2017-18 Season in a Nutshell

The 2017-2018 Season Preview series concludes its 6 week run with my favorite preview.  Its an overview of what and who you need to see and when and where you can find it.  This is a higher level preview for the more casual fan who doesn't eat, sleep and breathe hoops like many of us do.  So with that in mind, we distill the season down to some high points.  For a list of all of the detailed previews, click here.

Local Events to Watch
  • Dec 2 - Breakdown Girls Tipoff Classic at Hopkins (4 premier boys games)
  • Dec 9 - Breakdown Boys Tipoff Classic at Hopkins
  • Dec 16 - Southside Showcase at Burnsville 
  • Jan 15 - MLK events (Totino-Grace and South Mpls)
  • January - Super 60 Events
The list of premier local events is down with past events at Johnson and the Timberwolves Shootout falling off the map.  Not to mention the Border Battle is in Wisconsin this year and the Breakdown Community clash moves to St. Michael this season.  But the Tipoff Classics still are the best events around.  3 of the 4 boys games at the girls tipoff really stick out with De La Salle taking on Iowa City West (the top team in Iowa who also hosts CDH late in the year).  Then a huge AAAA clash with Cretin-Derham Hall taking on Hopkins.  Then youth caps it off with Minnehaha vs East Ridge.  Too many high profile games in the boys tipoff to mention but the biggest crowd draw will be Orono vs Cretin-Derham Hall with future Gophers Jarvis Omersa and Daniel Oturu going head to head.

Other Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Minnehaha at Apple Valley - Dec 7th (ESPN) 
  • Hopkins vs Minnehaha - Dec 23rd (projected tournament championship at Augsburg)
  • Apple Valley vs Park Center - Dec 29th (at St. Cloud Apollo)
  • Minnehaha vs Orono - Dec 30th (at St Cloud State)
  • Cretin-Derham Hall vs Apple Valley - Dec 30th (at St. Cloud State) 
  • Hopkins at Orono - Jan 9th
  • Minneapolis North at Minnehaha - Jan 25th
  • Austin at Minnehaha - Feb 3rd
  • De La Salle at Cretin-Derham Hall - Feb 10th
  • Hopkins at Minneapolis North - Feb 13th
  • Caledonia at Minnehaha - Feb 17th
I didn't include conference games because those are covered in the conference previews.  Not to mention I wanted the list to be somewhat manageable.  The Minnehaha vs Apple Valley game was initially the highlight game of the boys tipoff classic until ESPN stepped in to show it.  Minnehaha's schedule is absolutely criminal with all of the above games plus Eden Prairie and a Border Battle showcase game at Stevens Point, WI (#1 in WI top class).  Have to love the fact that the majority of these games are top teams playing top teams in other classes.  But we still get the great in-class matchups.  See Minnehaha hosting Minneapolis North and Caledonia in AA.  Pay attention to location of those games due to the explosion at Minnehaha's north campus this fall.  In AAAA, the rankings should make themselves clear as you have Cretin-Derham Hall vs Apple Valley and Hopkins plus Apple Valley vs Park Center on the season schedule.

Local Players to Watch

  • Joe Hedstrom - Hopkins
  • Michael Jones - Woodbury 
  • Tre Jones - Apple Valley
  • Gabe Kalscheur - De La Salle
  • Jarvis Omersa - Orono
  • Daniel Oturu - Cretin-Derham Hall
  • Zeke Nnaji = Hopkins
  • Tyrell Terry - De La Salle
  • Ben Carlson - East Ridge
  • Dain Dainja - Park Center
  • Dawson Garcia - Prior Lake
  • Jalen Suggs - Minnehaha
Local Teams Looking to Win It All
  • Apple Valley
  • Cretin-Derham Hall
  • Hopkins
  • Park Center
  • East Ridge
  • De La Salle
  • Orono
  • Minnehaha
  • Minneapolis North
Notable Conference Streaks
  • Apple Valley - 40 wins (24 in a row overall)
  • Heritage Christian Academy - 24 wins
  • Champlin Park - 19 wins
  • Minnehaha - 19 wins (19 in a row overall)
  • De La Salle - 16 wins
  • Minneapolis North - 15 wins
  • Mounds Park Academy - 29 losses IMAC, 68 conference back Tri-Metro play
  • South St. Paul - 43 losses total , 57 in a row at home
  • Concordia-Roseville - 18 losses
  • Stillwater - 14 losses
  • PACT - 12 losses
Season Thoughts
Its a great year for Gopher fans with 3 local seniors moving on Williams Arena next season (Kalscheur, Omersa, Oturu).  Its not a coincidence that their teams will be looking to compete for state titles this season.  Assuming De La Salle sees Orono in the 6AAA final, we'll get a full round robin of those 3 teams.  Apple Valley and Minnehaha enter the season with a ton returning and favorites to repeat.  De La Salle looks to plug in Jamison Battle for Goanar Mar and do the same in AAA.  Delano and Austin from outside of section 6AAA and Orono in their section are the biggest threats to end the 6 year Islanders title streak.  Class A becomes wide open with Minneapolis North moving up to AA.  The Polars should compete again for a state title there.  But they'll find AA is much deeper than single A ever was against them  Lake City and St. Cloud Cathedral return a ton from state teams last year plus Annandale is still strong.  Then you have Caledonia, Esko and Perham who are talented enough to win a title.

In AAAA, Cretin-Derham Hall and Hopkins stick out as the immediate threats to Apple Valley's throne.  Park Center and East Ridge are talented enough to jump into that group as well.  After that, its a down year in AAAA.   The Metro West and NW Suburban are down and the South Suburban isn't as strong as past years.  4 teams in AAAA with no metro ties stick out for me.  That's Rochester John Marshall, Rochester Mayo, Owatonna and St. Cloud Tech.  So those with Woodbury, North St. Paul and the rest of the Lake conference stick out as a group that will stick around the back half of the state poll.  Barring any major upsets, I think the top 4 seeds at state will be pretty clear (AV, CDH/Hopkins, Park Center).  I see the 5th seed as a battle between Eden Prairie and the winner of section 1.

On the rules side, some fun points of emphasis this year.  Intentional fouls are intended to be called much closer.  We'll see what impact that has on the end of games.  Officials can now formally warn a bench for misconduct.  How that impacts coaching behavior will be interesting to see.  On ball defense with guys bumping ball handlers is part of the emphasis too.  Head and shoulders past the defender is the key to watch there.  While Minnesota has a shot clock rule, we mostly don't use it.  Wisconsin tried to put a full time rule in for 2019 and the WIAA has been shredded for how it was handled.  Will that discussion and result drive any discussion and changes here?

Tre Jones should sweep the post season awards barring a catastrophe.  The Mr Basketball award situation will be interesting to watch to see what the reaction is.  I think their process will be fair.  However, the committee was still picked by Ken Lien.  While I personally don't find that an issue, the perception of many others is very different.  I still feel the committee has done an absolutely terrible job of publicly denouncing the actions and addressing the perceptions.   Both in terms of slow timing and soft messaging.  I'm convinced the committee feels stronger than they've let on and for their sake I wish they would say it in public as a united group.  The McDonald Award is a worthy alternative but I really wonder if it will get any traction at all.  In a just world, the Mr Basketball award would just be turned over to the coaches association like its done in many other states.  That would clean up much of the mess.

2017-18 Section 8AAAA Preview

This is the 27th preview in my 2017-2018 season preview series.  Its the final class AAAA preview, a look at section 8AAAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 8AAAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: Maple Grove

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Tuesday, March 6th
Semifinals: Saturday, March 10th at St. Cloud State
Finals: Thursday, March 15th at TBD (Neutral site based on teams)

Predicted Seeding
  1. St. Cloud Tech
  2. Rogers
  3. St. Michael-Albertville
  4. Elk River
  5. Maple Grove
  6. Brainerd
  7. Moorhead
  8. Buffalo
No changes to the section for this 2 year cycle. St. Cloud Tech returns most of last year's team that won 22 games.  Gopher FB recruit Brevyn Spann-Ford and Cam Jackson are a high powered inside outside duo for the Tigers.  Then a group of 4 behind them.  I see Rogers with returning forward Jordan Belka (Northern St commit) being the best of the rest.  St. Michael-Albertville loses their top scorer but still has 2 double figure scorers returning so I slot them 3rd.  Maple Grove has no experience returning but Elk River also loses a ton outside of leading scorer Jack Burger.  Those 2 will fight for the final home game.  Their head to head meeting is 1 week before the end of the season and will loom large.  Then the bottom 3.  Brainerd has to replace their top player Michael Russell.  Buffalo loses their starting lineup.  Moorhead only won 3 games last year but they only lose 1 rotation guy so I'll pick them to flip with Buffalo.

Sleeper: Maple Grove.  No experience and no expectations after losing the entire rotation.  But they do have some talent that hasn't had the chance to show on the big stage yet.  By the end, they'll work the kinks out and be much better than early in the year.

Section Winner: St. Cloud Tech. This is the year they've built to.  They are too deep and talented to not advance.  A potential Spann-Ford vs Belka matchup in the final is very attractive.

2017-18 Section 7AAAA Preview

This is the 26th preview in my 2017-2018 season preview series.  The class AAAA previews move on to the often maligned section 7AAAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 7AAAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: Andover

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Wednesday, March 7th
Semifinals: Saturday, March 10th at Chisago Lakes
Finals: Thursday, March 15th at Chisago Lakes

Predicted Seeding
  1. Forest Lake
  2. St. Francis
  3. Blaine
  4. Andover
  5. Cambridge-Isanti
  6. Duluth East
  7. Anoka
  8. Coon Rapids
No changes to the section for this 2 year cycle.  This section was so up in the air last year that 7 seed Andover made the run to state.  Forest Lake with the addition of Manny Jincgo along with returning John Schrader is my top seed.  Behind them its a jumbled mess with lots of head to head matchups to determine placement.  Lots of top players lost from these teams.  Despite a late coaching change, I'll take St. Francis with the strong forward combo of Blake Kulsrud and Wyatt Schroeder to be 2nd.  Blaine gets the nod at 3 as the best remaining team from the Northwest Suburban.  Andover also gets a schedule bump here.  I'm going to pick an improvement from Cambridge-Isanti to go with a drop off from Duluth East.  The Greyhounds have to replace a ton including star big Cody Carlson.  Anoka continues to rebuild and Coon Rapids drops back after a strong year last year.

Sleeper: Cambridge-Isanti.  Despite losing their top scorer, the Bluejackets have plenty of experience coming back and they play a unique system.  Add in shooter like Henry Abraham and in this section they should be able to compete with everybody.

Section Winner: Forest Lake. This is more by default than anything.  But the Rangers have enough firepower that they should withstand the competition.

2017-18 Section 6AAAA Preview

This is the 25th preview in my 2017-2018 season preview series.  The class AAAA previews roll along with a look at section 6AAAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 6AAAA (7 teams)
Defending Champion: Wayzata

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Tuesday, March 6th
Semifinals: Friday, March 9th at Osseo
Finals: Wednesday, March 14th at Osseo

Predicted Seeding
  1. Hopkins
  2. Wayzata
  3. St. Louis Park
  4. Robbinsdale Armstrong
  5. Minneapolis Washburn
  6. Minneapolis South
  7. Minneapolis Southwest
Robbinsdale Cooper drops down to section 6AAA.  The Hawks were not replaced in the section so the section drops to 7 teams.  Hopkins with 2 top bigs and 2 returning guards is the favorite here.  Wayzata with their strong backcourt slots into the 2nd spot.  St. Louis Park also has a strong backcourt returning to give them the 3 slot.  Armstrong loses Race Thompson but they'll still do enough to be 4th here.  Then the city teams.  Washburn is the best of that group.

Sleeper: Minneapolis South.  Coach Joe Hyser always has his teams ready to go.  They have plenty of experience coming back.  Add in soph Curtis Jones as a scorer and the Tigers are the most likely to pull an upset.

Section Winner: Hopkins. The Royals were stung by the section final loss to Wayzata last year.  As is the case in my Lake Conference picks, the big front line of Joe Hedstrom and Zeke Nnaji is the difference here.

2017-18 Section 5AAAA Preview

This is the 24th preview in my 2017-2018 season preview series.  In this final week of previews, we finish our look at class AAAA and then finish up with our annual season overview on Friday.  Today its section 5AAAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 5AAAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: Champlin Park

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Wednesday, March 7th
Semifinals: Tuesday, March 13th at Maple Grove
Finals: Friday, March 16th at Rogers

Predicted Seeding
  1. Park Center
  2. Champlin Park
  3. Osseo
  4. Roseville
  5. Centennial
  6. Mounds View
  7. Spring Lake Park
  8. Irondale
No new teams in the section for this 2 year cycle. Park Center is the favorite with most of their 21 win team returning.  Champlin Park isn't very experienced but as the projected North division champs in the NW Suburban they have to slot here.  Osseo and Roseville are clearly the next tier of teams.  Then it drops off for the non-home teams.  Irondale draws the last straw with the remaining 3 being very close.  Spring Lake Park's youth took some lumps last year but they are always a tough out and will look to move up in that group.  They'll get their chance with an early season meeting vs Mounds View and a end of season trip to Centennial.

Sleeper: Roseville.  They finished strong last year and have some productive pieces returning.  Add in Gary Smith from St. Agnes and the Raiders could surprise here.

Section Winner: Park Center. The Pirates have all the ingredients and their depth is a major difference.  They won 10 straight before a 1 point loss to Osseo in sections.  They should battle to be in the 2nd tier of teams behind Apple Valley this season.

2017-18 Section 4AAAA Preview

This is the 23rd preview in my 2017-2018 season preview series.  Continuing our look at the class AAAA sections, we move on to section 4.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 4AAAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: Cretin-Derham Hall

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Wednesday, March 7th
Semifinals: Saturday, March 10th at Hastings
Finals: Thursday, March 15th at Hastings

Predicted Seeding
  1. Cretin-Derham Hall
  2. East Ridge
  3. North St. Paul
  4. Woodbury
  5. St. Paul Central
  6. Tartan
  7. White Bear Lake
  8. Stillwater
No new teams in the section for this 2 year cycle.  This will be a highly competitive section.  Cretin-Derham Hall and East Ridge stand out as the top 2 teams.  Whoever wins the Suburban East gets the 1 seed and I see a CDH vs E Ridge rubber match deciding who goes to state.  Woodbury and North St. Paul will have a close battle for the 3 seed.  I'll give St. Paul Central the nod for 5 over Tartan due to being St. Paul City champs though the section hasn't voted that way historically.  White Bear Lake has the pieces to remain 7th and Stillwater is looking at a long year.

Sleeper: Tartan.  This will be the 1st year in a long time with no expectations as they lose almost everybody.  But there is still talent there and a hall of fame coach in Mark Klingsporn who has taken teams to state.

Section Winner: Cretin-Derham Hall.  Not betting against the defending section champs with everybody returning.  East Ridge will be an extremely tough out this year and they are looking at a couple of great years ahead.  Look for that 3rd meeting to be one the best section finals of the season.

2017-18 Section 3AAAA Preview

This is the 22nd preview in my 2017-2018 season preview series.  Continuing our look at the class AAAA sections, we move on to section 3.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 3AAAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: Apple Valley

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Tuesday, March 6th
Semifinals: Friday, March 9th at Farmington
Finals: Thursday, March 15th at Farmington

Predicted Seeding
  1. Apple Valley
  2. Eastview
  3. Burnsville
  4. Hastings
  5. Park
  6. Henry Sibley
  7. Rosemount
  8. Eagan
No new teams in the section for this 2 year cycle.  Besides Apple Valley, I can't see more than 1 other team in the section having a winning record, just like last year.  Its likely Eastview.  So they get the 2 seed.  Everybody else in the section I have picked in the bottom half of their league.  Burnsville is clearly best of the rest and then a total mess for the last home game.  Hastings, Park and Sibley will fight for that as each have a top player returning.  Rosemount and Eagan are rebuilding.  Not a ton of separation here between 4 and 8 so expect a scrambled mess.

Sleeper: Henry Sibley.  They have talented point guard Reshaun Satar returning and a couple of experienced juniors coming back.  That gives them the best chance of the lower group to jump out.

Section Winner: Apple Valley. The defending state champs have most of the roster back and the top player in the state in Tre Jones.  Plus its a terribly weak section so no problems here.

2017-18 Section 2AAAA Preview

This is the 21st preview in my 2017-2018 season preview series.  Continuing our look at the class AAAA sections we stay in the south metro with section 2AAAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 2AAAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: Chaska

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Wednesday, March 7th
Semifinals: Saturday, March 10th at TBD
Finals: Friday, March 16th at TBD

Predicted Seeding
  1. Eden Prairie
  2. Prior Lake
  3. Bloomington Jefferson
  4. Edina
  5. Minnetonka
  6. Chaska
  7. Shakopee
  8. Chanhassen
No new teams in the section for this 2 year cycle. Its a deep section and expect some surprises.  Eden Prairie sticks out to me at the top.  The South Suburban gets a ton of respect here with the Metro West being down and the Lake is always tough.  So that means Jefferson gets 3 behind Prior Lake.  Edina and Minnetonka battle for the final home game.  Chaska has heavy losses.  Shakopee had a major youth movement last year and they're looking a couple years ahead.  Chanhassen gets the short straw as the final seed.

Sleeper: Minnetonka.  With a talented point guard in Jalen Dearring and talent on the wings, the Skippers will not be an easy out.  They also have experience.

Section Winner: Eden Prairie. They have a ton of guard firepower with Drake Dobbs and Kyler Kluge. Plus they have plenty of experience returning and will be battle tested by their normally difficult schedule.

2017-18 Section 1AAAA Preview

This is the 20th preview in my 2017-2018 season preview series.  Now we begin our look at all of the class AAAA sections going in numerical order.  So that means we start with section 1.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 1AAAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: Lakeville North

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Wednesday, March 7th
Semifinals: Saturday, March 10th at Rochester Civic Arena
Finals: Saturday, March 17th at Rochester Civic Arena

Predicted Seeding
  1. Lakeville North
  2. Rochester John Marshall
  3. Rochester Mayo
  4. Owatonna
  5. Lakeville South 
  6. New Prague
  7. Farmington
  8. Rochester Century
No new teams in the section for this 2 year cycle.  This section has plenty of depth at the top if not a potential elite team.  Lakeville North will be strong with Tyler Wahl.  You can never discount a team with Matt Hurt at JM.  But he has limited help and a brand new coach and system this year.  Rochester Mayo brings in a new coach with his twin sophomore sons Gabe and Mason Madsen.  They'll man the backcourt and both have UNI offers amongst others.  So they are going to be a major factor here, but how big of a factor is the unknown.  Owatonna and Lakeville South fight it out for the last home game again in arguably the strongest 4 vs 5 game.  Owatonna has most of their 18 win roster coming back including forward Dalton Kubista.  So I don't see that potential 4 vs 5 rematch as another 30 point blowout.  Blake Nicols takes over the program at New Prague in the tough Wright County East.  He has to replace 5 of his top 6 scorers.  But he has 2 talented juniors in Tyler Kemp and Nathan Brusseau to build around.  Farmington loses top scorer Sam Wilson but has experience coming back.  The youth movement continues at Rochester Century.

Sleeper: Rochester Mayo.  We know there's talent.  How everything comes together is what remains to be seen.

Section Winner: Lakeville North. The Panthers have been the nemesis of Rochester John Marshall for the last 5 years in this section.  Their experience and proven ability to reload will be big factors here.  But they aren't at the same level as past years.  The top 5 teams are all not that far apart so it should be a very entertaining section to watch.

2017-18 Section 6AAA Preview

This is the 19th preview in my 2017-2018 season preview series.  Week 5 of this 6 week series begins with a glance at the final metro area section in class AAA, loaded section 6.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 6AAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: De La Salle

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Wednesday, March 7th
Semifinals: Saturday, March 10th
Finals: Thursday, March 15th at Chanhassen

New teams in the section
  • Minneapolis Roosevelt (4AA)
  • Robbinsdale Cooper (6AAAA)
Teams that left the section
  • Blake (5AA)
  • Delano (5AAA)
Predicted Seeding
  1. DeLaSalle
  2. Orono
  3. Waconia 
  4. Minneapolis Roosevelt 
  5. Robbinsdale Cooper
  6. Minneapolis Henry
  7. Benilde-St. Margaret's
  8. Mound-Westonka
At the top, you have 2 of the state favorites in AAA.  Then a group of solid teams in Waconia, Roosevelt and Cooper.  Waconia has a solid backcourt of Charlie Gove and PJ Hayes to go with Nick Fulford up front.  Cooper and Roosevelt won't be big but their quickness will be a factor.  They'll battle for the last home game.  Henry is in the next group.  Benilde-St. Margaret's is down and Mound-Westonka continues rebuilding.  The brutally tough Wright County East schedule will be great tourney prep for Orono and Waconia.

Sleeper: Robbinsdale Cooper.  They've got a bunch of quick guards that can be very disruptive in Bo Powell system.  In recent years the Hawks have been a bracket buster.  So moving down, even into a tough section, I wouldn't be surprised to see it happen again.

Section Winner: Orono.  So far in my predictions the top pick in each section has been pretty straight forward and clearly above the rest.  Not here.  Barry Wohler has been there and done that.  He has an outstanding backcourt of Colton Codute and Max Bjorklund to go with Jarvis Thomas up front.  Plus they have quality depth behind that.  De La Salle has no good matchup for Thomas and Orono should be strong enough at the guard spots to get into sets.  I'll take this as the year that the Islanders AAA streak ends.

2017-18 Section 4AAA Preview

This is the 18th preview in my 2017-2018 season preview series.  To end week 4 of this 6 week series, I take a look at section 4AAA.  For this 2 year cycle, no changes to the section members.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 4AAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: Columbia Heights

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Wednesday, March 7th
Semifinals: Saturday, March 10th at St. Paul Washington
Finals: Thursday, March 15th at St. Paul Washington
Predicted Seeding
  1. Columbia Heights
  2. Totino-Grace
  3. St. Anthony
  4. Mahtomedi
  5. St. Paul Johnson 
  6. Fridley
  7. St. Paul Como Park
  8. Hill-Murray
Coach Willie Braziel has his best squad since the Zach Lofton state runner up team during his 1st run with the Hylanders.  So you have to like Columbia Heights at the top as this was the year they built up to.  Totino-Grace has some nice pieces back as well and will be tested in the NW Suburban.  St. Anthony's backcourt and weak schedule will put them 3rd.  Mahtomedi will be inexperienced but solid.  They should battle with Johnson for the last home game.  Fridley looks to jump into that group as well.  Como Park fills 7 and Hill-Murray without Simeon Davis is in a major rebuild in the last spot.

Sleeper: St. Paul Johnson.  The Govs have been the team to beat in this section for many years.  After seeing their 13 year streak of St. Paul City conference championships snapped, they have most of the rotation returning. 

Section Winner: Columbia Heights.  The Hylanders have most of their roster back from last year's state qualifier.  Plus the section isn't as good.  With Wendell Matthews inside, Deaundra Robersonand Christian Kelly on the the wings and point guard Quentin Hardrict running the show from that team, there are quality pieces at all positions.

2017-18 Section 3AAA Preview

This is the 17th preview in my 2017-2018 season preview series.  As week 4 of the 6 week preview series moves along, I start my look at the local AAA sections with section 3AAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 3AAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: St. Thomas Academy

Tournament Schedule:

Quarterfinals: Tuesday, March 6th
Semifinals: Friday, March 9th at Bloomington Jefferson
Finals: Thursday, March 15th at Bloomington Jefferson

New teams in the section
  • St. Croix Lutheran (4AA)
Teams that left the section
  • Simley (1AAA)
Predicted Seeding
  1. St. Thomas Academy
  2. St. Croix Lutheran
  3. St. Paul Highland Park
  4. Bloomington Kennedy
  5. Richfield
  6. Holy Angels
  7. St. Paul Harding
  8. South St. Paul
Defending champion St. Thomas Academy returns most of their roster and is the clear favorite.  St. Croix Lutheran joins the section and they stand out as the clear contender to the throne with 2 of their top players returning in Garrett Maag and Jack Kuckhahn.  After that a major drop off.  Highland Park will be noticeably down from their 23 win season a year ago as they lose 2 of their stars.  Kennedy and Richfield are my last 2 picks in the Metro East but should fight for the final home game.  The bottom 3 were 3 of the worst in AAA last year and I don't see that changing.

Note on Simley who moves south to section 1AAA.  Austin is the clear favorite there.  With Byron and Stewartville dropping down to AA, Simley should get a first round game and I'll pick them to advance past it and then go out in the semis.

Sleeper: Richfield. The Spartans made a run to the section final in a weak section last year.  They took St. Thomas Academy right to the wire.  If any team outside the top 2 in this section is going to do that, it'll be Richfield again.  They have a scorer in Devin Wade-Henderson and a couple of other experienced returnees that give them the experience and talent to fit.

Section Winner: St. Thomas Academy.  The Cadets have the experience and 2 talented leaders in Jack Thompson and Sam Vascellaro to lead them back to the state tourney.

2017-18 Section 5AA Preview

This is the 16th preview in my 2017-2018 season preview series.  In this preview, a look at section 5AA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 5AA (16 teams)
Defending Champion: Annandale

Tournament Schedule:
Round of 16: Thursday, March 8th
Quarterfinals: Saturday, March 10th at St. Michael-Albertville
Semifinals: Wednesday, March 14th at St. Michael-Albertville
Finals: Friday, March 16th 8 PM at St. Cloud State

New teams in the section
  • Blake (6AAA)
  • Maranatha Christian (4A)
  • Minneapolis North (4A)
Teams that left the section
  • Annandale (6AA)
  • Eden Valley-Watkins (6AA)
  • Maple Lake (6AA)
  • Minneapolis Edison (4AA)
  • Paynesville (3AA)
  • Spectrum (6AA)
Predicted Seeding
  1. Minneapolis North
  2. Brooklyn Center
  3. Holy Family
  4. Maranatha
  5. Breck
  6. Litchfield
  7. Southwest Christian
  8. Rockford 
  9. Providence   
  10. Watertown-Mayer
  11. Blake
  12. HLWW
  13. PACT
  14. International School
While 16 teams are listed, we'll be down to 14 thanks to co-ops in the Minneapolis City.  In 1 co-op FAIR is now with Henry.  Instead of a Wellstone/Heritage co-op, those teams have combined with Roosevelt and Edison respectively.  We'll see if any in-season adjustments are made to the section.  2 time defending class A champ Minneapolis North is the big addition to the section.  Maranatha also is a top contender moving in from section 4A.  Defending champ Annandale moves west to 6AA.

Minneapolis North goes in the top spot as they have Odell Wilson inside, Tayler Johnson outside and a truckload of athletes that these teams just can't replicate.  Brooklyn Center has plenty back and should be in or around the rankings all year.  Holy Family won only 10 games during the regular season last year.  But they upset the Centaurs in the quarters and were a miracle buzzer-beater from the section final.  Now the Fire return everybody from last year.  The record may not show it because of the gauntlet known as the Wright County East but that schedule will benefit them come section time.

Maranatha and Breck are the next tier of teams with their stars David Roddy and Beijan Newbern being a level above the remainder of the section.  Litchfield has Owen Boerema coming back and SW Christian has guard firepower in the next group.  Providence will look to jump in that group with Matt Richelsen.  1 more group of 3 before PACT and ISM fight it out for the final spot.

In 6AA, I see Spectrum going out in a 1st round road game.

Sleeper: SW Christian.  Their shooting and nasty matchup zone are both able to keep them in any game.  In a 1 and done scenario, that's always a chance.

Section Winner: Minneapolis North. Too athletic and having Odell Wilson inside means they still advance.  But they won't have a cakewalk like Minnehaha as the top of the section has plenty of quality.

2017-18 Section 4AA Preview

This is the 15th preview in my 2017-2018 season preview series.  In this preview, a look at section 4AA. For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 4AA (16 teams)
Defending Champion: Minnehaha Academy (2017 State AA Champion)

Tournament Schedule:

Round of 16: Thursday, March 8th
Quarterfinals: Saturday, March 10th
Semifinals: Tuesday, March 13th at St. Paul Washington
Finals: Friday, March 16th at St. Paul Washington

New teams in the section
  • Cristo Rey Jesuit (4A)
  • Minneapolis Edison (5AA)
  • Nova Classical Academy (4A)
Teams that left the section
  • Minneapolis Roosevelt (6AAA)
  • Mounds Park Academy (4A)
  • St. Croix Lutheran (3AAA)
Predicted Seeding
  1. Minnehaha
  2. Trinity   
  3. Cristo Rey
  4. New Life Academy  
  5. Concordia Academy
  6. St. Paul Prep
  7. Nova Classical
  8. St. Paul Washington
  9. St. Croix Prep
  10. St. Paul Academy   
  11. St. Agnes
  12. St. Paul Humboldt
  13. AFSA 
  14. Minneapolis Edison
  15. Math and Science
  16. Charter Stars
2 contenders in Roosevelt and St. Croix Lutheran moved up to AAA.  That takes away the teams that would likely be the next seeds behind Minnehaha.  So that leaves Trinity and Cristo Rey as other top temas in their leagues as the next in line.  New Life has size to bother most of the teams in the section.  Concordia and St. Paul Prep/HSRA fighting for next seeds here.  Nova's schedule will hold them down despite being TCAC D2 champs.  Rest of the TCAC also gets shoved down in seeding.

Sleeper: St. Paul Washington.  They'll play a schedule that preps them for section play (Trinity tourney will be telling for them and the section).  Add in soph forward Drewjuan White as an athlete and maybe they steal a game or 2.

Section Winner: Minnehaha.  With everybody back and the top player in the section in Jalen Suggs returning for the defending state champs, no way I can bet against that.

2017-18 Section 4A Preview

This is the 14th preview in my 2017-2018 season preview series.  In the 1st half of the previews, I took a look at 117 teams and 12 conferences.  Now I move on to phase 2 of the previews.  Over the next 3 weeks, I'll take a look at 14 sections including all of class AAAA.  That will include looks at some section teams that I haven't done yet plus some sprinkled comments about teams we looked at that aren't in the 14 sections being previewed.  Let's start with a look at Section 4A.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 4A (22 Teams)
Defending Champion: Minneapolis North (2016 and 2017 State Champs)

Tournament Schedule:
Play-Ins: Monday, March 5th
Round of 16: Thursday, March 8th
Quarterfinals: Saturday, March 10th
Semifinals: Tuesday, March 13th at Anoka-Ramsey Community College
Finals: Friday, March 16th at Anoka-Ramsey Community College

New teams in the section
  • Christian Life (1A)
  • Hmong Academy (4AA)
  • Mounds Park Academy (4AA)
Teams that left the section
  • Cristo Rey Jesuit (4AA)
  • Minneapolis North (5AA)
  • Maranatha Christian (5AA)
  • Nova Classical (4AA)
Predicted Seeding
  1. Prairie Seeds
  2. Hope Academy
  3. CHOF
  4. Heritage
  5. Christian Life
  6. Learning for Leadership
What a difference a year makes.  This group of teams is the happiest in the state as Minneapolis North and Maranatha both move up to section 5AA.  Both would be big favorites here this year.  Cristo Rey moves up to 4AA and as my projected TCAC champion you could argue them as a favorite here as well.  Plus TCAC D2 favorite Nova moves up to 4AA.  While there are 22 teams listed in the section, at least 4 of them won't be playing come tournament time.  My projection is that 16 or 17 will actually play the tournament series.

So that means a very down year in the section.  The best half of the MCAA by my projections isn't in the section and 3 of the better TCAC teams are in AA.  Jamar Robinson at PSA and Joey Erickson at Hope are all a handful in this section.  So those stick out as the top 2.  But there's not a huge gap there so I see it as very competitive.  Then there's a whole bunch of mediocre teams that could end up anywhere.  So this year is there for the taking for the TCAC teams and I see them getting it done.

Also a quick note here on MCAA member Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity.  They are in stuck in tough section 2A with teams like Cleveland and Mayer Lutheran in their subsection and Springfield on the other side.  I picked Springfield to win class A in my Breakdown book predictions (spoiler alert, buy the book now).  The Bulldogs win a 1st round home game but then go out to either Cleveland or Mayer Lutheran in the North subsection semis. 

Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf if they play the tournament series in section 1A is likely looking at going out in a pigtail game.

Sleeper:  Learning for Leadership. With 25 PPG guy Kafi Abdi back and a down section, maybe this group of Mustangs makes a run.

Section Winner: Prairie Seeds Academy.  They've made a run in the section the last 2 years so the program experience is there.  With one of the best players in the section, I can see them making another long run.

2017-18 Suburban East Conference Preview

This is the 13th preview in my 2017-2018 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 (2016-17 season 23-9, 13-3 Conference, 3rd)
Coach Jerry Kline returns a loaded lineup with his entire starting 5 coming back.  Minnesota commit Daniel Oturu mans the middle and leads the team in scoring at 19.6 PPG.  PG Ryan Larson (13.7) and wings Jake Prince and Jaeden King also averaged double figures.  Sy Chatman returns inside as well.  Plus the Raiders have a ton of backup options at the wing spots.

East Ridge Raptors (2016-17 season 22-6, 14-2 Conference, Tie 1st)
Head coach Paul Virgin retired and has been replaced by Bryce Tesdahl.  Tesdahl comes over after a couple of very nice seasons at New Prague. He has some great talent to build with.  Junior wing Courtney Brown (19.5 PPG), soph F Ben Carlson (11.5 PPG) and frosh wing Kendall Brown are highly regarded prospects in their classes.  Shooter Nick Christensen (14.7 PPG) and forward Zach Bennett (8.6 PPG) are the main losses.  TJ Kelly looks to slot in at a guard spot.

Forest Lake Rangers (2016-17 season 19-10, 10-6 Conference, 4th)
PG Jake Larson (20.1 PPG) and Mitch Jerde (16.2 PPG) were the 2 double figure scorers and need to be replaced.  That should be handled by the shooting of transfer Manny Jingco who was Stillwater's top scorer at 20.6 PPG last season.  Junior F John Schrader (9.9 PPG) returns to the starting lineup. Seniors Thad Ball and Connor Hale return in the backcourt.
Mounds View Mustangs (2016-17 season 12-16, 7-9 Conference, 6th)
SG Nick McMillan and his 21 PPG have graduated along with F Brian Stone (11.9 PPG).  Center Michael Fahim is the top returnee at 6.4 PPG.  Brendan Kauls also returns inside  (3.6 PPG).  Josh Albers returns as the top perimeter option (4.9 PPG)

Park Wolfpack (2016-17 season 7-20, 1-15 Conference, Tie 8th)
JV coach Mike Weah steps up to the head spot to replace Ed Cassidy.  Junior forward Charlie Gorres was the team leader at 14.9 PPG last season.  The  next 2 scorers including 14.8 PPG from Brendan Beaulieu need to be replaced.  Junior F Rodney Jefferson is an athletic wing and averaged 8 PPG.  Junior Jeremiah Smith gives them a big body inside.  Cole Herder returns at a guard spot.

Roseville Raiders (2016-17 season 9-18, 8-8 Conference, 5th)
The Raiders got off to a 2-11 start but finished 7-7 and dead even in Suburban East play.  Junior G Jovan Hunter returns after leading the team with 11.5 PPG last season.  But the biggest changes are 2 transfers.  Ray'Sean Treadwell to had to play JV last year after seeing minutes at Cretin-Derham Hall 2 years ago.  Gary Smith was the top guy at St. Agnes last year.  Those are a pair of explosive wings.  Juniors Mario Dukes and Yohanes Gebeyehu are other guard options with senior Avery Nelson.  Nolan Wald returns with size.

Stillwater Ponies (2016-17 season 3-24, 1-15 Conference, Tie 8th)
Leading scorer Manny Jingco (20.6 PPG) left for league rival Forest Lake.  Senior Devontae Hatcher is the top returning scorer at 8.7 PPG.  Evan Parker and Josh Lorenson return to the rotation.  PG Nate Shikenjanski also returns.

White Bear Lake Bears (2016-17 season 6-21, 4-12 Conference, 7th)
The youth movement continued last year for the Bears.  This year they return their 3 top scorers all in double figures.  Blake Charles (11 PPG) and Jeremy Beckler (10.3 PPG) make up the front line.  Sam Schwartz (10.8 PPG) returns on the perimeter.  Austin Schochet (5.9 PPG) and Josh Griefenhagen (5.7 PPG) are other experienced perimeter players.

Woodbury Royals (2016-17 season 20-8, 14-2 Conference, Tie 1st)
Davidson commit Michael Jones returns and should be one of the state's top scorers after averaging 25.2 PPG last season.  That's only partly due to losing the next 5 scorers on the roster.  The guard duo of Jeremiah Coddon and Jake West (over 28 PPG combined) plus shooter Ike Thilgen were all in double figures.  Guard DJ Fleming has the most returning experience of the guards.  Football star David Alston is a possible inside option.  Senior Ryan Christensen and Soph Drew Bramlett should move into the rotation.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Cretin-Derham Hall   
  2. East Ridge  
  3. Forest Lake 
  4. Roseville
  5. Woodbury  
  6. White Bear Lake 
  7. Mounds View   
  8. Park
  9. Stillwater  
Conference Overview:
The top is a clear battle between Cretin-Derham Hall and East Ridge.  Those are 2 elite AAAA teams above the rest of the league.  The group of 3 are solid teams with no size.  Forest Lake is sound and Manny Jingco gives them a quality scorer.  Michael Jones is my MVP of the league so Woodbury can't drop that far, but how much help does he have.  Roseville took early lumps but was vastly improved in the 2nd half.  Add in a couple of high flying guys on the wing and they move up.  White Bear Lake didn't have a good win last year but they have a lot coming back.  Mounds View won't wow you but they'll be sound.  Park and Stillwater bring up the rear.

Conference MVP: Michael Jones - Woodbury

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Amari Carter - Cretin-Derham Hall
  • Ben Carlson, Kendall Brown - East Ridge
  • Jake Radabaugh - Mounds View
  • TJ Favilla - Roseville
  • Matt Moore, Ben Snyder - Stillwater
  • Drew Bramlett - Woodbury
Conference Games to Watch
  • East Ridge at Cretin-Derham Hall - Dec 15th
  • Cretin-Derham Hall at East Ridge - Jan 30th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • East Ridge vs Minnehaha - Dec 2nd (Girls Tipoff Classic at Hopkins)
  • Cretin-Derham Hall at Hopkins - Dec 2nd (Girls Tipoff Classic at Hopkins) 
  • Cretin-Derham Hall vs Orono - Dec 9th (Tipoff Classic at Hopkins) 
  • Cretin-Derham Hall at St. Thomas Academy - Dec 23rd
  • East Ridge at Wayzata - Feb 6th
  • De La Salle at Cretin-Derham Hall - Feb 10th

2017-18 South Suburban Conference Preview

This is the 12th preview in my 2017-18 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 (2016-17 season 30-2, 18-0 Conference, 1st)
The defending class AAAA state champs return almost everybody so they are the favorite again.  This is the 9th and final year of the Jones era.  Senior PG Tre Jones will attend Duke next year.  He averaged 23.4 PPG, 10.1 RPG, and 7.5 APG last year.  Winona St commit Luke Martens (10.6 PPG) returns on the wing.  Harvard FB commit Spencer Rolland returns in the middle.  I expect a breakout season from Nathan Macho on the wing as he'll pick up touches to replace Mohamed Kone.

Burnsville Blaze (2016-17 season 11-17, 7-11 Conference, 7th)
The Blaze have to replace their top 3 double figure scorers including Matt Baisch (11.6 PPG).  The perimeter has experience with junior returnees Julian Hutchinson (10.3 PPG) and Marcus Shepley.  Ty Miklowski and Drew Ihenacho return inside.  Max May and soph Josh Kamara are other pieces of the rotation.

Eagan Wildcats (2016-17 season 8-19, 5-13 Conference, 8th)
Former Wayzata top lieutenant Josh Peltier takes over the program.  Soph PG Jaylen James topped the team in scoring last year at 7.9 PPG.  Cam Lachance also returns to the rotation.  Many other players saw minutes in a rough season last year.  Forward Jaren Tschetter is a top scoring option depending how he comes back from a 2nd knee injury.

Eastview Lightning (2016-17 season 13-15, 9-9 Conference, 5th)
Eastview has to replace their top 3 scorers.  That includes PG Jameson Bryan (18.2 PPG), now at Augustana, and shooter Mason Carpenter (16.1 PPG).  Soph forward Tate Machacek is the top returnee with 8.6 PPG.  That will go up significantly this year.  He can play inside or outside and leads a talented group of sophomores that I expect to be very good in 2 years.  Junior Isaak Raspberry will take over the point guard duties.  Essam Ibrahim and Will Barry also return to the rotation.

Farmington Tigers (2016-17 season 8-19, 3-15 Conference, 10th)
Wing Sam Wilson and his 21.1 PPG need to be replaced.  Forward Caden Freetly is the top returning scorer with 8.4 PPG.  He'll be the biggest player.  Brock Mogenson and junior Adam Weed are returning starters.  The junior trio of Miles Mendes, Jameson Shrum and Brady Bean saw a ton of minutes last year.  Who picks up the scoring from Wilson is my big question.

Lakeville North Panthers (2016-17 season 28-4, 16-2 Conference, 2nd)
Coach John Oxton has to replace the 25.9 PPG and 12.1 RPG from Wisconsin recruit Nate Reuvers.  Guard Ethan Igbanugo (13.5 PPG) also needs to be replaced.  He was an under appreciated defender and scorer.  Junior forward Tyler Wahl (9.2 PPG) is the only member of the top 6 scorers coming back.  Expect him to have a big season . Tyler Lewko returns inside.  Spencer Fossey, Owen Blascziek, Cole Andersen and junior shooter Tommy Jenson will make up a solid backcourt.

Lakeville South Cougars (2016-17 season 15-13, 12-6 Conference, 3rd)
New AD Tom Dasovich brings over old pal Joe Janquart from North St. Paul to be the new head coach.  He has UW-Milwaukee commit Shae Mitchell (15.8 PPG) on the wing to build around.  Beau Bailey is another wing and Cooper Jackson is a tough undersized point guard.  Freshman Riley Mahlman is an option in the middle with a group of senior bangers.  The shooting of Jack Sorenson (21.8 PPG) and Cade Carlson (6.3 PPG) will be missed.

Prior Lake Lakers (2016-17 season 14-11, 10-8 Conference, 4th)
5 of the top 6 scorers have graduated.  But the one that returns is one of the state's top sophomores,  forward Dawson Garcia.  He'll take over as the top option and I can see him doubling his 8.8 PPG from last year.  Junior Robert Jones has a UWGB offer and will man the middle.  Brandon Collins and Pat Bernick also return to the lineup.

Rosemount Irish (2016-17 season 15-14, 7-11 Conference, 6th)
New head coach Lance Walsten returns to the league.  He comes from Faribault but was previously an assistant at Lakeville North.  He has to replace the twin towers of Alec and Luke Loehr who are now at Navy.  They combined for almost 37 PPG last year.  PG Myka Edmond and his 11 PPG also need to be replaced.  Luke Siwek is the top returnee (11.6 PPG) and will be the main offensive option.  Junior guard Andrew Reuter will see a bigger role.

Shakopee Sabers (2016-17 season 4-23, 3-15 Conference, 9th)
Shakopee went with a very young lineup playing 3 and sometimes 4 freshmen last year.  Leading scorer Jake Kutina (11.9 PPG) needs to be replaced.  Most of the rest of the rotation returns.  Sophs Charlie Katona (11.9 PPG), Will Cordes (5.6 PPG) and Caleb Druvenga (5.5 PPG) are the top returning scorers.  Seniors Addison Leininger, Luke Budin and Martin McKinney also return.  They also should have Garrett Mitchell back from a knee injury that cost him last season.    There's not much size available.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Apple Valley 
  2. Lakeville North   
  3. Eastview 
  4. Lakeville South
  5. Prior Lake 
  6. Burnsville
  7. Shakopee 
  8. Farmington 
  9. Rosemount  
  10. Eagan 
Conference Overview:
Apple Valley is the easy pick for the top spot.  Behind them, I think there's a group of 4 teams.  Lakeville North will be lacking experience but they can really shoot it and will just reload.  Lakeville South, Prior Lake and Eastview all have a couple of nice pieces to build around.  Burnsville has enough returning to be next.  Shakopee will be improved but they're looking down the road with their sophomores.  The bottom 3 have to find ways to score.  Farmington is a year ahead in the rebuild so I'll take them over the 2 remaining teams with new coaches.  Luke Siwek gets the nod to keep Rosemount out of the cellar.

Conference MVP: Tre Jones - Apple Valley

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Josh Kamara, Josiah Jordan, Tyree Ihenacho - Burnsville
  • Jaylen James, Kurt Ohlhues - Eagan
  • Tate Machacek, Dan Sweden, Jon Reinke, Steven Crowl - Eastview 
  • Riley Mahlman - Lakeville South
  • Dawson Garcia - Prior Lake
  • Charlie Katona, Will Cordes, Caleb Druvenga, Bruce Lockwood - Shakopee
Conference Games to Watch
  • Lakeville North at Apple Valley - Jan 9th
  • Apple Valley at Lakeville North - Feb 13th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Minnehaha at Apple Valley - Dec 7th (ESPN)
  • Apple Valley vs Minneapolis North - Dec 9th (Tipoff Classic at Hopkins)
  • Lakeville North vs St. Cloud Tech - Dec 9th (Tipoff Classic at Hopkins)
  • Chaska at Lakeville North - Dec 14th
  • St. Thomas Academy at Apple Valley - Dec 15th
  • Austin at Lakeville North - Dec 29th (projected Lakeville N tourney championship)

2017-18 Northwest Suburban Conference Preview

This is the 11th preview in my 2017-2018 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 (2016-17 season 11-20, 5-14 Conference, 6th North)
Guard Logan Rezac's 25.4 PPG needs to be replaced.  Conner Knoepfle is the top returnee at 9.4 PPG.  Mason Heath and junior Jake Mallet return to the rotation with some size.  At the guard spots, Peyton Aune and junior Matthew Brodeur are options.

Anoka Tornadoes (2016-17 season 7-20, 4-15 Conference, 7th North)
Center Jake Phipps anchors the middle for the Tornadoes after averaging 9.9 PPG last season.  Addison Ostendorf returns at a guard spot.  Junior Micah Madyun will be another guard in the rotation. John Walberg and junior Zubier Oman are options on the front line.

Blaine Bengals (2016-17 season 16-11, 10-9 Conference, Tie 2nd North)
Coach Mark Arzdorf has to replace most of his rotation.  6 of the top 7 scorers graduated.  G Byron Bynum is the top returnee at 7.1 PPG.  Sam Browne and Jason Kaul also saw limited time last season.  Lucas Larson will be a guard option.  Ray Mitchell is an athletic option on the wing.

Centennial Cougars (2016-17 season 12-15, 8-11 Conference, 4th North)
Dave Frasier takes over for Travis Bledsoe who's now at De La Salle. Talented forward Josh McGreal (16.7 PPG) and 13.1 PPG from guard Shane Taleen need to be replaced.  Juniors Ariq Eason (7.3 PPG, top returning scorer) and Riley Van Buskirk (3.9 PPG) are an experienced backcourt.  Andrew Metz (5.9 PPG) also returns to the rotation.  Hunter Ross is an interior option.

Champlin Park Rebels (2016-17 season 31-1, 19-0 Conference, 1st North)
The entire starting lineup from last year's AAAA runner-up needs to be replaced.  That includes 4 double figure scorers and 2 high D1 players in PG McKinley Wright (22.8 PPG) and F Theo John (13.9 PPG).  But the Rebels have plenty to reload with.  Josiah Strong (9.7 PPG) will take over the alpha dog role.  Junior F Bennett Otto is poised for a breakout season.  Jisaiah Riley-Phillips and Alex John are 2 forwards from last year's JV squad who will step up roles.

Coon Rapids Cardinals (2016-17 season 13-15, 6-13 Conference, 5th North)
A banner year for the Cardinals last year.  They now have to replace the top 4 scorers from that group.  That includes the duo of Lionel Warner (18.1 PPG) and Tyree'on Johnson (15.9 PPG).  Senior Marcel Winston is the top returnee at 6.5 PPG.  Junior Marshall Holland should also provide some scoring punch.  Seniors Henock Mwanasomwe and Logan Severson provide experience.

Elk River Elks (2016-17 season 16-12, 10-9 Conference, Tie 2nd North)
Senior forward Jack Burger returns after averaging 18.5 PPG.  But most of the rest of the rotation needs to be replaced including the productive guard tandem of Wyatt Morrell (12.7 PPG) and Noah Weege (8.5 PPG).  Andrew Hess and junior Brock Burdine will slot in at guard spots.  Carter Baldwin is an option in the middle.

Irondale Knights (2016-17 season 5-22, 1-18 Conference, 7th West)
The Knights have to replace all everything guard Sean Sutherlin (23.9 PPG).  Junior Aden Price is the top returnee at 9.6 PPG.  Senior Brendan White (6.1 PPG) returns in the middle.  Senior Daudi Simon and junior Leighton Glodek also return to the rotation.

Maple Grove Crimson (2016-17 season 28-4, 17-2 Conference, 1st West)
The Crimson have to replace the entire roster with 10 seniors graduating.  Brad Davison (24.9 PPG) and Tywhon Pickford (21.1 PPG) are the 2 high profile stars in that group.  Experience will be a problem but there is talent on hand.  Juniors Jared Rainey and Ian Lim are the backcourt.  Senior Alex Battist takes over in the middle.  Senior Jordan Stensland is an option on the wing.

Osseo Orioles (2016-17 season 21-8, 13-6 Conference, 4th West)
Leading scorer and top shooter Zach Theisen (22 PPG) returns for the Orioles.  Maurice Nelson (9.4 PPG) also returns to the lineup after a productive season.  They do have to replace lots of firepower in the graduated Mar Mar Hughes (8.5 PPG) and the Bezdicek twins (combined over 20 PPG).  Soph Cornell Richardson should break into the rotation as a major threat.  Emmette Page (6.5 PPG) is an experienced returnee and Richard Mulbah is another front line option.

Park Center Pirates (2016-17 season 21-7, 14-5 Conference, 3rd West)
Star PG Losini Kamara (11.8 PPG) is off to Idaho but the Pirates are still very talented.  NDSU commit SG Jarius Cook returns after leading the team with 15.1 PPG last year.  Dain Dainja (8.7 PPG) mans the middle as one of the state's top sophomores.  A ton of other experience returns with juniors Khari Broadway (9.3 PPG) and Emmanuel Tamba (6.9 PPG).  Athletic forward Lavante Parker and junior Tommy Chatman are also talented options in the rotation.

Robbinsdale Armstrong Falcons (2016-17 season 18-9, 15-4 Conference, 2nd West)
Big loss for the Falcons as star forward Race Thompson decided to enroll at Indiana early and skip his senior year.  Forward Quinn Smith transferred to Maranatha.  Plus all the other starters graduated including the backcourt of Isaiah Rollins (13 PPG) and Davonte Saeed-El (12.9 PPG).  Isaiah Miller and Ben Inniger return to the perimeter rotation.  Cole Priem is another perimeter option who can shoot it.

Spring Lake Park Panthers (2016-17 season 5-22, 3-16 Conference, 6th West)
The Panthers took lumps with a young lineup and the injury to football star Zach Ojile.  Leading scorer Kameron Davis 18.2 PPG returns on the wing.  Elijah Elkerton (10.7 PPG) returns to the center spot and soph Gabe Myren (6.9 PPG) returns at a guard spot.  Ben Whann and Jackson Wenholz are experienced guards.  Junior Walker Steward (5.1 PPG) provides depth up front.

Totino-Grace Eagles (2016-17 season 15-13, 8-11 Conference, 5th West)
Nick Carroll takes over the program with Rob Ware now at Maranatha.  He has to replace the top 2 scorers from last year.  F Rocky Kreuser topped the list at 16.4 PPG and is now at NDSU.  Shooter Nathan Kavolak averaged 15.7 PPG.  The Eagles have their next 5 scorers return though.  G Charlie Jacob leads the way with 14.2 PPG.  Will Schmidt mans the middle at 8.9 PPG.  PG Braeden Mischke and SG Nick Flottmeier return at the guard spots.  Tyler Kittelson is an athletic returnee on the front line along with Sam Hanson.

Predicted Order of Finish

North Division
  1. Champlin Park   
  2. Elk River
  3. Centennial     
  4. Blaine  
  5. Andover 
  6. Anoka  
  7. Coon Rapids   
West Division
  1. Park Center
  2. Totino-Grace   
  3. Osseo 
  4. Maple Grove    
  5. Spring Lake Park
  6. Robbinsdale Armstrong 
  7. Irondale 
Conference Overview:
In the west, Park Center is the clear favorite and the 1 elite team in either division.  Totino-Grace has too much returning to not put them 2nd.  Osseo gets nod over Maple Grove thanks to a couple of returnees and experience.  Spring Lake Park moves up a spot with all of the losses at Armstrong and most of their roster back.  Irondale still takes up the last spot.

The north once again is noticeably weaker than than the west.  Only 1 player who averaged double figures returns in the division.  Champlin Park still has too much talent to not be the favorite.  Elk River is always solid and Centennial has a good group of guards coming back.  I see those teams fighting for 2nd.  Blaine looks to jump into that group as well.  I don't see the bottom 3 changing.  Coon Rapids moves down as they lose a ton.  Andover and Anoka fight to stay above the cellar.

Conference MVP: Jarius Cook - Park Center

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Cody Lindenberg - Anoka
  • Carter Anderson - Centennial 
  • Cooper Olson, Jared Walter - Champlin Park
  • Jackson Aurelius - Coon Rapids
  • Cornell Richardson - Osseo
  • Dain Dainja - Park Center 
  • Adam Biewen - Robbinsdale Armstrong
  • Gabe Myren, Jacob Say, Blake Remme, Daydor Phillips- Spring Lake Park
Conference Games to Watch
  • Totino-Grace at Park Center - Jan 11th
  • Park Center at Totino-Grace - Jan 30th 
  • Champlin Park at Park Center - Feb 2nd
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Park Center vs Minnehaha - Dec 9th (Tipoff Classic at Hopkins) 
  • Hopkins at Champlin Park - Dec 12th
  • Park Center at Wayzata - Dec 15th

2017-18 Lake Conference Preview

This is the 10th preview in my 2017-2018 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 (2016-17 season 16-13, 3-5 Conference, 3rd)
20 PPG from guard Owen Chose and defender Will Pahl both need to be replaced.  The rest of the rotation is back.  Senior Kyler Kluge (13.2 PPG) and soph Drake Dobbs (11.8 PPG) will carry the offensive load from the perimeter and do the ball handling.  Soph forward Austin Andrews (8.6 PPG) returns to lead the front court.  Seniors Antonio Montero, Jack Tuttle and DJ Johnson return to the rotation with soph Connor Christensen.

Edina Hornets (2016-17 season 18-10, 3-5 Conference, 4th)
Senior PG Walt McGrory (23.1 PPG) needs to be replaced.  Senior Anders Nelson averaged 15.7 PPG and will step into that role.  Junior wing Jack Middleton should see his 7.6 PPG go up significantly with his sharpshooting.  Luke Glenna provides defense and experience in the backcourt.  Size needs to be replaced up front with the graduation of Matt Hofrenning.  The Hornets move their home games from the Edina Community Center to the high school this season.

Hopkins Royals (2016-17 season 23-6, 6-2 Conference, Tie 1st)
Hopkins has to replace D1 players in Ish El-Amin (20.1 PPG) and Simon Wright (16 PPG).  But the Royals still expect to be in the running for a state title.  The backcourt is experienced with soph PG Blaise Beauchamp (11.8 PPG) and Anthony Davis (11.5 PPG).  Then the front court is as good as any with senior Joe Hedstrom (8.6 PPG) and junior Zeke Nnaji (8.1 PPG).  Breck transfer Kerwin Walton is a candidate to be the other perimeter starter.  They'll have plenty of depth at all positions with players like Dane Zimmer and Andrew Dahnke.

Minnetonka Skippers (2016-17 season 12-15, 2-6 Conference, 5th)
The Skippers lose their 3 double figure scorers from last season.  That accounts for over 40 PPG and takes away their best 2 wings and inside man.  Coach Ryan Freeberg has pieces to work with though.  Junior Jalen Dearring (7.7 PPG) runs the point and is the top returnee.  Soph Cam Steele and senior Peter Haas will handle inside duties.  Jon Martens returns on a wing and junior Aaron Syverson gives them another guard option.  Hopkins transfer Andy Stafford should also contribute.

Wayzata Trojans (2016-17 season 28-4, 6-2 Conference, Tie 1st)
Wayzata also has to replace a dynamic duo.  Gavin Baumgartner and Ryan Lindberg combined for over 30 PPG last year.  But the backcourt will still be strong, if not big, with juniors Jacob Beeninga (12.9 PPG) and Luke Paulson to handle the ball and shoot it.  Senior sniper Drew Galinson should fill Lindberg's role.  So expect the Trojans to still shoot the lights out.   No experience returns at the big man spots.  Tanner Jonas is an option there.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Hopkins
  2. Wayzata
  3. Eden Prairie
  4. Edina
  5. Minnetonka
Conference Overview
The league is marked by outstanding guard play on every roster.  Hopkins gets the nod here because they're the 1 team that also has an interior game (a very good one at that).  Wayzata will miss Gavin Baumgartner's versatility on both ends but they have enough shooting to be 2nd here.  Eden Prairie and Edina are similar teams to last year and Eden Prairie won big twice last year so I give them 3rd.  Minnetonka is the only team left so they are at the bottom.  But they split with both Eden Prairie and Edina last year so I could see anything happening 3 thru 5.  Anders Nelson gets my MVP nod due to value to team.  The other teams have more depth to compensate for a star injury.

Conference MVP: Anders Nelson - Edina

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Drake Dobbs, Austin Andrews, Connor Christensen, Lukas Dunford - Eden Prairie
  • Blaise Beauchamp, Kerwin Walton - Hopkins
  • Cam Steele- Minnetonka
Conference Games to Watch
  • Wayzata at Hopkins - Jan 12th
  • Hopkins at Wayzata - Feb 16th
 Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Cretin Derham-Hall at Hopkins - Dec 2nd (Girls Tipoff Classic)
  • De La Salle at Hopkins - Dec 9th (Tipoff Classic)
  • Hopkins at Champlin Park - Dec 12th
  • Lakeville North at Wayzata - Dec 12th
  • Park Center at Wayzata - Dec 15th
  • Wayzata vs Orono - Dec 21st (Hamline Tournament)
  • Hopkins vs Minnehaha (projected) - Dec 23rd (Augsburg Tournament)
  • Hopkins vs St. Thomas Academy - Dec 27th (UST Tourney)
  • Wayzata vs St. Thomas Academy - Dec 28th (UST Tourney)
  • Hopkins at Orono - Jan 9th
  • Hopkins at Minneapolis North - Feb 13th
  • Wayzata at De La Salle - Feb 23rd

2017-18 Metro West Conference Preview

This is the 9th preview in my 2017-2018 season preview series.  This 3rd week and final week of conference previews will cover mostly class AAAA schools.  Then next week 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 (2016-17 season 10-17, 4-10 Conference, 6th)
Big loss for the Red Knights as forward Jamison Battle transferred to De La Salle.  He was their top scorer at 15 PPG.  G Will Whitmore (12.6 PPG) and Derek Drees (14.1 PPG) graduated.  That's over 41 PPG that needs to be replaced.  Joe Dunn (9.3 PPG) returns to the front line as the top returning scorer.  Gabe Alada (athleticism) and Carter Uphus (length) are a couple of other experienced rotation players.  Riley Miller and Dylan Drees are other options.

Bloomington Jefferson Jaguars (2016-17 season 22-5, 13-1 Conference, Tie 1st)
Jefferson has to replace 4 of their top 5 scorers.  That includes 19.6 PPG from forward Tyler Riemersma who's now at Navy.  PG Joe Hird and Jack Tillotson are also big losses.  Mike Evens is the top returnee from a balanced group.  Gavin Lyons is another offensive option on the win.  Chris Seymore provides an experienced defensive guard.  The JV squad had great success last year so expect the Jags to reload.

Bloomington Kennedy Eagles (2016-17 season 7-19, 1-13 Conference, 8th)
Kennedy looked like a surprise story after a 4-1 start, but finished 3-18 after that.  Jamin Cook comes over from Washburn to be the 3rd head coach in 3 years.  While they lose forward Josh Bryant (12.9 PPG), they do have a couple of pieces to work with.  PG Markel Aune averaged 18.7 PPG and has big man Krystian Toliver  (10.5 PPG) as a secondary option.  Isaiah Stone and Issac Coutier return on the perimeter.  Allen Ardley returns with size.

Chanhassen Storm (2016-17 season 12-15, 8-6 Conference, 3rd)
Leading scorer Trey Prince and 17.6 PPG has graduated.  Guard Chris Wandling is the top returnee as 10.2 PPG.   Austin Carter is another top offensive option on the wing.  Ryder Hutton also returns to the rotation. 

Chaska Hawks (2016-17 season 24-7, 13-1 Conference, Tie 1st)
Is this the 1st year that the Hawks don't hoist a league title?  Star forward Myles Hanson (24.3 PPG), point guard Andrew Kallman (12.9 PPG) and Alex Strazzanti are 3 big losses.  Junior forward Cole Nicholson (13.1 PPG) leads the returning group.  Parker Bjorklund returns as a ball handling option.  Matt Eliason returns as a defensive specialist.  I look for soph Zach Lea to step up from JV and provide plenty of offense.

Richfield Spartans (2016-17 season 10-19, 3-11 Conference, 7th)
Richfield made a surprise run to the section final last season after losing 9 of their last 10 in the regular season.  They have to replace the size and athleticism of Antonio Maddox (13.5 PPG) and Davis Miles.  But they have Devin Wade-Henderson (14.1 PPG) returning as a go to guy on the wing.  Emmanuel Blackshear (8.4 PPG) and Anthony Sanders are experienced guards.

Robbinsdale Cooper Hawks (2016-17 season 13-13, 7-7 Conference, Tie 4th)
Leading scorer Beijan Newbern (20.3 PPG) is now at Maranatha.  Forward Damien Gordon  and his 12.3 PPG graduated.  But Bo Powell still has plenty to work with for his havoc system.  Junior guard Jalen Justice averaged 12.3 PPG.  Senior Nate Hill was also in double figures at 11.6 PPG.  Jalen Miller, Onte Burns and Trokon Massey all saw significant minutes last year.
St. Louis Park Orioles (2016-17 season 14-14, 7-7 Conference, Tie 4th)
Wing Mykal Howard (10.4 PPG) and center Ryan Domres (6.8 PPG) are 2 significant pieces that graduated.  The backcourt will be solid with PG Cire Mayfield (12.9 PPG) as the top returnee and SG Joey Whitlock (10.1) PPG both returning.  Forward Aidan Doherty (10.1 PPG) also returns to the lineup.  No other notable experience returns.  Junior Anthony Rayson is a top candidate for a post spot.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Bloomington Jefferson  
  2. Chaska
  3. St. Louis Park
  4. Robbinsdale Cooper  
  5. Chanhassen 
  6. Benilde-St. Margaret's  
  7. Bloomington Kennedy
  8. Richfield 
Conference Overview
There's no team that really sticks out here and there's lots of mediocrity.  Jefferson and Chaska will reload and are too well coached to drop that far with this group.  St. Louis Park has a solid perimeter trio so I take them as the best of the rest.  Cooper is also in that discussion as their running and trapping style can get people.  The rest of the league isn't good.  Chanhassen was better than I thought they'd be last year so I'll give them a benefit here.  Benilde-St. Margaret's has heavy losses.  Kennedy has another new head coach and has underachieved.  What help will Devin Wade-Henderson have at Richfield?

Conference MVP: Cire Mayfield - St. Louis Park

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Zach Lea - Chaska
  • Luke Gitzen - Chanhassen
Conference Games to Watch
  • Chaska at Bloomington Jefferson - Jan 19th
  • Bloomington Jefferson at Chaska - Feb 13th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Chaska at North St. Paul - Dec 2nd 
  • Chaska at Eden Prairie - Dec 27th
  • Wayzata at Jefferson - Jan 2nd
  • Jefferson at Eden Prairie - Jan 9th
  • Chaska at Delano - Jan 9th
  • Orono at Chaska - Jan 11th

2017-18 Metro East Conference Preview

This is the 8th preview in my 2017-2018 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 (2016-17 season 12-15, 8-8 Conference, 5th)
Senior forward Sawyer Levos averaged 13 points a game last season.  He is the only member of the starting lineup and top 7 scorers that returns.   Those losses include tough Colin Kummer (13.6 PPG) and shooter Brandon Haraldson (12.1 PPG).  Grant Hollar moves up in the rotation at a guard spot.  Levi Zak will see time up front.

Henry Sibley Warriors (2016-17 season 5-22, 4-12 Conference, 7th)
Senior PG Rieshaun Satar more than doubled his production to 19 PPG last season.  Center Antonio and wing Jack Korte both averaged double figures and need to be replaced.  Junior forward Malik Spearman saw major minutes last year and should see a significant increase in production.  Junior Elijah Lonetree also returns to the rotation.

Hill-Murray Pioneers (2015-17 season 5-22, 3-12 Conference, 8th)
The Pioneers have a big task in replacing 30.9 PPG from PG Simeon Davis.  The next 3 scorers do return but none were over 7 PPG.  Lance Meniboon gives them an athletic perimeter player.  Matt Langer and lefty forward Ryan Vimr also return to the rotation.  Their guard play without Davis struggled last year.  That means handling pressure could be a major problem.

Mahtomedi Zephyrs (2016-17 season 24-4, 14-2 Conference, 1st)
Mahtomedi built everything up for last year.  Now the entire rotation has graduated.  That includes high flying forward Parker Fox and his 23.3 PPG.  Forward Jack Shay looks like the top option.  Timmy Lindquist will be a top backcourt option.  Soph center Cole Chapman will be an option as well.

North Polars (2016-17 season 17-10, 11-5 Conference, 4th)
Former Gopher player Damien Johnson takes over for Joe Janquart who moved on to Lakeville South.  He has 2 nice pieces to work with as seniors Goodnews Kpegeol and PG Bryce Phillips return as the top 2 scorers (20.9 and 10 PPG).  They'll miss the shooting of Josh Steckler (9.2 PPG).  Dylan Bateman looks to replace that.  Soph Brenden Lankford-Johnson saw minutes in the middle last year as a freshman.  Tytist Dean should be the replacement on the wing for the athletic role guys they lost.
St. Thomas Academy Cadets (2016-17 season 24-8, 12-4 Conference, 3rd)
Coach Jason Birr took the Cadets to the state tourney last season.  The Cadets look to repeat that with their top 3 scorers returning.  Junior guard Jack Thompson leads the team with 16.3 PPG.  Forward Sam Vascellaro is another solid option at 13 PPG.  George Stewart works inside (9 PPG).  A ton of role guys behind them need to be replaced.  Junior Noah Chamberlain is the top candidate to break out.

Simley Spartans (2016-17 season 13-15, 5-10 Conference, 6th)
The 19 PPG mismatch quality of DeAndre Smith and 10.1 PPG from Logan Tschida need to be replaced.  Senior Jake Binley averaged 19 PPG last season and could see a jump in that this season.  He'll have help from shooter Sam Vujovich and junior Isaiah Robinson.  Their size will be inexperienced.  Skyler Clairmont looks to be their top option there.

South St. Paul Packers (2016-17 season 1-25, 0-16 Conference, 9th)
57 straight league home losses now for the Packers.  All 3 double figure scorers and plenty of the rotation have graduated.  Those double figure scorers accounted for almost 44 points per game.  Mark Williams and Hamza Hussein appear to be top internal options.  Rumor has it they've picked up some talented from the east side of St. Paul that could contribute.

Tartan Titans (2016-17 season 25-4, 14-2 Conference, 2nd)
Similar to Mahtomedi, Tartan also has to replace everything.  That includes 4 double figure scorers lead by 18.5 PPG from D1 point guard Jordan Horn.  However the Titans do have junior guard Antwan Kimmons (6 PPG) returning to the rotation as the top option.  They do have some quality JV options moving up.  That includes Andre Jenkins-Whitmore along with juniors Matt Maanum and M'Akil Weems.  Senior Brady Hartman should provide size.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. St. Thomas Academy     
  2. North
  3. Tartan
  4. Mahtomedi
  5. Simley  
  6. Hastings   
  7. Henry Sibley 
  8. Hill-Murray 
  9. South St. Paul
Conference Overview
St. Thomas Academy is the clear favorite with their stars and coach coming back.  North can give them a run but will need time to adjust to the coaching change.  After that heavy losses for last season's top teams.  Tartan and Mahtomedi will rely on JV guys from last year.  Hastings and Simley have 1 quality guy coming back but important losses.  Sibley will try to ride Rieshaun Satar into that group.  Hill-Murray and South St. Paul will struggle.

Conference MVP: Goodnews Kpegeol - North St. Paul

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Cole Chapman - Mahtomedi
  • Brenden Lankford-Johnson - North
Conference Games to Watch
  • North at St. Thomas Academy - Jan 19th
  • St. Thomas Academy at North - Feb 9th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Chaska at North - Dec 2nd
  • St. Thomas Academy vs Osseo - Dec 9th (Tipoff Classic at Hopkins)
  • North vs Eden Prairie - Dec 9th (Tipoff Classic at Hopkins)
  • St. Thomas Academy at Apple Valley - Dec 15th
  • North at Woodbury - Dec 21st
  • Cretin-Derham Hall at St. Thomas Academy - Dec 23rd
  • St. Thomas Academy vs Hopkins - Dec 27th (UST Holiday Tourney)
  • St. Thomas Academy vs Wayzata - Dec 28th (UST Holiday Tourney)

2017-18 Minneapolis City Preview

This is the 7th preview in my 2017-2018 season preview series.  Yesterday was the St. Paul City Conference, now equal time for the Minneapolis City Conference.  For a list of all the season previews, click here.

Edison Tommies (2016-17 season 3-25, 1-13 Conference, Tie 7th)
Edison broke a 50 game league losing streak by beating FAIR late last season.  With FAIR now combining with Henry, that means the Tommies haven't beaten a league opponent since the 2012-13 season.  The program combines with Heritage Academy this season.  That includes new head coach Ahmil Jihad who was the head man at Heritage last year.  That will add much needed athleticism.  1 double figure scorer is lost.  Guard Tenzin Chime (11.1 PPG) is the top returnee along with junior forward Jackson Rusnacko (10.7 PPG). 

North Polars (2016-17 season 32-2, 14-0 Conference, 1st)
Despite losing high scoring forward Isaac Johnson (23.4 PPG) and guard JaQuan Sanders-Smith (11.8 PPG), the Polars still are the heavy favorite.  Senior Odell Wilson's 17.1 PPG holds down the post as the top returning scorer.  Wing Tayler Johnson will see a much expanded role after averaging almost double figures.  Zion Sanford will run the show.  Juniors Nasir El-Amin and Eli Campbell will step into bigger rotation roles at the guard spots.  The Hines twins, Da'Kei and Da'Koi, give them a ton of length inside. 

Patrick Henry Patriots (2016-17 season 20-8, 10-2 Conference, 2nd)
North sider Jamil Jackson takes over the program.  He has to replace 4 double figure scorers who combined for 57 points a game.  That includes forward Lamar Wood and guard Jordan Lynn.  Junior guard Rashaud Rollins is the lone returning starter and top scorer with 7.7 PPG.  William Laabs looks to take over the interior role.  Guard Devon Johnson also returns to the rotation.

Roosevelt Teddies (2016-17 season 20-9, 10-4 Conference, 3rd)
Roosevelt combines with Wellstone for hoops this year.  The Teddies have to replace 3 double-figure scorers including forwards Jordan Johnston and Devon Hannah.  But coach Rob Mestas still has plenty coming back.  Guards Desi Sims and Leo Buchwald both averaged double figures.  Forward Luke Barnes and guard Eric Atson also return.  Barnes is their only size but the Teddies will scrap and claw their way thru it.

South Tigers (2016-17 season 5-22, 5-9 Conference, 6th)
It was one of those seasons where nothing went right for coach Joe Hyser.  Injuries destroyed the lineup.  Soph Curtis Jones was one of those who missed time.  He returns as the only double figure scorer (10.5 PPG).  Guard Jalan Jones and Demetrius Gladney also return to the lineup.  3 of their top guards need to be replaced.  Cossy Kowouto gives them a big body inside. 

Southwest Lakers (2016-17 season 9-18, 6-8 Conference, 5th)
Forward Brennan Hawkins and 16.3 PPG needs to be replaced.  Forward Niko Polydorou (16.2 PPG) is the top returnee.  Ari-Bogen-Grose and big man Alex Fischer return to the lineup.  JayZee Brown will step into a bigger role in the guard rotation

Washburn Millers (2016-17 season 14-11, 7-7 Conference, 4th)
Head coach Jamin Cook left for the Bloomington Kennedy job.  The job has not been filled at the time of this writing.  Guard Cortez Adams and his 10.9 PPG graduated.  Leading scorer Terrell Adams (13.3 PPG) and PG Isaac Lotz (8.1 PPG) are the top returning players.  Charles Cook-Gordon and Damon Neubert return to the perimeter rotation.  Gavin Yares returns and will take over the top role inside.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. North
  2. Roosevelt
  3. Washburn
  4. Henry
  5. South 
  6. Southwest 
  7. Edison
Conference Overview
North is the runaway favorite this year.  Roosevelt and Washburn are in the next tier but I like Roosevelt here especially with the late coaching change at Washburn.  Edison brings up the rear with the other 3 fighting for middle spots.  I'll go with Henry by default.  South jumps up over Southwest if they can stay healthy.

Conference MVP: Odell Wilson - North

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Trejuan Holloman - North
  • Yusuf Abdullah, Jamar Gardner - Henry
  • Curtis Jones, Jaylen Blakley, Demarco Dowden - South
Conference Games to Watch
  • Roosevelt at North - Jan 19th
  • North at Roosevelt - Feb 20th
  • Twin Cities Game - Mar 3rd (at St. Paul champion)
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • North vs Apple Valley - Dec 9th (Tipoff Classic at Hopkins)
  • Eden Prairie at North - Jan 3rd
  • North at Minnehaha - Jan 25th
  • Hopkins at North - Feb 13th

2017-18 St. Paul City Conference Preview

This is the 6th preview in my 2017-2018 season preview series.  In Week 1, it was suburban schools and private schools.  To start week 2, we move to the city schools.  That equals 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 (2016-17 season 15-13, 11-1 Conference, 1st)
Star forward Daveonte Davis returns after averaging over 16 PPG last season and is only a junior.  Fellow juniors Luke McElroy (10.2 PPG) and Ronelle Porter should comprise the starting backcourt.  Dion Ford also returns to the rotation.  Forwards Re'Twan Balenger and Shawn Blanchard were important scoring options that need to be replaced.

Como Park Cougars (2016-17 season 8-18, 5-7 Conference, 5th)
Leading scorer Trey Clark (13.1 PPG) and Brian King-Keller (8.5 PPG) are the top returning threats.  Center Donald Ventrelli returns to the lineup as a banger.  Point guard Jason Jett and guard Kyrin Woodard are 2 major losses on the perimeter after combining for over 23 PPG.

Harding Knights (2016-17 season 7-18, 3-9 Conference, 6th)
The Knights have a serious scoring threat in PG Jovan Christian (19 PPG).  2 other double figure scorers return at the guard spots as well, De'Million Randle (10.7 PPG) and Nuradean Adam (10.2 PPG).  Forward Chris English averaged 13.6 PPG but has graduated.  Davonte Bolton provide their size. 

Highland Park Scots (2016-17 season 23-5, 10-2 Conference, 2nd)
Assistant Undre Ellis takes over for Jon DePerry in the 1st chair.  He has 2 major pieces to replace in 20.2 PPG guard Amitri Collins-Westlund and 19 PPG from athletic forward Dreem Kelly-Jabbar.  Junior guard Evan Brodtman is the top returning player at 6.1 PPG.  Mohamoud Bue also returns at a guard spot.  Gopher football commit Josh Aune will provide muscle up front.

Humboldt Hawks (2016-17 season 9-19, 1-11 Conference, 7th)
Humboldt has to replace 3 of their 4 double figure scorers.  They combined for over 42 points per game.  Senior Derron Riley is the 1 returnee of the 4 and he averaged 12.6 PPG.  Junior Darnell King and senior Avrik Bell are other returning options. 

Johnson Governors (2016-17 season 11-13, 7-5 Conference, 3rd)
The 13 year run of league titles is over.  Leading scorer Kyle Lee returns with 12.6 PPG.  4 of the next 5 top scorers also return for coach Vern Simmons.  Artereal Spriggs and Keylan Jackson will be the size.  Shemar Tucker-Adams, Kobe Anderson and Lamonte White are the top guard options.  Forward Justin Yang's 12.5 PPG needs to be replaced. 

Washington Eagles (2016-17 season 13-15, 5-7 Conference, 4th)
Washington has to replace one of league's top players in Curtis Bell (25.5 PPG).  They also have to replace their other 2 double figure scorers in guards Maurice Carter and James Boua-Taylor.  Soph forward Drewjuan White could have a breakout season after averaging 7.2 PPG last year.  Jackson Carver is another scoring option.  Junior center Da'Quan Grimes is experienced in the middle.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Central 
  2. Johnson
  3. Highland Park
  4. Washington
  5. Como Park
  6. Harding  
  7. Humboldt 
Conference Overview:
My view is that Central retains the top spot.  Johnson has a bounce back year and is the only team who can give them a serious run.  After that, a major drop off.  Highland Park and Washington have major losses but still as good as anybody else.  Como Park and Harding could jump into that group as they have some fire power coming back.  Humboldt holds down the last spot.

Conference MVP: Daveonte Davis - Central

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Drewjuan White - Washington
Conference Games to Watch
  • Johnson at Central - Jan 12th
  • Central at Johnson - Feb 5th
  • Twin Cities Game - Mar 3rd (at St. Paul champion)
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Central at Cretin-Derham Hall - Nov 30th
  • Delano at Central - Dec 12th
  • East Ridge at Central - Jan 3rd
  • Central at Minnehaha - Mar 1st