mar (19.5 PPG) mans the front line.  Gabe Kalscheur is a go to player on the wing at over 20 PPG.  Soph Tyrell Terry will take over at the point.  Add in high level role guys like Sage Booker, Dominic Bledsoe, Christian Dickson and Will Irvin and you have another great season ahead.

Fridley Tigers (2015-16 season 13-14, 6-6 Conference, 3rd West)
Athletic forwards Tessy Pal (16.8 PPG) and Shyheem Murray (9.3 PPG) have graduated.  3 starters including Tyree Caruthers (12.6 PPG) and Tirik Reeves return to the lineup.  3 bench players including shooter Evan Nelsen also return to the rotation

St. Agnes Aggies (2015-16 season 11-16, 1-10 Conference, Tie 3rd East)
Former Hamline and Edina assistant Chris Hopkins takes over the program.  With his previous association to Michigan coach John Beilein, expect donut pivots galore.  Guard Cahlil Golden is gone to North St. Paul.  Also gone is 13.1 PPG from Liam Skulley.  Leading scorer Gary Smith (13.3 PPG) gives the Aggies an athletic forward to build around.  The return of Darius Lopez to the lineup is a boost.

St. Anthony Huskies (2015-16 season 19-8, 5-6 Conference, 2nd East)
The Huskies beat up on a very weak non-conference schedule to the tune of 14-1 on their way to a surprising 19 win season.  Guard Aaron Smith and forward Rhys Langums lead the starting lineup.  Freshman Tait Nelson also returns to the rotation.  Lots of experience from last year's balanced lineup departs.

St. Croix Lutheran Crusaders (2015-16 season 29-3, 11-0 Conference, 1st East, AA 3rd Place)
After 2 consecutive state 3rd place finishes and a 59-6 record, the Crusaders move on to a new era.   The top 4 scorers have graduated after combining for almost 60 PPG.  Forward Jamaris Johnson was a revelation once added to the starting lineup last year.  Junior forwards Garett Maag and Stephen Kletscher also return to an area of strength . The guards will be inexperienced.

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. St. Anthony 
  2. St. Croix Lutheran
  3. St. Agnes
  4. Concordia
  1. De La Salle
  2. Columbia Heights
  3. Brooklyn Center 
  4. Holy Angels   
  5. Fridley
Conference MVP: Gabe Kalscheur - De La Salle

Conference Overview:
The west is by far the stronger of the 2 divisions.  De La Salle of course is the favorite.  I like Columbia Heights over Brooklyn Center for 2nd as Heights won both meetings last year.  Holy Angels and Fridley battle for 4th and can surprise the 2 in front of them on any given night.

The east on the other hand leaves much more to be desired.  St. Anthony and St. Croix Lutheran will battle for the 1st spot but both are down from last year.  They look to be at about the level of the bottom teams in the west.  St. Agnes and Concordia will struggle to win a game against anybody else in the league besides themselves.

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Lu'Cye Patterson, Quentrell Douglas, Ridwan Tahir - Brooklyn Center
  • Barnabas Preble - Concordia
  • Tyrell Terry, Malik Lamin - De La Salle
  • Thomas Shelstad - Holy Angels
  • John Prokop, Terrell Jones - St. Agnes
  • Tait Nelson - St. Anthony
Conference Games to Watch
  • De La Salle at Columbia Heights - Jan 13th
  • Columbia Heights at De La Salle - Feb 14th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • De La Salle vs Des Moines Hoover - Dec 3rd (Breakdown Girls Tipoff at Hopkins)
  • De La Salle vs Maple Grove - Dec 10th (Breakdown Tipoff at Hopkins)
  • Osseo at De La Salle - Jan 4th
  • Mahtomedi at Columbia Heights - Jan 5th
  • De La Salle vs Kaukauna (WI) - Jan 28th (Border Battle at Apple Valley)
  • Cretin-Derham Hall at De La Salle - Feb 11th 

2016-17 Independent Metro Athletic Conference Preview

This is the 4th preview in my 2016-2017 season preview series.  Week 1 of the 6 week series fully transitions to local class AA and higher schools with a look at the Independent Metro Athletic Conference (IMAC).  For a list of all the season previews and how they are done, click here.

Blake Bears (2015-16 season 5-22, 2-8 Conference, 5th)
The Bears had another long season.  That included head coach Sean Kruger being replaced mid-season in a major surprise.  His former assistant Tyler Biwan comes over from St. Thomas Academy to take over the program.  Junior PG Jack Moe scored 18.5 PPG is the piece they'll build with.  The next 6 scorers are also back.  None of them averaged more than 9 PPG.

Breck Mustangs (2015-16 season 17-11, 7-3 Conference, 2nd)
Soph David Robby was the leading scorer for the Mustangs last year at almost 16 PPG.  He'll hold down the power forward spot.  The next 3 scorers depart including centers Justin Bergerson and Miles Owolu.  Sam Willey will man the middle.  Garrett Opperman mans a guard spot.  Junior Eric McDavid will also man a guard spot.

Minnehaha Academy Redhawks (2015-16 season 22-7, 10-0 Conference, 1st)
The star duo of forward JaVonni Bickham (18.4 PPG) and super frosh PG Jalen Suggs (17.2 PPG) returns to lead the Redhawks.  Freshman reserves Kaden Johnson and Terry Lockett were in the rotation last year.  The toughness of wings Benny Larry and Jake Richardson will be missed.  Lorenzo Smith and his 10 PPG at Johnson transfer in as the top replacement option for those 2.

Mounds Park Academy Panthers (2015-16 season 5-21, 0-10 Conference, 6th)
Leading scorer Cooper Olson departs.  The Panthers do return 1 double figure scorer in Brendan Connolly at 11.9 PPG.  Beyond that there's not much offense coming back.  Juniors Nick Guiang and Tom Fitzgerald are 2 options to pick up the slack.

Providence Academy Lions (2015-16 season 12-15, 5-5 Conference, 4th)
Former Gopher star and Providence assistant Arriel McDonald takes over the head job.  Most of the rotation graduated including the top 4 scorers and 6 of the top 7 scorers.  Soph Mark Richelsen is the leading returner at 5.9 PPG.  Guard Jackson Baird averaged 4.3 PPG.  Football star Gavin Blomberg would be a major boost to the lineup.  He missed last year with an ACL injury.

St. Paul Academy Spartans (2015-16 season 18-10, 6-4 Conference, 3rd)
A new era begins for coach Isaiah Walfred.  The dynamic duo of Dalante Peyton and Kent Hanson has graduated after many years of success.  Guard Emerson Egly's 12 PPG is top's amongst returning players.  Tommy Dicke also returns to the starting lineup.  Junior Ryan Kuntz saw bench time last year.  Mark Ademite and Matt Jaeger look to provide the size inside.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Minnehaha
  2. Breck
  3. St. Paul Academy
  4. Providence
  5. Blake
  6. Mounds Park Academy
Conference Overview
Minnehaha is a state title contender and therefore the clear favorite here.  Their non-conference schedule reflects that as it is absolutely stacked.  Breck is the best of the rest.  The bottom 4 I don't see reaching 500.  St. Paul Academy is the best of the group.  Providence will be down but I'll still take them over Blake and Mounds Park.  Blake won both meetings last year with Mounds Park.  They are the best candidate from the bottom 4 to make a run up the standings.

Conference MVP: Jalen Suggs - Minnehaha

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • David Roddy, Elijiah Zachery, Kerwin Walton- Breck
  • Jalen Suggs, Kaden Johnson, Terry Lockett - Minnehaha
  • Mark Richelsen - Providence
Conference Games to Watch
  • Breck at Minnehaha - Jan 20th
  • Minnehaha at Breck - Feb 7th
 Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Totino-Grace at Minnehaha - Dec 6th
  • Brooklyn Center at Breck - Dec 6th
  • SW Christian at Breck - Dec 8th
  • Minnehaha vs Minneapolis North - Dec 10th (Breakdown Tipoff Classic at Hopkins) 
  • Breck vs Minneapolis Henry - Dec 21st (Hamline Tourney)
  • Breck vs Wayzata - Dec 22nd (Hamline Tourney)
  • Monticello at Minnehaha - Dec 22nd
  • Minnehaha at Augsburg Tourney - Dec 28-30th 
  • Minnehaha at New Life Academy - Jan 3rd
  • Minnehaha at Caledonia - Jan 13th
  • Minnehaha vs Onalaska (WI) - Jan 14th (Midwest Players Classic, La Crosse, WI)
  • Minnehaha vs Prescott (WI) - Jan 28th (Border Battle at Apple Valley)
  • Breck at Heritage - Feb 17th
  • Minneapolis North at Minnehaha -  Feb 23rd

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

2016-17 TCAC Divisions B and C Preview

This is the second preview in the 2016-2017 season preview series.  The 6 week preview series moves along with a 2 for 1 preview of Division B and Division C of the Twin Cities Athletic Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are done, click here.

Division B

Calvin Christian Cougars (2015-16 season 15-13, 5-7 EMAC, 8th)
Top player Nathan Mateer graduates after being on the all-EMAC 2nd team.  Alex Meybaum gives the Cougars long presence in the middle.  Jaedan Schaap and Brad Mateer should carry the offense.

Christian Life Academy Hawks (2015-16 season 7-16, 6-6 EMAC, 7th)
Christian Life has to replace 4 seniors including leading scorer Jakson Griffith.  Caleb Kurz and soph Caleb Carlson are a small backcourt that can shoot it.  They're the only 2 returning players who averaged more than 3.3 PPG.  Luke Swelland returns as the only real size.

Groves Academy Griffins (2015-16 season 10-12, 4-10 TCIS, 6th)
Leading scorer Robert Plourde and Anthony Giere depart.  That leaves 1 player who scored more than 3.5 points a game.  That's junior guard Malik Bodden.  Martin Schmitz provides size inside.

Learning for Leadership Mustangs (2015-16 season 12-15, 5-8 TCIS, 5th)
The Mustangs return 2 juniors who averaged double figures last season.  That's Kafi Abdi at 15.8 PPG and Badrudin Aden at at 10.2 PPG.  Arafat Hassan's 12 PPG needs to be replaced.  The lineup is small with no one over 6'2" returning.

Liberty Classical Academy Lions (2015-16 season 10-14, 4-8 EMAC, 9th)
2nd team all-EMAC forward Nate Bliss returns.  The Lions also return 3 others starters.  They'll have to replace guard Jacob Grill. But that's their only loss as the entire bench returns.  Luke Hill and Peter Klarr will have to pick up the slack for Grill's offense.

Math & Science Academy Dragons (2015-16 season 16-7, 9-4 TCIS, 3rd)
The Dragons have to replace the offense of Ryan Roeker.  Andrew Jeyachandran and Brian Smith are the top returnees.

Nova Classical Academy Knights (2015-16 season 13-13, 7-5 EMAC, 6th)
The twin towers of Alex and Peter Tritabaugh graduate leaving a gap inside.  Talented junior Isaiah Boudreaux leads the way.  Jeremiah Rodgers returns after being a 3rd team all-EMAC selection.  Soph Mathieu LaFrambois and Noah Olson also return to the lineup.

Division C

Academy for Sciences &Agriculture Eagles (2015-16 season 6-18, 1-11 Conference, 12th)
The Eagles return 5 of their top 6 scorers.  Junior James Wilfong topped the list at 9.4 PPG and soph Cole Walker.  4 of their 6 wins last year were over teams in this division.

Chesterton Academy  (2015-16 season 0-16)
Chesterton only had 1 senior and 1 junior on the roster last season.  That would explain a winless season.  The new league and schedule will help them play teams more consistently on their level.

Hmong Academy Warriors (2015-16 season 2-15, 0-12 EMAC, 13th)
Hmong Academy has to replace 3 seniors.  Chinou Vang is a top returnee.  Both wins were over teams in this division.

Metro Schools College Prep (2015-16 season 0-12, 0-11 TCIS, 8th)
This crew suffered blowout losses all season before ending their season early in mid-February.

North Lakes Academy Huskies (2015-16 season 4-22, 2-10 EMAC, 11th)
The Huskies have to replace Noah Nei and Kyle Spillman.  Seniors Connor Peters and David Christopherson are 2 top returning players.

St. Paul Prep/High School for Recording Arts Falcons (2015-16 season 2-17, 2-10 TCIS, 7th)
9 seniors need to be replaced.  Throw that and last year's record out the window.  Athletic forward Aaron Gill has transferred in to HSRA.  He's a high flying dunking machine who should dominate this division.

Shattuck St. Mary's Sabers (2015-16 season 4-8, 3-8 Conference, 10th)
The senior trio of Shane Hoben, Wesley Sun and Kevin Du graduated.  Justin Kang, Parker Reddig and Shakir Abdul return to the lineup.  Kang was a top scorer last year.  Reddig and Abdul will have to pick up some of the offense of the graduated senior trio.

Predicted Order of Finish - Division B
  1. Math & Science Academy
  2. Nova Classical Academy
  3. Christian Life Academy
  4. Liberty Classical Academy
  5. Learning for Leadership
  6. Calvin Christian
  7. Groves Academy
Division B Overview
This division should be pretty competitive.  I like the couple of returnees for Math & Science.  Nova has enough returning to hold on to the 2nd spot.  Christian Life and Liberty could make a run at them.  The bottom 3 are very close to each other but I think there's a gap between them and the top 4.  Learning for Leadership split with Calvin Christian last year and had 2 close wins over Groves before losing to them in a 4A pigtail game.  The winner of this division will be the 8th team in the championship bracket of the conference tournament.  The other 6 will join the top 2 from Division C for the 2nd group of 8 bracket.  As to the remainder, Shattuck-St. Mary's traditionally has not played the conference tournament so the remaining teams may play round robin for their 3 games.

Predicted Order of Finish - Division C
  1. St. Paul Prep/HSRA
  2. Shattuck-St. Mary's
  3. Academy for Sciences & Agriculture
  4. North Lakes
  5. Hmong Academy
  6. Chesterton Academy
  7. Metro Schools College Prep
Division C Overview
Aaron Gill is enough on his own to win this division.  Beyond that, its a group of teams that will make up the weakest conference in the state.  Shattuck-St. Mary's has enough to hold off AFSA for 2nd.  Between AFSA having a lot coming back and North Lakes losses, I'll swap their EMAC finish from last year. But both still finish above Hmong Academy.  Hmong defeated Chesterton to make me pick them for 5th.  Toss the coin between the 2 winless squads for last.  The bottom 4 teams here will be amongst the worst in all of class A despite some potentially deceptive records due to beating up on each other.  But that will still be better than many of the blowouts these teams have been subject to in the past.

Conference MVPs: 
  • Division B:  Isaiah Boudreaux - Nova Classical Academy
  • Division C: Aaron Gill - St. Paul Prep/HSRA
Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Cole Walker - AFSA
  • Hans Dykstra - Calvin Christian
  • Caleb Carlson - Christian Life 
  • Max Bilcik - Groves Academy
  • Ryan Grill - Liberty Classical Academy
  • Ethan Crandell - North Lakes Academy
  • Mathieu LaFrambois, Shae Nelson - Nova Classical Academy
Conference Games to Watch
  • Math & Science at Nova - Jan 10th
  • Nova at Math & Science - Feb 3rd
  • TCAC Tournament Championship at Nova - Mar 4th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • None

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