2018-19 Metro East Conference Preview

This is the 8th preview in my 2018-2019 season preview series.  Due to the annual MEA break, I'll also take the 2 day hiatus and end week 2 with a look at the Metro East Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and an explanation of how the previews are generated, click here.

Hastings Raiders (2017-18 season 13-14, 9-7 Conference, 5th)
The Raiders have to replace their top 2 scorers in forward Sawyer Levos and Grant Hollar.  They combined for almost 24 PPG last year.  But 3 starters and 2 reserves do return. Junior guard Devon Haraldson provides shooting.  Forwards Matt Schlottman and Isaac Rabaey return to a big front line.  Both scored 9 PPG last year.  Junior guards Dylan Wagner (9.6 PPG) and Colby Zak (5.1 PPG) return to guard spots.  Expect a very balanced lineup once again.

Henry Sibley Warriors (2017-18 season 9-18, 5-11 Conference, 6th)
Coach John Carrier has to replace his point guard and leading scorer Rieshaun Satar (19.6 PPG).  The next 4 leading scorers return to the lineup.  Versatile forward Malik Tschida-Spearman (16.1 PPG) will be the top option.  But he's coming off a football injury which will slow the start of his season.  Ty Zubulake (11 PPG) and Eli Lone Tree should be other primary offensive options. 

Hill-Murray Pioneers (2017-18 season 3-24, 2-14 Conference, Tie 8th)
Jacob Robasse takes over the program with a ground level rebuild ahead of him.  No one averaged double figures last year and 4 of the top 5 scorers are gone.  Guard Kenny Larmie leads the returnees with 7.5 PPG.  Octavius Wilson is the lone returning starter (6 PPG).  Mitch Gutknecht (6.5 PPG) also returns to the rotation.

Mahtomedi Zephyrs (2017-18 season 21-8, 11-5 Conference, 4th)
Mahtomedi loses 2 double figure scorers in forwards Jack Shay (13.5 PPG) and Karmoga Lero (10.2 PPG).  But 3 starters and 3 double figure scorers return to the lineup along with 2 reserves.  Leading scorer J'Vonne Hadley averaged 15.7 PPG.  Zac Centers averaged 12.2 PPG.  Junior Cole Chapman averaged 5.1 PPG.  Devin Melzer and his 7.2 PPG also returns to the lineup.

North Polars (2017-18 season 23-5, 15-1 Conference, 1st)
The defending conference champs have to replace most of their rotation.  That includes long time starters Goodnews Kpegeol (18.2 PPG) and PG Bryce Phillips (11.1 PPG).  Junior forward Brenden Lankford-Johnson (6.2 PPG) will be one of the ones expected to pick up the slack.  Guard Dajuan Carter will have a perpetual green light so expect volume numbers from him.  He averaged 11.8 PPG in bench minutes last year.

St. Thomas Academy Cadets (2017-18 season 22-10, 13-3 Conference, 2nd)
The Cadets have to replace their top 2 scorers in forwards Sam Vascellaro and George Stewart.  They combined for almost 30 PPG.  PG Jack Thompson is the leading option with 12.3 PPG last year.  Noah Chamberlain (6.7 PPG) should fit nicely into Vascellaro's role from last year.  The rest of the rotation will be mix and match with players like Tony Wright and Jack Stolpman.

Simley Spartans (2017-18 season 11-17, 3-13 Conference, 7th)
Star forward Jake Binley and 19.8 PPG needs to be replaced.  Isaiah Robinson and his 19.2 PPG do return.  Expect him to have another big season.  Milton Carnes and Cole Tschida also return to the rotation.  Guard Evan Johnson will also see time.

South St. Paul Packers (2017-18 season 7-20, 2-14 Conference, Tie 8th)
A notable improvement for the Packers last year despite playing 6 underclassmen.  That experience will serve them well this year.  Soph Marquise Gleb returns at a guard spot.  Juniors Trystan Patnode and Josh Osborne also return.  Junior Dohntae Vance provides a returning inside presence.

Tartan Titans (2017-18 season 22-5, 12-4 Conference, 3rd)
Coach Mark Klingsporn returns PG Antwan Kimmons who raised his averaged from 6 PPG to 20 PPG last year.  The next 2 scoring options graduated in guard Andre Jenkins-Whitmore and forward Brady Hartman.  That's a problem for a team that had trouble generating offense last year so expect Kimmons to see lots of box and 1 type concepts this year.  But with returnees like Joe Kearney, Dante Aganmwonyi, M'akil Weems and Dorian Singer they have plenty of experience.  Lots of interchangeable pieces on the defensive end for one of the best defensive teams in the metro.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Mahtomedi
  2. Tartan
  3. St. Thomas Academy     
  4. Hastings
  5. North
  6. Henry Sibley 
  7. Simley
  8. South St. Paul
  9. Hill-Murray 
Conference Overview
Mahtomedi and Tartan should battle for the conference title with both returning most of their lineups.  The middle group of St. Thomas Academy, Hastings and North should be very interesting to watch.  They each provide something very different in terms of experience and style of play.  Neighbors Sibley and Simley should battle for the next 2 spots with South St. Paul possibly jumping up into that group.  Hill-Murray starts over at the bottom.

Conference MVP: Antawn Kimmons - Tartan

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Andrew Chambers - Hill-Murray
  • Laron Thomas, Murl Smith - North
  • Yenika Fondungallah - St. Thomas Academy
  • Marquise Gleb, Ishman Ricmond, Kaiden Rucker - South St. Paul
  • Dorian Singer - Tartan
Conference Games to Watch
  • Tartan at Mahtomedi - Jan 3rd
  • Mahtomedi at Tartan - Jan 31st
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Tartan vs Edina - Dec 8 (Tipoff Classic at Hopkins)

2018-19 Minneapolis City Preview

This is the 7th preview in my 2018-2019 season preview series.  The look at the city leagues continues with the Minneapolis City Conference.  For a list of all the season previews, click here.

Edison Tommies (2017-18 season 6-21, 1-11 Conference, Tie 6th)
Coach Ahmil Jihad played a ton of guys last year.  He has forward Jackson Rusnacko and junior Jermain Cornell to build around for this season.  A down year in the league gives them a chance for wins.

North Polars (2017-18 season 23-6, 12-0 Conference, 1st)
Center Odell Wilson (NSDU) and guard Tayler Johnson combined for 40 PPG and graduated.  But don't despair as the Polars are still talented.  Star freshman Trejuan Holloman is now at Cretin-Derham Hall.  Eli Campbell returns at a guard spot (12.1 PPG).  Soph Davon Townley will man the middle.  Omar Brown and Ar'mon Dalton provide experience in the rotation.  Willie Wilson and Clifford Brown are the next wave of youth.  Their conference winning streak stands at 27 games.

Patrick Henry Patriots (2017-18 season 13-13, 7-5 Conference, Tie 3rd)
Guard Rashaud Rollins (13.4 PPG) and forward Anton Barr are the top returnees.  The Patriots JV squad won the JV Twin Cities Game last season.  That group of now juniors will be their depth.  Glentrell Carter, Mark Campbell and Yusuf Abdullah are the key members of that crew.

Roosevelt Teddies (2017-18 season 17-10, 7-5 Conference, Tie 3rd)
Head Coach Rob Mestas took over at Burnsville.  Mike Walker takes the reins and has a couple of talented pieces to work with.  High flying guard Deszi Sims averaged 26.4 PPG.  Forward Luke Barnes will be the 2nd option with 8.2 PPG last year.  Feysal Yusuf and frosh Muja Burton also return to the rotation.  They'll miss the shooting of Leo Buchwald (14.6 PPG).

South Tigers (2017-18 season 12-15, 8-4 Conference, 2nd)
The Tigers have to replace their top 3 scorers. That includes PG Curtis Jones (17 PPG) who is now at Cretin-Derham Hall and graduated post Cossy Kowouto.  Jaylen Blakley and Suldan Omar are backcourt options.  Josiah Lossow, Marcus Acha and Phillip Williams also saw time last season.

Southwest Lakers (2017-18 season 6-21, 1-11 Conference, Tie 6th)
Coach Greg Boone has to replace all 5 starters and his top 6 scorers from last year.  That includes the forward duo of Niko Polydorou (19.2 PPG) and Treavon Nystrom (13.5 PPG) who were the double figure scorers.  Nobody else averaged more than 2.6 PPG.  Owen Dean, Casey Peterson, John Clark, Marshall Hawkins and Christo Polydorou look to be the major players in this year's rotation.

Washburn Millers (2017-18 season 10-15, 6-6 Conference, 5th)
The Millers are decimated by transfers with 3 likely starters leaving.  That includes guards Charles and Emmett Johnson leaving for Holy Angels.  Soph Cade Haskins left mid-season last year for De La Salle.  Despite losing Emmett Johnson, they still have a talented sophomore crew that won the league's freshman title last year.  That crew may take over this year as there's no meaningful varsity experience coming back.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. North
  2. Roosevelt
  3. Henry
  4. South
  5. Southwest 
  6. Washburn
  7. Edison
Conference Overview
North is still the favorite.  Roosevelt with league MVP Deszi Sims gets my nod for 2nd.  Henry will give them a run for that spot.  Then South gets the middle spot by default as they at least have players coming back.  Southwest and Washburn have completely new rotations and Edison is still rebuilding.  Southwest gets the nod over Washburn as some of their guys at least saw varsity time

Conference MVP: Deszi Sims - Roosevelt

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Willie Wilson, Clifford Brown, Davon Townley - North
  • Muja Burton - Roosevelt 
  • Damarion Bradley - South
  • Ben Schliemann, Sir'vell Miller - Washburn
Conference Games to Watch
  • North at Henry - Dec 14th
  • Henry at North - Feb 1st
  • Twin Cities Game - Mar 2nd (at Minneapolis champion)
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • North at De La Salle - Jan 8th
  • Caledonia at North - Jan 12th
  • North at Hopkins - Jan 25th
  • Henry at Hopkins - Feb 5th
  • Minnehaha at North - Feb 19th
  • North at Eden Prairie - Feb 26th

2018-19 St. Paul City Preview

This is the 6th preview in my 2018-2019 season preview series.  Week 2 begins with a look at the city schools.  That means a look at the St. Paul City Conference here with the Minneapolis City Conference tomorrow.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Central Minutemen (2017-18 season 16-10, 10-2 Conference, 2nd)
The Minutemen return everybody and look for a big season after a disappointing 2nd place finish last year.  I expect that memory to run deep.  Forwards Daveonte Davis and Dion Ford combined for almost 43 PPG last year.  The big and athletic duo is a handful to matchup with.  The backcourt is also rock solid with defensive pest Ronelle Porter (12 PPG) at the point and shooter Luke McElroy.  Soph Jaelen Thomas gives them another option in the post.

Como Park Cougars (2017-18 season 6-21, 3-9 Conference, Tie 5th)
Leading scorer Donn Ward (16.5 PPG) returns to lead the Cougars.  But most of the remaining rotation has graduated.  Only other notable returner is Donzello Barros.  The rest of the rotation will be last year's JV squad with players like Nikita Benson and Isaiah Long stepping into bigger roles.

Harding Knights (2017-18 season 13-12, 7-5 Conference, 3rd)
Senior PG Jovan Christian (18.6 PPG) once again leads the way. Junior Simeon Sharp also averaged double figures at 12.6 PPG.  2 other starters also return to the lineup for the Knights.  Devonte Bolton and 12.8 PPG will be missed.  No other depth returns to the lineup.

Highland Park Scots (2017-18 season 10-17, 5-7 Conference, 4th)
Leading scorer Evan Brodtman returns as a shooter with 17 PPG.  Abdalla Mohammed and Mustafa Aden also return to add length to the front line.  Benny Hughes also returns to a guard spot.  Expect depth to come from a talented sophomore class that won the Twin Cites Freshman game last season.

Humboldt Hawks (2017-18 season 9-17, 3-9 Conference, Tie 5th)
The Hawks lose 3 of their 4 double figure scorers.  That takes 41 PPG out of the lineup.  But are still pieces to work with thanks to 2 starters and 4 reserves coming back.  Darnell King leads the way with 14 PPG.  Soph Brian Williams averaged 8.8 PPG last season.  Freshman Alonzo Dodd returns to run the point.

Johnson Governors (2017-18 season 21-6, 12-0 Conference, 1st)
The Govs reclaimed the league throne after a 13 year streak of titles was broken.  Now coach Vern Simmons has to replace 2 top guards and his top post player.  They combined for over 41 PPG last season.  Jordan Mobley returns at a guard spot with 10.4 PPG.  Terrel Turner, Lamont White, Sean Hubbard and 8th grader DeWayne Givens also return to the rotation.  They won't have any notable size but expect the usual pressing and trapping style to again be successful.

Washington Eagles (2017-18 season 6-22, 2-10 Conference, 7th)
Assistant Mark Bauch takes over the program after a disaster season and a recruiting fiasco.  That means some of the players may also be gone with North St. Paul being the rumored location.  Last year's lineup was young with 3 of the top 4 scorers being sophomores.  That included G Zaveon Smith (18.4 PPG) and Drewjuan White (14 PPG).  Da'Quan Grimes is a big body in the middle.  Freshman Emmanual Ajayi saw plenty of varsity minutes last season.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Central 
  2. Johnson
  3. Harding
  4. Highland Park
  5. Humboldt 
  6. Washington
  7. Como Park
Conference Overview:
Central is the runaway favorite with the entire rotation coming back.  Johnson is the best of the rest.  Harding gets the nod for 3rd with that same finish last year and plenty coming back.  Highland Park can make a run there too.  Humboldt is a sleeper here to jump up.  Washington is a wild card not knowing exactly what they'll have.  Como Park will struggle again.

Conference MVP: Daveonte Davis - Central

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Jaelen Thomas - Central
  • Isaiah Long - Como Park
  • Carter Owens - Highland Park
  • DeWayne Givens - Johnson
  • Emmanuel Ajayi - Washington
Conference Games to Watch
  • Central at Johnson - Feb 1st
  • Johnson at Central - Feb 26th
  • Twin Cities Game - Mar 2nd (at Minneapolis champion)
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Central vs Hopkins - Jan 12th (Super Showcase at Columbia Heights)
  • Minnehaha at Central - Jan 31st

2018-19 Tri-Metro Preview

This is the 5th preview in my 2018-2019 season preview series.  Week 1 of the 6 week long series concludes with a look at the Tri-Metro Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Academy of Holy Angels Stars (2017-18 season 9-19, 3-9 Conference, 5th West)
Leading scorer Ryan Mazurek and his team leading 12.7 PPG have graduated from a guard spot.  Max Gerstner (10.5 PPG), junior Matt Banovetz and Tommy Shelstad also return to the rotation.  They also get 2 important guard transfers from Washburn in Charles Johnson and freshman Emmitt Johnson.  Emmitt saw extensive varsity time for Washburn last year.
Brooklyn Center Centaurs (2017-18 season 22-10, 7-5 Conference, 3rd West)
Thanks to the new local prep school, the Centaurs go from being a favorite to return to state to starting completely over with a youth movement a couple of years early.  Lu'Cye Patterson, Amahn Decker, Adreone Sprinkles and Rudy Tahir are all gone because of that.  That means the youth movement of 8th graders Maxsamus Wilson and Quyavant Douglas gets an early chance to contribute.  The schedule was brutal to begin with but now with a young roster, expect many youthful lumps.

Columbia Heights Hylanders (2017-18 season 22-7, 9-3 Conference, 2nd West)
What a season for the state AAA runner up knocking off 6 time champ De La Salle in the state semis after an ugly loss in the regular season finale.  They too have to rebuild losing all 5 starters.  Jarvis Wright is the one notable returnee with 10.4 PPG and he can heat up in a hurry.  Amir Davis and Jordan Jones look to take over the guard spots
Concordia Academy Beacons (2017-18 season 16-12, 5-6 Conference, 2nd East)
The Beacons return 2 of their 3 double figure scorers from last season.  That includes 16.3 PPG from senior forward Barnabas Preble and 11.4 PPG from junior guard Aaron TerHaar.  Guard Essay Hagos and forward Luke Raymond also return to the rotation.

De La Salle Islanders (2017-18 season 26-5, 12-0 Conference, 1st West)
The Islanders fell off the AAA throne after winning 6 straight state titles.  They look to make a run back to the top with their dynamic perimeter duo of PG Tyrell Terry (Stanford commit) and W Jamison Battle (George Washington commit).  The rest of the rotation including Minnesota commit Gabe Kalscheur (22.7 PPG, leading scorer) needs to be replaced though.  Jalen Travis looks to get major inside minutes especially with Malik Lamin gone.  But don't be shocked if the Islanders go small.  Washburn transfer Cade Haskins is one to keep an eye on in the 2nd half of the season.

Fridley Tigers (2017-18 season 16-10, 5-7 Conference, 4th West)
Coach Jim MacDonald has to replace his top 3 double figure scorers.  They combined for 48 PPG last year. Junior guard Isaac Burns averaged 10.9 PPG and looks to help make up the difference.  Frosh wing Hassan Kamara averaged 6 PPG and should average double figures this season.  Evan Shaw and Casey Fisher (PG) should see increased rotation time.

St. Agnes Aggies (2017-18 season 6-21, 0-11 Conference, 4th East)
The Aggies lose top scorer Marcus Johnson and 23 PPG.  Nobody else averaged double figures.  But the next 4 scorers from last season do return as part of 6 rotation players coming back.  Norman Strickland, Terrell Jones and Jacob Brezny will need to carry an offense that should be much more balanced than last year.  They also add Sam Masek from Trinity.  Size will again be an issue but junior Luke Plamann could help there.

St. Anthony Huskies (2017-18 season 13-14, 5-6 Conference, Tie 2nd East)
Junior point guard Tair Nelson will once again lead the way (17.8 PPG).  Joe Flett also returns along with a couple of bench guys.  They'll miss the firepower of shooting guard Aaron Smith and driver Mickey Jah.  Those 2 combined for 30 PPG last season.  Abe Jaeger Mountain and Jeremiah Lucas are big options for the center position.

St. Croix Lutheran Crusaders (2017-18 season 19-10, 6-5 Conference, 1st East)
The Crusaders lose 5 of their top 6 scorers.  That includes 3 double figure scorers led by North Dakota football recruit Garrett Maag (17.9 PPG).  Senior Ezra Blumer is the main returnee with 8.8 PPG and his shooting.  The cupboard is young but not bare.  Sophmores Zach Longueville (PG) and Xavier Garcia (W) will step into the open roles quite nicely

Predicted Order of Finish

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

Conference Overview:
After a banner year for the west division with the 3 top teams making it to state, its time to rebuild.  Heavy losses for last year's top 4 teams.  De La Salle at least has a couple of stars left over.  Not the case for Brooklyn Center, Columbia Heights and Fridley (Metro Alliance theme??) who all lost a truck load.  Holy Angels loses their top scorer but will get a huge boost from the Washburn guards transferring in.  De La Salle wins it by default.  Fridley goes 2nd with a couple of pieces coming back.  Columbia Heights takes 3rd because of Jarvis Wright.  Holy Angels could make a run here as they have pieces.  Brooklyn Center has pieces for the future but they will be ridiculously young.  Expect them to takes some youthful lumps.

In the east, I'm looking for Concordia to go from 0-11 in league 2 years ago to winning the division with plenty coming back.  St. Croix Lutheran is in an inbetween year but don't expect major dropoff there due to a talented sophomore group.  St. Anthony gets the nod for 3rd thanks to Tait Nelson.  St. Agnes still brings up the last spot with a lack of size and known go-to scorer.  Expect realignment for next year.  St. Agnes and Concordia depart for the new Skyline Conference.  Richfield enters from the Metro West.

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Maxsamus Wilson, Quyavant Douglas, Akeem Nelson - Brooklyn Center 
  • Spencer Alvarez - Columbia Heights
  • Cade Haskins - De La Salle 
  • Hassan Kamara - Fridley
  • Emmitt Johnson - Holy Angels
  • Zach Longueville, Xavier Garcia - St. Croix Lutheran
  • Max Kachman - St. Anthony
Conference Games to Watch
  • St. Croix Lutheran at Concordia - Jan 15th
  • Concordia at St. Croix Lutheran - Feb 12th
    Non-Conference Games to Watch
    • De La Salle vs Eden Prairie- Dec 1st (Big 12 at Cretin-Derham Hall)
    • De La Salle vs Wayzata- Dec 8th (Tipoff Classic at Hopkins)
    • Minneapolis North at De La Salle - Jan 8th
    • Hopkins at De La Salle - Jan 29th 
    • Cretin-Derham Hall at De La Salle - Feb 16th
    • Minnehaha at De La Salle - Feb 23rd

    2018-19 IMAC Preview

    This is the 4th preview in my 2018-2019 season preview series.  Week 1 of the 6 week series fully transitions to local class AA and higher schools with a look at the Independent Metro Athletic Conference (IMAC).  For a list of all the season previews and how they are done, click here.

    Blake Bears (2017-18 season 11-15, 2-7 Conference, Tie 4th)
    Blake returns their trio of tiny sophomore guards Gabe Ganz, Jasper Liu and Robert Grace.  They combined for 40 PPG last year.  Add in 10.8 PPG from forward Eli Kilpatrick and coach Tyler Biwan has a nice group to build around.  Little firepower beyond that and they weren't deep.  Last year's experience will help them but can they move into the upper half still being so young?

    Breck Mustangs (2017-18 season 17-10, 8-2 Conference, 2nd)
    Forward David Roddy returns with video game numbers (about 25 and 13 last year).  Expect another ridiculous season of stats from him.  30 and 15 is not out of the question.  2nd leading scorer Joey Ganley also returns with 11.9 PPG.  Beyond that only soph guard Jaren Morton returns.  They'll need to find some shooting with Jefferson Slocum being one of the main losses.

    Minnehaha Academy Redhawks (2017-18 season 28-4, 7-0 Conference, 1st)
    The 2 time defending conference and class AA champs are once again the favorites to repeat.  That's despite losing 3 big contributors from last season.  Post JaVonni Bickham, G Lorenzo Smith and PG Terry Lockett (now at a prep school in Ohio) all depart after combining for over 30 PPG.  But they still have star PG Jalen Suggs to run the show and expect a much better season for him with the ball in his hands full time.   Skilled forwards Chet Holmgren and Prince Aligbe are amongst the best underclassmen in the state.  Not to mention Kaden Johnson as another forward to give them a gigantic lineup.  Depth will be interesting to watch. They've won 26 league games in a row over the last 4 seasons.

    Mounds Park Academy Panthers (2017-18 season 9-20, 2-7 Conference, Tie 4th)
    Coach Jacob Schwartz turned in a miracle 1st season with a crazy run to the 4A section final and breaking a decade long losing streak in conference games.  3 starters including double figure scorer Nick Guiang have to be replaced.  But there are pieces to work with.  Jumping jack Yahya Madar returns after averaging 16 PPG last year.  Soph Jack Paulson and senior Ben Nippolt should join the starting lineup after being major factors last season.

    Providence Academy Lions (2017-18 season 11-15, 6-3 Conference, 3rd)
    Despite playing a lineup of all juniors, Providence stayed in the middle of the league. That experience will benefit them greatly this year.  Double figure scorers Mark Richelsen and Logan Blomberg both return at the forward spots.  Guards Joey Fafinski and Dylan Servais man the backcourt.

    St. Paul Academy Spartans (2017-18 season 16-13, 2-8 Conference, 6th)
    Leading scorer Gus Grunau and 18 PPG depart from a guard spot.  PF Ryan Moore is the top returnee at 13.3 PPG.  Not much firepower beyond him.  Soph guard Adam Holod and Will Christakos return to the lineup.  Another soft non-conference schedule will help the overall record.

    Predicted Order of Finish
    1. Minnehaha
    2. Breck
    3. Providence 
    4. Blake 
    5. Mounds Park Academy
    6. St. Paul Academy
    Conference Overview
    I don't expect much to change in this year's standings.  Minnehaha is still the clear favorite with their treasure chest of talent.  Breck with David Roddy still has be a pick for 2nd with the rest of the teams having no answer for him.  But with everybody back for Providence and Blake, those 2 could challenge.  Providence with 2 wins over Blake last year and the better finish by a mile gets the nod there.  The gap has definitely narrowed for the 2 thru 4 spots.  Mounds Park Academy and St. Paul Academy take up the last 2 spots.  With Yahya Madar and 4 others returning, I'll give Mounds Park the edge.

    Conference MVP: Jalen Suggs - Minnehaha

    Underclassmen to watch:  
    • Robert Grace, Gabe Ganz, Jasper Liu - Blake
    • Jaren Morton - Breck
    • Chet Holmgren, Prince Aligbe, Donovan Smith - Minnehaha
    • Jack Paulson - Mounds Park Academy 
    • Adam Holod - St. Paul Academy
    Conference Games to Watch
    • Minnehaha at Breck - Jan 29th
    • Breck at Minnehaha - Feb 12th
     Non-Conference Games to Watch
    • Minnehaha vs Perham - Dec 1st (Big 12 at Cretin-Derham Hall)
    • Breck at Cristo Rey - Dec 4th
    • Minnehaha vs Champlin Park - Dec 8th (Tip Off Classic at Hopkins)
    • Breck vs Lake City- Dec 8th (Tip Off Classic at Hopkins)
    • Hopkins at Minnehaha - Dec 11th
    • Minnehaha at Eden Prairie - Jan 8th
    • Minnehaha vs Onalaska (WI) - Jan 26th (Border Battle at East Ridge)
    • Minnehaha at Minneapolis North - Feb 19th
    • Minnehaha at De La Salle - Feb 23rd
    • Maranatha at Minnehaha - Feb 28th

    2018-19 MCAA Preview

    This is the third preview in my 2018-19 season preview series.  Week 1 of the 6 week series moves on with a look at the Minnesota Christian Athletic Association (MCAA).  For a list of all the season previews and how they are done, click here.

    Heritage Christian Academy Eagles (2017-18 season 13-19, 2-8 Conference, 9th)
    Heritage made an improbable run to state in a year where they had lost one of their best senior classes ever.  Now coach Tim Herman has to replace 11 more seniors.  Guards Seth Halvorsen and Ben Allen are significant losses.  Senior Taylor Brodersen is the lone starter coming back.  Junior TJ Guggenberger will be the main offensive option.

    Legacy Christian Academy Lions (2017-18 season 5-25, 0-10 Conference, 11th)
    Crossfire AAU director Nate Bellefeuille takes over as the new AD and 4th head coach in 4 years at Legacy.  The Lions return most of their rotation from a roster than was very young and inexperienced last season.  Senior guards Josh Hinrichs and Justin Demars return after being the top 2 scorers.  Plenty of youth will see time.  But they lose a key piece of youth as freshman Payton Thomsen has transferred to Andover.  They'll continue to build towards the next 2 years.

    Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity Bulldogs (2017-18 season 12-16, 4-6 Conference, 7th)
    The Bulldogs also have a new coach from the AAU ranks in Andrew Dahl.  He too has most of last year's roster to work with.  That includes senior do everything guard Michael Ziermann and his 16.1 PPG.  He's one of the top players in the league.  Evan Lee and Dylan Ruzicka provide shooting on the wings.  Parker Bayerl returns to man the front line.

    Maranatha Christian Academy Mustangs (2017-18 season 20-8, 10-0 Conference, 1st)
    The league's most dominant player Beijan Newbern and his 20 PPG departs.  But the cupboard is never bare for the Mustangs.  Maciah Harut returns at the point.  The worker duo of Clarence and Hakim Daniels returns up front and they pound the boards.  Justin Mason and Julian Cavan are experienced guards.  Travaris Ricks-Wessah is another effective front line piece.  Shooting is an achilles heel for this crew, especially without a dynamic 1 on 1 option like Newbern.  They will use their athletes to pressure to make up for that.

    New Life Academy Eagles (2017-18 season 20-9, 7-3 Conference, Tie 2nd)
    New Life looks at another year where they hope to just reload.  All 5 starters have to be replaced.  That includes their big front line and 2 double-figure scorers of Drew Wynia and Zach Thor.  That's around 26 points and 13 points a game.  Versatile Eli Gorter on the wing is also a big loss.  Junior forward Michael Reader is the top returnee.  Konner Ware returns in the backcourt.  Ben Kaus and Caleb Wall are also expected to be major parts of the rotation.

    PACT Charter Panthers (2017-18 season 8-19, 3-7 Conference, 8th)
    PACT has to replace 4 starters and 5 of their top 7.  That includes the top scorer in the league Cade Johnson and 23.5 PPG.  They do have a nice piece to build around in sophomore forward Jordan Stone.  Parker Maahs is the lone returning starter.

    St. Croix Prep Lions (2017-18 season 18-10, 7-3 Conference, Tie 2nd)
    Coach Keven Seim has a loaded backcourt.  Junior sniper Daniel McCarrell averaged almost 18.8 PPG last year and had 10 3s in a game at Johnson last year.  Then you have sophomores Addison Metcalf and Andrew Howard who also can both handle and shoot it.  That doesn't even add in Jayton Metcalf who may return from major injury.  They'll miss the scoring punch (14.8) from Adam Wiering.  Not much size but the shooting makes up for it.

    Spectrum Sting (2017-18 season 13-13, 7-3 Conference, Tie 2nd)
    Spectrum is poised to sting once again this season.  Cole Elrod and Matthew Kruse averaged around 16 PPG last season and have a ton of experience.  Most of this roster returns as well. 

    Trinity Tri-Hawks (2017-18 season 18-10, 7-3 Conference, 2nd)
    4 starters have to be replaced from a balanced lineup.  Senior Ben Maslow is the lone starter back with 9.2 PPG.  Michael Ennis returns to the rotation as well with 4.9 PPG.  Junior Sam Masek is another option at a guard spot.

    West Lutheran Warriors (2017-18 season 13-15, 1-9 Conference, 10th)
    Senior Brett Volrath leads the way with 13.4 PPG.  Junior Troy Kokkinen should reach double figures in scoring this year as well.  Junior Keshawn Johnson also returns to the rotation.

    Predicted Order of Finish

    Skyline Division
    1. Maranatha  
    2. St. Croix Prep
    3. Trinity
    4. New Life
    5. Legacy
    New Wave Division
    1. Spectrum
    2. Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity
    3. West Lutheran
    4. Heritage
    5. PACT
    Conference Overview
    Sadly its the end of the MCAA as we know it.  Southwest Christian has left for the Minnesota River Conference.  Maranatha, New Life, St. Croix Prep and Trinity leave next year for the new Skyline Conference.  The schedule breaks the teams into a 13 game schedule via 2 divisions which I randomly named above.  Notable that all the teams leaving are placed together.  But since that doesn't really reflect the strength, I'll evaluate everybody together here.  Its only fitting that the league's traditional heavyweight Maranatha is once again the runaway favorite.  Then there's a clear group of 3 behind them. I love St. Croix Prep's guard play.  But don't discount that spot from Spectrum or LP/HT either.  Elrod and Ziermann respectively will be big factors in the league.  Then a big dropoff to the rest of the league due to heavy losses.  Trinity and New Life are traditionally solid enough to keep them in the middle.  Legacy does have plenty coming back so with the rest dropping back, I can see them being a surprise.  The bottom 3 are a toss up.  Heritage has to take a hit with 2 major years of losses. 

    Conference MVP: Michael Ziermann - LP/HT

    Underclassmen to watch: 
    • Harley Kendall, Trenton Harrison- Legacy Christian
    • Zach Jackson, Tanner Scheevel - LP/HT 
    • Chase Carter - Maranatha
    • Jordan Stone - PACT
    • Addison Metcalf, Andrew Howard - St. Croix Prep 
    • Sam Bjorlin - West Lutheran
    Conference Games to Watch
    • Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity at Spectrum - Jan 3rd
    • Spectrum at Maranatha - Jan 11th
    • St. Croix Prep at Maranatha - Jan 15th
    • St. Croix Prep at Spectrum - Jan 22nd
    • Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity at St. Croix Prep - Jan 25th
    • Maranatha at Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity - Jan 29th
    • Maranatha at St. Croix Prep - Jan 31st
    • Spectrum at Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity - Feb 12th
    • MCAA Tournament Championship - Feb 23rd
    Non-Conference Games to Watch
    • St. Paul Johnson at St. Croix Prep - Dec 8th
    • Maranatha at Cristo Rey - Dec 18th
    • Hudson at St. Croix Prep - Feb 19th
    • Maranatha at Minnetonka - Feb 2nd
    • Maranatha at Edina - Feb 22nd
    • Maranatha at Minnehaha - Feb 28th

    2018-19 TCAC Division 2 Preview

    This is the second preview in the 2018-2019 season preview series.  The 6 week preview series moves along with a preview of Division 2 of the Twin Cities Athletic Conference.  Lots of turnover between the divisions this season so it isn't abundantly clear which is which so I will just label them A and B.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are done, click here.

    These teams will all play each other but it breaks down into 2 subdivisions.  Each team plays their fellow subdivision teams twice with a single crossover game against the other subdivision.  That means a total league schedule of 16 games for these teams.  Not sure how those crossover games will count for purposes of league standings.  For the TCAC tourney, all of these teams (possibly without Shattuck-St. Mary's) will play together.  Its scheduled as a 2 day tourney for both division 1 and 2 so I expect the usual groupings of 4 with the highest seed hosting opening night.  Then all the finals on the 4 courts at Cristo Rey on championship Saturday if its done as in recent seasons.  Metro Schools College Prep is no longer in the league.  Learning For Leadership was closed during the offseason when it was not reauthorized due to poor academic performance.  Hiawatha Collegiate was in the league last year but after I wrote the previews.  Lakes International Language Academy adds varsity basketball this year and joins the league as well.

    Division 2A

    Avail Academy Valor (2017-18 season 15-10, 11-1 TCAC D3, 1st)
    This is the school formerly known as Calvin Christian in Fridley.  Leading scorer Jaedan Schaap is a big loss but they have the next 6 players in their rotation coming back.  That includes a big front line with leading returning scorer Hans Dykstra and junior Kaleb Swensen.  Frosh Josiah Schaap looks to pick up some of the scoring lost.

    Groves Academy Griffins (2017-18 season 10-16, 3-9 TCAC D2, 6th)
    High scoring guard Malik Bodden and 23.2 PPG graduated.  He's the biggest loss from the roation.  Forward Max Bilcik averaged 17.6 PPG and almost 10 rebounds to lead the returnees.  Senior Larry Mohamed will look to fill Bodden's spot in the backcourt.  Nick Maiers gives them more size with Bilcik up front.

    North Lakes Academy Huskies (2017-18 season 13-14, 8-4 TCAC D3, 3rd)
    The Huskies lose 5 seniors to graduation.  Guard Cole Donelan and Ethan Crandell are 2 of the notable returnees.  They lost their size guys on the front line.  The schedule is favorable as 5 of the 6 cross-division games are at home.

    Lakes International Language Academy Dragons (N/A, no varsity program)
    LILA is a charter school in Forest Lake.  This will be their 3rd school year with grades 9-12.  I believe their program was JV only last year.  With it being only year 3 of the high school side of things, expect lots of youth and possibly no seniors.  The girls program will combine with natural rival North Lakes.  The teams could have their 1st official varsity meeting in the North Lakes holiday tourney.

    Liberty Classical Academy Lions (2017-18 season 13-13, 6-6 TCAC D2, 4th)
    Juniors Ben Horn (about 20 PPG) and Graham Pelton form a nice duo for the Lions.  Peter Klarr is an important loss up front.  Guard Noah Nelson along with Klarr averaged double digits and is lost to graduation.

    Shattuck St. Mary's Sabers (2017-18 season 5-6, 5-5 TCAC D3, 4th)
    SSM returns 4 of their top 5 scorers.  That includes double figure scorers Jared Hodge and Matt Cooper.  Peter Xiong and Jadon Antwi also return to the rotation.  Their home game with Calvin Christian on the final night of league play could be for the top seed in the TCAC D2 tournament.

    Division 2B

    Academy for Sciences and Agriculture Eagles (2017-18 season 8-18, 4-8 TCAC D3, 5th)
    AFSA played 5 underclassmen in a 9 man rotation last year.  That gives new coach Steve Lange some experience to work with.  Junior DeAndre Mason and soph Adam Labrie are 2 of those names that will lead the way this season.  Both are ball handlers and scorers for the Eagles.  Other scoring punch will need to be found.  Only 2 seniors depart from the rotation.

    Chesterton Academy Knights  (2017-18 season 6-14, 3-7 TCAC D3, 6th)
    No information available

    Hiawatha Colliegiate Wolves (2017-18 season 0-18, 0-12 TCAC D3, 7th)
    The south Minneapolis charter school moves to a brand new building this year.  Not sure it will help the record though.

    Hmong Academy Warriors (2017-18 season 11-8, 9-3 TCAC D3, 2nd)
    The Warriors spent last season on the road while their new facility was being built.  They return home this year.

    Math and Science Academy Dragons (2017-18 season 1-22, 0-12 TCAC D2, 7th)
    The Dragons have their 3rd head coach in 3 years as Jamey Strand comes over from AFSA.  No double figures scorers in a long season.  They have some experience coming back but it could be a rough year.

    Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf Trojans (2017-18 season 9-10, 5-7 TCAC D2, 5th)
    MSAD loses 4 top scorers.  That includes 20+ PPG from Juan Salgado.  Forward Ryan Stumbo leads the returnees.

    Predicted Order of Finish - Division 2A
    1. Avail
    2. Shattuck-St. Mary's
    3. Liberty Classical
    4. Groves
    5. North Lakes
    6. Lakes International Language Academy
    Division 2A Overview
    I think Shattuck-St. Mary's is dangerous here but even without Jaeden Schaap I think Avail has enough to outlast them.  Liberty and Groves have dangerous duos that will need to produce.  North Lakes can't say any of that so they get the 5 slot.  LILA with no team last year by default starts at the bottom.

    Predicted Order of Finish - Division 2B
    1. AFSA
    2. Hmong Academy
    3. Chesterton
    4. MSAD
    5. Math and Science
    6. Hiawatha Collegiate
    Division 2B Overview
    Another year where I didn't see any of these teams.  The bottom of this is going to be ugly.  The bottom 2 combined for 1 win last year and MSAD loses their top 4.  Chesterton went 3-1 against AFSA last year with the loss by 3 at AFSA.  Hmong Academy has had a nice couple of years so I'll take them 2nd.  AFSA with plenty returning so I take them at the top. 

    Conference MVP: Hans Dykstra - Avail

    Underclassmen to watch: 
    • Adam Labrie, Mycah Hernandez - AFSA
    • Josiah Schapp, Josh Kroeze, Evan Olstad - Avail
    • Donovan Bradshaw - Groves
    • Kyu Yang - Hmong
    • Will Krisko, Dylan Goff, Anthony Kamel, Eli Harrison  - Math and Science
    • Matthew Ogunsemi - Shattuck-St. Mary's
    Conference Games to Watch
    • Shattuck-St. Mary's at Avail - Jan 8th
    • Hmong Academy at AFSA - Feb 1st
    • Avail at AFSA - Feb 8th 
    • AFSA at Hmong Academy - Feb 12th
    • Avail at Shattuck-St. Mary's - Feb 26th
    • TCAC Tournament Championships - Mar 2nd
    Non-Conference Games to Watch
    • Avail at Christian Life - Jan 8th (likely to change)