How the WI Realignment Plan Might Look in MN

There's a very interesting development going on in Wisconsin right now regarding classification.  The WIAA, Wisconsin's version of the MSHSL, is pushing a new plan for realigning sections based on a rural vs urban model.   Here's a good link to read about the particulars.  Basically it says that small schools based in large population areas will be moved up from the 2 smallest divisions (4 and 5) to division 3 while the 2 largest divisions (1 and 2) remain unchanged.  The definition of large urban area is defined by the US Census with a link in the article.  Basically that's an area of more than 25,000 people.  I decided to play around with it a bit and see what it might look like here in Minnesota. 

Here are the rules, I tried to base it on the Wisconsin stuff but 4 classes instead of 5 complicated it.  So I chose the number 300 as a dividing point since I didn't want the smallest schools to move up more than 1 class.

1) Class AAAA remains unchanged.
2) Schools with an enrollment of over 300 and in an urban area will play no lower than class AAA.
3) Schools with an enrollment of under 300 and in an urban area will play in class AA.
4) Enrollment for co-op programs is the combined enrollment of the schools.
5) Enrollment figures are from the MSHSL website but likely doesn't include free lunch calculations or schools who have the ability to opt down.
6) Opt Up schools not included

AAAA retains the same 1195+ range and 64 teams

14 schools were urban and had an enrollment of over 300.  They were moved from class AA to class AAA.  They are (in order of enrollment)
St. Cloud Cathedral
Rochester Lourdes
Charter Stars
St. Paul Academy
St Paul Prep/HSRA
Holy Family Catholic
International School/Eagle Ridge
St. Croix Prep
Minnehaha Academy
Brooklyn Center
Southwest Christian
Providence Academy
Hmong Academy

Class AAA expands to 96 teams in an attempt to balance the enrollments.  That's 8 sections of 12 teams so 4 pigtail games in each which I think would be interesting.  Its the next 82 in enrollment after class AAAA plus the mandated 14 teams above.  The 14 teams above are the smallest in the class with Hmong Academy coming in at 307.  But note they play in section 4A right now, so they would likely be AA after adjustments.  St. Croix Lutheran also moves up but they already opted up for this 2 year cycle.  Note that Brooklyn Center with an enrollment of 336 moves up.  Brooklyn Center is the only public school moved under the plan.  In Wisconsin, the Milwaukee area has a number of smaller public schools that move up to Division 3.

Bloomington Kennedy with a listed enrollment of 1290 (meets AAAA criteria but adjusted to AAA) is the largest school.  Fairmont at 464 is the smallest non-adjusted school in the class.  That compares today to a range of 555-1290.  By comparison, Wisconsin leaves their top 2 classes alone and sees a large disparity in the middle class where all the teams are moved to.

Class AA remains at 128 teams.  Its the next 103 schools by enrollment.  Then 25 teams move up from class A, 18 of those are from the metro area.  Mankato Loyola and Lakeview Christian are 2 other notables that move up.  Hope Lutheran is the bad luck draw here with an enrollment of 27 but being in Winona bumps them up.  On the other end, Milaca is the biggest school with an enrollment of 460.  Rushford-Peterson is the smallest school not forced up with an enrollment of 195.  AA today is a range of 204 - 554.  Wisconsin also ends up with the problem of a very tiny private school facing a public school in the 500 enrollment range.

Class A drops to 138 teams.  Largest school is Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton with an enrollment of 195.  It drops all the way down to Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig at 23.  Ellsworth at 40 is the smallest public.  Note that the class still has private schools, some of them with very good basketball histories.  Central Minnesota Christian, SW MN Christian, Hillcrest Lutheran, New Ulm Cathedral, Minnesota Valley Lutheran and Mayer Lutheran remain in class A because they aren't in a big enough urban area.

Now I'm not advocating for the idea or for the exact way I did it.  The splits in AA and AAA aren't all that appealing.  I did try a version where I moved urban schools over 600 to AAAA with 96 teams.  But that made the split between biggest and smallest in AAA even worse.  My point is discussion as private vs public is an issue that has been around forever.  The WIAA proposal is definitely new and worth evaluation and discussion.  One suggestion is a private school federation.  I find that ironic being I grew up with WISAA (the now defunct private school version of WIAA) in Wisconsin and I always complained that I wanted them to prove them were as good as the public schools so be careful what you wish for.  Another option that has come up is a multiplier value to a private school's enrollment.  The methodology here is probably most similar to the idea of bumping all private schools up a class, another popular suggestion.

Welcome to Czar Season 11

Its that time of year again.  As is tradition here on Labor Day weekend, I move forward to the new school year and another season of high school hoops.  Its my 11th season and I've provided all the usual updates for the 2017-2018 season.  That includes the biennial update of Section Assignments and Section Maps.   We'll dive more into the specific section updates during previews.

The fall basketball schedule including fall leagues and valuable camps can be found here on my Fall Basketball page.  All of the players who have made the choice to play D1 or D2 basketball are listed on my Signings page.  New this year, I'm also including any non-seniors who have made that choice.  I'll move those forward to next season when the time comes.  The Holiday Tournaments page lists out the laundry list of holiday tournaments and who will be playing in them (as far as I know now).  That list will be updated as more teams and schedules become available.

I'll be doing my usual season preview series starting in October.  That will be on the usual schedule of the 6 weeks leading into the start of practice in November with a 2 day MEA break thrown in.  Find out when your conference and section will be previewed on my Season Previews page.  Once again, I'll be doing those in the general order of small schools to large schools.

One major change I've made is the addition of a Resources Page.  This will appear as the 1st option in the menu for folks on mobile devices.  This duplicates all the things you see in the Basketball Links menu on the left side of desktop site but don't appear on a phone.  I've broken that out into 3 major areas, High School Season, AAU Season and Other Sites.  So it has a slightly different feel than the current menu.  Hopefully that makes the multitude of resources that are there easy to use in the mobile world.  Anything that you want to find about Minnesota hoops is likely there. 

2017 Summer Stockraisers

So after watching another season of grassroots hoops here are 10 names that stuck out to me as improving their stock in the recruiting world.  I've limited the list to 17U kids only since that's the vast majority of what I watched.  The names are in no particular order.

Tre Jones - Apple Valley/Howard Pulley
With a very talented point guard class at the national level, where would Tre stand at the end of the season.  Well if you watched the high school season, the end result is no surprise.  He raised his game during the high school season leading the Eagles to a state title.  He continued that momentum into the grassroots season where he repeatedly outplayed his peers.  As has been stated before, you can have any other point guard you want and I'll take my chances (credit Ryan James)

Jarvis Thomas - Orono/Howard Pulley
It was fair to wonder where he would fit in at the start of the season.  After all, with Daniel Oturu already there and Pulley traditionally plays small, how would his minutes turn out?  No questions afterwards.  He hustled and dunked his way up the recruiting charts all season long.  He even showed flashes of a perimeter game.

David Roddy (2019) - Breck/Howard Pulley
Playing up a year didn't hurt Roddy any.  He played a perfect role for the Panthers squad and hit a bunch of big shots.  He definitely progressed faster than expected for a talented Panthers squad.

Joe Hedstrom - Hopkins/Minnesota Comets Lewis
Hedstrom went from being a lower level D1 guy to having Wisconsin, Minnesota and Purdue following him at different points this season.  He played hard and showed ability to finish in the paint.  And as a biased former coach of his, I'll always say he's more skilled than he appears.

Max Bjorklund - Orono/Minnesota Fury Antl
Bjorklund was the catalyst for the 2nd Fury crew and opened eyes all spring and summer.  He's another guard who took the momentum of a great finish to the high school season and showed it during the spring and summer.  He's a capable ball handler and shot maker.  If there's a vastly underappreciated guy out there, he fits the bill. 

Josiah Strong - Champlin Park/Minnesota Powerhouse Hoops Black
At first glance you wonder is he a 2 stuck in a 1 body.  He proved he too can make big shots and play either guard spot.  Was very impressive in his final game vs EYBL rep Portland BC in Las Vegas.  Played himself into a Missouri-Kansas City offer.  Will get a chance to break out this high school season with all the graduation losses for the Rebels.

Tayler Johnson - Minneapolis North/Grassoots Sizzle
Sizzle was often undermanned on the Under Armour Circuit.  But Johnson did everything he could to keep it from being only the Jalen Suggs show.  He stepped up and became the clear #2 guy for the Sizzle.  His quickness definitely played well on the circuit and he showed he could definitely compete.

Luke Martens - Apple Valley/Minnesota Select Ohnstad
Martens has always been known as a great role player who will defend anybody.  But in Vegas he took his offensive game to another level.  Playing without Beijan Newbern or Christian Dickson, Martens carried the offense in the 1st bracket game and then lit it up for 30 and a buzzer beater on championship day as Select won their bracket

Deaundra Roberson - Columbia Heights/43 Hoops
Roberson definitely helped himself with 43 Hoops this grassroots season.  His athleticism caused fits for opponents all season.  He was definitely the catalyst for his crew.  Its also true during the high school season where the Hylanders will be a team to be reckoned with in class AAA.

Calvin Wishart - Delano/D1 Minnesota
Wishart used his speed very effectively throughout the grassroots season.  That allowed him to be very effective playing on the Adidas circuit.  He looks to have another big season for a dangerous Delano squad in AAA.

Vegas 2017 Part 2 (The Rest)

This is part 2 of my writings on what I saw in Las Vegas during the 2017 recruiting period.  Part 1 was about the Minnesota teams so read that here if you missed it.  In this post, everything else that happened.

Lavar Ball
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the clown show around Lavar and Big Ballers.  I didn't attend the Wednesday night game with Zion Williamson where 80,000+ watched on Facebook and another 3,000 to 4,000 watched in person.  The craziest atmosphere that I can recall in my time covering grassroots hoops.  Fans flocking around his team after each game ended.  Then the whole debacle on Friday where he got a T, had the female official replaced and then forfeited his team after he got another T but wouldn't leave the court.  The national writers have said everything that needs to be said on this and far better so I won't repeat it here.  Shame on Lavar and Adidas for how they both handled it.  Total embarrassment.  Credit to the officials group for backing out of their contract with Adidas.  Part of me is slightly disgusted though that when I did seem them on Thursday he actually behaved himself which seems to more and more rare.  Say what you will about the style of play but I love how they get the ball out of the net and get it to the front court . Either via the pass as a 1st option (super underutilized in today's game) or pushing it hard with the dribble.  After that, the shot selection etc etc leaves much to be desired.

The Other Basketball
Another year like 2015 where Point Guard play was the theme.  I got to see a glimpse of most of top point guards in the country during the week between the 3 events.  That made it clear to me that Tre Jones is the top point guard in the country.  There are scoring point guards (most of the crop) and then floor generals like Jones and Devon Dotson.  Very impressed with both of those generals.  Also impressive, Mac Irvin Fire PG Ayo Dosunmu went off for 40 something in the 3rd place game of Pulley's bracket of The Eight.

Speaking of point guards, when not watching The Eight or The Creators Cup, I took in championship bracket runner up Las Vegas Prospects.  Backup PG Christopher Hawkins is no more than 5'6" but just loved how he got after it on the ball and took FOH Seattle out of their offense. 

Cache Valley of Idaho features one of the top bigs in Idaho in Brayden Parker.  The big bruising forward was dominant in the game against Team 907 of Alaska.  That Team 907 squad knocked out 43 Hoops in the bracket opener to get to this point.  Fun game with a surprisingly athletic Alaska team really getting after it and the fans/bench both being very vocal.  But the big man with the Idaho State offer was just too much.

The championship games of the mini brackets didn't disappoint either.  At The Eight, Team Takeover won the Peach Jam finale rematch with the Oakland Soldiers in a very entertaining game.  Ditto that as the Compton Magic went down to the wire to beat the New England Playaz in the Creators Cup final.  Compton got a couple late freebies from star PG Jules Bernard to hold off D1 in the semis.

The Gambling
Now for the important stuff.  I started my monetary adventures at the Bellagio on Monday night.  It was only after I sat down and started playing that I realized that the table was only paying 6 to 5 for Blackjack.  That's a terrible table when most pay 3 to 2.  Quickly got back to even and got out.  Lost everything for the Tuesday afternoon session.  The regular hotel sessions Monday thru Thursday ended about even.  So down a big number going to the big table on the final night.  Double deck and I couldn't bust.  Poor guy next to me was getting 15 and 16 all night.  Not me as I doubled up and more than made up the early losses to come home a big winner.  Best result ever there and even better cards than 2011 at the Bellagio.

The Hangover
It started on Monday on the strip with sightings of an Austin Powers impersonator and Chewbacca on the way to the Bellagio.  So not only did I break my regular glasses on Thursday morning (so who knows what I actually saw) but after recovering on Sunday from the flight home, somehow I was missing part of a tooth (Chewbacca noise here).  Sad part is I have no idea how.  I had fun but didn't think I had THAT much fun.  No super late nights, just extra good food as I used Tuesday to get some quality Pot Liquor CAS BBQ.  After 5 miles on foot with luggage on my back on Saturday, all I could do is sleep and rehydrate.  Well worth it though to see 5 kids that I once coached.  Spent 3 hours in the dentist's chair getting that fixed to wash away all the winnings.

Vegas 2017 Part 1 (MN Teams)

The annual adventure known as the Las Vegas recruiting period has completed for 2017.  So much to talk about that I'm going to split it into 2 parts.  This post will deal with the Minnesota teams that I saw.  The next post will be the lighter side of the trip and the other hoops I saw.  9 of the top 10 Minnesota 17U teams were in Vegas (WOTN season was done).  I had a chance to see 8 of those teams and saw the game that 43 Hoops would have played in had they won their bracket opener.  So here are my thoughts in order of viewing.

Howard Pulley
Pulley is the one team in this group that I saw twice.  They lost their opener to E1T1 on Wednesday.  Very good use of a soft trap to get the ball out of Tre Jones hands.  That held him to 12 points in that game.  Tre rebounded to outplay LSU commit Javonte Smart in the 5th place game of The 8.  But that was another game where his shot left him.  3-12 FG but ended with 19 points, 6 board and 8 assists.  Gabe Kalscheur combined for 7 triples in those 2 games. David Roddy's hot shooting in game 2 was a big factor.  Jarvis Thomas very active in both games and even knocked down a 3 in each game.  Disappointing end to the tourney with a big loss to NY2LA champ Team Blaze Select and Ohio St commit Musa Jallow.  They finish 2-2.

Grassroots Sizzle
Sizzle played a Wednesday showcase game in the Fab 48 vs 1 Family.  1 Family had a quick turnaround with only 1 session off to cross town after a tough 4 point loss.  Jalen Suggs and 1 Family star Nassir Little both played well but ended up leaving with injuries.  Javonni Bickham and Tayler Johnson would pick up the slack and get THE NATION a win.  Johnson impressive all weekend.  They would beat Belmont Shore in their pool finale to reach the championship bracket.  They lost the opener to Nike South Beach who then forfeited the next game.  That meant a rematch with fellow UA member C2K Elite which they lost.  We'll ignore that since they shouldn't have been in it anyway and on the schedule it shows as a forfeit.  They finish 3-2.

D1 Minnesota
Matt Hurt had a quiet 2nd half in the game I saw vs Compton Magic.  Beyond that though he was terrific.  Race Thompson stepped up in that 2nd half and finished with 23 points.  Calvin Wishart continued to play well at the point guard spot.  D1 would finish 3rd in the Creators Cup by knocking off eventual tourney champion Team Loaded VA.  They lost to the Iowa Barnstormers in the tourney quarterfinals to finish 5-2.

Comets Lewis
The game I saw had the Comets lose a NY2LA league rematch with the WI Swing.  Joe Hedstrom had 15 of his 20 points in the 1st half of the game.  Purdue and Wisconsin 2 big names there to watch him.  Ultimately though, the Swing made big shots in the 2nd half and hung on late.  That put the Comets 2nd in pool play.  They advanced to the semis of the Gold Elite bracket to finish 5-2.

The rest of these 17U games were in Saturday bracket play.  My luggage and I hiked over 4 miles to see these and they didn't disappoint.

Powerhouse Black
Powerhouse won their pool and drew Portland Basketball Club of the EYBL in the 1st round of bracket play.  Portland BC featuring Barrow, AK native and top 50 national player Kamaka Hepa.  Powerhouse played without Jarius Cook who was injured earlier in the tourney.  But the Powerhouse guys didn't care.  After trailing by 7 in the 1st half, they would open up a 12 point second half lead.  Both Gach with a big first half.  Josiah Strong would make big shot after big shot.  Portland BC would rally to tie behind their big guards which Powerhouse had no answer for.  Tie game at the end of regulation, Portland BC trying to give 5 fouls to close the clock out.  Both Gach with a catch and 1 dribble pullup for 3 that he got hit on and its good but waved off.  Dig thru my twitter feed for the video.  Spirit of the call right but easily could have counted for the win.  Hepa would miss late in double OT but Portland BC would put it back for a 60-59 2 OT win.  Both Gach 20 pts and Josiah Strong 17 pts with terrific games.  Nate Hendler with a very good game off the bench as well.  Powerhouse finishes 3-1.

Fury Wilde
Fury took on Griffins, a collection of players including John Stockton's son and coached by none other than Stockton himself.  We get to bingo him immediately for not turning his lineup in to start the game.  You could really see the Utah Jazz influence on his team too.  Hard cuts and UCLA action both shown and were staples of the old Jazz offense.  They also had a really good big guy that Fury had no answer for.  Fury really struggled in this one until late.  But Michael Jones would keep Fury close.  Drew Galinson with a late 3 to make it a 2 possession game and Fury would hang on from there.  Jones with 22, Galinson with 10.  Joey Whitlock 3 big 3s to help do some zone busting for 9.  Fury.  They would lose in the Platinum championship semis to finish 5-1.

Select Ohnstad
Select's bracket day was strange.  They were given a 1st round bye but their opponent sat in the main gym and didn't show up.  Game ends up being a forfeit.  But no time wasted as Select only had to wait another 90 minutes for their next game.  San Antonio GATA played a nasty 1-2-2 matchup and gave Select fits.  Select would make a shot and GATA would have an answer for a 33-20 lead in the 2nd half.  Luke Martens the only Select player able to get any offense to work.  Select would finally start making some shots.  The biggest being by Nick Fulford who buried 3 huge 3s down the stretch.  that brought Select back from 5 down with 3:30 left to 1 up with 1:20 left.  Select would hang on from there to win 51-47.  Luke Martens with 17 in the game.  He would go for 30 and hit a 3 to force overtime on championship day.  Select goes 7-0 and wins their Platinum championship bracket.

Fury Antl
Fury Antl came into Vegas hot but struggled to a 1-2 mark in bracket play.  That means we get the infamous 9 PM game and on Saturday night no less.  A detached auxiliary gym means no air conditioning and no game in the main gym.  Add in a full day of sweaty kids and fans in the gym and you can fill in the rest.  This made the old days under the track at Jefferson during the AAU State Tourney look like a picnic.  Their opponent was the Dallas Razorbacks who have a fun and athletic squad.  Offense in the 1st half very hard to come by with a 16-15 halftime score.  Razorbacks getting only 1 bucket in the last 7:45.  Max Bjorklund carried the Fury offense.  His 3 point play with 1:15 left tied the game.  Fury would get a stop and take timeout with 37.8 left.  Razorback player gets in the Fury huddle while ref is cleaning up a wet spot.  Fans start going nuts about it, kid gets shoved out of the huddle and gets a T.  Fury goes on to win 48-45 with Bjorklund scoring half of those.  Fury Antl would go on to sweep their bracket and win the Copper Elite championship.  They finish 5-2.

Lower Levels
Also have to give mention here to the Heat MacDonald and Heat Bui 16s that I saw play on Thursday night.  Heat MacDonald had no trouble winning their pool and they made a run all the way to their Platinum championship final before losing.  They finish 6-1.  Heat Bui and their Bethel offense was really fun to watch.  We had to invoke the up 50 media must leave mercy rule for their game.  They won a rematch with School Boys to open bracket play.  They lost their Platinum championship semifinal to finish 5-1. 

What I didn't see
43 Hoops 17s swept their pool and lost in 1st round to go 3-1.  D1 16s swept their pool before losing in the 2nd round of bracket play.  They finish 4-1.  Select Jaryan 16s finished 0-4.  Both Fury 16s won their pool but lost in 1st round to finish 3-1.  School Boys also swept their pool before losing to Heat Bui in the 1st round, 3-1 finish. 
D1 15s steamrolled their 3 pool opponents and their 1st bracket opponent before losing in the 2nd round.  They finish 4-1.  43 Hoops 15s started with a win over the Oakland Soldiers but lost their last 3 games for a 1-3 finish.  Fury Zurn won their pool and lost in 1st round for a 3-1 finish.  Select Gaddis 15s finished 2nd in pool and made a run to the Gold Elite championship game before losing.  They finish 5-2.

Thoughts from 2017 GPA

Another quality weekend at the Great Plains Alliance in St. Cloud.  Champioship games in St. Cloud never seem to disappoint and they didn't this weekend either.  We had 2 overtime title games and the other was a tight classic.  Here's some of the notes from what I saw.

Powerhouse Red won the 17U bracket over Comets Lewis in a 70-69 overtime thriller.  Powerhouse rallied from 5 down in the last couple minutes of regulation to force the OT.  Josiah Strong with a couple of big buckets late.  The Comets would get a late hoop but Powerhouse would see Colton Codute go coast to coast to beat the regulation buzzer.  The Comets had 1 last chance in OT but Matt Todd's lane fadeaway at the buzzer was off.

The game was a very fun coaching chess match as 6'10" center Joe Hedstrom for the Comets ended up guarding the 5'10" PG Codute for a significant portion of the game.  Powerhouse would show a Golden State like "death" lineup with Jarius Cook, Josiah Strong, Anthony Davis, Duoth Gach and Michael Schaefer to start the 2nd half.  I was really hoping to see more of that group just for the humor value.  Very logical lineup too as you wouldn't want Hedstrom chasing any of that group around the 3 point line.  But the leadership and defense of Codute is really hard to take off the floor.  Jarius Cook hit a couple of big 3s in the game and as the biggest stockriser on the Powerhouse squad he did not disappoint.

Powerhouse looked like they would steamroll the MN Eagles in the semis.  Schaefer had 25+ thanks to hot shooting before fouling out.  Codute also fouled out and the roof almost caved in.  Powerhouse saw a 25 point lead with 12 minutes left shrink all the way down to 6 with 2:40 left.  But the rally would fall short.

Speaking of rallies and hot shooting, another great game on the weekend in 17s was ECI Prospects vs Wisconsin Shooters.  Preston Maccoux of the Shooters showed a smooth stroke leading the Shooters to a 14 point halftime lead.  ECI would rally to take a late lead.  But a Grant Basile layup and 2 free throws in the last minute would lead the Shooters to the last 8 points of the game and the victory.  Maccoux didn't play on Saturday and the Shooters fell to Select Ohnstad in the quarterfinals.

Credit to WI Playmakers Clark for their performance.  They took Comets Servaty right down to the final 6 seconds on Thursday night before a Jordan Belka 3 did them in.  Then they won a couple of bracket games before falling to Comets Lewis in the quarterfinals.  Speaking of Belka, the Rogers forward is one of the hottest names coming out of the event as he starts to rack up a bunch of D2 offers.

SD Attack won the 15s last year at the GPA and defended that title in 16s with a 77-73 win over Comets Stumpf.  Even more impressive when you consider they did it without star PG Sawyer Schultz (has Augustana offer).  That left Noah Freidel as the main attraction and he did not disappoint.  He made tough shots all weekend and had 36 in the championship game.  Its a fun squad to watch as they execute good offense well, play rock solid defense and don't make mistakes. 

The biggest story of the 16U bracket has to be Wayzata G Jacob Beeninga.  He was fantastic all weekend and finished it with 42 points in the championship game.  The mano-a-mano battle with Friedel in that game will be remembered for a long time. 

Beeninga and White Bear Lake's Sam Schwartz for Heat MacDonald were the leaders for their squads in the semis.  Beeninga had a big first half with 16 of his 22 points and Schwartz brought his crew back in the 2nd half to finish with 19 points.  A late Beeninga steal and free throw would finish the game.  Comets Stumpf won that semifinal 58-55.

WOTN Swedberg lost to the eventual champs in the quarterfinals but won their other 4 games of the weekend.  Lakeville North forward Tate Staloch played well and definitely helped himself.  Fury Zurn played up in the 16s and drew the champs in the round of 16s.  But Fury also won their other 4 games to win the consolation championship.  They knocked off a talented ECI Prospects squad and solid Heat Wright and Real Athletics squads along the way.  ECI's Isaac Undlin was a physical inside presence that caused problems and Mitch Larson showed nice range on his shot over the weekend.

In the 15u bracket, WOTN Davis won the title 68-62 in OT over Comets DLR.  6'8" C Steven Crowl from Eastview looks like he'll be a nice compliment to Tate Machacek on the Lightning frontline.  Add in a shooter like Gabe Bassett from Farmington and forward Reid Gastner from Lake City and you have a nice squad.  They played very well in Sanford League play and extended that here.

Looking back at 10 years

Today marks the 10 year anniversary of the creation of this site and my entry in the local high school hoops scene.  Who would have thought this would last this long?  This ride is an amazing roller coaster and you always feel like you're about to fall off.

I've mellowed and slowed down over the past few years or should I say I do a better job of picking my spots.  But there's a been a ton I've seen.  Over 1000 high school varsity games plus countless other lower level and AAU games.  That means I've had tons of concessions food and thousands of ounces of beverages and heard more current music than I would like.  Here are some of the things that stick out in no particular order.

The Food and Beverages: This started as space filler at the start of a post.  Then it grew and now some of you (you know who you are) only read that section.  Yes the numbers are preposterous, but is it really that interesting?  Who knew?  You can ponder that while you ignore the rest of this piece.

Locations: When I first started this, I was shocked by the total number of schools in the metro.  Now I look back at the places I've been where you can't normally see a game.  There are closed schools like St. Bernard's, Concordia-Bloomington, Minneapolis Central and the original St. Paul Washington.  Then there are places that have built new gyms like Mounds Park Academy, St. Thomas Academy, St. Agnes and the University of St. Thomas.  Not to mention the places that had rare games or don't hold them anymore like the 2008 state tournament using Mariucci Arena because of a robotics event at Williams Arena.  While we're at the U of M how about the old section final doubleheaders at the Sports Pavilion.  Then there was Osseo Junior High coming into play when Maple Grove's gym got flooded.  ESPN's use of the big gym at CDH for a Joe Mauer event forced a game to the small upstairs gym.  Even a concert taking over the Orono main gym and forcing the Spartans next door to the middle school for a season opener.

The Officials:  It started as a harmless way for me to remember these guys.  Then Lithgow got out of hand.  Before you know it, he's working a game at Breck with another official who demanded a nickname on the spot.  Hence The Nutty Professor was born.  Other nicknames came along like The Rev, Billy Crystal and the JMOA.  But I've only gotten to use Mr. Roboto once which is a huge disappointment.

Best Team: Hopkins 2009 class AAAA state champions
This one was easy.  PG Marcus Williams (NDSU FB and NY Jets), Trent Lockett (Az St and Marquette), Ray Cowels (Santa Clara), Mike Broghammer (Notre Dame) and Mr Basketball Royce White (MN and Iowa State) was the starting 5.  DJ Peterson (La Salle) and Marvin Singleton (UNI) came off the bench.  Freshman PG Siyani Chambers (Harvard) and soph Joe Coleman (Minnesota/St. Mary's) were also on that team.  Both would go on to win the Mr Basketball award (2011 and 2012 respectively) but didn't play many critical minutes that year.  So that's 9 kids who played at a mid-major level or above.  Scary talent level.

On a side note about the 2009 class, remember this.  Nate Wolters and Mike Muscala have seen NBA time and didn't make the Mr. Basketball final 5 that year.  Wolters not making it was almost criminal.  That class and the class of 2017 absolutely stacked with talent.

Best Game: Dec 12, 2008  Hopkins at St. Bernard's (what I said then)
Its only fitting that the 2008-2009 Hopkins team is here.  They played 2 single digit games all season and this was the closest of them.  St. Bernard's was the consensus top team in AA that season and ended up going up 28-4 and losing to Pelican Rapids in the state title game.  Coach Ed Cassidy had a loaded roster of his own and this game was as big as any.  Then you add in the tiny gym at Bernard's with people crammed in for the atmosphere and you have a game for the ages.   Jordair Jett and Royce White going head to head was something to behold.  A tie game with 7 minutes to play before Hopkins hung on.

Some other games that deserve mention here.
  • Hopkins winning the 2014 AAAA title in 4 OT over Shakopee thanks to a 3/4 court heave from Amir Coffey as Hopkins held the ball for 3 of the 4 overtimes against the Shakopee zone. That shot was from right in front of my position on press row and is still incredible.
  • 2012 State championship night.  Ian Theisen from the baseline in front of me to give Osseo the AAAA title over Lakeville North.  That was after De La Salle went full court after a bucket with no time out and got a Ross Barker buzzer beater to defeat Washburn.  That was the 1st in the string of their current 6 straight AAA titles.  
  • Southwest with the February 8, 2013 buzzer beater against South.  That home win was needed as the Minneapolis City ended up in a 3 way tie between South, Southwest and Washburn.  Southwest would go to the Twin Cities Game for the 1st time in 30 years and for only the 2nd time.  While they were only 15-13 that season and lost to Johnson in that Twin Cities Game, it was a landmark moment for a program that has long struggled in the league.
  • March 6, 2014 Cretin-Derham Hall ends the Tyus Jones era.   This was the 3AAAA section final in 2014 with Tyus Jones and Apple Valley trying to defend a state title.  A full house, intense double OT game and a major upset.
  • The Blake Hoffarber shot at state vs Eastview was before my time.  I didn't attend the 2007 final between Buffalo and Robbinsdale Armstrong but the shooting and ovation from the crowd is still worth watching.
Best Atmosphere:  That Hopkins at St. Bernard's game was great but I want to mention Dec 7, 2013, De La Salle vs Apple Valley boys in the 2013 Girls Breakdown Tipoff Classic at Hopkins.   Both teams were ranked number 1 and arguably the top 2 teams in the state.  While the game lost some luster because Reid Travis was out due to injury, the interest in the game was still crazy.  I wrote about it here.

Scoring Records:  Its crazy to think that the boys scoring record has been broken 3 times during these 10 years.  Cody Schilling broke it in the state tourney quarters at Mariucci Arena in 2008.  Anders Broman set the current record in December 2012 at the Hibbing Holiday Tournament.  Then there was January 25th, 2010 when Kevin Noreen of MTS broke the record in a game at Roosevelt.  I feel the same way now as I did then about how the record was treated differently for Kevin than others.  The Red Star drooled over Schilling sending then writer John Millea (now the designed scribe for the MSHSL) down to Ellsworth for a big feature.  Broman's record was heavily followed.  But on Noreen's night, nobody showed up besides me and Steve Froemming.   That's sad.  Not to mention The Red Star had a hatchet piece ready to go that was posted almost instantly after the game ended.  With the whole LaMelo, Lonzo, Lavar Ball mess going on today, it draws a striking parallel for me.  Many people had issues with Kevin's dad and/or MTS coach John Sherman for whatever reason.  While they may not have been saints, many took that out on Kevin which is a shame.  Kevin is a great person who never wanted the spotlight and he deserved much better.

Most Unintentionally Funny Headline Ever:   January 12, 2012 Hooker reaches a milestone.
I write lame post titles all the time which are usual sad plays on words.  Some actually work out well like "Ponies mash the Spuds" from November 27, 2015.  Most don't.  But the post in question was completely unintentional.  Park Center star Quentin Hooker who had a very nice career at North Dakota is the subject of the post.  He reached his 1000th career point during the game.  So the title is innocent enough.  But if you don't know the player in question or have a humorous point of view, the prostitution angle to this adds an entirely different spin to it.  This generated a lot of good laughs all from an innocent attempt to acknowledge a milestone.
The Changing of the AAU Landscape
Once upon a time, we had actual AAU qualifiers and a state tournament.  There was only 1 shoe program not 3.  Almost every major event was held at Bloomington Jefferson (Magic spring tourney, State AAU tourney, Howard Pulley tourney).  Then AAU went away and the shoe programs came along.  Magic is still trying to rebuild.  Glory fell off the map (RIP Charlie Paxson) while many other programs like Comets, Fury, Heat, WOTN etc all took a step up.  More and more Minnesota players are playing.  More and more players are seeing success and scholarships.  Great to see it take a big step forward.  I've seen tournaments in Chicago, Denver, Houston, Iowa and of course Las Vegas where its a different world.  But our teams definitely hold their own.  And what would AAU be without Twitter and #AAUBingo.  That adds another level of fun to watching the circuit.

2017 Week 1 Sanford League Preview

So the April open periods are now behind us.  Now we move into May where there are a couple more weeks for the D2 schools to be out.  While the shoe companies and NY2LA played their league games during the open periods, the Sanford Pentagon Tournament Series kicks up this week.  They'll be playing games Saturday and Sunday on 4 courts at the fantastic Lansing Center at Mounds Park Academy in Maplewood.  Then next week the teams invade the Iowa West Fieldhouse in Council Bluffs, Iowa for week 2.  That building is the home of league member Omaha Sports Academy.  Then the teams get a week off before playing the finals at the Pentagon in Sioux Falls over Memorial Day weekend.

This weekend features 30 games in each of the 15U, 16U and 17U divisions.  12 teams will play in each division with 13 total organizations being represented.  6 Minnesota programs plus Omaha Sports Academy, Dakota Schoolers, ECI, WI Playmakers (16U and 17U) and new SPTS members IA Mavericks, Team KC and 43 Hoops (15U only) make up the league this year.  Let's take a look at the programs.  One of consistent themes you'll see here interestingly enough is size, something that seems to be lacking nationally.

Dakota Schoolers
In 17U, the Schoolers feature the top rated 2018 player in South Dakota.  That's 6'8" center Trevor Hanson.  6'7" Forward Mason Larson is ranked 4th.

ECI Prospects
In 17U, 6'3" Josh Sipes and 6'6" Kade Amundson are ranked 3rd and 4th in North Dakota.  They are high school teammates at Bismarck Century.  They struggled at the Comets Shootout last month.  In 16U, ECI has the top 3 ranked players in North Dakota, Jaden Klabo, Isaac Undlin and Mitch Larson.  They lost to Heat Bui in St. Cloud before winning 2 consolation games.

Iowa Mavericks Purple
The 17U Mavs have played well in the open period going 7-2 the last 2 weeks.  That included a semifinal finish in Des Moines 2 weeks ago.  Keep an eye on 6'7" forward Peter Timmerman.  The 16U group went 3-4 in those 2 events.  That included a loss 2 weeks ago to fellow SPTS member Team KC.

Minnesota Comets
The Comets Lewis 17s finished 5-4 in NY2LA play after being the runner up in the Comets Shootout.  PG Matt Todd and C Joe Hedstrom have both shined in spots so far.  The Comets Stumpf 16s won their division of the NY2LA league after an early playoff loss to the very good SD Storm at the Comets Shootout.  The Comets have shown great success in the history of the Sanford league and should be right near the top again.

Minnesota Fury
The Fury Wilde 17s have gotten off to a very solid start losing only 1 game in each of their 1st 3 tourneys.  Wing Michael Jones is a big scorer for this crew.  His stock has gone up with a nice spring.  Fury Mikiska has also been very solid in the 16s.  Fury Zurn 15s are off to a great start.   They swept the open division at NY2LA last week, ran the table at the Comets Shootout and their only loss is to MOKAN Elite in Iowa 2 weeks ago.  Fury has run the table with Sanford championships. They look to do so again.

Minnesota Heat
Its a down year for the Heat 17s but they'll still claw and scrap.  The Heat MacDonald 16s were knocked off by the Playmakers last week.  They meet again Saturday night.

Minnesota Select
The Select 16s and 17s were both 4-4 in NY2LA play.  Coach Mitch Ohnstad's 17s were 4-1 in St. Cloud with a loss to Comets Lewis.  Beijan Newbern gives them a go to scorer.  The Select 16s made a run to the Comets Shootout final.  Jack Thompson and Malik Willingham is a very effective guard tandem for them.  Both teams lack size but have a bunch of interchangeable parts. 

Omaha Sports Academy
The OSA Crusaders are a traditional Sanford league power.  This year should be no different.  The 17U team was an impressive 7-1 in Adidas Silver play the last 2 weeks.  6'10" Gopher target Brady Heiman leads the way in the middle.  The roster is loaded with 7 of the top 9 ranked players in Nebraska.  PG Shereef Mitchell just picked up a Nebraska-Omaha offer.  The 16U roster features Nebraska's top ranked player 6'5" F Akol Arop.

Southwest Minnesota Stars
The Stars have fallen out a bit in the last couple of years.  Marshall's Trey Lance leads the 17U group along with Noah Slagter of Willmar.  Carter Henry from Central Minnesota Christian and Bentley Boike of Dawson-Boyd are top guys for the 16U team.

Wear Out The Net
WOTN Ewing 17s impressively went 6-0 to win the NY2LA open division last week.  That included a very nice win over 43 Hoops in the championship game.  They were also solid in Iowa going 3-1.  The only loss was in the opener to the champion MOKAN 16s.  They were 3-1 in St. Cloud with the loss to Comets Lewis.  Very impressive 12-2 start so far.   Owatonna forward Dalton Kubista is their main weapon. 

WI Playmakers 17s and 16s
The Playmakers put separate squads in the NY2LA and Sanford Leagues.  The 17U group is the 1 Playmakers team that was not in St. Cloud last month.  The Sanford roster features South Dakota St recruit Owen King from Caledonia.  But they also have plenty of Wisconsin talent around him.  In 16U, Owen's brother Noah plays up a year.  Keep an eye on 6'10" Bennett Loersch in the middle for that 16U crew as well.

43 Hoops 15s
43 Hoops 15s impressively ran the table at 9-0 in NY2LA play.  They made the semifinals at the Comets Shootout before losing to Fury Zurn.  No better way to start league play than with the 8 AM Saturday rematch.  That will be one of the top 15U games in the league.  Henry Abraham and Nate Heise give this group a couple of the best shooters in the 2020 class in MN.  Tate Machacek is a very skilled forward who plays inside and outside for this group.

Team KC
Sorry, too far away and too little info.

2017 Open Period 2 17U Look ahead

Its another open period week on the AAU schedule.  This week the big notable event locally is the NY2LA Spring Extravaganza taking place at Hopkins, Eden Prairie and Minnetonka.  NY2LA league games for the 17s are all at Hopkins.  Open division and lower level games vary between other locations.

In the 17U open division, 13 Minnesota teams will play in the open division.   Sanford teams from WOTN and the MN Heat both playing.  43 Hoops, MN Eagles, Fury Antl, Real Athletics, Heat Johnson, tNBA, Crossfire Schmidt, Select Ellis, Select Leafblad, Comets Little and MN Magic also playing in that 17U open bracket.   Plenty of possibilities for local matchups.  All 20 opening game winners will move on to the championship bracket.  The bottom 8 games send the loser to the silver bracket.  MN Eagles is in that group that could go silver.  However, they have a favorable draw into Sunday.  They could run into Fury Antl in the semis.

Czar Watch: 43 Hoops.  They followed up their win over D1 Minnesota on Easter weekend with a 3-1 weekend in Iowa last week.  They have good quick guards and Wendell Matthews inside so its a solid group for coach Shaye Fields.  Their opener is right away Friday night against Kingdom Hoops who also lost in the same quarter of the bracket to Sanford rep Iowa Mavericks Purple.  Kingdom Hoops was also 3-1 last weekend.  Both teams will open bracket play at 11:15 AM Saturday morning at Hopkins.  Location in the bracket determined by result of their game.

In 17U NY2LA play, Comets Lewis, Comets Servaty and Select Ohnstad represent Minnesota.  Both Comets groups were 2-2 and Select Ohnstad went 1-3 in week 1 in Dallas.   Comets Servaty has 4 games against opponents who are a combined 11-5 in league play.  Select Ohnstad fares a little better in their 4 games as the opponents are a combined 7-9.  Comets Lewis has a 5 game weekend.  Their opponents are 12-8 combined in league play.  3-1 WI Swing Litscher is always a hardnosed team and tough out.  Keep an eye on Mitch Listau for that crew.  Omaha Elite will feature a couple of 2017 kids including Isaiah Poor Bear Chandler who played here in the Timberwolves shootout.  Then the Sunday finale against 3-1 Team Blaze and arguably the top player in the NY2LA league this year, top 100 player Musa Jallow.   (Czar Correction: Comets beat Swing last weekend.  Opponents were 7-13 last week.  I had a 3-1 Swing and 2-2 Mac Irvin in my original count instead of the 2 0-4 teams that Comets actually play)

Fury Wilde will make the road trip east to the Steel City for the well regarded Pittsburgh Jam Fest.   The format is all at 1 convention center with a truck load of courts   Fury with an opening win would have to come right back and play a 2nd game Friday night which is a very very rare site for events.  But its a full 107 team bracket with only a 3 game guarantee.  Lose on opening night and they won't play Sunday.  Fury Wilde was 3-1 last week in Iowa.  Only loss was to Spiece Indy Heat's 16U EYBL team.

Powerhouse Hoops is at the Terrific 24 in Indianapolis.  Somehow there are 52 teams in 17U, hmm.  Czar confused, doesn't match name of event.  Powerhouse gets traditional power Belmont Shore on Saturday afternoon with the dynamic guard duo of UCLA commit David Singleton (#57 Rivals) and #83 ranked Bryce Hamilton.  Powerhouse was 3-1 last weekend at the So Cal Hoop Review.

Speaking of Indy, its the center of the hoops universe this weekend with Under Armour and Nike both playing in town.  Howard Pulley behind a big week from Tre Jones finished 3-1.  Jones averaged 18 points and almost 10 assists a game.  Their 4 opponents this week are a combined 7-9.  Biggest game of the weekend is vs division foe NY Rens who are also 3-1.  Also a fun matchup of PGs with Jones vs 2019 #24 ranked Tyger Campbell on Saturday morning.  Campbell runs the show for prep school powerhouse La Lumiere.

Grassroots got off to a rough start last weekend going 0-4 in UA Association play.  Jalen Suggs and didn't shoot it well but still carried the load.  He needs somebody else to step up and give him some help.  This week their 4 opponents are a combined 4-12. That could help the NATION get back on track.

Adidas has their weekend in Atlanta this week.  Nike will be there in 2 weeks and Under Armour has their finals there in July.  D1 Minnesota was 1-3 last weekend.  Despite having McKinley Wright for Friday and Saturday, D1 gave up big games to multiple guards.  Their 4 opponents were 7-9 last week.  Their 6:40 PM Saturday game vs Urban ASAK will be streamed online.  Urban ASAK featuring a quality frontline with Brock Cunningham and Will Baker.  Cunningham just picked up a Texas offer (Dad played there) and has Utah as well.  Baker is ranked #92 by Rivals in the 2019 class.

2017 Open Period 1

The 1st D1 open period of the 2017 AAU season is upon us with back to back open weekends.  Now this weekend there's nothing of note going on locally.  Just a couple of minor tourneys.  But here's where everybody else will be.

In the Des Moines area, its the Midwest Live Tourney.  13 17U teams make the trip.  That includes 8 local teams in the 32 team top bracket.  43 Hoops has a pretty open bracket in the top quarter.  They knocked off D1 Minnesota last weekend (no Matt Hurt though).  D1 Prospects and WOTN could meet in the 2nd round in the 2nd quarter of the bracket.  But Nike rep MOKAN has their 16s playing against WOTN in the 1st round.  Fury Wilde and MN Eagles are in the 3rd quarter.  Spiece Indy Heat's 16s from the Nike circuit are also here.  The quarter of doom is the bottom quarter.  Fury Antl, Mpls FAB, MOKAN Select, SD Attack and a Grassroots group are all here.  Also in Des Moines, 10 16U teams and 8 15U teams.

In Sioux Falls, its the Sanford Pentagon Spring Jam.  12 Minnesota teams make that trip.  GetShook 15s who are off to a very nice start will be in Chicago.

As to the teams in leagues.  Comets and Select will be at the Lone Star Invitational in Dallas as part of the NY2LA league.  Also in Dallas is the Adidas Gauntlet.  D1 Minnesota will have their top 15, 16 and 17U teams there.  Net Gain also has 15s and 16s in the top Adidas gauntlet.   The 16U teams are in separate brackets in Dallas but the 15s could meet in the semifinals.  Howard Pulley has their top 2 teams in Virginia for the opening weekend of the EYBL.  The 15U teams are in a local event.

Let's talk matchups for those teams playing on the shoe circuits.

Howard Pulley has a matchup against a loaded California Supreme team on Saturday.  That includes Shaquille O'Neal's son Shareef who just committed to Arizona.  Manute Bol's son Bol Bol is also a star on that roster.  Pulley finishes with a pair of fun point guard matchups.  Tre Jones is ranked #27 in the new Rivals rankings.  He'll see #30 Ayo Dosunmu of Mac Irvin Fire and #129 David Dejulius (Michigan recruit) of The Family in the last 2 games.    #75 Daniel Oturu not only gets O'Neal but also #96 Trevion Williams of The Family.  #107 Jeenathan Williams and #38 in 2019 Isaiah Stewart will be the challenge in the Friday opener vs Albany City Rocks.

Grassroots has a tough Under Armour Association opener against Team Breakdown in Brooklyn.  Jalen Suggs will see #28 Elijah Weaver and #51 Anfernee Simons.  Game 2 isn't much easier as #21 6'9" Miles Norris and Earl Watson Elite are the matchup.  Washington Supreme and Houston Defenders are the other 2 opponents for Grassroots.  The Grassroots UA schedule is favorable as the 1 team they'll miss is DC Premier.

D1 Minnesota will see Texas PRO, Mass Rivals, Stackhouse Elite and Game Elite in the 1st half of Kyle Lowry division play. Their 1st pair of games are tough as well.  #65 Jaedon LeDee vs #117 Race Thompson and #6 2019 Matt Hurt (assuming he plays with the hand injury) is the matchup there.  #55 5'11 G Kendric Davis is going to  be a tough matchup for the D1 guards.  Mass Rivals has a couple of players on the edge of the top 50.  #50 David Duke is 6'3" and 6'5" AJ Reeves is #54.

2017 Comets Shootout 17U Preview

Its time to kick off another AAU season.  That means the annual trip to St. Cloud for the Comets Shootout.  As usual the 17s will start late with 3 games at 3:00, 4 more at 4:10 and the final 9 openers starting at 5:20.  In a change from recent history, the tournament goes back to pool format.  In recent years its been a 32 team bracket with 2 games Saturday night and the quarterfinals to finish on Sunday.  This year its still 2 Saturday games for everybody.  But we're back to 16 pool winners making the championship bracket.  That begins bright and early at 8 AM on Sunday and goes thru the traditional 5:20 final.  That takes a toll on even the deepest of teams.  16 2nd place teams will play in the Gold bracket.  Then 12 3rd place teams will play in the Silver bracket.  Its a unique format with the last 4 pools being only 2 team pools.  Those pools will start play with a cross-over game but only the head to head game at 7:40 PM will have any meaning for pool standings.  The 4 cross-over pools will play their games at St. Cloud State.  Everybody is at the home base of Whitney Rec Center or Sauk Rapids Middle School.  While the format has changed, the concept of having a balanced championship bracket has not.  That still means very little in the way of surprises in Saturday pool play and plenty of blowouts.  So let's get to the important stuff.

The Favorites
Comets Lewis and D1 Minnesota are the clear top 2 teams in the tourney.  D1 Minnesota has already started their season with a 3-1 record at the Real Deal In The Rock tourney in Arkansas last weekend.  They lost to eventual champion and fellow Adidas squad Marcus Smart YGC36 in the semifinals.  The Comets return a talented squad and have some nice additions.  Monticello PG Matt Todd joins group as does Hopkins C Joe Hedstrom.  They also added a talented top 30 ranked forward from Wisconsin.  They go 2 deep at every position and have pieces to do a bit of everything.  I expect a dynamite final between these 2.

Other Teams of Note
Half of the Sanford League is represented with Select, Heat, Fury, WOTN and ECI also attending.  Select's top team keeping the guys who played up last year plus adding many guys from last year's very nice 16U crew.  Not much size there but they have a couple of solid PGs in Charlie Gove/Cire Mayfield and a scorer in Beijan Newbern to go with a solid group of wings.  For WOTN, PG Bryce Phillips and W Jon Martens are nice pickups for them.  Dalton Kubista from Owatonna gives them a forward scorer who can play in and out.  Fury will feature high scoring wing Michael Jones along with Charlie Jacob.   Heat's group from last year fell apart.  Former St. Anthony star Josh Pratt has the Sanford group this year.  Kameron Davis from Spring Lake Park had a nice season.  St. Anthony's Aaron Smith could break out for this group.  More on ECI later.

Other Minnesota notables.  We have to start with MN Powerhouse bringing 2 teams.  What looks like their top team gets D1 MN Prospects in their pool.  That's one of few compelling pool games.  MN Eagles come back together for the spring.  That's Apple Valley guys coming off a state title.  Crossfire brings 2 squads.  That includes 2nd division Sanford League team Crossfire-Schmidt who should give Heat Pratt all they want in the crossover game.  The Comets have all their other teams playing as expected.  Fury's 2nd team, Mpls FAB, MN Magic, MN Phenom also on the list.  FAB is the young Brooklyn Center kids playing with some Tri-Metro seniors. They got off to a nice start in Arkansas last week as well.    FAB part of the 1 pool that could be called the Pool of Doom with the WI Playmakers top team and Minneapolis Henry.  MN Phenom went 3-1 and finished 2nd in Iowa last weekend.  Center Michael Johnson is a sleeper name to be aware of for that crew.

Its not just Minnesota that's well represented.  Three Wisconsin Playmakers teams on the list but not the Playmakers-King team (that's Owen King) that will play in the Sanford events.  But Playmakers-Knutson is their NY2LA team.  I like the size of that team and they have 4 top 50 Wisconsin kids.  I'm looking forward to seeing forwards Josh Dahlke and Jaxon Knotek from that crew.  North Dakota Phenom brings their top 2 teams.  That means between the ECI and ND Phenom top 2 teams we should see 3 of the top 5 kids in North Dakota in the event.   Center Josh Kihle with ND Phenom.  Guard Josh Sipes and Forward Kade Amundson expected for ECI.

Now for the always infamous predictions.  Here's how I see the championship bracket ending up.

Round of 16 Games (better games here than you might expect)
Comets Lewis vs Crossfire Schmidt
WOTN Ewing vs ND Phenom
Select Ohnstad vs D1 MN Rise
Powerhouse Black vs Fury Antl
D1 MN vs Select Ellis
MN Eagles vs Comets Servaty
Fury Wilde vs MN Phenom
ECI Prospects vs WI Playmakers Knutson

Quarterfinal Results
Comets Lewis over WOTN Ewing
Powerhouse Black over Select Ohnstad
D1 MN over MN Eagles
Fury Wilde over WI Playmakers Knutson

Comets Lewis over Powerhouse Black in a grudge match
D1 MN over Fury Wilde

D1 MN wins a nailbiter championship over Comets Lewis

Studying The Four Factors At State

In past seasons, I've done a Hubie Brown like analysis of the games of the state tournament.  In that analysis I looked at turnovers, free throws and shooting percentage.  Since it is the era of analytics, I've decided to advance that study.  One very similar way is to use The Four Factors of Dean Oliver.  If you watch the Timberwolves broadcasts, you'll see Jim Petersen reference these and you likely know what they are.  For those who aren't familiar here's what they are.
  • Effective Field Goal Percentage
  • Turnover Percentage
  • Rebounding Percentage
  • Free Throw Rate
One fundamental idea you'll see is that all of the values are percentages.  For the 3 items that aren't shooting %, that normalizes the data to take away differences in number of opportunities.  20 turnovers sounds bad but if you add the context of 100 possessions vs 50 possessions, it has far more meaning.  That's in contrast to my previous studies where I only looked at the final result without any manipulation.  For the detailed explanation of each factor and how its calculated, read this link.

So now that we have a reasonable tool, let's apply it to my subject, high school hoops.  No better time than the present with the state tournament just finishing up.  The data for the state tournament is easily found and I have reams and reams of it laying around.  That allows me to dig up the last 5 years of games at the boys state tournament.  That's 172 games of data with 43 games in each of the 4 classes.  I deem that a big enough sample size to provide reasonable value

Let's start with a chart of how winning teams did with respect to the factors


So when a team won a game in the last 5 years, 81.4% of the time they had the higher effective field goal percentage. This is in line with my previous simpler studies and something I've been saying for years.  If you shoot it better, odds are very very good you'll win.  Period.  Basket->Ball.  Put ball in basket.  In this case is just over 4 out of 5.  Don't overthink it, just make shots. 

So what happened in the other 18.6% of wins where the winning team lost the EFG% battle?  The winning team won the TO% battle 29 out of 32 times.  That's 90.63% of the time, a very insane number.  Here's how that EFG% result broke down per class.

Class A: 88:37%
Class AA: 81.4%
Class AAA: 79.07%
Class AAAA: 76.74%

Let's look at how many factors each winning team won


So 68.6% of the time a team won at least 3 or 4 of the factors.  More importantly, when a team won only 1 factor, they only won 2.91% of the time.  In those 5 wins, 2 of the wins were 20+ point wins thanks to winning the EFG% category.  The other 3 wins were by 3, 3 and 2 points and the winning team won the turnover battle in each.

Winning a 2nd factor wasn't a guarantee as winning 1 or 2 factors meant a win only 31.4% of the time.  That's less than 1 out of 3.  There are 6 combinations of winning 2 factors.  But the combination of EFG% and FT Rate accounted for 34.69% of those alone, double the amount of an even distribution.    The average margin of victory was 9.9 PPG with almost 60% of the games being single digit finishes.

When a team won 3 factors, effective field goal percentage was included 87.36% of the time.    The margin of victory expanded to 14.8 PPG.  The number of single digit games decreased to 37.9%

When a team won 4 factors, a blowout was in order as expected.  The average margin of victory was 21.45 PPG.  Only 12.9% of those games were single digit finishes.  That exactly matches the number of games that had a margin of 44 points or more.

Here's a breakdown of the number of factors won across classes.  Percentages are percent of the column total.


83.72% of the games in class A were 3 or 4 factor games.  So in single A, odds are very high that you're going to see a game that ends up lopsided.  On the other end of the spectrum was class AAAA with 55.81% of the games seeing a team win 3 or 4 of the factors.

Here's how margin of victory related to the 4 factors in each class.  The values in the table are the average margin of victory.


The class A 4 factors won number jumps up because of Minneapolis North's dominance the last 2 seasons.  Interesting that 2 of the 5 wins were blowout by doing nothing more than shooting better.  To win only 1 factor and steal a close game makes sense but 40% of the outcomes being blowouts is interesting.  Granted that's a very small sample size of 5 games.  Otherwise its what you expect, the more factors you win, the bigger you win.

Overall conclusions.  Shooting is big, rebounding can be overcome.  Dominate the factors, dominate the game.

2017 State Tourney Wrap

What a season!  2016-2017 has come to a close and in great fashion.  Some thoughts from this year's state tourney.

The Buzzer Beaters
How often can you say the state tournament made the Sportscenter top 10 not once but twice?  Sam Dubois became a cult hero right away on Wednesday morning as his prayer was answered vs Chaska.  Not to be outdone, North Woods soph guard Cade Goggleye threw in a half-court winner in the class A semis at Williams on Thursday. 

The Champions
As to champions, quite honestly nothing was a significant surprise.  North crushed everybody in their path with wins by 47, 44 and 47 points.  That means back to back state titles with no doubt for the Polars.  Next year they move up into section 5AA.  That section will have a new champ as Annandale shifts to 6AA next season.  They were the dominating pick at the start of the season and did everything expected.  The beat AA champ Minnehaha and their only 2 losses were to Hopkins and AAAA champ Apple Valley.

Speaking of AA and Minnehaha, the Redhawks were also a big favorite and didn't disappoint.  They put away solid Lake City and Crosby-Ironton teams and crushed a very good Annandale team.  The Redhawks started the season 7-5 but won their last 19 games to win the title.  With only 1 role player graduating, Minnehaha will be the favorite to repeat next season.  They won't see North in the tourney until state as Minnehaha remains in 4AA.

De La Salle handled Austin in the 2013 and 2014 title games by double figures.  Some thought this was the year that the Packers could make a run at the Islanders.  Not so much as the Islanders rolled 72-44 to their 6th straight title.  Once again the suffocating defense was too much.  They lost to loaded IMG Academy plus AAAA final 4 teams Champlin Park and Maple Grove. 

Class AAAA was the most wide open with any of 7 teams that would not have been a surprise as the winner.  It was Apple Valley who avenged regular season losses to the same 2 local teams as De La Salle.  The Eagles knocked off Maple Grove in the semis in impressive fashion and then Champlin Park in a great final.  Nothing like a tied championship game with under a minute to go.  Apple Valley gets a hoop and harm and rebounds the missed free throw to basically win it.  Apple Valley also knocked off CDH in the 1st round for a 2nd time this season.  CDH went on to knock off Lakeville North in a rematch for the consolation championship.  Apple Valley loses 3 role guys but they have an incredibly deep junior class that includes Tre Jones coming back.  Clear preseason favorite next season.

The Players
Tre Jones (Apple Valley)- Any mention of players for the state tourney and for the season has to start here.  Jones averaged 25.7 points, 14.1 rebounds and 6 assists in the 3 state tourney games.  He put the games away vs CDH and Champlin Park and dominated Maple Grove.  As the point guard, he set the school single season record for rebounds.  The role players did their thing but it was Jones who put everybody at a completely different level this season.  You knew he had to step up this season but he played at a level far beyond lofty expectations.

Jalen Suggs (Minnehaha) - He carried the Redhawks to their title.  In the semis vs Annandale, the switch of him to defend Cardinals star Jared Wilken changed the game.  Then in the championship game, he took over after Crosby-Ironton had rallied to within 1.  He sliced and diced the Rangers zone and had an impressive and critical helpside block to take away a Rangers change to go ahead.  Huge momentum changing play.  His potential is through the roof.

Theo John (Champlin Park) - He averaged 13.7 points, 11 rebounds and 5.3 blocks in the 3 games.  He had 14 blocks (plus plenty more uncounted) in the last 2 games.  That showed a dominating prescence that many thought he'd develop into over the years.  That shot blocking was disruptive but the Rebels gave up 43 offensive rebounds in the tourney.  Apple Valley ended up with 23 points on 21 offensive rebounds in the title game.

Goanar Mar (De La Salle) - He took his game to another level this season including a monster 40 point outing against Armstrong.  He was the catalyst in the tourney too.  He averaged 20.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 2 blocks in the 3 wins.  Those steals were often game changing and leading to runs.  A major factor on both ends and definitely deserves to be on the Mr Basketball final 5.

McKinley Wright (Champlin Park) - After a pair of high level performances in the 1st 2 rounds of the tourney, Tre Jones got the better of him in the final.  It was unfortunate to see the news about Dayton head coach taking the Indiana job on the same day as the final.  Wright did look to be off in the final and while Jones certainly was part of it, I hope the whole college thing wasn't a distraction.  He ended up at 21.7 points, 6.3 rebounds but only 3.3 assists for the tourney.   That was the shooters for the Rebels not knocking down shots.  Shooting always seems to rear its ugly head during the tourney.

Other Random Thoughts
I usually don't talk much about the outstate but some noteworthy items there too.
  • 13,893 was the attendance for the AAA/AAAA championship session.  Big crowd in the upper deck.  That's the biggest crowd at state that I can recall in my time at the tourney.  Great to see the turnout.  Austin fans brought 25 fan buses, wow.
  • Loved the Austin band, great variety.
  • Crosby-Ironton band also deserves a mention.  Hearing a quality rendition of Thriller on each of the last 2 days was well worth it.  The band director taking multiple roles directing with 1 hand, playing lead trumpet with the other. Then picking up signs and pom poms to cheer the Rangers on during play.
  • Center Noah Gindorff of Crosby-Ironton was a nice outstate player that I hadn't seen.  He was the key to all of the Rangers offense.  When JaVonni Bickham got in foul trouble in the championship game, I thought he should have received far more post touches to take advantage.  While Crosby-Ironton missed some open looks, I thought Gindorff's lack of touches hurt their final chances.
  • The future is bright.  North Woods, North, Minnehaha, Apple Valley, Lake City, Cretin-Derham Hall, Austin and more all return plenty of talent from state qualifiers. 

2017 6AAAA Championship Thoughts

Now 3 days of section finals to prepare for the state tourney.  Its the traditional Wednesday finish in 6AAAA.  That's Osseo hosting a Lake Conference rubber match between top seed Wayzata and 2 seed Hopkins.  Both bands on hand which is never a bad thing.  Especially after no bands for the 5AAAA doubleheader last night.  More Jet's pizza and Pepsi on the concessions menu.

Game Time
Wayzata opens with a pair of triples countered by a pair of Hopkins hoops.  Ish El-Amin stops an 8-2 run with floater out of a timeout.  14-8 Wayzata at the midpoint of the 1st half.  Then its soph Luke Paulson off the bench with a pair of triples.  Ryan Lindberg with his 2nd 3 of the night.  25-11 Wayzata at 6:13.  31-19 Wayzata at the break. 

Hopkins would rally to within 7 with an El-Amin drive and Zeke Nnaji 3 point play.  But a big story was how Wayzata made Hopkins pay for mistakes.  Shooting foul, turnover and 2 bad shots and Wayzata converts all of that into a 9-0 run in 2 minutes.  Gavin Baumgartner 4 free throws, Lindberg for 2 and Drew Galinson with a triple.  40-24 Wayzata with 14:18 left and this one is out of hand.  Blaise Beauchamp with a hoop but can't convert the 3 point play. That cuts the lead to 11 but Wayzata gets a hoop and Paulson tacks on yet another triple.

Hopkins tries to stay close with a Dane Zimmer hoop, El-Amin bucket and a Anthony Davis drive.  47-37 Wayzata with 9:35 left.  But the Trojans won't give up the lead.  Alex Jensen runs for a layup after a block and puts back a miss on a long possession.  Jacob Beeninga adds 2 freebies and the lead is back to 16 with 6:23 left.  Its bucket trading and free throws after that.  Wayzata wins 66-51 and is the 1st team to advance to state.  This is the 1st Wayzata appearance at state since 1959.

Post Game
Hopkins finishes their season 23-6.  Ish El-Amin leads the Royals with 17 points.  Zeke Nnaji adds 16.  Shot selection was a huge issue for the Royals.  Way too many tough shots.  Plus they couldn't get big stops.  The bigs were not a factor inside which was the main advantage.  Nnaji had 16 but mostly on dump offs not on postups. 

Wayzata gets 16 points from Ryan Lindberg.  A quiet 10 from Gavin Baumgartner (2 buckets) is the only other guy in double figures.  But 2 others had 9 and 3 others had 6.  The bench outscores the Hopkins bench 19-6 with Luke Paulson's 3 triples being 9 of those.  This was a clinic in great offense.  The term good to great shot is becoming large in today's game and this was a textbook clinic in it.  Basic pass and cut action with the flare screen thrown in from time to time.  Wayzata was very patient and moved the ball to great looks.  Their guards, particularly the tiny sophomore guards Paulson and Beeninga, didn't turn it over.  Anytime Hopkins made a mistake, Wayzata would hit a big shot to demoralize them.  As to state seeding, I think they'll get the 5 seed if all holds.  Lakeville North, Champlin Park, Apple Valley and Maple Grove would slot in front of them.  But I think they would be in front of Chaska (worst case from 2AAAA), anybody from 7AAAA and in front of either Tartan or CDH from 4AAAA.

2017 5AAAA Semifinals Thoughts

To Maple Grove for another early 5 PM weeknight start of section semifinals.  This time section 5AAAA is on display.  Jet's pizza not a bad thing plus more Gatorade to wash it down.  No bands tonight is a surprise and disappointment.  JMOA on duty for the late game.  Appalachian State in the building to watch the games along with St. Olaf, Bethel and Hamline just to name a few.

Game 1: Osseo vs Park Center
Osseo not rattled at all early by Park Center's athleticism and half court man pressure.  John Bezdicek (Matt didn't play) with an early 3.  Mar Mar Hughes and Zach Theisen also drain triples and Osseo jumps out to a 13-3 lead at the 14:22 mark.  Frosh post Dain Dainja with 2 inside hoops for Park Center.  Losini Kamara adds a 3 and the lead is down to 4.  Marice Nelson counters with 2 triples for Osseo taking inside out passes and knocking it down.  Bezdicek adds 3 free throws right before the halftime buzzer for a 37-24 Osseo lead at the break.

Osseo would stretch the lead to 15 but no further.  Park Center would get to 13 but not get any closer.  Finally the Pirates start to cut the margin.  Khari Broadway with a putback for 2 free throws and he turns a turnover into a 3 point play.  52-46 Osseo with 7:28 left but they're losing momentum.  Theisen with 4 free throws and the lead is back to 58-48 with 4:11 left.  Kamara with 1 free throws and eventually puts back the miss of the 2nd.  He adds another free throw after a terrible call inside against Osseo on a flop.  That cuts the lead to 6 before 2 more Osseo turnovers.  Xavier Bonner banks in a 3 with 1:50 left to cut the lead in half.  Osseo makes 3 of 4 free throws around a Dainja bucket.  Then a crazy offensive foul call on Theisen gives Park Center the ball back.  The Pirates promptly go to Dainja on the inbounds and he cuts the lead to 2 with 31 seconds left.  He fouls out on the Osseo possession.  Osseo makes 1 of 2 to give Park Center 1 last chance.  They miss and the putback at the buzzer is meaningless.  Osseo wins 62-61.  Zach Theisen with 18 points.  Marice Nelson came up big with 15 of his 18 in the 1st half for Osseo.  John Bezdicek added 13.  Losini Kamara 14, Khari Broadway with 17 to lead Park Center.  Dain Dainja added 12.  Osseo held Kamara mostly in check and mostly handled the pressure (until the end).  Their experience was a difference in hanging on.

Game 2: Champlin Park vs Mounds View
Mounds View did everything they could to try to slow the pace.  They walked it up after misses and played zone extensively.  But a bad early omen for Mounds View when DJ Hunter knocks down 2 3s and Champlin Park jumps out to a 10-3 lead.  Nick McMillan with back to back triples to pull Mounds View within 19-15 at the 6 minute mark of the half.  That gets their crowd energized.  But Champlin Park finishes the half on an 11-2 run.  McKinley Wright and Brian Smith with 3s in that run.  Most of that without Theo John who sat the last 5:04 with 2 fouls.  30-17 Champlin Park at the half.

John picks up a quick 3rd and sits for 6:35 before playing 23 more seconds and getting his 4th.  But it doesn't make a huge difference.  A McMillan hoop pulls Mounds View within 32-22.  But Champlin Park spreads the zone out and finally puts McKinley Wright in the middle.  He hits a 3 off a BLOB vs the 2-3 zone and then catches in the middle and finishes.  41-22 Rebels with 12:03 left.  Mounds View has to go man after that and that's not good.  Champlin Park outscores Mounds View 37-8 over the final 14:40.  Champlin Park wins 69-40 and will play Osseo for the section title in Rogers on Friday night.  McKinley Wright leads all scorers with 21 points.  Marcus Hill chips in with 11.  Brian Smith with 9.  Nick McMillan leads Mounds View with 16 points and 3 triples.  Brian Stone with all 13 of his points in the 2nd half.  But nobody else had more than a bucket.  Theo John with only 4 points and was in foul trouble for a large chunk of the game.

2017 4AAA Semifinals Thoughts

Its semifinal Saturday Night for the big school metro teams with 4AAA, 6AAA, 1AAAA, 2AAAA, 4AAAA and 6AAAA all playing semfinals Saturday night plus 8AAAA having the afternoon session at St. Cloud State.  I took in the 4AAA games.

Semifinal 1: 2 Columbia Heights vs 6 St. Paul Johnson
Very light crowd for the early part of this one.  Johnson with the strong start thanks to a Shemar Tucker-Adams 3 ball.  9-4 Govs just under 5 minutes in.  Columbia Heights would go on a 20-4 run to take control after that.  The Heights lead would stretch to 16 thanks to Wendell Matthews inside.  Johnson would cut a 20 point margin to 13 at the break with the last 7 of the 1st half.  Add in the 1st bucket of the 2nd half for a 9-0 run but Johnson would never get the lead to single digits in the 2nd half.  Columbia Heights wins 88-76.  Too much Quentin Hardrict as he goes for 31 to lead Columbia Heights and all scorers.  Wendell Matthews with 19 inside.  Justin Yang with 16 to lead Johnson.  But ultimately not enough firepower for the Govs.  Both teams end with 5 players in double figures.  Heights played without leading scorer Deaundra Roberson due to injury.

Semifinal 2: 1 Mahtomedi vs 4 Totino-Grace
Tied at 6 early but TG would knock down 4 straight bombs to open an 18-8 lead.  Rocky Kreuser doing the rest for TG.  Parker Fox struggling for Mahtomedi.  That allows TG to take a 28-22 lead to halftime.  They add 6 in a row to stretch the lead to 45-31 with 11:59 left.  Then the Parker Fox show began.  Shuffle cut for a 3 point play, reverse dunk and a quick technical, drive off and inbound and tip in a miss.  He scores 13 straight Mahtomedi points.  TG keeps the lead with a Nathan Kavolak for 3, Charlie Jacob for 3 and Kavolak scoring the quick inbounds lob.  58-44 TG with 6:45 left.

Then it all falls apart for TG.  Jacob sits with his 4th foul and Mahtomedi turns up the press.  Lincoln Rock converts a turnover and Fox with a strong dunk.  Jump ball to Mahtomedi and Fox with the tough 2 on Kreuser inside.  Another TG turnover leads to Mahtomedi free throws.  They miss a front end but get it back for another Fox dunk.  61 all with 2:13 left.  Braeden Mischke with a free throw and a clutch triple around a Fox hoop and TG is up 2 with 1:13 left.  Crowd on their feet.

That Mischke triple is the only TG FG in the last 6:45.  Fox spins for a 3 point play and Andy Voyen runs for 2 after a TG miss.  68-65 Mahtomedi inside 30 seconds left.  TG runs a set to get Kavolak a look for 3 but its no good inside 10 ticks left.  Fox makes 1 of 2 free throws to seal it.  Mahtomedi wins 69-65.  The Zephyrs trailed by 14 with 6:45 left and finish the game on a 25-7 run.  Parker Fox goes for 29 of his 37 in the 2nd half.  TG had absolutely no answer for him.  Nobody in double figures for Mahtomedi.  Rocky Kreuser with 21 points, 16 in the 1st half.  No points in the last 13 minutes which was very surprising considering his dominating 1st half.  Nathan Kavolak with 5 triples and 22 points to lead Totino-Grace.  16 of those points in the 2nd half.  Charlie Jacob added 13.

2017 3AAA Semifinal Thoughts

To Bloomington Jefferson for the brand new Friday night edition of local section semifinals.  Its 3AAA taking the court for the incredibly early 5 and 6:45 PM starts.  What's the hurry?  Very vocal crowds for the late game.

Game 1: 1 St. Thomas Academy vs 4 Simley
Early on we're tied at 8 as DeAndre Smith and Jake Binley work inside for Simley.  But St. Thomas Academy blows this one open quickly.  Sam Thompson with 3 triples and  2 other jumpers.  Sam Vascellaro takes a blocked shot for a layup and later dunks a turnover.  The Cadets run is 22-4 in just over 6 minutes. 30-12 St. Thomas at 8:15.  Simley scores the next 5.  But after a Cadets timeout, they score 8 in a row to push the lead to 21. Binley would have a hoop and a 3 point play early in the 2nd half to cut the margin to 13.  But the Spartans get no closer.  St. Thomas Academy wins 71-52.  Soph SG Jack Thompson with 20 of his 22 in the 1st half including 4 triples.  Eddie Perry with 3 triples in the 1st half for 9.  Louis Baillon scores the last 10 for St. Thomas to get to 12 points.  Jake Binley with 15, DeAndre Smith 13 for Simley.  Simley had chances to get back in the game but they only made 2 field goals from 13:40 left until the final minute of the game.  They had some good looks that just didn't want to go in.

Game 2: 2 St. Paul Highland Park vs 3 Richfield
The start of this one was a struggle.  Kids charging over people and throwing the ball all over.  Amitri Collins-Westlund picks up 2 charges and has to sit just under 3 minutes into the game.  Big loss for Highland Park.  Coach DePerry would go offense/defense with him for at least the last 6+ minutes of the half which was a critical decision that paid off.  Highland Park would be up 16-11 before the game started to swap back and forth.  Antonio Maddox for 3 to put Richfield up 17-16.  Dreem Kelly-Jabbar with a steal for a dunk to put Highland Park up 5.  29-25 Scots at the break.

After the opening hoop, Richfield goes on a 12-0 run.  Maddox for 3.  Devin Wade-Henderson with the steal for 2 free throws.  A technical on the play adds a Maddox FT.  Richfield converts the possession and steals the next possession for a hoop as well.  37-31 Spartans with 14:50 left.  Richfield dominated Highland Park on the offensive glass in the 2nd half but never could pull away.  Collins-Westlund  with a hoop and Kelly-Jabbar with another steal and hoop.  Soph Evan Brodtman was terrific off the bench for the Scots.  He hits a jumper, Collins-Westlund scores and then adds a 3.  Highland Park from 7 down takes a 46-44 lead with 8:44 to play.  Collins-Westlund coast to coast countered by a Maddox putback.  50 all with 6:30 left.  Down to the end we go.  Brodtman for 3 with 1:50 left to put Highland Park up 59-57. Scots force a turnover but they can't handle the ball at the end.  Jabari Atiim with a steal to tie it and Wade-Handerson converts after another Scots turnover.  Scots have a chance to tie in the last 30 seconds but a jump ball switches the possession to Richfield with 22.4 left.  Jake Hartke steps up and knocks down both ends of the bonus with 10.2 to seal it.  Richfield wins 63-59.  This game may not have been a visual masterpiece but it was highly entertaining.  Devin Wade-Henderson with 19 points to lead Richfield.  Amitri Collins-Westlund with 23.  Evan Brodtman adds 16.

So that means top seed St. Thomas Academy takes on 3-seed Richfield for the section title at Jefferson next Thursday.

The 4A 4 vs 5 matchup

The first 4 days of the local playoff schedule feature early round games in all classes.  That's before 3 game days of semis (Fri, Sat, Tues) and the final 3 days of section finals.  Those early round games are chance to catch some very competitive games.  Every year you get games where the teams appear to be better than those seeds.  No different this year.  So with that in mind I took in a pair of 4 vs 5 games in AAAA on Tuesday/Wednesday.   Logical options.

Tuesday: Eagan at Burnsville
Burnsville had won both head to head meetings and was 2 games better in the South Suburban.  All of that played out again.  Burnsville would go on a 1st half 22-6 run to break open a tight game.  Matt Baisch would help the Blaze keep that moment going to half with a buzzer beating 3 that kept the lead at 14.  Baisch with 2 more 3s early in the 2nd half to push the lead to 20.  It gets as large as 24 and Burnsville coasts from there.  Blaze win 88-68.  Matt Baisch 6 3s and 25 points to lead Burnsville.  Soph Julian Quiroz-Hutchinson and center Abdijabar Mural add 17 each.  Darby Sorenson's 1st half offense keep Eagan hanging around.  He finished with 11 of his 17 in the 1st half.  Burnsville plays Apple Valley in the 3AAAA semifinals at Farmington on Friday night.

Wednesday: Prior Lake at Edina
The first half of this one had Edina's star guards producing. Anders Nelson and Walt McGrory combining for 28 of the 40 points for Edina in the half.  But Jacob Fredrickson was a load inside for Prior Lake with 10 points.  Their star Brian Sitzmann added 12.  So Prior Lake down 40-35 at the break in a very tight first half.  A sloppy stretch for Prior Lake starting at about the 7 minute mark of the half gave Edina some momentum.

Second half more of the same.  Entertaining stretch starting at the 10 minute mark and Edina up 3.  Luke Glenna off the Edina bench for 3. Alex Preston off the Prior Lake bench with the catch and shoot on the BLOB.  Glenna again from deep, Preston 2 free throws.  Sitzmann and Preston with triples around a Nelson 3 and Sitzmann sticks back a miss.  61-59 Edina with 6 left.  But 3 late offensive rebounds for Edina really destroyed Prior Lake's chances.  McGrory converts 1 for a triple.  Jack Middleton sticks back a miss.  Those keep Edina up 8 between 3 and 4 minutes to go.  Then Edina up 4 with 49.8 left and they convert a missed front end into a McGrory layup.  Jimmy Connell with both of the offensive boards leading to those McGrory buckets.  Edina wins 75-69.  Edina's Walt McGrory leads all scorers with 26 points in front of Elon, Maine and Brown.  Anders Nelson with 21.  Jake Fredrickson 25 points dominating the paint for Prior Lake.  Brian Sitzmann adds 20. Trent West held to 4.  Alex Preston adds 11 off the bench.  Edina plays Chaska on Saturday at Hopkins in the 2AAAA semifinals.

2017 Section Predictions

Its time for 2017 section predictions.  Last year I had my best season ever of predictions.  For those who don't know, when we refer to "chalk" that means taking high seeds.  When I measure my results, I don't reference a percentage as any one can get 80-90% picking only chalk.  I measure it in terms of how many games I have right compared to picking just the high seeds.

Section 1A
Czar takes the free center square by picking Lyle/Pacelli over Christian Life (Lyle won big).

Section 2A
Only 1 game to pick here and that's the 3/6 North matchup between Mayer Lutheran and Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity.  LP/HT with 5 straight wins coming in.  But Mayer Lutheran won the regular season meeting on neutral turf by 14.  They get the home game this time and advance.

Section 4A 

Pigtails (3/6): 1st rule of 4A pigtails, take chalk.  So give me Learning for Leadership, Calvin Christian and Chesterton.  Chesterton and Groves split their games this season.  Chesterton won the 2nd game late in the year at home while the loss was on opening night.  Give me the home team.

Round of 16 (3/9): I take chalk here with nothing all that compelling. 

Quarters (3/11): Chalk again here with Cristo Rey vs Maranatha as the only game that tweaks interest.

Semis (3/14 ARCC): North over Cristo Rey in 1 semifinal as North has too much depth.  Their pressure will be a major problem against the young Pumas guards.  Prairie Seeds beat Heritage last year in the semis in a surprise to many.  This year its no surprise.  Prairie Seeds can pressure Heritage which is the difference.  but CJ Woda is a problem for the Lycans.

Final (3/17 ARCC): North too deep again but Prairie Seeds will be up for the game.

Section 4AA
Lots of interesting tiebreaker scenarios played out here making for some interesting games.   Lots of teams dropping out so only 15 teams playing.
Round of 16 (3/9): No problems for Roosevelt, New Life or St. Croix Lutheran in round 1.  St. Paul Prep moved up in tiebreaks and I think they beat Humboldt.  Math and Science also moved up in tiebreaks as the lower seed but St. Agnes beats them.  The last 2 games are very interesting rematches.  In the 7/10 game, Washington beat Trinity on the road by 2 .  In the 8/9 game game, St. Croix Prep won at St. Paul Academy by 3 in January.  High seeds get the rematches at home so I stay with them.

Quarters (3/11): I see the top 4 seeds moving on without trouble. 

Semis (3/14 Washington): Minnehaha over St. Croix Lutheran.  I'll take the upset in the other semifinal with New Life taking out Minneapolis Roosevelt.

Final (3/17 Washington): New Life kept the regular season meeting with Minnehaha close thanks to Jalen Suggs foul trouble.  This time New Life isn't at home and I picked Minnehaha all the way at the start of the season.  Can't change now.

Section 5AA
Another deep section at the top.  I'll go out on a limb and predict all of these games even though they include lots of teams west of the metro that I don't know.

Pigtails (3/7): I'll take Heritage Academy being athletic and Paynesville having to make the long trip.  I'll go against better judgement and pick the upset in the other game with Cade Johnson being the difference for PACT going into Edison and getting a win.

Round of 16 (3/9): I see the top 5 seeds moving on without trouble.  I take chalk in the other 3 games but they are more interesting.

Quarters (3/11 STMA): I see the top 3 seeds moving on without trouble.  EV-W beat Annandale, Annandale handled Breck last Friday.  Give me EV-W in the other game.

Semis (3/14 STMA): Brooklyn Center is battle tested but their run ends here with a loss to EV-W.  Annandale and Watertown-Mayer split the regular season.  Annandale's only loss since the EV-W loss is a 1 point loss to Hopkins.  They're playing too well right now.  Give me Annandale.

Final (3/17 SCSU): Annandale gets revenge in the section final over EV-W.

Section 3AAA
Quarters (3/7): No surprises here as the top 3 seeds roll.  Kennedy after a 4-1 start went 3-17 so give me Simley in the 4/5 game.

Semis (3/10 Jefferson):  St. Thomas beats Simley but its closer than you may think.  Richfield lost 9 of 10 to end the season.  Highland Park won 11 of their last 12 (loss cost them a trip to the Twin Cities Game).  Scots move on.

Final (3/16 Jefferson):  Guards everywhere in the final.  Highland Park will try to use their quickness to speed St. Thomas up.  But I think St. Thomas moves on.

Section 4AAA
Quarters (3/8): Mahtomedi gets a revenge chance against Hill-Murray after being knocked out in this same 1/8 game last year.  They've won both regular season meetings by 40, expect the same here.  St. Paul Johnson's pressure makes for an interesting matchup vs St. Anthony but too much Rhys Langums means the Huskies advance.  Totino-Grace gets the Moore Lake rivalry game vs Fridley.  TG too good.  And don't get me started on TG getting the 4 seed.  Columbia Heights too much for Como Park.

Semis (3/11 Washington):  This should be a fantastic night of games.  TG vs Mahtomedi in 1 semifinal is worth of a final.  TG may have 12 losses but 7 of them are to top 10 teams in 4A QRF and all to 4A opponents.  Give me Mahtomedi in a great game.  Columbia Heights is a bad matchup for St. Anthony and beat the Huskies by 16 in the regular season.  Heights moves on.
Final (3/16 Washington):  Columbia Heights beat Mahtomedi in the regular season on one of the craziest shots you'll ever see (my recap here).  Heights pressure will bother Mahtomedi but since they've already seen it and the game is neutral site, give me Mahtomedi to win a close one.

Section 6AAA
Quarters (3/8): Delano with a late season collapse falls from a possible 2 seed down to 4.  That makes for a compelling rematch with Waconia in the 4/5 game.  The teams split the regular season with wins on road.  Waconia won by 16 at Delano last Monday and has won 8 of 9 since their loss to Delano.  Waconia is disciplined and Delano's defense has been troublesome.  Give me the 5 seed here.  Like last year Henry is a bad matchup for BSM.  BSM has lost 10 of their last 13.  Henry has won 11 of 12 with the only loss to North.  Top 3 seeds advance without trouble.

Semis (3/11 High Seed):  Can't pick against De La Salle at home.  They handle Waconia.  Orono too much shooting at home advances against Henry.

Final (3/16 Chanhassen):  State championship level game here.  Barry Wohler will throw the kitchen sink at the Islanders.  De La Salle advances in a great game.

Section 1AAAA
Quarters (3/8): Top 3 seeds in blowouts.  Lakeville South over Owatonna in the 4/5 game.  But Owatonna will keep that interesting and would not be a shock if they win.

Semis (3/11 Mayo Civic Arena):  Nothing like going all the way to Rochester for the battle of Lakeville.  Can we borrow Farmington for a night?  Lakeville North moves on.  In the other semi, Rochester JM has won 20 in a row and steamrolled thru the Big 9.  New Prague plays a suffocating slow down defensive style.  That's in major contrast to the 3 uptempo games that JM lost in December.  Give me JM here.

Final (3/17 Mayo Civic Arena):  Kryptonite strikes for the 5th straight year as Lakeville North moves on.  But god forbid Rochester folks that we have a 64 team format so JM doesn't run into this every year.

Section 2AAAA
Quarters (3/8): Top 2 seeds move on without trouble.  Tough to find a better pair of 3/6, 4/5 games.  Minnetonka and Eden Prairie split their 2 meetings on home court.  Eden Prairie squeaks by at home.  Edina hosting Prior Lake may be the best 4 vs 5 game out there.  I've been consistent picking against Edina in this game, but I'm going to break that string here and go with the high seed.

Semis (3/11 Hopkins):  Great semis here.  Edina beat Chaska in the regular season but that was without Andrew Kallman.  Chaska wins a tight one.  Eden Prairie beat Jefferson in the regular season at Jefferson.  Its a classic size (Jefferson) vs guards (EP) matchup.  Eden Prairie can get into the Jefferson guards and get them out of their stuff.  I like Eden Prairie again. 

Final (3/17 Hopkins): Chaska won the regular season meeting by 2.  I expect a terrific game here.  But ultimately a team that relies on shooting will run into defense.  I think that Chaska defends the arc well enough here and too much Myles Hanson.  Chaska moves on.
Section 3AAAA
Quarters (3/7): Czar Pal John Carrier turns Rieshaun Satar into Phil Ford and Sibley shocks the world with a double figure 20-10 win over Apple Valley.  OK maybe not.  AV the only team above 500 in this section.  Yikes.  Top 3 seeds move on without trouble.  Burnsville beat Eagan twice in the regular season.  They do it again to allow the high seeds to hold serve.

Semis (3/10 Farmington):  Apple Valley no problem in the semifinal either as they handled Burnsville twice during the regular season.  Eastview has 2 5 point wins over Rosemount.  They advance again in a case of guards over bigs.

Final (3/16 Farmington): City of Apple Valley rivalry game here but Apple Valley won both games easily.  I don't see that changing.

Section 4AAAA
Quarters (3/8): Top 3 seeds move on without trouble.  North St. Paul at Cretin-Derham Hall is an unexpected 4 vs 5 game.  But I like CDH here at home.

Semis (3/11 Hastings):  Fun night of semifinals.  East Ridge is banged up right now.  The teams split but Daniel Oturu was out when CDH lost.  I like CDH here with too much Oturu.  High level guard play in the Woodbury vs Tartan game.  Tight game and I'll take Tartan to move on.

Final (3/16 Hastings): Quality matchup here.  CDH has been Jekyll and Hyde this year proving they can win big games (SPASH, Iowa City West) but a 37 point loss at East Ridge even without Daniel Oturu and a blowout at Apple Valley show another side.  Tartan with a long period to game plan moves on.

Section 5AAAA
Quarters (3/8): I'll take chalk here.  Roseville has been much improved down the stretch but not enough to beat Osseo.  Mounds View will play Centennial tough but the Cougars have too much firepower.

Semis (3/14 Maple Grove):  Champlin Park took care of Centennial twice in the regular season.  No problems here.  Then the rivalry game Osseo vs Park Center.  Very interesting regular season meetings with Osseo losing by 21 at home and then winning by 29 at Park Center.  Park Center's athleticism is a problem for Osseo.  Park Center has won 9 straight coming into the tourney.  But Osseo was 11-3 down the stretch with the 3 losses by 4 points each to Armstrong and twice to Maple Grove.  Park Center's time will come, but Osseo gets them here.

Final (3/17 Rogers): Champlin Park beat Osseo by 17 in the regular season.  They are an even bigger matchup problem for the Orioles than Park Center.

Section 6AAAA
Quarters (3/8): The top 3 seeds move on without trouble.  Cooper vs Armstrong rivalry factor makes the 3 vs 6 interesting.  Cooper's guards can pressure Armstrong but too much Race Thompson.  St. Louis Park won at Washburn in the regular season.  They win at home this time to keep chalk intact.

Semis (3/11 Osseo):  Wayzata beat St. Louis Park by 17 in the regular season.  Very similar dribble drive styles from both teams.  But too much Wayzata firepower.  Hopkins is a very different team the last month or so of the season.  Armstrong gives them a tough test but Hopkins advances.

Final (3/15 Osseo): The 3rd meeting between Hopkins and Wayzata is a worthy section final.  The high low style that Hopkins has gone to is a problem for Wayzata.  Hopkins wins a tight one.

Section 7AAAA
Quarters (3/9): The most wide open section of all so let's go wild with picks. Forest Lake won at Cambridge by 5 in the regular season and that's a 1/8 game.  Forest Lake advances and that's most confidence I have in any pick here.  Duluth East beat St. Francis by 12 on home court, they do it again in the 4/5 game.  In the 2/7, Blaine beat Andover twice but by a total of only 9 points.  In the 3/6, Coon Rapids and Anoka split with road wins.  Total coin flips there.  Logan Rezac getting hot could carry Andover to the section final.  But I think Blaine sneaks thru at home.  Coon Rapids gets by in their home game.

Semis (3/14 North Branch?):  Tough picks here too.  Forest Lake beat Duluth East by 2 in the regular season.  But I'm going all upsets here.  Too much Cody Carlson carries East.  Coon Rapids split with Blaine and won the last meeting by 16.  Give me the Cards here.  Their 1-3-1 zone and athletes are a bad matchup for Blaine.

Final (3/17 North Branch): One of the few head to head matchups that didn't happen during the year.  Duluth East moves on with Carlson again being too much. Coon Rapids with a much improved season but a lack of big game experience hurts them here.

Section 8AAAA
Quarters (3/7): Top 3 seeds no trouble here.  STMA beat Elk River by 15 in the regular season . They've also beaten Edina, had Chaska beat until the final play and played Rogers tough in the last month of the season.  Give me STMA to win on the road.

Semis (3/11 SCSU):  Maple Grove handled STMA in the regular season, that happens again.  St. Cloud Tech beat Rogers by 1 in the regular season.  Great rematch but its in St. Cloud and Tech is too deep.  Give me Tech.

Final (3/16 Monticello/Neutral):  Tech's depth and size presents some challenges for Maple Grove.  But Brad Davison won't let the Crimson lose.  Maple Grove advances.