2018 Section Predictions

Its time for my annual Better Than Chalk section predictions.  The idea here (and I've actually been successful) is to pick the bracket better than if you picked just high seeds.  Because anybody can pick the high seeds and have a great percentage.  Better Than Chalk means picking the upset seeds and having it be right.  Of course we all know its better to be lucky than good.  But having almost everybody that I previewed, hopefully there's enough there to be Better Than Chalk again.   So we'll work backwards from big to small.

Section 8AAAA
Maple Grove no problems in round 1 with Brainerd.  4 STMA won at 5 Elk River in their season opener.  Plus the Elks have lost 8 of their 10.  STMA moves on. 3 Rogers has to work but holds off 6 Buffalo for the 3rd time with the 2 having just played.  2 St. Cloud Tech struggled with 7 Moorhead during the regular season but Tech is better now.  Tech moves on and its not as close as the 3 point regular season meeting.

Maple Grove takes out STMA in the semis.  The other semi should be a dandy.  Tech beat Rogers by 2 in the regular season   Rogers has won 12 of their last 14 after a 2-5 start.  Jordan Belka is a handful but I like how Tech matches up here. Tech wins another close one.

Maple Grove has been better than expected to earn the 1 seed and with solid guard play plus Alex Battist inside they've earned the top seed.  But this is the year Tech was looking at, they're still the deeper team.  I I'll take Tech here but Maple Grove's shooting will have to be dealt with.

1 seed Forest Lake no problems with St. Francis in the 1st round.  Andover and Coon Rapids split the regular sesaon with Andover's home win a couple weeks ago getting them the home game here.  Coin flip this 4 vs 5 game and give me Andover at home since they've seen Coon Rapids twice.  That should allow Andover to play their disciplined pace.  The 2 vs 7 Father vs Son rematch just got an extra dose of juice added to it when Duluth East beat the Bluejackets by 15 on Friday.  Cambridge-Isanti wins the rematch on their court.  Anoka lost 10 of 13 coming home but stayed within striking distance of Blaine twice.  3 seed Blaine wins again as Anoka tries to keep the game slow.

No miracle run for Andover this year as Forest Lake gets them in the semis. Andover doesn't have enough firepower.  Blaine has lost 5 out of 6 down the stretch and lost to Cambridge-Isanti at home in their season opener.  That was the 2nd game for the Bluejackets which is a big advantage.  Plus C-I has played a game at Chisago Lakes so they have familiarity with the gym.  In the words of Lee Corso, not so fast my friends.  Give me that Bengal head gear.  Too much Ray Mitchell and I think Blaine gets on the glass and gets to shooters.

In the final, the Mitchell vs Manny Jingco matchup is very appealing.  Forest Lake won the regular season matchup by 16.  The Rangers have also struggled down the stretch losing 6 of their last 9 and the wins were a stolen OT game at Stillwater, at Park and at Mounds View.  Not impressive wins.  Expect a grind it out affair here too.  I think Forest Lake is more consistent so I'll take them to move on

Top seed Hopkins gets the opening bye thanks to only 7 teams in the section.  Joe Hyser's South team sneaks up on people but they go to Armstrong who's beaten Osseo and Totino-Grace in February and just won at Blaine on Friday.  Armstrong moves on in the 4 vs 5 game.  Wayzata no problems with Southwest in the 2 vs 7 game.  St. Louis Park and Washburn is the 3 vs 6 game with the Orioles having the 17 point regular season home win in early December.  But this is an upset pick.  Cire Mayfield out for St. Louis Park if I understand correctly.  St. Louis Park totally different without him as shown in a Friday loss to Chanhassen.  Washburn has only 1 decent win since Christmas but I'm still going to take Washburn here.

If Armstrong still had Race Thompson this semi would be much more interesting.  But have to take Hopkins here.  Wayzata takes out Washburn in the other semifinal  Both winners way too much firepower.

Wayzata was absolutely clinical last year in the section final vs Hopkins.  Hopkins won't forget that and their size was destructive in a Hopkins blowout win a couple weeks ago.  Give me Hopkins here.

1st round is very straight forward.  Top seed Park Center no problems with Mounds View.  Ditto that for 2 seed Champlin Park over Centennial.  Spring Lake Park is tough at home including a 10 pt regular season loss to Roseville.  This time they meet at Roseville. Roseville moves on.  Osseo likely without Zach Theisen but they still have enough to take out Irondale.

As to the semis, Champlin Park is rolling with 14 straight wins.  Osseo got them in the regular season but even if Osseo was 100% healthy I still like the Rebels here.  Park Center moves on in the other semifinal.

Champlin Park won at Park Center a month ago in a game I saw.  Bennett Otto came up big in that game.  I think Park Center has enough to slow Josiah Strong down plus enough offense of their own to win the grudge match.  Defensively Park Center's athletes can hold the Rebels in check so I like that matchup.  Dain Dainja is also an important difference but he missed a big chunk of February.

What a section we have here.  Top seed Cretin-Derham Hall no problems with Stillwater.  The 4 vs 5 game is a real doozy and the best one on the 4 vs 5 list we'll cover here.  Its a big rivalry game with 5 seed Tartan going to 4 seed and Metro East champ North St. Paul.  These teams split 2 tight games on home court.  PG Antawn Kimmons has been electric for Tartan but North St. Paul's size is a problem.  They'll need a big game from Goodnews Kpegeol to move on.  With home court, I think they barely survive and advance.

Woodbury despite a 15-11 record got the 3 seed over NSP thanks to a head to head win.  What do they get, a 3rd meeting with White Bear Lake.  The teams split 2 close games on home court during the regular season.  WBL winning by 4 at home a couple weeks ago.  Their size represents a real problem for Woodbury.  But Michael Jones is a problem for everybody.  Woodbury also moves on in a tight one because of home court.  And don't overlook the 2 vs 7 game here.  2 seed East Ridge won by 6 at 7 seed St Paul Central in the regular season.  The Minutemen have the athleticism to bother East Ridge.  The Daveonte Davis vs Courtney Brown matchup is a very good one to watch as both can play inside and out.  East Ridge wins at home but it won't be your typical 2 vs 7 walk in the park.

The semifinals here are absolutely stacked as all 4 teams have been ranked during the season.  Ryan Larson's health still a question for CDH and NSP might be as well equipped as anybody to deal with the size of Oturu and Chatman.  That's a relative statement of course as nobody else besides Hopkins has a pair like that.  Jacob Prince will slow down Goodnews Kpegeol enough for CDH to move on.  Then the district rivalry between Woodbury and East Ridge.   These teams split the regular season with each winning on the road.  The East Ridge youth can only get better with more games.  I think they slow down Michael Jones just enough to advance.

Cretin-Derham Hall takes out East Ridge in the final.  East Ridge will have their day but its CDH's year.  The Raptors have had no answer for the Raiders this season.  Daniel Oturu has been absolutely dominant in those games.

Speaking of YUCK, Apple Valley is the only team over .500 in this section.  Eastview is the 2 seed at 10-16.  Enough said.  Apple Valley rolls over Rosemount in round 1.  Hastings takes out Burnsville.  Park has fallen apart without Charlie Gorres and fell all the way to 7 despite wins over Sibley and Hastings.  Eastview is a bad draw for them and the Lightning move on.  I think Eagan was a bad draw for Sibley.  Eagan playing better with wins over Eastview and Burnsville in the last couple of weeks.  Sibley going thru a very rough 2nd half of the season.  I'll take Eagan here.

Apple Valley steamrolls thru their semifinal.  Eastview won a close meeting with Hastings in the regular season.  Both teams run a lot of sets and execute very well.  Hastings matches up with their size vs Machacek and Crowl for Eastview.  Eastview pulls it out late.

Its hard to beat a team 3 times.  Yes it is.  It doesn't matter here.  Apple Valley moves on with too much Tre Jones.

Another section of death.  Top seed Eden Prairie could have the benefit of playing all home games to make state which I have a huge problem with.  No way a team should be playing a home semifinal and especially not a home championship game.  Chaska takes out Minnetonka in the 4 vs 5 game that should be very competitive.  3 seed Edina gets no picnic with Shakopee but they have enough firepower to move on.  Prior Lake got the 2 seed thanks to their head to head win over Edina.  But no other good local AAAA wins.  Prior Lake's size will bother Jefferson as they want to get basket cutting stuff.  Jefferson is a nightmare matchup with their execution and they'll drive the Lakers nuts.  But Prior Lake will hang on and advance.

Eden Prairie at home took out Chaska by 12 over the holidays.  They'll grind out another win here.  Then Prior Lake and Edina in the rematch of a thriller that I saw.  Edina had no answer for Prior Lake's size.  Robert Jones was a defensive monster and if it wasn't for a big game from Luke Glenna, Edina would have been blown out. But Prior Lake outside of the Edina win lost all their other big local AAAA games (2 to Apple Valley, 2 to Lakeville N and 1 to Minnetonka).  Edina has had success pulling teams bigs away from the rim with pick and roll (see CDH).  They do it here and win the rematch.

Then a fun rubber match in the section final.  Edina won by 17 at home while EP won by 9 at home.  Guard play all over the place with stoppers in force.  DJ Johnson for Anders Nelson and Luke Glenna for Drake Dobbs.  Both teams have a ton of shooters.  Eden Prairie with home court moves on plus Austin Andrews gives the Eagles a better inside presence.

Don't sleep on this section.  No 1st round upsets.  Lakeville N, Rochester JM, Owatonna and Lakeville South all move on.  But Farmington is just coming off a win vs Lakeville North.  South has been up and down but they'll sneak out another home win over the Tigers.

Then a pair of league matchups in the semis.  JM has handled Owatonna twice.  JM wins again but Owatonna keeps it close.  Then let's play the Lakeville rivalry in Rochester, travel sigh.  Rivalry games are wicked.  Too much firepower from North and then move on.

Then another dose of kryptonite.  North and JM meet for the 6th straight year in the section final.  Get there super early for the Saturday afternoon affair because its in the small gym (thank you Three Dog Night?) and should be absolutely jam packed.  Matt Hurt has another monster game but not enough help.  Lakeville North beats JM for the 6th straight year in the final.

Another brutal year in 6AAA with every team at or above 500.  1 De La Salle takes out 8 Henry (how did they not get 7th seed?) in round 1.  2 Orono takes out 7 Mound-Westonka.  Then a couple of compelling matchups in the middle.  4 Waconia won by 12 at 5 Benilde-St. Margaret's in the regular season.  I like Waconia at home but BSM has a workable matchup here to keep it tight.  Expect a slow methodical game there.  6 Roosevelt won by 3 at 3 seed Cooper in early December.  Leo Buchwald didn't play against Washburn this week and that would be a big loss.  Deszi Sims more than capable of carrying the Teddies to the upset win.  but I also like this matchup for Cooper.  Cooper wins a tight one at home in a game that will be helter skelter and entertaining.

De La Salle and Orono get the semifinal home games.  De La Salle takes out Waconia on the island.  Cooper with no good matchup for Jarvis Omersa but they should be able to pressure the Orono guards.  Orono in a fun one.

Then the matchup that everybody wants.  Orono vs De La Salle.  Again no matchup for Omersa but Jamison Battle is a matchup problem on the other side.  This is a state tourney championship level game at Chanhassen in a great atmosphere.  Expect a classic with De La Salle coming out on top.

Columbia Heights no problem with Hill-Murray in round 1.  In many other matchups, Johnson would be an easy pick as the 5 seed.  But they're the 5 seed because they've lost to Fridley twice.  Its a bad matchup for the Govs and Fridley gets them for a 3rd time.  2 seed Mahtomedi no problem with Como Park  3 seed Totino-Grace advances vs St. Anthony.

Columbia Heights matches up well with Fridley and handled them twice in the regular season.  I see that again.  Totino-Grace vs Mahtomedi is very interesting.  Mahtomedi relies on balance.  When Will Schmidt gets it going as a shooting 4 man, the Eagles are tough to deal with.  I think Mahtomedi's execution carries the day to get enough offense.  I think they find a way to slow down Schmidt or Charlie Jacob to limit the Totino-Grace offense.

In the final, Mahtomedi's execution will drive Columbia Heights nuts.  But Heights can speed the game up and get them out of their stuff.  That's the difference and Heights moves on.

Top seed St. Thomas Academy no problem with Richfield.  Markel Aune will put some numbers against 2 seed St. Croix Lutheran but the Crusaders still take out 7 seed Kennedy.  3 seed Harding and 6 Highland Park split in the regular season. This will be a very tight game.  I take Jovan Christian at the buzzer for Harding to advance.  South St. Paul beat Holy Angels in the regular season so I'm a bit surprised that SSP has the go on the road for this one.  Just think about that statement for a minute considering the last decade of SSP basketball.  Expect a nail biter here with Holy Angels winning at home.

St. Thomas Academy and St. Croix Lutheran both roll in the semifinals.

Then a fun matchup in the final between those 2.  Garrett Maag and Sam Vascellaro going at it would be a fun matchup to see.  Both teams are battle tested in tough games all season.  Shooting will be a big key here.  St Croix Lutheran can shoot it well enough to win on any night.  But they've also had plenty of nights where they've gone cold.  I like St. Thomas Academy here as I think they have more margin for error.
Not a full prediction here but I include Simley games from here since they are no longer in 3AAA.  They'll take out Red Wing in the 1st round at home as the 3 seed.  But I have them losing to Northfield in round 2 down in Rochester.

Only 14 teams here so that means only 6 1st round home games with the top 2 receiving byes to the quarters at STMA.  Holy Family over ISM, Breck over HLWW and Maranatha over PACT should be blowouts.  The other 3 games are interesting.  9 seed Providence lost by 2 at Litchfield early in the year.  Providence wins if they get to 50 but I don't see that happening.  Lots of guard play in the 7 SW Christian vs 10 Blake game.  Blake won by 8 at home in February.  Give me the 10 seed here in a tight one.  6 seed Rockford has won a pair of close ones vs Watertown-Mayer, they'll do it again.

In the quarters, North no problem with Litchfield.  Breck knocks off Maranatha again in a good 4 vs 5 game.  Too much David Roddy.  Holy Family gets another win over Rockford in the 3 vs 6 game.  Brooklyn Center wins a high scoring affair vs Blake.

North vs Breck is an interesting David Roddy vs Odell Wilson matchup.  The rest is all North and the Polars advance.  Brooklyn Center vs Holy Family is a rematch of Brooklyn Center winning by 6 at Holy Family in early December.  Holy Family knocked out the Centaurs in the 1 vs 8 game in St. Michael last year.  Holy Family is battle tested, very experienced and can shoot it.  Brooklyn Center is still relatively young and I haven't liked their defense all year.  Outscoring people will get you to a certain point, but that road ends here.  Holy Family wins the rematch.

If there's a team in the section that can knock North out, its Holy Family.  North should get a serious wake up call in this one but at the end of the day, its too much Polars.  Of course its also wonderful that this game is being played at St. Cloud State.  The 5AA/6AA championship doubleheader at Halenbeck Hall is great tradition.  But with so many metro teams now in the bracket that idea needs to be re-evaluated.  Wayzata, Osseo, Chanhassen, Hopkins, Maple Grove are just a few sites that would make a lot of sense.

Now we get to the goofy stuff.  4A and 4AA have decided to switch their format.  The top 4 seeds automatically receive double byes to Saturday's quarterfinals.  So they now only have to play 3 games to make state instead of 4 in the past.  The 5-8 seeds still open on Thursday.  But the 9-12 seeds now have to open on Tuesday in pigtail games vs the bottom seeds.  Then they get to play the 5 vs 12, 8 vs 9 etc games.  This is where my picks will be made or be broken.

Path 1: 9 Humboldt def 8 Charter Stars
Path 2: 13 Washington over 12 Edison, then lose to 5 seed St Croix Prep.  St. Croix Prep then beats 4 seed Trinity.
Path 3: 11 St. Agnes over 14 St. Paul Prep/HSRA then lose to 6 seed Concordia.  Concordia then falls to 3 New Life
Path 4: 10 Nova over 15 AFSA, then Nova def 7 St. Paul Academy.  Nova then falls to 2 seed Cristo Rey.

Humboldt has struggled down the stretch but they did beat the Charter Stars by 10 in the regular season.  Seems like I've picked against the Stars all year (to my sorrow) so for fun lets continue the theme.

Washington lost at Edison in the regular season but I think Washington has more talent than that record indicates with a young roster.  St. Croix Prep beat Trinity in regular season MCAA play before losing the 3rd place game of the MCAA tourney by 2 to the Tri-Hawks.  I think Prep gets it done here.

St. Agnes disciplined enough to move on vs HSRA but they'll lose a 3rd time to Concordia.  Then a tough 3 vs 6 rematch still goes to New Life.  New Life won the regular season game with Concordia by 8 in a low scoring affair.  New Life's size too much and Concordia won't turn the Eagles over (foreshadowing)

Nova should blow out AFSA.  Then a rematch of a regular season 4 point loss at SPA.  I like an upset here.  Then too much Cristo Rey in the quarters.

That leaves us with 1 Minnehaha vs 5 St. Croix Prep and 2 Cristo Rey vs 3 New Life Academy in the semis.  Minnehaha rolls as they are too big and athletic.  New Life's size is a problem for Cristo Rey but Cristo Rey will be able to force some turnovers but I don't see enough of that and New Life survives.

New Life's size and style gives them a chance to keep the game manageable.  But Minnehaha is just a higher level Maranatha team that was able to force New Life turnovers almost at will.  That's the issue the Eagles face in trying to pull the upset.  Too much Minnehaha here and they'll go back to state to continue their title defense run.

Now we get really messy.  We have Monday night games that could be snowed out and the winners have to play Tuesday with another round on Thursday followed by the entry of the top 4 seeds on Saturday.  As I've long said with section 4A, rule of the pigtail games is always pick chalk. So that means 14 Community of Peace over 19 Metro Schools College Prep, 15 Legacy over 18 Lincoln International and 16 MN Transitions over 17 Hmong Academy (a repeat of early in the season).  Those are the 3 Monday games.

On Tuesday, the 9 thru 13 seeds enter.  9 seed Groves gets 16 MTS and I'll take MTS here.  MTS has 2 wins over Liberty Classical who beat Groves twice in TCAC D2 play.  13 seed Chesterton some how just knocked off TCAC D3 regular season winner Calvin Christian in the TCAC tourney.  They split with 12 North Lakes in the regular season and won on the road.  I'll pick it again.  11 Hope Academy took 2 out of 3 from Community of Peace this year. That includes an 11 point road win last week in the TCAC tourney.  I'll take Hope again with the idea of another big game from Caleb Hoilien.  The 15 Legacy at 10 Calvin Christian game is sneaky close despite the mismatch of records.  Both lost big to PACT and Legacy has played bigger schools while Calvin played D3 TCAC.  Calvin hangs on at home thanks to Jaeden Schaap but expect it to be single digits.

On Thursday, here come the 5 thru 8 seeds.  The Cinderella run of MTS comes to an end here vs 8 West Lutheran.  The Warriors beat MTS in the Calvin Christian holiday tourney and get another W here.  5 seed Heritage no problem with 13 seed Chesterton.  6 Mounds Park Academy takes out 11 Hope Academy.   7 Liberty Classical Academy won by 8 at Calvin Christian in early December.  They'll win another close one here.

Then the top 4 come in on Saturday.  1 CHOF no problems in their rematch with 8 West Lutheran.  5 Heritage knocks out 4 Learning for Leadership.   6 Mounds Park Academy vs 3 Christian Life is a toss up.  I like Mounds Park Academy's big school schedule to help them here.  2 Prairie Seeds no problem with 7 Liberty Classical in the final quarterfinal.

In the semis, CHOF wins a end of season rematch with Heritage.  Prairie Seeds takes out Mounds Park Academy.  I see double digits in both of those.

Then the rematch of CHOF and Prairie Seeds from late in the regular season.  Prairie Seeds kept the game close despite not playing with 3 important guys.  That includes Peter Anderson and Emmanuel Jones who are back in the lineup now.  Prairie Seeds will be motivated after being section runner up to North the last 2 years.  Give me Prairie Seeds.

Now for those of you who read on twitter (and if you don't, start now! @tchoopsczar), you'll know that I'm already 1-0 for my predictions.  I took the free center square by taking 7 seed Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity over winless 10 seed Sleepy Eye St. Mary's on Thursday  But the Bulldogs run ends with a loss at 2 seed BOLD on Monday.

1 comment:

  1. I, of course, disagree with your assessment of 4A :-)


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