2011-12 North Suburban Preview

My 2011-2012 season preview series rolls on with the seventh preview in the series.  In this preview, we'll take a look at the North Suburban Conference.  For a list of all the season previews, click here.

Benilde St. Margaret's is the big favorite to defend their crown.  After that, I see a group of Columbia Heights, St. Louis Park, Spring Lake Park and Cooper.  The unbalanced league schedule will be a huge factor here and the advantage goes to Spring Lake Park who only plays 1 top team twice (Cooper).  Compare that to Cooper who has to play all 4 of the other top teams twice.  3 games as a big favorite instead of 3 very tough games in a 16 game schedule is a gigantic difference.  After the top 5 teams, I see a significant dropoff to the bottom 6.  Expect some high scoring games in the league and guard dominated play.

Benilde-St. Margaret's Red Knights (2010-11 season 23-5, 15-1 Conference, 1st)
The Red Knights return plenty of talent.  3 D1 kids lead the way.  Northwestern commit Sanjay Lumpkin had a roller coaster year last year but should have an expanded offensive roll this year and can also be a defensive stopper from his forward position.  Guard Isaiah Zierden, 18.8 PPG last year can play on or off the ball and is capable of putting 30 up in a hurry.  He's off to Creighton.  Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne signee Will Dunn also was right at the double figure scoring mark.   Those were the top 3 scorers so putting the ball in the basket won't be a problem for the Red Knights.  On the other hand size could be a problem.  The top 3 interior players are gone including Kyle Washington who's off to prep school in Connecticut.  He's been racking up high major offers left and right this fall.  Joe Gill is much improved and will step into that interior role.

Chisago Lakes Wildcats (2010-2011 season 7-20, 2-14 Conference, tied 10th)
Forward Benj Figini is off to Minnesota State-Moorhead after averaging 26.6 a night and a bunch of boards.  He was the only double figure scorer and 3 of the next 4 scorers also graduate.  Junior guard Adam Happ returns after seeing varsity time from February on and he can shoot it.  Forward Per Gulbranson is the top returnee.

Columbia Heights Hylanders (2010-11 season 25-7, 11-5 Conference, Tied 3rd, AAA state runner up)
Jacob Thomas, then Zach Lofton, now its Ben Glover's turn to light up the scoreboard.  Lofton's 29.6 each night will be difficult to replace but Glover is capable of matching it.  Interior players Andrew Hanson, Jordan Mills and Fay'Miss Freeman are all gone as is power guard Keanu Glover and defensive pest Rodrick Logan.  Guards Deon Sandstad and Dominique Galloway will see expanded roles.  Christian Esko returns to man the interior.  Those 3 are all juniors.

Fridley Tigers (2010-11 season 4-21, 2-14 Conference, tied 10th)
Last season was a rough year for the Tigers.  They were able to get a couple of freshman major minutes and return their top 2 scorers.  Nate Geving reached the double figure mark and Davaghndre Jones was the 2nd leading scorer.  Point Guard Ryan Backstrom returns along with sophs Michael Murray and Matt Duehn.

Irondale Knights (2010-11 season 19-9, 11-5 Conference, Tied 3rd)
Another team in the league that loses a prolific scorer as Bryan Sprang's 26.3 PPG is off to UMD.  3 other starters are gone.  Guards Mark Stasson, Kevin Poster and Jack Martinek all return.  All the size that saw major minutes graduated.  Carl Brandt will try to fill that void.

North Branch Vikings (2010-11 season 7-20, 4-12 Conference, 8th)
The top 4 scorers are gone from a thin rotation.  That includes forward Forrest Huset and 17 points a night.  Guard Tom Kinsella is the top returnee.

Robbinsdale Cooper Hawks (2010-11 season 19-10, 10-6 Conference, 5th)
2014 star forward Rashad Vaughn came off the bench lots of last year.  Expect a monster year from him this season after a big summer.  That will help the Hawks overcome the loss of their top 4 scorers.  That includes the inside presence of Raheem Tyner (17 a night), athleticism of Charles Williams and firepower from guards Terrance Averyheart and Handful Pour at over 30 points a night.  The guard core is still talented with juniors Leroy Taylor and Billy Kellogg coming back.  Jon Lindgren will see time in the post.

St. Francis Saints (2010-11 season 5-22, 3-13 Conference, 9th)
22 a night from guard Dontay Matthews departs which is big but he was the only senior.  Guard Andy Julkowski's 13.8 PPG a night returns as the top scorer.  Soph Guard Cody Wald averaged 5 a night in 17 appearances last year. 

St. Louis Park Orioles (2010-11 season 18-10, 13-3 Conference, 2nd)
The Orioles lose their 3 top seniors including point guard Aaron Ziman, wing Marquealis Edwards and forward Joe Zangel.  That group was worth 40 points a night.  Athletic Soph Dejon Davis transfered to Washburn and junior Garrison Gillard is now at Maranatha (where he'll be a monster).  3 other major contributors also graduated.  But the Orioles tank isn't empty.  Kashif Hayes will take over at the point and should be a handful in the dribble drive.  DJ Pollard will man a wing spot and Zach Gilbert-Burke will man the inside.  All 3 of them are juniors.  With all of the losses, the Orioles will need to find some depth.

Spring Lake Park Panthers (2010-11 season 14-13, 8-8 Conference, 7th)
Point guard Derek Dahl graduates but that's the only loss in the top 5.  Sean Scott is a Josh Smith clone with his freaky athleticism and lefty shot.  He put up 21 a night last year.  Shooting guard Bryce Williams put up 16.7 a night.  Bouncy Robert Ben just barely missed putting up double figures on the front line.  Guard Jordan Thimmesch-Slepica also returns after big minutes last year.

Totino-Grace Eagles (2010-11 season 17-11, 9-7 Conference, 6th)
The Eagles lose star forward Alex Kreuser and 19.5 points a night.  Inside presence Ben Meyer was the 2nd scorer at almost 13 a night and he's also gone.  Point guard Tyler Fleming also graduated.  Shooting guard Sam Meyer is the top returnee at over 12 a night.  Forward Andy Moritko also returns.  6'9 Nick Carr provides a experienced big body in the middle.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Benilde-St. Margaret's
  2. Spring Lake Park 
  3. Columbia Heights
  4. Robbinsdale Cooper 
  5. St. Louis Park
  6. Totino-Grace
  7. Irondale
  8. Fridley
  9. St. Francis
  10. Chisago Lakes 
  11. North Branch
Conference MVP: Isaiah Zierden - Benilde-St. Margaret's

Underclassmen to watch:  
Michael Murray, Matt Duehn - Fridley
Cody Wald - St. Francis

Games that will determine the conference title
  • Spring Lake Park at Cooper - Jan 6th
  • Benilde-St. Margaret's at Cooper - Jan 10th 
  • Spring Lake Park at St. Louis Park - Jan 28th
  • Benilde-St. Margaret's at Spring Lake Park - Feb 3rd
  • Benilde-St. Margaret's at Columbia Heights - Feb 14th
  • Cooper at Benilde-St. Margaret's - Feb 24th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Benilde St. Margaret's vs Eastview - Dec 10th (Breakdown Tipoff Classic at Minnetonka)
  • Cooper vs DeLaSalle - Dec 10th (Breakdown Tipoff Classic at Minnetonka)
  • Montevideo vs Spring Lake Park - Dec 10th (Breakdown Tipoff Classic at Minnetonka)
  • Spring Lake Park at Champlin Park - Dec 16th
  • Hopkins at Benilde-St. Margaret's - Dec 16th
  • St. Louis Park at Apple Valley - Dec 16th
  • Eastview at Spring Lake Park - Dec 20th
  • Minnetonka at Benilde-St. Margaret's - Dec 20th
  • Washburn at St. Louis Park - Dec 22nd
  • Cooper vs Champlin Park - Dec 29th (Bethel tournament)
  • Benilde-St. Margaret's at Eden Prairie tournament - Dec 27th and 29th
  • Holy Family at St. Louis Park - Feb 3rd
  • Benilde-St. Margaret's at DeLaSalle- Feb 7th
  • Cooper at Armstrong - Feb 9th
  • Hopkins at Cooper - Feb 11th

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