Still Rooting for Spartans

Day 2 of the 18-19 season continues my 4 classes on the 1st 4 nights of the season tour.  Last night it was AAA.  Tonight its a 4AA matchup as St. Paul Academy makes a short trip east down Randolph Ave to Nova Classical Academy.  Plenty of coaches on hand for this one.  I see a limo on my way in and sure enough the joke is on me as St. Agnes coach Chris Hopkins makes an appearance.  Concordia and New Life on hand as well.  No concessions which is disappointing as I've had nice pulled pork at Nova in the past.

As to the game itself, not much to see hence the abbreviated writeup.  St. Paul Academy playing without top forward Ryan Moore but no problems.  Alex Hermann 3 trips and all 15 of his points in the 1st half as the Spartans opened up a 39-21 halftime lead.  Soph guard Adam Holod with an outstanding night with 13 of his 18 in the 1st half.  Only 2 Knights score in the 1st half including 14 of the 21 and the 1st 10 for Nova from guard Mathieu LaFrambois.  St. Paul Academy extends the lead to 25 in the 2nd half and cruises to a 71-51 win.  LaFrambois leads all scorers with 23 points.  Holod 18, Hermann 15 to lead SPA.  Shae Nelson adds 12 for Nova but was off all night which hurt the Nova offense.  Nelson will be a key offensive piece for the Knights after being a double figure scorer last season.  Next up for Nova is a trip to New Life on Tuesday while SPA will host Como Park.

An opening night Spartan rallying cry

A quality start to the 2018-19 season as I take in a 6AAA battle between Minneapolis Roosevelt and Orono.  Its the 1st game for new Roosevelt head coach Mike Walker.  He comes out in style too with the bowtie on.  Bowties never get old.  Only fitting for a star night in the city that we get The  Rev on duty for the game as well.  Kevin Britt joins him.  Solid hot dog at the concession stand to go with the metric edit of Sprite (500 ml).  Concession stand was talking about how they should have had Walking Tacos.  I could have stayed for the discussion all night.  Quality PA music all night with Ah Ha and Nu Shooz representing the 1 hit wonders.  But I'll go old school random for tonight's tune.

Song of the Day: Gimme Some Lovin - Spencer Davis Group

Number of Teams I've Seen: 2 (1 game, 1 day, 1 building, 0 online)

Beverage Ticker: 16.9 ounces (200 Calories)
  • Sprite: 16.9 ounces (200 calories) 
Food Ticker:
  • Hot Dogs:1
Game Time:
High profile guys for each lineup start the game on the bench.  That's Blake O'Connor for Orono and Deszi Sims for Roosevelt.  Both would enter early and O'Connor started the 2nd half.  Scoring at a premium as Orono isn't on the board until 2 O'Connor FTs at the 11:27 mark to trail 6-2.  Orono not able to hit a thing.  Then its a Sims steal for a 3 point play.  O'Connor and Eli Sustacek have 2 fouls each for Orono.  Roosevelt with the 14-2 lead before the 2nd foul on Sims at the 6:51 which sits him down.  Finally the 11th guy for Orono, Tyler Nyquist hits a jumper at about the 4:30 mark for Orono's 1st FG.  Roosevelt counters with a triple and Kalid Ahmed converts a turnover for a 21-4 Teddies lead.  Orono would finally get their footing with an O'Connor 3 and a putback in a 7-0 run in the last 3:35 of the 1st half.  21-11 Roosevelt at the break in an ugly half.  Orono with only 3 field goals.

Orono continues the momentum out of the locker room with the 1st 7 points of the 2nd half.  Nick Prentice with a great tip pass out of the post that leads to a 3 and then a layup of his own.  The Orono run is 14-0 as Roosevelt goes 8 minutes, 4 on each side of halftime, without a point.  Orono from 17 down to within 3.  Ahmed breaks the ice with a triple and TJ Williams converts a turnover to push the Roosevelt lead back to 26-18.  Orono timeout with 12:49 left and coach Wohler not pleased with his team not taking care of the ball.

Orono once again slowly grinds their way back as Roosevelt just can't find any offense.  O'Connor scores on a drive and then Mitchell Hirchberg makes both ends of the bonus and then is fouled with 6:40 left and goes to the line with a chance to tie but only makes 1.  So Roosevelt with an 8 minute drought and then 2 buckets in 15 seconds to break it.  But now another 8 minute drought.  It looks bad as coming the other way Sims charges for his 4th foul with 6:16 left and Roosevelt clinging to the 1 point lead.

Coach Walker rolls the dice and leaves him in.  On a turnover, he spins, big contact and somehow the ball goes in.  Its The Rev on the whistle so what do we have?  Theatric deal AAAAAANND....Its a block but its on the floor so no basket.  The front end is no good but Roosevelt gets one of their many offense boards and it leads to a Sims triple.  MoKiller timeout Roosevelt up 30-26 with 5:53 left.

Luke Barnes with great hustle to track down a long offensive board and he'll make 1 of 2 to push the lead back to 5.  O'Connor counters with 2 freebies.  Sims converts a turnover to keep the lead at 5 inside of 3 minutes.  Forward Simon Rice with the open 3 that gets the high and soft members bounce to go in with 2:11 left to cut the Roosevelt lead to 2.  Timeout Orono with 2:11 left trailing 33-31.  They'll come out of the timeout in a 2-3 zone but coach Walker immediately pulls his guys back and Orono has to quickly go man.  Prentice with great hustle to track down a loose ball and he's fouled going the other way.  He has a chance to tie it with 1:31 left but for the 2nd time only 1 of 2 are good and the Spartans still can't get back to even.  Roosevelt turns it over.  Rice has a great look at a 3 that misses.  O'Connor grabs that and can't finish the putback with a minute left.  But Roosevelt turns it over again with 33.3 left.  Timeout Orono down by 1 to get organized.

Orono draws up a set that has Hirschberg building a mansion under the rim he's so open.  He gets the ball late but is able to convert a tough finish with 20 seconds left.  That gives Orono their first and only lead of the night.  Roosevelt takes time with 13.5 left and they'll go right wing iso for their star Sims.  His drive banks too hard and a great look at a putback is no good.  Ball out of bounds to Orono with 2.7 left.  Roosevelt gets one last chance as Sustacek misses 2 free throws.  Roosevelt uses a timeout to get the ball to half court and then draws up a final look with 1.5 left.  Its Sims off 1 driible from the bottom of the center circle and its just off to the left.  Orono wins an entertaining if not pretty affair 34-33.

Post Game
For Roosevelt, they fall to 0-1 and have the back to back at Humboldt.  Then they visit Columbia Heights on Monday before playing New London-Spicer in the boys tipoff.  That's all before a big home tilt in conference play on Dec 11th vs Henry.  Deszi Sims and Kalid Ahmed lead the way with 9 points each for the Teddies.  But definitely a quiet night by Sims standards.  Their quickness definitely bothered Orono.  I also liked the 5 out they ran with Luke Barnes being the top guy setting curl screens and popping.  But that's a different way of getting Sims the ball vs the euro ball screen stuff they'll run.

Orono starts 1-0 despite an ice cold night of shooting.  Many quality looks that not only didn't go in but many that even missed quite badly.  That's unlike many of the Barry Wohler teams I've seen.  But they found a way to steal one on the road which will help them long term.  This win will loom large in 3 months at the section meeting where head to head is a big deal when you have 5 leagues all at the table.  Orono goes on the road to Monticello and Hopkins before a big section tilt at home with Henry next Thursday.  Tough games at St. Paul Central and hosting Marshall follow that.

2018-19 Season in a Nutshell

The Czar's 2018-2019 Season Preview series concludes with the traditional season overview for the casual fan.  This is a higher level preview for those who don't eat, sleep and breathe hoops like the rest of us.  Its what and who you need to see and when and where to see it.  If you missed any of the 121 team previews over 12 conferences or the 14 section previews, a full list of them can be found here.

10 Local Events
  • Dec 1 - Breakdown Big 12 Classic at Cretin-Derham Hall
  • Dec 8 - Breakdown Boys Tipoff Classic at Hopkins
  • Dec 15 - Southside Showcase at Roseville
  • Dec 21-22 - Above the Rim Classic at Minneapolis North
  • Dec 29 - Augsburg Tournament Championship
  • Jan 12 - Super Showcase at Columbia Heights
  • Jan 21 - MLK events (Totino-Grace and Roosevelt)
  • Jan 26 - Border Battle at East Ridge
  • Jan 26 - Between the Lines Classic at Trinity
The Big 12 replaces the boys games that used to be at the Girls Tipoff Classic.  That along with the Boys Tipoff are both loaded with too many games of the top teams to mention here.  The Southside Showcase moves to Roseville this year and has 2 courts going all day.  St. Paul Central vs Cooper is a nice opener there.  Minneapolis North hosts Hopkins and 2 Chicago teams as some of the teams in their pre-holiday tournament.  The Augsburg championship projects to be the 2nd meeting of the month between Minnehaha and Hopkins.

Hopkins vs St. Paul Central highlights the Super Showcase at Columbia Heights.  Then the usual MLK events.  Buffalo and Matt Willert playing St. Paul Central in the Totino-Grace event that day is a highlight.  The Border Battle returns to Minnesota to end January.  Both Brookfield (WI) teams will be a treat to see plus a battle of Northern Kentucky commit Marcus Domask vs the Madsen twins of Rochester Mayo.  Trinity also hosts the renamed Between the Lines Classic on the same day.

10 Other Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Hopkins at Minnehaha - Dec 11th
  • East Ridge at Eden Prairie - Dec 18th
  • Eden Prairie at Lakeville North - Dec 21st
  • Minnehaha at Eden Prairie - Jan 8th
  • Minneapolis North at De La Salle - Jan 8th
  • Caledonia at Minneapolis North - Jan 12th 
  • Wayzata at Park Center - Jan 16th
  • Hopkins at De La Salle - Jan 29th
  • Minnehaha at Minneapolis North - Feb 19th
  • Minnehaha at De La Salle - Feb 23rd
Despite all the big games that are in the Breakdown events, there are many worthwhile standalone games on the non-conference schedule.  All of these feature state tournament level teams.  Hopkins at Minnehaha kicks off the list.  Then a couple of tough matchups for Eden Prairie that look like state tournament games.  Then the Eagles get their shot at Minnehaha to start January.  That same night we see a big Minneapolis battle with North and De La Salle.  North also gets a big class AA matchup later in the week vs Caledonia.  Minnehaha will also visit Caledonia right after that as part of their trip to Midwest Players Classic in La Crosse (WI) in mid-January.

Park Center's top standalone non-conference game comes up next as they host Wayzata on a quiet January Wednesday night.  Then the battle of titans that never happened as Hopkins visits the island to end January.  Minnehaha visits the island on the final Saturday of the regular season.  But that's right after their huge rematch with North.

10 Conference Games to Watch
  • Eden Prairie at Wayzata - Jan 11th
  • Lakeville North at Prior Lake - Jan 22nd
  • East Ridge at Cretin-Derham Hall - Jan 29th
  • Mahtomedi at Tartan - Jan 31st
  • Park Center at Champlin Park - Jan 31st
  • Eden Prairie at Hopkins - Feb 8th 
  • Chaska at Robbinsdale Cooper - Feb 12th
  • Prior Lake at Lakeville North - Feb 22nd
  • Hopkins at Wayzata - Feb 22nd
  • Hopkins at Eden Prairie - Mar 1st
While Hopkins and Eden Prairie are heavyweights in the Lake Conference, Wayzata is plenty good enough to spoil it for both of them.  The Trojans can do that when they host both teams and possibly take the top seed in 6AAAA .  East Ridge and CDH looks like it will not only be for the Suburban East title but also for the top seed in 4AAAA.  If Tartan wants anything more than a 3 seed in that section they'll need 2 wins over Mahtomedi to take the Metro East crown.  They host the 2nd meeting on Jan 31st.  On that same day, its the only regular season meeting between the likely division champs in the NW Suburban.  That also should lock up the top seed in section 5AAAA for the winner as a possible section final preview.

Chaska and Cooper in their 2nd meeting should decide the Metro West title.  Prior Lake gets a massive test and possible chance to steal the 1 seed in 2AAAA and win the South Suburban if they can win at Lakeville North.  Hopkins not only has the Wayzata test but on the final Friday night of the season they have to visit Eden Prairie in their 2nd meeting.  That could decide the Lake Conference winner and have a top seed on the line for both teams.

10 Local Players to Watch
  • Ben Carlson - East Ridge
  • Steven Crowl - Eastview
  • Dain Dainja - Park Center
  • Dawson Garcia - Prior Lake
  • Zeke Nnaji  - Hopkins
  • David Roddy - Breck (Colorado St)
  • Jalen Suggs - Minnehaha
  • Tyrell Terry - De La Salle (Stanford)
  • Tyler Wahl - Lakeville North (Wisconsin)
  • Kerwin Walton - Hopkins
5 Underclassmen You Need to Know
  • Prince Aligbe - Minnehaha
  • Kendall Brown - East Ridge
  • Tre Holloman - Cretin-Derham Hall
  • Chet Holmgren - Minnehaha
  • Riley Mahlman - Lakeville South
11 Local Teams to Watch
  • Cretin-Derham Hall
  • De La Salle
  • East Ridge
  • Eden Prairie
  • Hopkins
  • Lakeville North
  • Minnehaha Academy
  • Minneapolis North
  • Park Center
  • Prior Lake
  • Wayzata
Current 10 Games or More Streaks In Conference Play
  • De La Salle - 28 wins
  • South St. Paul - 28 road losses
  • Minneapolis North - 27 wins
  • Minnehaha Academy - 26 wins (12 in a row overall)
  • Park of Cottage Grove - 23 losses total and 19 in a row at home
  • Cretin-Derham Hall - 18 wins
  • Nova Classical Academy - 16 wins
  • Apple Valley - 15 wins
  • Hopkins - 14 wins
  • Maranatha Christian Academy - 13 wins
  • Champlin Park - 12 wins
  • Legacy Christian Academy - 12 losses
  • Math and Science Academy - 12 losses
  • St. Paul Johnson - 12 wins
  • St. Agnes - 11 losses
Last year saw 2 long losing streaks broken with South St. Paul and Mounds Park Academy breaking their long droughts in overall league play.  South St. Paul still has a long road losing streak to break after both league wins were at home last year.  They have only 2 league road wins in the last 10 seasons.  That said, their 2 home league wins last year doubled their total of the previous 9 seasons.  Apple Valley saw a 40+ game league winning streak snapped which left Tre Jones at 88-2 and all 5 league titles in his league time with the Eagles

Season Thoughts
Class AAAA looks to be very deep this season with no real clear cut favorite.  Hopkins has a loaded starting 5 but questions and youth beyond that.  Not to mention the black cloud of back to back section final losses to Wayzata hanging over them.  Park Center and Eden Prairie each have a bunch of experienced, talented and versatile pieces for this year and next.  East Ridge and Prior Lake boast big lineups and are ready to contend for the AAAA title as well.  The battle of Mr Basketball contenders Tyler Wahl and Matt Hurt should be very interesting in section 1.  But can Rochester John Marshall finally figure out Lakeville North after losing 6 straight section finals to the Panthers?  How quickly does Cretin-Derham Hall and their new roster come together?

As to the other classes, does De La Salle return to the top in AAA?  Certainly their road in section 6 won't be the meat grinder that it has been in recent years.  Can anybody take the throne in AA from Minnehaha.  Perham gets the 1st shot at that question on the 1st Saturday of the season in a dynamite AA matchup.  Minneapolis North will also have a say late in the regular season.

Lastly, how much more conference realignment is in store for next season?  We already know the moves for Rogers (NW Suburban), Richfield (Tri-Metro), Irondale (Suburban East) and the new Skyline Conference.  Buffalo and St. Michael-Albertville were just added to the Lake Conference.  Though I wish they would have gone to the NW Suburban so that league could finally split into 2 groups of 8.  What happens with the 7 team Metro West and does that impact the Wright County East?  The small schools get it too with the MCAA losing all its eastern members and its flagship program Maranatha to the Skyline.  That league is now down to 7 and that includes Bethany who's playing as an independent this year.  Is it the end of the league?  How do changes there end up impacting the TCAC with that league also losing 2 top members to the Skyline.  Kaleidoscope and Eagle Ridge will soon need homes, would the MCAA take them to stay alive?

2018-19 Section 8AAAA Preview

This is the 27th preview in my 2018-2019 season preview series.  Its the final class AAAA preview, a look at section 8AAAA.  Tomorrow the series wraps up with a season overview.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

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

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Tuesday, March 5th
Semifinals: Saturday, March 9th at St. Cloud State
Finals: Thursday, March 14th at Neutral Site (based on teams)

Predicted Seeding
  1. Buffalo
  2. Maple Grove
  3. Elk River  
  4. Moorhead
  5. Rogers
  6. St. Cloud Tech
  7. St. Michael-Albertville
  8. Brainerd
Buffalo made a run to the section final starting 4 sophomores last year.  That includes star forward Matt Willert who can go off on any given night.  Maple Grove with Jared Rainey and a NW Suburban schedule is enough for 2nd.  Elk River has plenty coming back but they are in the weaker division of the NW Suburban.  Moorhead is dangerous with athletic wing Maleeck Harden and Drew Hagen coming back but they also lose a couple of important guards.  Rogers has to replace their star F Jordan Belka and Tech has to replace their top 5.  But Tech does have G Nate Trewick to build around.  STMA has much improved Austin Jentzen in the middle but lots to replace around him.  Brainerd returns Joey Sauer but has to replace 2 other double figure scorers.

Sleeper: Moorhead.  They've been young but were a bucket away from the section final a year ago.  Harden is a monster athlete on the wing that will be tough to deal with and could lead the way thru the section.

Section Winner: Buffalo.  Nobody circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bison!  Sorry Chris Berman.  They made an early step with their section final appearance last year.  This year they get over the top.  Matt Willert gets his proper introduction on the big stage.

2018-19 Section 7AAAA Preview

This is the 26th preview in my 2018-2019 season preview series.  The class AAAA previews move on to section 7AAAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 7AAAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: Forest Lake

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Tuesday, March 5th
Semifinals: Saturday, March 9th at Chisago Lakes
Finals: Thursday, March 14th at Chisago Lakes

Predicted Seeding
  1. Cambridge-Isanti 
  2. Blaine
  3. Coon Rapids
  4. Duluth East
  5. Forest Lake
  6. St. Francis  
  7. Andover
  8. Anoka
Cambridge-Isanti has been looking ahead to this season and for good reason.  They have their 2 double figure scorers coming back from an 18 win season.  That includes one of the state's best shooters in Henry Abraham (20.9 PPG).  A drop off to the second group follows.  Jason Kaul should lead Blaine to 2nd spot.  Coon Rapids and Duluth East with their returnees get the other home games.  Everybody else has a ton to replace.  St. Francis with Wyatt Schroeder leading the way takes a step up with Andover and Anoka needing to replace top guys.

Sleeper: Duluth East.  The Greyhounds struggled last year but they do return everybody.  They also had that shocking double figure win over Cambridge-Isanti in the final game of the regular season so potential is there.

Section Winner: Cambridge-Isanti.  In a bad section anything can happen but I'll go with chalk here.  They go on the road to visit a few of the Lake Conference teams which will be a big help come tourney time.

2018-19 Section 6AAAA Preview

This is the 25th preview in my 2018-2019 season preview series.  The class AAAA previews roll along with a look at section 6AAAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 6AAAA (7 teams)
Defending Champion: Wayzata

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Tuesday, March 5th
Semifinals: Friday, March 8th at High Seed
Finals: Wednesday, March 13th at High Seed

Predicted Seeding
  1. Hopkins
  2. Wayzata
  3. St. Louis Park
  4. Robbinsdale Armstrong
  5. Minneapolis South
  6. Minneapolis Southwest
  7. Minneapolis Washburn
Very little changes in this section.  The big drama is can Hopkins get past Wayzata in the section title game.  Wayzata has pulled the upset the last 2 seasons.  Both are far and away the best 2 in this section again this year.  Everybody else has major losses.  St. Louis Park and Armstrong will battle for the 3rd slot but should have no problem getting the home games.  Its a rough year in the Minneapolis City with the last 3 spots going to them.  South has a piece or 2 back.  Southwest and Washburn have to replace everything.

Sleeper: Robbinsdale Armstrong.  New coach Jon Bryant has some young pieces to work with.  By the time the tourney comes around they could gel into something above where they are now.

Section Winner: Hopkins. The starting 5 is big and as talented as any in the state.  I've liked the size in the past and it hasn't paid off.  A 3rd time upset in the section finals?  That seems like too much to ask.

2018-19 Section 5AAAA Preview

Happy Freshman tryout day.  That means we're 1 week away from the start of the 2018-19 official practice season.  This is the 24th preview in my 2018-2019 season preview series.  In this final week of previews, I complete the class AAAA section previews and then finish up with the annual season overview on Friday.  Today its section 5AAAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 5AAAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: Osseo

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Wednesday, March 6th
Semifinals: Tuesday, March 12th at Coon Rapids
Finals: Friday, March 15th at Rogers

Predicted Seeding
  1. Park Center
  2. Champlin Park
  3. Osseo
  4. Roseville
  5. Spring Lake Park
  6. Centennial
  7. Mounds View
  8. Irondale
Park Center is a heavy favorite here and a state championship threat with all the pieces.  They also haven't been able to get out of this section the last couple of years which should be great motivation.  Champlin Park is the best of the rest with Bennett Otto leading the way.  Osseo, Roseville and Spring Lake Park will battle for the remaining 2 home games.  I wouldn't be shocked to see Centennial jump into that group either.  Mounds View and Irondale will battle to stay out of the last seed.

Sleeper: Centennial.  They lost a truckload of close games last year and have that experience coming back.  They run quality offense and they have the ability to shoot you out of the gym.

Section Winner: Park Center.  The Pirates look to get back to the big dance and make noise like they did in the Quentin Hooker days.  Too deep and talented and Champlin Park and Osseo have too much to replace.

2018-19 Section 4AAAA Preview

This is the 23rd preview in my 2018-2019 season preview series.  Continuing our look at the class AAAA sections, we move on to section 4.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

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

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Wednesday, March 6th
Semifinals: Saturday, March 9th at Hastings
Finals: Thursday, March 14th at Hastings

Predicted Seeding
  1. East Ridge
  2. Cretin-Derham Hall
  3. Tartan
  4. St. Paul Central 
  5. White Bear Lake 
  6. North St. Paul
  7. Woodbury
  8. Stillwater
This is another section where you could end up with 3 conference champions all battling it out.  Certainly the Suburban East champ will be here.  Tartan hopes to be that team from the Metro East.  Central is the heavy favorite in the St. Paul City.  They could get an interesting 1st round matchup as the weaker St. Paul City schedule always knocks their seed down.  Cretin-Derham Hall has a bunch of talent so they won't drop far despite losing a ton from the state championship squad.  Schedules and Suburban East voting pretty much ensure that Tartan and Central won't end up higher than 3rd and 4th respectively.  White Bear Lake is the best of the rest.  Woodbury at North St. Paul on Dec 22nd should be for the 6 seed with both having to replace most of their lineups.  Stillwater remains in rebuild mode.

Sleeper: White Bear Lake.  They have a very good duo of Sam Schwartz and Jeremy Beckler that needs to be dealt with.  Not a team you want to see in the 4 vs 5 game.

Section Winner: East Ridge.  This is the start of what could be a big run for the Raptors.  Their size and experience prevails here in a tough section.

2018-19 Section 3AAAA Preview

This is the 22nd preview in my 2018-2019 season preview series.  Continuing our look at the class AAAA sections, we move on to section 3.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

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

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Tuesday, March 5th
Semifinals: Friday, March 8th at Farmington
Finals: Thursday, March 14th at Farmington

Predicted Seeding
  1. Eastview
  2. Hastings 
  3. Park
  4. Henry Sibley 
  5. Apple Valley 
  6. Burnsville
  7. Eagan
  8. Rosemount
If you thought last year was down in this section, now Apple Valley loses everybody.  That leaves the section wide open for the taking.  Most teams here would be happy to end up with a winning record. Eastview is the default favorite but struggled last year despite their big front line.  Hastings has plenty of size too.  Nobody else projects to be in the top half of their league.  Park gets the next nod with the talented duo of Gorres and Block returning.  The top 3 play a round-robin during the 1st 2 weeks of the season so expect the seeding to shake out very early.  Apple Valley, Sibley and Burnsville will battle for the final home game.  Rosemount and Eagan still are rebuilding.

Sleeper: Burnsville.  Its a new system for a new coach but Rob Mestas was very successful in a tough job at Roosevelt.  Would not shock me to see them use the difficult South Suburban schedule as a springboard to tournament success.

Section Winner: Eastview. Too much from Steven Crowl and Tate Machacek on the front line to pick against them.

2018-19 Section 2AAAA Preview

This is the 21st preview in my 2018-2019 season preview series.  Continuing our look at the class AAAA sections we stay in the south metro with section 2AAAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 2AAAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: Eden Prairie

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Wednesday, March 6th
Semifinals: Saturday, March 9th at High Seed
Finals: Friday, March 15th at High Seed

Predicted Seeding
  1. Eden Prairie
  2. Prior Lake
  3. Chaska
  4. Shakopee 
  5. Edina
  6. Chanhassen
  7. Minnetonka
  8. Bloomington Jefferson 
Its another deep year in section 2 and another possibility of 3 conference champs.  Eden Prairie with a ton back has to remain the favorite.  Prior Lake with their gigantic lineup also is a contender not just to win here but make noise at state as well.  Chaska and Shakopee stick out as the best of the rest.  Chaska gets the nod to due experience and not having a new coach.  Edina and Chanhassen can definitely compete with those teams.  Nice inside out duos for both of them.  Minnetonka and Bloomington Jefferson both have a ton to replace but are better than most 7 and 8 seeds.

Sleeper: Chanhassen.  They have a talented duo in F Regan Tollefson and G Carson Hollowaty.  Plus they're always solid defensively.

Section Winner: Eden Prairie. Too much firepower and experience but a matchup with Prior Lake would be very interesting.  Prior Lake's size is a problem, but its perimeter oriented enough that it negates the offensive advantage.  Plus its not a good matchup for chasing around Eden Prairie on the other end.

2018-19 Section 1AAAA Preview

This is the 20th preview in my 2018-2019 season preview series.  Now we begin our look at all of the class AAAA sections going in numerical order.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

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

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Wednesday, March 6th
Semifinals: Saturday, March 9th at Rochester Civic Arena
Finals: Friday, March 16th at Rochester Civic Auditorium

Predicted Seeding
  1. Lakeville North
  2. Rochester John Marshall
  3. New Prague
  4. Rochester Mayo
  5. Lakeville South  
  6. Farmington
  7. Owatonna
  8. Rochester Century
At the top of the section you could see 3 conference champions.  Lakeville North with Tyler Wahl will be a big factor in the South Suburban.  Matt Hurt and Rochester John Marshall will be big contenders in the Big 9.  New Prague should be right there in the Wright County East.  The Trojans return 4 of their top 5 for new coach Dan Peterka.  That includes a big and talented front line of Tyler Kemp and Nathan Brusseau.  Rochester Mayo returns their top 3 scorers including Gabe and Mason Madsen  who combined for over 35 PPG.  Farmington with the loss of Adam Weed due a knee injury gets flip-flopped with Lakeville South here but with Miles Mendes they don't drop further.  Owatonna has to replace 2 top scorers but are probably better than an average 7 seed.  Century remains at the bottom.

Sleeper: Farmington.  The Tigers were better than expected last year and they proved they could play with anybody.  Thanks to a nasty 1-3-1 zone, I could see them pulling a suprise.

Section Winner: Lakeville North. The Panthers have been the roadblock for Rochester John Marshall for the last 6 years in this section.  So I stay with them as the pick.  Matt Hurt still gets his but Tyler Wahl gets more help.

2018-19 Section 6AAA Preview

This is the 19th preview in my 2018-2019 season preview series.  The penultimate week of the season preview series begins with a glance at the final metro area section in class AAA, section 6.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

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

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Tuesday, March 5th
Semifinals: Saturday, March 9th
Finals: Thursday, March 14th at Chanhassen

Predicted Seeding
  1. De La Salle
  2. Robbinsdale Cooper
  3. Minneapolis Roosevelt  
  4. Minneapolis Henry   
  5. Waconia
  6. Benilde-St. Margaret's 
  7. Orono 
  8. Mound-Westonka
While the section isn't ridiculously loaded like past years, its still no picnic.  De La Salle remains the favorite behind their dynamic perimeter duo of Tyrell Terry and Jamison Battle.  I see Cooper and Roosevelt battling for the next 2 slots.  Dynamic perimeter play for both of those teams as well with Jalen Justice and Jalen Miller for Cooper and Deszi Sims for Roosevelt.  Then the battle for the last home game.  Henry gets the nod with a solid group returning.  Waconia with leading scorer SG PJ Hayes coming back will also contend there.  But they have to replace 2 top guys in PG Charlie Gove and F Nick Fulford.  Benilde-St. Margaret's could also make a run for that spot with Dylan Drees and Walker Johnson.  Despite losing F Jarvis Omersa and most of the rotation, I won't discount Barry Wohler's ability to have Orono make a run.  Blake O'Connor leads the returnees for the Spartans.  Mound-Westonka has to replace their leading scorer as they continue to build.

Sleeper: Orono.  In a section that is very perimeter oriented shooting will be at a premium.  Orono always seems to have shooters.  Plus you have coach Wohler with time to prepare a team that is better than most 7 seeds.  That gives them as good a chance as anybody to surprise.

Section Winner: De La Salle.  The Islanders will be on a mission to get the AAA title back.  The road still isn't easy but its not nearly as tough in past years and they still have 2 of the top players in the section.

2018-19 Section 4AAA Preview

This is the 18th preview in my 2018-2019 season preview series.  To end week 4 of this 6 week series, I take a look at section 4AAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 4AAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: Columbia Heights (state runner-up)

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Wednesday, March 6th
Semifinals: Saturday, March 9th at St. Paul Washington
Finals: Thursday, March 14th at St. Paul Washington
Predicted Seeding
  1. Mahtomedi 
  2. St. Paul Johnson 
  3. Fridley
  4. St. Anthony 
  5. Columbia Heights 
  6. Totino-Grace 
  7. St. Paul Como Park
  8. Hill-Murray
Mahtomedi with most of their roster coming back and a solid Johnson squad are the 2 clear top teams here.  Then a big drop as the rest of the section has a ton to replace.  Fridley and St. Anthony should battle for the next 2 slots.  How Totino-Grace gets seeded by the coaches in this section is always entertaining if not often very suspect.  Como Park and Hill-Murray have very long seasons ahead.

Sleeper: Totino-Grace.  There is young talent for the Eagles that will be battle tested by the tough NW Suburban schedule.

Section Winner: Mahtomedi.  The Zephyrs vs the hectic trapping of Johnson and being played in Johnson's backyard makes this an interesting matchup.  Mahtomedi runs great stuff and if they don't turn it over they have to be the favorite.  But Johnson can find ways to get to you.

2018-19 Section 3AAA Preview

This is the 17th preview in my 2018-2019 season preview series.  As week 4 of the 6 week preview series moves along, I start my look at the local AAA sections with section 3AAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

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

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Tuesday, March 5th
Semifinals: Friday, March 8th at Bloomington Jefferson
Finals: Thursday, March 14th at Bloomington Jefferson

Predicted Seeding
  1. St. Thomas Academy
  2. St. Croix Lutheran
  3. St. Paul Harding
  4. Holy Angels 
  5. South St. Paul
  6. St. Paul Highland Park
  7. Bloomington Kennedy
  8. Richfield
The defending champs St. Thomas Academy are still the heavy favorite here.  St. Croix Lutheran loses plenty but also has talent coming back.  Harding's run in the St. Paul City keeps them above the rest.  Holy Angels takes the 4 spot with their new talent.  Once again the bottom of the section will represent some of the worst of AAA.  South St. Paul is my pick to stay 5th with their young guys.  Highland Park will be another team reliant on sophomores.  Kennedy and Richfield will again struggle.

Staying with southeast AAA schools from the metro east, a note on Simley.  Down in section 1AAA, they could battle for a 1st round home game.  I'll say they get it and advance thanks to Isaiah Robinson.  But they'll go out in the semis.

Sleeper: Holy Angels.  With the Charles and Emmitt Johnson, that gives the Stars quality guard play which enough to beat many teams in this down section.

Section Winner: St. Thomas Academy.  The Cadets and Jack Thompson make another trip to state out of a weak section.