2014-15 Section 6AAA Preview

This is the 18th preview in my 2014-2015 season preview series.  In this preview, a look 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

Defending Champion: Holy Family

Predicted Seeding
  1. Waconia  
  2. Washburn 
  3. Holy Family
  4. Benilde-St. Margaret's
  5. Blake
  6. Holy Angels  
  7. Mound-Westonka
  8. Richfield
The bottom five teams in the section are all down.  Benilde-St. Margaret's, Blake and Holy Angels lose all of their top players.  Mound-Westonka and Richfield are in the midst of major rebuilds.  At the top, the Wright County looks to hold the top spot again.  The front line of Cole Peters and Oliver Smith vs Holy Family's Justin Dahl (UNI commit) makes for fun discussion.  Dahl needs somebody to score though, Jack Mugford's shooting will be critical.  Waconia loses a ton including forward Ryan Boll but they still have plenty coming back.  Washburn has some nice pieces to work with wings Evan Shephard and JoBreil Powell to go with PG Kevin Gleason.  However, I think you could say they've underachieved in both of head coach Jamin Cook's seasons. 

Sleeper: Benilde-St. Margaret's.  The Red Knights offensive system was very effective last season.  Junior wing Sam Baker should see a much expanded role this season.

Section Winner: Waconia.  Too much tradition and I think they match the size of Holy Family and are deeper.

2014-15 Section 4AAA Preview

This is the 17th preview in my 2014-2015 season preview series.  In this preview, we look at section 4AAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Defending Champion: St. Paul Central

Predicted Seeding
  1. St. Paul Johnson
  2. St. Thomas Academy
  3. Simley  
  4. Hill-Murray
  5. St. Paul Central
  6. St. Paul Highland Park
  7. St. Paul Harding
  8. South St. Paul
Johnson remains loaded and a favorite but the top of this section is as strong as ever.  St. Thomas Academy returns a nice group.  Simley has 4 talented guys back including 3 solid perimeter guys.  Hill-Murray's backcourt is as good as anyone's in the metro.  Central is still talented.  Highland Park goes 6th by default.  Harding and South St. Paul will struggle.  The potential semifinal matchups of Mobley vs Wilson and Simley vs St. Thomas Academy are very interesting neighborhood matchups.

Sleeper: Hill-Murray.  The backcourt strength is hard to ignore.  Marshawn Wilson is capable of going off and leading his team alone to a win.

Section Winner: St. Paul Johnson. 

2014-15 Section 3AAA Preview

This is the 16th preview in my 2014-2015 season preview series.  Week 4 of the series starts our 2 week look at the large school sections in the metro.  We'll begin with section 3AAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Defending Champion: De La Salle (3 time defending state champion)

Predicted Seeding
  1. De La Salle
  2. Columbia Heights  
  3. Minneapolis Patrick Henry  
  4. Spring Lake Park
  5. Totino-Grace 
  6. Fridley 
  7. St. Paul Como Park 
  8. St. Anthony
Obviously De La Salle is the favorite here with their D1 trio of Jarvis Johnson, Sacar Anim and Josh Collins leading the way.  Columbia Heights should be right behind them.  Henry has a tough schedule so I think that knocks them to third.  Slots 4 thru 6 are all about the same with the old members of the North Suburban.  All lose most of last year's rosters.  Como Park could jump over Fridley at the Fridley holiday tourney.  St. Anthony is still rebuilding as well.

Sleeper: Minneapolis Henry.  They have a bunch of athletes and a bunch of kids back.  They'll be battle tested coming into the playoffs.

Section Winner: De La Salle as they make a run for 4 in a row.

2014-15 Section 5AA South Preview

This is the 15th preview in my 2014-2015 season preview series.  Week 3 of this 5 week long season preview series concludes with a look at the south subsection of section 5AA.  The north subsection is omitted because there's only 1 school in the subsection that I follow.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here

Section 5AA South Sub-Section
Defending Champion: Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted

Predicted Seeding
  1. Breck
  2. Rockford
  3. Watertown-Mayer 
  4. Providence Academy 
  5. Brooklyn Center
  6. Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted
  7. International School 
  8. Minneapolis Edison 
Breck is loaded and has to be the favorite on paper.  They have 5 senior starters returning and their 6th man.  The 3 teams outside of the area I follow lose 8 of their 9 double figure scorers.  Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted loses 4 double figure scorers.  Watertown-Mayer loses a pair of double figure scorers.  Rockford loses their top 2 but does return Jeremiah Bingham (10.3 PPG).  Rockford also brings back 3 juniors who saw time last year.  Junior Cole Gagnon is the only top 6 scorer returning for HLWW.  Soph Trae Berhow and senior Ryne Alger will be the top options for Watertown-Mayer.  Brooklyn Center has a scorer and some athletes back from a midlevel team in this section.  Providence has to replace their front line but they have backcourt options.  Rockford and Watertown-Mayer fight for 2 and 3.  Providence and Brooklyn Center fight for the last home game.  HLWW takes up the 6 slot.  International School finished 2nd in the EMAC last year. They lose top scorer Ethan Forney and over 23 PPG.  Junior Rich Berkeley averaged 12.5 last year and should see that go up.  But they'll still have to fight with Edison to not get the 8 seed.

Sleeper: Brooklyn Center.  With wing Tedyke Clark coming back, they have a goto guy to carry them.  Add in some athletes and their style of play is something not seen by the others in  this section.

Sub-Section Winner: Breck.   Considering what everyone else lost, this is a no-brainer pick.  But the Mustangs had a disappointing year last year.  Now they're on their 3rd coach in 3 years.  They have a very challenging schedule to test themselves.  Non-conference games include Holy Family, Redwood Valley, Minnetonka, Perham, Annandale, and Waconia.  Watertown-Mayer can make a case to steal the top seed if they can win at Breck on January 3rd and at home in the season opener vs Rockford.

2014-15 Section 4AA Preview

This is the 14th preview in my 2014-2015 season preview series.  In this preview, a look at section 4AA. For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Defending Champion: St. Paul Academy

Predicted Seeding
  1. St. Paul Academy    
  2. St. Croix Lutheran  
  3. Minnehaha 
  4. Minneapolis Roosevelt  
  5. Concordia Academy
  6. New Life Academy
  7. St. Croix Prep
  8. St. Paul Humboldt
  9. Trinity
  10. Mounds Park Academy
  11. St. Paul Washington 
  12. Great River 
  13. Prairie Seeds 
  14. FAIR
  15. Hmong Academy
  16. St. Paul Prep
The top of the section is as strong as its been in recent years.  St. Paul Academy has 2 top players coming back from last year's state qualifying team.  Minnehaha and St. Croix Lutheran also have plenty coming back and are talented.  St. Croix Lutheran hosts SPA in early December and visit Minnehaha in early January.  Those 2 games and the 2 head to head games between SPA and Minnehaha in IMAC play will determine how those top 3 are seeded.  Roosevelt's guard trio makes them a tough out at 4.  Concordia and New Life fall next in line.  St. Croix Prep could jump up and join that group.  Humboldt and Trinity goes to the middle by default.  A Demond Dawson vs Michael Gutierrez matchup in round 1 would make for good theater in something like a 7 vs 10 or 8 vs 9 game if it came to that.  The rest of the section is really down so outside of the 8 vs 9 game, expect a bunch of 1st round blowouts.  The top 4 are a level above the next 4 so no upsets lurking there.

Sleeper: Concordia Academy.  Mostly because I've taken New Life Academy here the last 2 years.  The Beacons have experience back including 3 year point guard in Roger Moore.

Section Winner: St. Croix Lutheran. The Crusaders top guys are more experienced than Minnehaha.  They also matchup very well with St. Paul Academy.  If you look at Hanson vs Krueger, Peyton vs Lamu and Egly vs Rovney, that's as tough a matchup as SPA will have at all of those spots

2014-15 Section 4A Preview

This is the 13th preview in my 2014-2015 season preview series.  103 individual team and 11 conference previews are completed.  Now I move on to phase 2 of the previews.  Over the next 2+ weeks, I'll take a look at 12 metro area sections.  It starts with a look at Section 4A.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 4A
Defending Champion: Maranatha (2014 state 3rd place)

Predicted Seeding
  1. Minneapolis North
  2. Maranatha 
  3. Southwest Christian
  4. Legacy
  5. MTS
This section boils down to the matchup at the top between Maranatha and Minneapolis North.  Both are loaded and contenders for a state championship.  Maranatha won the section final in a tight game last year.  We'll get a preview of that likely showdown on January 17th at Minneapolis North.  As to the rest of the section you can pencil in MTS, CHOF and the 9 other MCAA schools next in line.  The 10 MCAA schools, MTS and CHOF are a mind-blowing 48-0 against the EMAC over the last 3 seasons.  That includes 25-0 last year.  Southwest Christian and Legacy should be the next MCAA teams in line in the seeding.  MTS, CHOF and Cristo Rey should all be in the 5-10 range.  Bethany is looking at an 11 or 12.  EMAC schools, Math and Science and Learning for Leadership should fill in below that.  The fun question is will the EMAC champion get a higher seed than the last place team in the MCAA.  Last year PACT got the 12 seed after going 0-13 in MCAA play while Christian Life got the 11 after a 12-1 EMAC campaign.

Sleeper:  None.  This section was pure chalk last year except for the notorious bracket busting 5 vs 12 game where PACT pulled the upset at West Lutheran.  Maranatha and North are so superior to every one else in this section there's no compelling reason to go another direction.

Section Winner: Minneapolis North.  Hard to go against either Maranatha or Minneapolis North with the success that their coaches have had.  But Minneapolis North is a deeper team with a year under McKenzie's system.  I think that depth and the hunger to avenge last year's loss drives the Polars all the way to a state championship.

2014-15 Rest of the Metro Preview

This is the 12th preview in my 2014-2015 season preview series.  In this preview, I conclude my look at the teams around the metro with a look at the local independents and any other teams in The Kingdom that I haven't previewed yet and want to mention.  That even includes a couple of EMAC teams I came across last season.  For a list of all the season previews and how they were generated, click here.

CHOF Lions (2013-14 season 12-12, Independent)
The Lions lose 17 points a game from point guard Nate Johnston but return most everything else.  They'll build around an experienced group of juniors.  Leading scorer Kit Piepkorn was good for 18 a night last season.  Tim Rohlf and Anders Strandlund were just under double figures.  Senior Grant Geerdes joins that trio.

Christian Life Hawks (2013-14 season, 15-9, 12-1 EMAC, 1st)
Wing Caleb Wochnick is the lone returning starter.  He was the leading scorer (18.5 PPG) for the regular season EMAC champs.  The next 4 scorers and remaining starters are all gone.  That includes point guard Mick Spangrud and his 18.3 PPG and 10.2 PPG from Aaron Green.  Everyone else is back.  Senior Joey Jaeger returns in the middle.  Jakson Griffith returns at a guard spot.

Community of Peace Tigers (2013-14 season 9-1, ? EMAC)
The Tigers were a mid-level EMAC team last season (due to a couple of home and home series, I'm not sure what their exact league record was).  Junior Marquez Perry returns as a top scoring option.

Cristo Rey Jesuit Pumas (2013-14 season 9-17, 2-3 Twin Cities)
Assistant Stan Clay takes over after head coach Kris Babler took the Rainy River job. 3 of the 4 double figure scores return from last season.  That includes almost 17 a night from Davonte Smith.  Lefty sophomore Jericho Sims should up his 11.5 PPG average.  Lefty forward Brandon Williams is another double figure scorer returning.

FAIR Falcons (2013-14 season 6-12, 0-4 Twin Cities)
The top 2 scorers are gone.  Forward Keith Washington graduated and point guard Markel Aune is now at Bloomington Kennedy.  Freshman Sy Chatman will be a top option. 

Hope Academy (2013-14 season 7-19, 5-8 EMAC)
Leading scorers Christian McFadden and Darrius Ross depart.  They combined for 29 points a night.  Lefty junior Tobias Griffin leads with 13.7 PPG last year.  Soph forward Nate Elifson was good for 9.1 PPG.  Guards Matthew Anfinson and sophomore Dashon Holcomb also return.  The rest of the roster will be very young. 

Minnesota Transitions Wolves (2013-14 season 13-10, 3-2 Twin Cities)
Assistant Bruce Weston took over the Wolves program during the middle of last season.  He'll have to replace 17.6 PPG from guard Willie Parrish.  He has a pair of junior guards who can do that.  Lewis McCaleb scored 17.5 PPG and Isaiah Williams added 10.6 PPG.  James Hancock returns in the middle.  Tramaine Cole is a returning guard.

St. Croix Prep Lions (2013-14 season 14-13, Independent)
Coach Matt McCollister has to replace 3 starters.  That includes their 2nd through 4th scorers.  But talented point guard Michael Gutierrez and 23.6 points per game returns to lead the way.  Junior Quinn Fisher also is back in the starting lineup.  Stillwater transfer Jared Shea will also join the lineup after sitting out last season.  Sophomore Austin Have saw plenty of time last year.  Wade Krueger is the only experienced size.

Spectrum Sting (2013-2014 season, 10-13, Independent)
The Sting return their top 2 scorers.  18 PPG combined from Stefan Mayer and Evan Emmel depart. The rest of the rotation is back.  Junior Zach Knollenberg scored 13.5 PPG to lead the team.  He was also the team leader in assist, steals and blocks.  He's the top returning rebound this year too.  Senior Ben Maki scored 11 points per game. 

2014-15 South Suburban Conference Preview

This is the 11th preview in my 2014-15 Season Preview Series.  To begin week 3, a look at the South Suburban Conference.  The Bloomington schools have departed for the new Metro West Conference.  Farmington and Shakopee replace them from the disbanded Missota Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Apple Valley Eagles (2013-14 season 27-2, 18-0 Conference, 1st)
Apple Valley has won 38 straight games in league play and 24 straight at home in South Suburban play.  Duke commit Tyus Jones (26.3 PPG, 8.7 APG) and forward Dennis Austin (11.4 PPG) need to be replaced.  Defender and shooter Robert Tobroxen will also be missed.  But the Eagles are still loaded and a contender to bring home the gold ball.  Junior center Brock Bertram and soph wing Gary Trent return to the starting lineup as double figure scorers.  Freshman Tre Jones will take over for brother Tyus at the point.  Those 3 are at or very close to the top of their class, not to mention the rest of the program is loaded throughout the levels.  The development of Trent's all-court game will be important to the Eagles success.  Forwards Cam Kirksey and Steve Christiansen have experience up front.  Junior Jordan Bolton provides guard depth.  Scary part is that Christiansen is the only senior of that group.

Burnsville Blaze (2013-14 season 8-19, 3-15 Conference, 9th)
The Blaze improved by 5 wins last season.  The forward duo of Joe Morris and Brett Shepley is back along with point guard Jake Ruffing.  Junior Jason Gumm provides more front court depth.  Guard Zach Smith departs after leading the team in scoring at 14.9 PPG last season.  Donny Parsons is another returning guard.

Eagan Wildcats (2013-14 season 12-14, 8-9 Conference, 5th)
Eagan returns a very good nucleus of PG Bryndan Matthews, SG Chase Seiberlich and swiss army knife forward GT Johnson.  The guards were both double figure scorers last season.  Senior forward Michael Gorder is off to University of Mary.  His 18.4 PPG is the major loss along with some role players up front.  Cole Hibbard will provide guard depth.

Eastview Lightning (2013-14 season 6-21, 2-16 Conference, 10th)
Lanky center Jordan Machacek departs but that's it.  The top 5 scorers and sophomore guard Jameson Bryan all return.  Obi Obeneme was the team's top scorer at 11.7 PPG.  Sioux Falls commit Drew Guebert and Keegan Dixon also averaged double digits last year.  They have experience and shooters. This is a team I don't want to play come playoff time.  I think the Lightning are much better this season.

Farmington Tigers (2013-14 season 19-8, 8-5 Missota Conference, 4th)
The return of senior point guard Zach Speikers will determine much of the Tigers season.  He blew out a knee last last season but averaged 19.2 PPG before that.  Wyatt Ferm is the only other member of the rotation returns.  Forwards Nick Varner and Eli Rockett are gone up front.  Guards Johnny Dittman and Mac Bassett were the rest of the perimeter starters.  The program was strong at the rest of the high school levels last year.  Matt Anderson should step up from the JV to be an important piece.

Lakeville North Panthers (2013-14 season 27-5, 16-2 Conference, 2nd)
Also 33 a night and the clutch play of JP Macura will be impossible to replace.  But the Panthers still have enough to make a run back to state.  Wing Connor Flack is the lone double figure scorer returning at 13.1 PPG.  Look for a breakout campaign from junior wing Drew Stewart.  The lefty has the ability to put up big numbers.  Isaac Brooks and Carl Engwall will fill in for the loss of Bronson Bruneau up front.  Junior guard Cal Pesola will fill the role of departed Alex Reiland.

Lakeville South Cougars (2013-14 season 10-16, 7-11 Conference, Tied 6th)
The Cougars have a nice trio to build around in sophomore point guard Jack Sorenson (20.7 PPG), bruising forward Brenon-Larson Gulsvig and freshman wing Shae Mitchell.  Defender Grant Mosser, forwards Ryan Kretzschmar and Kyle Martin also return with guard Blake Wacholz.  15.4 PPG from Cody Kairis and 4 other rotation members need to be replaced.

Prior Lake Lakers (2013-14 season 16-12, 9-9 Conference, 4th)
The 4 year leadership of Jon Sobaski at the point and his team high 19.5 PPG will be missed.  Kevin McKiernan averaged 7.2 PPG last year and will fill that PG role.  Forward Connor Bair is the top returner at 15.4.  He provides a dangerous versatility of inside scorer and outside skill/quickness.  Austin Heidecker is another frontline returnee.  Seniors Sam Schultz and Lucas Olson and junior Jack Kortes all saw meaningful minutes last year.

Rosemount Irish (2013-14 season 15-13, 7-11 Conference, Tied 6th)
The Irish need to replace the guard trio of PG Garrett Goetz and shooters Cole Northwick and Matt Stephenson. That group combined for 40+ points per game last year.  Shooter Logan Halvorsen and forward Kyle Kaupa return to the starting lineup.  Kaupa has the body to bang but you have to find him at the 3 point line.  Those 2 along with Tyler Hartigan are the top 3 returning scorers.  Gavin Rudoll, Jack Kessler and junior Jared Hanson will look to step into bigger roles

Shakopee Sabers (2013-14 season 24-7, 12-1 Missota Conference, 1st)
Junior forward Steffon Mitchell averaged 12.8 PPG last year.  With the loss of fellow forwards Tyler Weiss (15.8 PPG) and Jake Maiers, expect Mitchell to have a much bigger role.  The lefty continues to evolve into one of the top 2016 players in the state.  Senior point guard Evan Hagen returns to run the point for the 4th year.  Booker Coplin and Tevin Killeen also return on the perimeter. 
Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Apple Valley
  2. Shakopee 
  3. Lakeville North   
  4. Prior Lake
  5. Eagan
  6. Eastview  
  7. Lakeville South
  8. Rosemount  
  9. Farmington
  10. Burnsville
Conference Overview:
Apple Valley is so loaded that they are the clear favorite.  After that I see a big jumble in the top half.  Shakopee, Lakeville North, Prior Lake and Eagan all have plenty of important pieces returning but lost their top player.  Shakopee's tradition and last year's finish too much to ignore.  Can't move Lakeville North down much either.  Prior Lake and Eagan also very solid.  That group of 4 I could see in any order.  Eastview and Lakeville South also have plenty coming back but I don't see them at the same level as the others.  They'll battle for 6th.  Rosemount and Farmington have major pieces to replace.  Burnsville will be competitive but hard to see them moving up much.  Those last 3 I could see in any order.

Conference MVP: Steffon Mitchell - Shakopee

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Gary Trent Jr, Tre Jones - Apple Valley
  • Jameson Bryan - Eastview
  • Jack Sorenson, Shea Mitchell - Lakeville South
  • Garrett Mitchell - Shakopee
Conference Games to Watch
  • Lakeville North at Shakopee - Jan 9th
  • Apple Valley at Lakeville North - Jan 13th
  • Shakopee at Apple Valley - Jan 16th
  • Shakopee at Lakeville North - Feb 10th
  • Apple Valley at Shakopee - Feb 13th
  • Lakeville North at Apple Valley - Feb 17th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Chanhassen at Apple Valley - Nov 25th
  • Apple Valley at Minnetonka - Nov 29th
  • Shakopee vs East Ridge - Nov 29th (Anoka-Ramsey Classic)
  • Hopkins at Shakopee - Dec 4th
  • Apple Valley vs Waukee (IA) -  Dec 6th (Girls Tipoff Classic at Hopkins)
  • Shakopee at Waconia - Dec 9th
  • Prior Lake at St. Paul Johnson - Dec 12th
  • Apple Valley vs De La Salle - Dec 13th (Tipoff Classic at Minnetonka) 
  • Eagan vs Orono - Dec 13th (Tipoff Classic at Minnetonka) 
  • Lakeville North vs Minneapolis North - Dec 13th (Tipoff Classic at Minnetonka)  
  • Eden Prairie at Lakeville North - Dec 20th

2014-15 Tri-Metro Conference Preview

This is the 10th preview in my 2014-2015 season preview series.  Week 2 of the 5 week long series concludes with a look at the remade Tri-Metro Conference.  6 members leave to form the IMAC.  The MSHSL then adds Holy Angels, Columbia Heights and Fridley after the Missota and North Suburban folded.  So that leaves 9 teams but with a west class 3A vs east class 2A split, expect more changes to come.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Academy of Holy Angels Stars (2013-14 season 11-15, 5-9 Missota Conference, 6th)
The dynamic duo of forward Charlie Koontz and shooter Taylor BonGiovanni (AKA Bon Jovi on my stat sheets) and their 40 PPG will be tough to replace.  Most of the rest of the rotation is gone too.  Sophomore Sam Boehne is a piece to build with for the future.
Brooklyn Center Centaurs (2013-14 season 15-10, 6-4 Conference, Tied 3rd)
The league's leading scorer Tedkye Clark returns after scoring 24.5 PPG last year.  Seniors Tyrell Beasley and Romell Carr also return to the lineup.  Sophomore Devonte Prince is the 3rd leading returning scorer.  Wing Sammie Watkins and his 14.7 PPG is the biggest lost.

Columbia Heights Hylanders (2013-14 season 19-8, 10-4 North Suburban Conference, 2nd)
The Hylanders coming off an impressive season where they had a chance to reach 20 wins and win the final North Suburban conference title.  A loss on the final night at Totino-Grace cost them both.  Double figure scorer Colton Williams needs to be replaced.  Jarrett Baptiste scored 16.1 PPG as an inside force last year.  He leads a group of 4 returning starters.  Montroy Scott and Tak Anwey give the Hylanders athletic options on the wing.
Concordia Academy Beacons (2013-14 season 14-13, 5-5 Conference, Tied 6th)
The Beacons need to replace double figure scorers Will Preble and Austin Moldenhauer (27 PPG combined).  Point guard Roger Moore Jr returns to run the show.  He was the team's top scorer at 18.8 PPG to go with 5 assists a night.  Seniors Sam Root, Jacob Falk, Connor Johnson and Kyle Leistkow all will contribute.  Root is the top returning scorer of that group at 8.4 PPG.  Junior Chris Carlson will also be in the rotation.

De La Salle Islanders (2013-14 season 26-3, 10-0 Conference, 1st, AAA State Champion)
The 3-time defending state AAA champion Islanders are still loaded and the prohibitive favorite to win it all again.  That's despite losing D1 talents Reid Travis (Stanford) and Geno Crandall (North Dakota) along with James Lawson (D2 Sioux Falls).  Minnesota commit Jarvis Johnson returns at the point.  Sacar Anim should be a bigger offensive option this year and is a stud defender on 1 wing.  North Dakota commit Josh Collins is the other wing.  Sophomore star Goanar Mar and Jeff Daubanton provide some up front options who can also play facing the hoop.

Fridley Tigers (2013-14 season 15-8, 6-6 North Suburban Conference, Tied 5th)
The top 5 scorers and 6 members of the rotation all depart.  Each player in that group averaged between 9 and 11 PPG.  Center Jonathan Conyers is the top returning player.  His 8.8 PPG will need to drastically increase this season.  Tessy Pal gives the Tigers an option on the wing. 

St. Agnes Aggies (2013-14 season 7-20, 0-10 Conference, 11th)
Leading scorer Nick Turch and his 24.5 PPG need to be replaced.  Guard Jake Gutzmann also departs. Those were the 2 most effective scorers for the Aggies.  Luther Missoh is the top returning scorer at 5 PPG.  Upperclassmen Alula Tesfay, Peter Vaske and Alex Davis return to the lineup.  Sophomore Darius Lopez should be one of the better offensive threats.

St. Anthony Huskies (2013-14 season 5-22, 2-8 Conference, 10th)
Leading scorer Noah Bluth and his 14.6 PPG depart.  Ben Peterson averaged 13.2 PPG, lefty Nick Peterson averaged 7.3 PPG.  They are the top 2 returning scorers.  Guards Nick Knutson and Cole Richmond also return.  Kevin Omodt returns in the middle.

St. Croix Lutheran Crusaders (2013-14 season 17-12, 5-5 Conference, Tied 6th)
Assistant Coach Jay Wendland takes over the Crusaders program.  He has a talented group of juniors to build around.  Plus only 1 member of last year's rotation departs.  The trio of point guard Aage Rovney, forward Ade Lamu and center Trenton Krueger combined for 47 points a night last year.  Rovney is a solid lefty PG who can also shoot it.  Lamu is an athletic wing and Krueger is one of the best post players in the league.  Josh Arndt and Jason Rupprecht also return in the backcourt. 

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. De La Salle
  2. St. Croix Lutheran
  3. Columbia Heights
  4. Brooklyn Center
  5. Concordia Academy  
  6. Fridley
  7. Holy Angels
  8. St. Anthony 
  9. St. Agnes  
Conference MVP: Sacar Anim - De La Salle

Conference Overview:
No doubt about De La Salle at the top.  St. Croix Lutheran and Columbia Heights both have good talent coming back, I see them battling for 2nd.  But with St. Croix Lutheran playing the east half of the schedule (league is using a division schedule), that saves them a loss.  Plus they host Columbia Heights in the only meeting.  Brooklyn Center and Concordia played 2 tight games last year, expect a good battle there for 4th.  Fridley and Holy Angels both have a truck load to replace so they'll battle for 6th.  St. Anthony could jump into that group with their returnees.  St. Agnes will be young and without their top dogs, hard to see them scoring enough to move up.

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Davonte Prince, Deshawn Pickford - Brooklyn Center
  • Sage Booker, Gabe Kalscheur - De La Salle
  • Sam Boehne - Holy Angels
  • Cahlil Golden, Darius Lopez - St. Agnes
Conference Games to Watch
  • Columbia Heights at St. Croix Lutheran - Jan 27th
  • St. Croix Lutheran at De La Salle - Jan 30th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • St. Thomas Academy at St. Croix Lutheran - Nov 25th
  • Simley at St. Croix Lutheran - Dec 2nd
  • De La Salle vs North Scott (IA)- Dec 6th (Girls Tipoff Classic at Hopkins)
  • St. Paul Academy at St. Croix Lutheran - Dec 9th
  • De La Salle vs Apple Valley- Dec 13th (Tipoff Classic at Minnetonka)
  • St. Croix Lutheran at Minnehaha - Jan 8th
  • De La Salle vs Chicago Morgan Park (IL) - Jan 10th (Timberwolves Shootout)
  • Eden Prairie at De La Salle - Jan 13th
  • Columbia Heights vs TBD - Jan 24 (E Metro Showcase at Johnson)
  • Armstrong at De La Salle - Jan 31st
  • De La Salle vs Kimberly (WI) - Feb 7th (Border Battle at Cretin-Derham Hall)
  • Cretin-Derham Hall at De La Salle - Feb 14th
  • St. Croix Lutheran at Breck - Feb 17th

2014-15 St. Paul City Conference Preview

This is the 9th preview in my 2014-2015 season preview series.  In this preview, a look at the St. Paul City Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Central Minutemen (2013-14 season 20-7, 10-2 Conference, 2nd)
High scoring wing Rayeon Williams and 18.8 PPG depart.  Soph Kelson Valentime will likely replace one of the league's top posts, Kalu Abosi (11.4 PPG), inside.  Junior lefty Sam Gubbrud put up over 13 PPG last year and will be a top option this season.  Abdi Muse, Garrett Gardner and Jakobi Jackson will all see expanded roles.

Como Park Cougars (2013-14 season 11-16, 6-6 Conference, 4th)
Leading scorer Demetrice Mitchell was good for 13+ a night and will lead the way this year. 3 double figure scorers and all but 1 other member of the rotation need to be replaced.  There is a bit of help on the way as the JV squad represented St. Paul in the Twin Cities Game.

Harding Knights (2013-14 season 5-20, 3-9 Conference, 5th)
Leading scorer Dalontray Nins was the only double figure scorer for the Knights and he departs.  But the next 4 scorers return to the lineup.  That includes guards Malik Samuel and Donovan Adesoro and forwards Michael Williams Jr and Layvontae Allen Jr.   While there is experience, the talent level will keep them in the lower half.

Highland Park Scots (2013-14 season 11-16, 8-4 Conference, 3rd)
Leading scorer Isaiah Brower and 12.1 PPG depart from a group of 4 of the top 6 scorers.  Small perimeter players Kwashon Collins-Westlund, Emanuel Murphy and D'Anthony McAdory-Beckman return to the rotation.  Collins-Westlund averaged almost 11 PPG.  Once again there's no returning size of note.

Humboldt Hawks (2013-14 season 4-19, 2-10 Conference, 6th)
Demond Dawson returns after leading the league in scoring last year at 19.3 PPG.  He's one of only 2 seniors returning from last year's 16 member all-conference 1st team.  A pair of double figure scorers join him on the perimeter.  Terel Haughton-Lyons and Marion Moore combined for 25 PPG a night.  Its another city roster lacking size.

Johnson Governors (2013-14 season 27-3, 12-0 Conference, 1st)
The balanced Govs lose 3 double figure scorers including interior option Peirre Conwell.  But Johnson ability to reload is why they've shared or outright won the league title for the last 11 seasons (93-2 in last 95 league games).  They haven't lost a conference game at home in almost 10 years (Jan 28, 2005).  PG Jalen Mobley is the most explosive scorer in the league.  He returns with 16.7 PPG.  Lanky Justus Murphy will enforce the law inside.  Eric Elliot is the other double figure scorer coming back.  Andre Smith, Sedrick Clark and Malik Jones all saw plenty of minutes last season.  Expect the usual waves of defense and Mobley to make clutch plays when necessary.

Washington Eagles (2013-14 season 8-16, 1-11 Conference, 7th)
The Eagles jumped out to a 7-1 mark through Christmas thanks to a very soft schedule.  Then the new year and conference play came and Washington lost 13 straight and 15 of 16 to end the season.  Lefty senior Robby Sanders returns after scoring 13.2 PPG.  Sophomore Curtis Bell should reach double figures this season after 8.4 PPG last year.  Leading scorer Da'Vonte Adams and his 13.3 PPG are the biggest loss.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Johnson
  2. Central
  3. Highland Park
  4. Humboldt 
  5. Como Park 
  6. Harding
  7. Washington
Conference Overview:
The more things change the more they stay in the same.  Johnson will reload and be a heavy favorite.  Central and Highland Park logically slot in behind them.  The bottom 4 will be very weak.  Humboldt suffered 2 close losses to Como Park last year (111-104 in one) but they overcome them this year.  Como Park blasted Harding twice so I can't flip them.  Washington and Harding will battle to stay out of the cellar.

Conference MVP: Jalen Mobley - Johnson

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Kelson Valentine - Central
  • Curtis Bell- Washington
Conference Games to Watch
  • Johnson at Central - Jan 6th
  • Central at Johnson - Jan 30th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Central at Minneapolis North - Dec 12th
  • Johnson at Eden Prairie - Dec 16th
  • Central at Roseville - Feb 6th
  • Twin Cities Game - Feb 21st (Minneapolis Champion)

2014-15 Minneapoils City Conference Preview

This is the eighth preview in my 2014-2015 season preview series.  In this preview, a look at the Minneapolis City Conference.  For a list of all the season previews, click here.

Edison Tommies (2013-14 season 9-18, 0-12 Conference, 7th)
All 5 starters and 7 members of the rotation are gone.  That includes 3 double figure scorers topped by wing Joseph Anderson.  Post option Jonah Togbah also is gone.  Junior Travis Moore is the top returner at 3.8 PPG.  DeShaon Felix-Twiet is the other returning player.  The Tommies currently have a 14 game losing streak in league play.

North Polars (2013-14 season 19-11, 10-2 Conference, Tie 1st)
Larry McKenzie took the Polars from worst to 1st in 1 season.  The Polars made their 1st appearance in the Twin Cities Game since 2010.  Their big 2nd half run of 14 wins in 17 games ended with a close loss to Maranatha in the section championship game.  Don't think coach McKenzie will let the Polars forget it.  The roster is still young but is still loaded.  The explosive duo of Tyler Johnson (20.1 PPG, tops in the league) and lefty Jamil Jackson (15.2 PPG) returns.  Point guard Patrick Dembley transfers in after being Richfield's leading scorer last year.  Soph Isaac Johnson also averaged double figures last season.  Freshman Odell Wilson and senior Randy Mathews provide inside depth.

Patrick Henry Patriots (2013-14 season 9-15, 6-6 Conference, 5th)
The Patriots suffer 1 big loss in leading scorer JJ Jefferson and his almost 20 points a night.  But the rest of the rotation is back.  Not to mention the JV squad won the conference last season.  Jacarius Ford returns at the point.  Juniors Ibrahim Mohammad and Julian Jackson returns inside.  Ramaa Hudnell and Jermal Davis return on the wings.  That's the next 5 scorers with Ford, Mohammed and Davis all averaging double figures. 

Roosevelt Teddies (2013-14 season 8-20, 2-9 Conference)
Coach Rob Mestas has the Teddies on the rise.  Leading scorer London Cobbs returns along with wing Elijah Hannah Jr.  That duo was good for almost 30 points night.  Guard Arione Farrar returns to Roosevelt after spending last year at Park Center.  He averaged 12.5 PPG there and should easily be good for that this year.  There's no experienced size though.  The future has some promise as the freshman squad won the league last year.

South Tigers (2013-14 season 15-12, 7-5 Conference, 3rd)
Leading scorer Kenley Farrow and his 18.6 PPG will need to be replaced.  Guards Payton Bowdry and Taron Myers both return after averaging double figures last year.  Kyle Lumbar and Darrius Clinton also return.  Romeo Barber's size will need to be replaced as there's no experienced big man returning.

Southwest Lakers (2013-14 season 12-14, 6-5 Conference, 4th)
Leading scorer Lanick Knight returns with 17 points a night.  The other 3 double figure scorers all need to be replaced including almost 16 per night from Cam Ross.  AJ Ray and Keion Alexander return to the lineup.

Washburn Millers (2013-14 season 16-10, 10-2 Conference, Tied 1st)
Football star Jeff Jones and Quinton Garvis both averaged double figures on the wing last year.  Post George Clark also averaged double figures. All 3 need to be replaced.  Kevin Gleason returns as a pass first point guard.  Evan Shepherd returns on the wing, he was the team leader in scoring at 16.8 PPG last year.  JoBreil Powell provides another scoring option.  Noah Burke and Charlie Irmiger should provide some size

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. North
  2. Henry   
  3. Washburn   
  4. Roosevelt
  5. South
  6. Southwest
  7. Edison
Conference Overview
The Minneapolis City is as deep as its been in many years.  North is the clear favorite and a state title contender in class A.  Washburn and Henry both return high quality pieces and should battle for 2nd.  Roosevelt is the best of the rest and with their backcourt trio, they're very dangerous.  But the lack of size puts them down a notch.  South and Southwest will fight for the 5th spot with top players from last year returning.  Hard to see Edison winning a game in the league this year either.

Conference MVP: Jamil Jackson - North

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Savion Scott - Henry
  • DJ Hunter, Ahzerik Rodgers, Isaac Johnson, Odell Wilson Jr - North
  • Brennan Hawkins - Southwest
Conference Games to Watch

  • Washburn at North - Dec 9th
  • Henry at North - Jan 9th
  • North at Washburn - Jan 23rd
  • North at Henry - Feb 12th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Roosevelt vs St. Paul Academy - Nov 29th (MN Transitions tournament)
  • Washburn at St. Thomas Academy - Dec 2nd
  • Henry vs Hill-Murray - Dec 13th (Breakdown Tipoff at Minnetonka)
  • North vs Lakeville North - Dec 13th (Breakdown Tipoff at Minnetonka)
  • Henry at Orono - Dec 18th
  • Holy Family at North - Dec 20th
  • Washburn at Hill-Murray - Jan 3rd
  • Minnetonka at Henry - Jan 13th
  • Washburn at Waconia - Jan 15th
  • Maranatha at North - Jan 17th
  • North at Armstrong - Feb 9th

2014-15 Suburban East Conference Preview

This is the 7th preview in my 2014-2015 season preview series.  In this preview, a look at the Suburban East Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and how they were generated, click here.

Cretin-Derham Hall Raiders (2013-14 season 24-8, 15-3 Conference, 2nd)
The Raiders slayed the dragon known as Apple Valley and then were a JP Macura bomb away from the state championship game.  3 Division 1 level perimeter players all return after averaging double figures.  Sam Neumann put up almost 20 a night.  He torched Roseville for 45 and blew up for 39 and 9 triples at the Timberwolves Shootout.  He'll attend Montana State.  Point Guard Donnell Gresham will attend Northeastern.  He averaged 12.1 PPG and took his game to another level down the stretch of last season.  Glue guy Joe Rosga was good for 17+ per game.  Frank Delaney saw time inside.  Add in the possible interior return of Ohio State football commit JaShon Cornell after taking last year off and you have a contender for the state title.

East Ridge Raptors (2013-14 season 23-5, 16-2 Conference, 1st)
Despite seeing their entire front line go down with injuries, the Raptors still won the league title.  That forced some young guys into the lineup and that experience will pay off this year with a senior laden lineup.  Guard Sid Tomes leads the way at 16 points a night.  Sleeper Freddie Gillespie should be back from a knee injury suffered during the offseason to man the middle.  Football star Seth Green also returns and should be a bigger factor.  Bobby Remke and Bobby Franks will see time up front.  Colin Masgai will see time in the backcourt.

Forest Lake Rangers (2013-14 season 7-20, 3-15 Conference, 9th)
The Rangers return 6 of their top 8 scorers.  Guard Matt Degendorfer's 15 PPG will need to be replaced.  Lefty wing Connor Knutson also averaged 15 PPG and is the top option.  Junior guard Noah Alm will see time in his 3rd varsity season.  Fellow guard Toby Boyer also returns.  Avery Morse provides some size. 
Mounds View Mustangs (2013-14 season 22-6, 13-5 Conference, 4th)
Star forward Ryan Kaczynski is the top returning scorer in the league at 22.2 per game.  He's a physical forward who can play inside or out and a quality rebounder too.  Mounds View will have to replace their next 5 scorers from a very balanced lineup.  But there is depth.  Guard Hunter Sorenson and wing Nate Albers both saw time last year.  They also have big Max van de Werken to work the middle

Park Wolfpack (2013-14 season 3-23, 0-18 Conference, 10th)
Park currently is suffering through a stretch where they are 2-97 in league play over the last 5+ seasons.  Former St. Bernard's coach Ed Cassidy returns to the high school ranks after a brief break.  But for a program in serious rebuilding mode and for him not being a build it from the ground up type, I find the hiring very strange. No double figure scorers return so there's not much to work with.

Roseville Raiders (2013-14 season 13-14, 10-8 Conference, 5th)
Roseville will try to rebound from a season where they didn't reach lofty expectations.  Starting in January they finished the season on a 5-10 stretch.  3 of the 4 top scorers return.  That includes guard duo of Kobe Critchley and Kyler Briggity along with leading scorer Jesper Horsted up front.  That trio combined for 37 PPG last year.  Quinn Johnson, Joh Farmer and Henry Benson provide quality perimeter depth.  Look for Josh Christiansen to fill the front court.

Stillwater Ponies (2013-14 season 13-15, 8-10 Conference, 6th)
Stillwater loses double figure scorer Nick Ogren and defender Brian Branch.  Junior Wyatt Blinkhorn will step into the defensive role.  The top 3 double figure scores do return and provide a great base to build off of.  Albany commit Kyle McKinley mans the middle at 12.1 PPG and is a shot blocking presence on defense.  Matt Anderson is a bulldozing forward at almost 14 per night.  Connor Gamble had a great summer knocking down shots from everywhere.  He put up almost 15 a night.  The Ponies need to find a ballhandling option to get Gamble off the ball where he can focus on scoring.

White Bear Lake Bears (2013-14 season 11-16, 7-11 Conference, 7th)
White Bear Lake needs to replace lefty scorer Tanner Hinck and his 22.4 PPG (2nd in the league).  The next 3 scorers are back to provide some punch.  Trey Anderson and Andy Lockwood work the outside.  Connor Bosch will work in the inside.

Woodbury Royals (2013-14 season 20-9, 14-4 Conference, 3rd)
Former South St. Paul head coach Kent Getzlaff takes over the program.  The cupboard is fairly bare as all 5 starters and almost all of the rotation need to be replaced.  That includes the league's leading scorer Matt Ambriz and almost 26 PPG.  Forward Ben Rizzardi  (13 PPG) and wing Isaiah Coddon (14.2 PPG) are also major losses.

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Cretin-Derham Hall   
  2. East Ridge
  3. Stillwater 
  4. Roseville 
  5. Mounds View 
  6. Woodbury 
  7. Forest Lake
  8. White Bear Lake
  9. Park
Conference Overview:
Hastings moves to the new Metro East Conference so that means Park is guaranteed to move up 1 spot.  On the other side, CDH is the clear favorite.  After that, the next 4 teams all have good pieces coming back.  I could put them in just about any order.  East Ridge gets the nod because of the depth playing last year and getting it done.  Stillwater took the last 2 from Roseville so I'll move the Ponies up.  Roseville and Mounds View split so call that a coin flip for 4th.  I'm betting on Woodbury's ability to rebuild to stay in a group with Forest Lake and White Bear Lake.

Conference MVP: Sam Neumann - Cretin-Derham Hall

Underclassmen to watch:  

  • Daniel Oturo - Cretin-Derham Hall
  • Devin Adams - Roseville
  • Michael Jones, David Alston, Jeremiah Coddon, Jake West - Woodbury
Conference Games to Watch
  • Stillwater at Cretin-Derham Hall - Dec 4th
  • Roseville at East Ridge - Jan 6th
  • Cretin-Derham Hall at East Ridge - Jan 13th
  • East Ridge at Stillwater - Jan 16th
  • Cretin-Derham Hall at Roseville - Jan 16th
  • Roseville at Mounds View - Jan 20th
  • Cretin-Derham Hall at Stillwater - Jan 20th
  • Roseville at Stillwater - Jan 27th
  • East Ridge at Roseville - Feb 10th
  • East Ridge at Cretin-Derham Hall - Feb 17th
  • Roseville at Cretin-Derham Hall - Feb 20th
  • Stillwater at East Ridge - Feb 20th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Chanhassen at East Ridge - Nov 22nd
  • Roseville vs Armstrong - Dec 13th (Breakdown Tipoff at Minnetonka)
  • Stillwater vs Eden Prairie - Dec 13th (Breakdown Tipoff at Minnetonka)
  • Cretin-Derham Hall vs Champlin Park - Dec 13th (Breakdown Tipoff at Minnetonka)
  • St. Thomas Academy at Cretin-Derham Hall - Dec 23rd
  • Hopkins at Cretin-Derham Hall - Jan 6th
  • Cretin-Derham Hall vs TBD - Jan 10th (Timberwolves Shootout)
  • East Ridge vs Minnetonka - Jan 19th (MLK Classic at Minneapolis Henry)
  • St. Paul Central at Roseville - Feb 6th
  • Stevens Point (WI) at Cretin-Derham Hall - Feb 7th (Border Battle)
  • Cretin-Derham Hall at De La Salle - Feb 14th

2014-15 Northwest Suburban Conference Preview

This is the 6th preview in my 2014-2015 season preview series.  Week 2 begins with a look at the expanded Northwest Suburban Conference.  The league adds 3 teams courtesy of assignment from the MSHSL.  Irondale, Spring Lake Park and Totino-Grace were all looking for a home after the North Suburban disintegrated.  That means the league will split into 2 divisions, brilliantly named North and West.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are done, click here.

Andover Huskies (2013-14 season 14-14, 9-10 Conference, 5th)
3 of the top 4 scorers including Connor Wilkie and his 17 a night depart.  A pair of starters and reserves are back for the Huskies.  Guard Jake McNallan put up almost 15 per night and is the top returning threat.  Zach Swanson returns to fill a front court banger role.

Anoka Tornadoes (2013-14 season 4-23, 3-16 Conference, 10th)
Anoka loses 5 of their top 6 scorers from last season.  Dillon Hansen is the lone returner of those 6.  He scored 6.6 PPG last year.  Anoka did play people much tougher down the stretch last year.  However, with all of the losses to the roster, they may not make it out of the cellar.

Blaine Bengals (2013-14 season 10-18, 6-14 Conference, 9th)
The Bengals finished the regular season with a 3-12 stretch including the last 8.  3 of the top 4 scorers depart including 21 a night from wing Jason Travis.  Junior Kyle Cappard will have to handle the ball and be the top scoring threat (11.8 PPG last year).  Senior Andy Leo along with juniors Ben Scherer and Nik Keller will be a big front line.  Point guard play and shooting will be major concerns for the Bengals.

Centennial Cougars (2013-14 season 12-14, 9-10 Conference, Tie 6th)
Former De La Salle star Travis Bledsoe takes over the head job.  Kevin Grow's 19 points a night and rebounding will need to be replaced.  Junior guard Tyler Peterson is the top returnee at 15.6 PPG.  No other returning player averaged over 6 PPG.

Champlin Park Rebels (2013-14 season 25-3, 18-1 Conference, Tied 3rd)
Once again Champlin Park should be one of the top teams in the state.  They do lose point guard Ian Smith and underrated forward Brennan Witt who were double figure guys.  The elite perimeter trio of JT Gibson, Marty Hill and Jeremy Johnson is back and was worth 35 points a night.  Sophomore McKinley Wright should step right in to the point guard role.  Sophomore Theo John is a top 2017 prospect in the state and should see a bigger role in the front court.

Coon Rapids Cardinals (2013-14 season 1-26, 0-20 Conference, 11th)
The Cardinals currently hold a 40 game losing streak in the NW Suburban.  The top 2 scorers return.  That includes the top returning scorer in the league in Chris Buckley.  He put up over 22 PPG per night.  Tim Nguyen was also a double figure player at almost 11 per game.  After that, youth takes over and the rebuilding process continues.

Elk River Elks (2013-14 season 16-11, 9-10 Conference, Tied 6th)
Clay Elrod was the team leader in points and rebounding last year at 18.6 and 6.1 per night.  That's a big loss from the rotation but the 8 other members of the rotation all return.  Guards Mitchell Weege and Matt Keller will provide the offense.  Trent Pink will be an interior guy.

Irondale Knights (2013-14 season 1-25, 1-13 North Suburban Conference, 8th)
The Knights went to a youth movement last year and it was ugly.  The only win was over equally bad St. Louis Park.  But like the Orioles most everyone returns.  Junior Uwana Etuk-Akpan just reached double figures last season at 10 per night.  The next 3 scorers also return.  Keavan Fikes leaves the center spot.

Maple Grove Crimson (2013-14 season 19-9, 13-7 Conference, 4th)
The underclassmen stepped up and were 3 of the top 4 scorers last year.  That includes star point guard Brad Davison, center Reed Nikko and guard Tywhon Pickford.  Kayode Awosika also had a productive year as a front court reserve and will see that expand this year with the loss of forwards Matt Lindgren (11.3 PPG) and Jake Sterling.

Osseo Orioles (2013-14 season 22-8, 15-5 Conference, 3rd)
Last year the Orioles suffered their most losses in league play in the Tim Theisen era.  Osseo usually reloads but this could Theisen's worst year.  Gone is the standout trio of PF Ian Theisen (South Dakota St) W Wheeler Baker (Albany) and PG Jordan Dembley (Liberty).  That trio combined for 50 points and over 17 boards per night.  Only 2 members of the rotation return.  That includes Upper Iowa commit Elliot Kane at the shooting guard spot and his 7.4 PPG.  Guard Allen Anderson can handle time at the point.  Beyond that there's no meaningful varsity experience.

Park Center Pirates (2013-14 season 10-18, 6-14 Conference, 8th)
Its a new era at Park Center.  Former Minnetonka head coach John Hedstrom is the new AD.  Former North St. Paul boys and Stillwater girls coach Gerard Coury takes over the reins.  4 of the top 5 scorers are gone.  Isaiah McKay's shooting and almost 19 points a night are gone.  Guard Arione Farrar transferred back to Minneapolis Roosevelt to cost the Pirates another 12.5 PPG.  Inside presence Isaac Matthews was the other double figure scorer to depart.  Junior guard Amani Hooker returns but there's not much after him.  He'll need to drastically increase his 13.3 PPG to keep the Pirates afloat.

Robbinsdale Armstrong Falcons (2013-14 season 21-6, 16-3 Conference, 2nd)
Coach Greg Miller returns a very talented lineup.  The top 3 scorers, wing Evan Nolan, guard Jerome Dixon and forward Sean Burns combined for 42 a night.  Junior wing Jubie Alade had a breakout year off the bench.  Point guard Tre Tate also returns to the lineup.  Valuable wing Melvin Newburn has transferred to rival Robbinsdale Cooper and forward Ryan Casperson's toughness will be missed.

Spring Lake Park Panthers (2013-14 season 14-14, 9-5 North Suburban Conference, 4th)
Coach Grant Guzy has to replace all 5 starters from last season.  That includes 21.3 PPG from guard TC Robinson, shooter Collin Price and athletic forward Devonte Skrebes.  Junior Jake LeVahn will man the middle.  Junior guard Aaron Flink and sophomore forward Zach Ojile will also join the starting lineup.

Totino-Grace Eagles (2013-14 season 23-6, 11-3 North Suburban Conference, 1st)
The Eagles also have to replace all 5 starters.  That includes 25 and 10 from North Suburban MVP Reggie Meyer.  Maxwell Walker and Cole Wagner should man the backcourt.  TJ McDonald and the big body of junior James Streeter should make up the front line.

Predicted Order of Finish

North Division
  1. Champlin Park 
  2. Elk River 
  3. Blaine   
  4. Andover  
  5. Centennial   
  6. Coon Rapids  
  7. Anoka  
West Division
  1. Robbinsdale Armstrong 
  2. Maple Grove  
  3. Osseo
  4. Spring Lake Park
  5. Totino-Grace
  6. Park Center 
  7. Irondale
Conference Overview:
The West should see a great duel between Armstrong and Maple Grove for the top spot.  The rest of the west is rebuilding.  So I'll default to Osseo for 3rd as you can't discount their ability to reload.  Put Spring Lake Park, Totino-Grace and Park Center in a hat and mix.  Irondale in a major rebuilding mode so I don't see them bouncing off the bottom.

In the north, expect Champlin Park to run away with that.  Since they gave Armstrong fits last year and don't play at Maple Grove (only meeting is in Champlin), I'm predicting the Rebels sweep the slate.  Elk River is clearly #2 in the north with their 8 returnees.  But like the west, there's a major drop off at 3.  Centennial, Andover and Blaine all split with each other last year.  Blaine has so much size and a decent wing/out of position PG in Kyle Cappard coming back that I have to pick them third.  But the guard play and their lack of defense last year (surprising for Mark Arzdorf team and a team with weak guards) make me not like that pick.  Andover could take that from them.  Centennial goes to 5th as they adjust to a new system.  Coon Rapids and Anoka will battle for the final spot.  Once again I'll go out on the limb and pick Coon Rapids to get it done.

Conference MVP: Brad Davison - Maple Grove

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Braeden Mischke - Anoka 
  • Tim Leo - Blaine
  • Theo John, McKinley Wright - Champlin Park
  • Sam Carver - Coon Rapids
  • Jack Burger - Elk River
  • Brendan White - Irondale
  • Brad Davison, Jack Hutchinson, Tywhon Pickford- Maple Grove
  • Mar Mar Hughes, Zach Theisen, Tyler Kittelson - Osseo
  • Oliver Sudue - Park Center
  • Race Thompson - Robbinsdale Armstrong
  • Zach Ojile - Spring Lake Park
  • Rocky Kreuser - Totino-Grace
Conference Games to Watch
  • Armstrong at Maple Grove - Dec 19th
  • Champlin Park at Armstrong - Jan 13th
  • Maple Grove at Champlin Park - Jan 20th 
  • Maple Grove at Armstrong - Feb 17th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Champlin Park vs Hopkins - Nov 29th (projected Hopkins tournament final)
  • Maple Grove vs Hopkins- Dec 13th (Tipoff Classic at Minnetonka) 
  • Armstrong vs Roseville - Dec 13th (Tipoff Classic at Minnetonka) 
  • Champlin Park vs Cretin-Derham Hall - Dec 13th (Tipoff Classic at Minnetonka)  
  • Armstrong at De La Salle - Jan 31st
  • Armstrong at Minnetonka - Feb 3rd
  • Minneapolis North at Armstrong - Feb 9th
  • Eden Prairie at Maple Grove - Feb 9th

2014-15 Independent Metro Athletic Conference Prevew

This is the fifth preview in my 2014-2015 season preview series.  Week 1 of my 5 week preview series ends with a look at the new Independent Metro Athletic Conference.  After the MSHSL placed a group of AAA teams from defunct leagues into the Tri-Metro, a group of mostly AA schools decided to split off and form this league.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are done, click here.

Blake Bears (2013-14 season 22-7, 6-4 Conference, Tie 3rd)
Coach Sean Kruger has to replace his top 4 scorers.  That includes his inside out duo of John Veil and JR Bascom who combined for 35 a night last year.  Gus Austin will see time in a front court spot.  Charlie Levitt and freshman Jack Moe return in the backcourt.

Breck Mustangs (2013-14 season 12-15, 7-3 Conference, 2nd)
Breck is on their 3rd coach in 3 years.  If new coach Rick Webb can keep the group together after last year's disappointing season, there's plenty of talent as the entire rotation from the end of the year returns.  That includes 5 senior starters.  Will Culliton and Mo Lawal return as high scoring wings.  They combined for 37 PPG last year and are the top 2 returning scorers in the league.  Henry Cousineau provides a nice 3rd option.  Graydon Kulick mans the inside.  Kwaku Bodom gives them an athlete.  Depth is seriously limited.

Minnehaha Academy Redhawks (2013-14 season 15-14, 6-4 Conference, Tie 3rd)
The Redhawks lose a pair of transfers in point guard Simeon Davis (Hill-Murray) and forward Joevon Walker (Tartan). They were the top 2 scorers last year at a combined 22+ a night.  Forward JoVanni Bickham is a top frosh in the state and was the 6th man last year.  He'll slot into Walker's spot.  7th grader Jalen Suggs starts his era and has already been given some Tyus Jones hype.  He can play but that level of hype is totally unfair to him right now.  Plenty of other depth returns.  Expect another year where the youth struggles early and then is much more dangerous later in the year.

Mounds Park Academy Panthers (2013-14 season 5-18 Independent)
Sophomore Brendan Connolly was the top scorer last year at 14 a game.  He returns along with most of the rest of the Panthers youth movement.  Junior Cole Montour will man 1 wing as the other scoring threat.  Mark Miller's scoring and playmaking will be missed.

Providence Academy Lions (2013-14 season 16-11, 4-6 Conference, Tie 8th)
Providence needs to replace their big front line of Ben Ratliff and Sean Healy.  Sebastian Brown should fill in 1 of those spots.  Riley Loew and Dominic Miller are the top 2 returning scorers and provide an experienced backcourt.  Matt Richelsen provides another experienced perimeter player.  Soph Gavin Blomberg was also part of the rotation last year and could be a frontcourt starter.

St. Paul Academy Spartans (2013-14 season 20-9, 4-6 Conference, Tie 8th)
The Spartans turned it on during the 2nd half of the season and made a run all the way to Target Center.  Juniors Dalante Peyton and Kent Hanson are back and will carry the offensive load in an even bigger way.  Peyton plays out of position at the point but is still effective.  Hanson takes care of the dirty work inside.  Expect a big double-double season from him.  Harrison Egly's rebounding and shooting will be missed.  Expect his sophomore brother Emerson to pick up some of the 17.2 PPG that Harrison had. 

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. St. Paul Academy
  2. Breck
  3. Minnehaha
  4. Providence
  5. Blake
  6. Mounds Park Academy
Conference Overview
There's strength at the top of the league with 3 quality teams.  St. Paul Academy and Breck both have a ton returning.  Minnehaha's top guys are young but the role guys have experience.  St. Paul Academy did lose to Breck last year but SPA is more consistent and made state so I'll go with the Spartans.  The rest slot logically into place.  Minnehaha has more fire power than Providence.  Blake is rebuilding.  Mounds Park Academy continues the building process but for now they aren't at a level to move up.

Conference MVP: Kent Hanson - St. Paul Academy

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Jack Moe - Blake
  • Garrett Opperman - Breck
  • JoVanni Bickham, Jalen Suggs - Minnehaha
  • Brendon Connolly - Mounds Park Academy
  • Gavin Blomberg - Providence 
  • Emerson Egly - St. Paul Academy
Conference Games to Watch
  • St. Paul Academy at Breck - Jan 9th
  • St. Paul Academy at Minnehaha - Jan 20th
  • Minnehaha at Breck - Jan 23rd
  • Breck at St. Paul Academy - Feb 3rd
  • Minnehaha at St. Paul Academy - Feb 6th
  • Breck at Minnehaha - Feb 10th
 Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Cretin-Derham Hall at St. Paul Academy - Nov 25th
  • Breck vs Perham - Nov 29th (Anoka Ramsey Showcase)
  • Breck vs Redwood Valley - Dec 13th (Breakdown Tip Off at Minnetonka)
  • Minnehaha vs St. Cloud Cathedral - Dec 13th (Breakdown Tip Off at Minnetonka)
  • Minnetonka vs Breck - Dec 27th (Bethel Tournament)
  • St. Paul Academy at St. Paul Central - Jan 14th
  • St. Paul Academy vs Caledonia - Jan 19th (Super 60 Showcase at Roosevelt)
  • Waconia at Breck - Feb 13th

2014-15 MCAA Preview

This is the 4th preview in my 2014-15 season preview series.  In this preview, a look at the Minnesota Christian Athletic Association (MCAA).  For a list of all the season previews and how they are done, click here.

Bethany Academy Eagles (2013-14 season 11-15, 2-11 Conference, 5th South)
Bethany will have to replace one of the league's top snipers in Sam Hagen.  He scored over 19 points a game and was also the Eagles leading rebounder.  No one else averaged double figures.  Most of the rest of the rotation returns.  Seth Cupersmith tops the list of returnees with 8 points per game.  Its a group that will need to find size and another scorer.

Heritage Christian Academy Eagles (2013-14 season 21-7, 10-3 Conference, 2nd North)
Heritage will need to replace 5 of their top 6 scorers from last season.  That includes double figure scorers Drew Kleinschmidt (17 PPG), Spenser Bland and Andy Hamilton.  Soph CJ Woda is the top returning scorer at 10 points a night.  Junior Tanner Scott also returns after seeing time last year.

Legacy Christian Academy (2013-14 season 13-15, 4-9 Conference, 4th North)
Legacy needs to replace 2 parts of their 3 headed monster from last year.  Luke Anderson and Luke Johnson combined for over 23 a night and will need to be replaced.  Guard Nate Bertsch was the top piece of that trio and he returns.  He was 2nd in the league in scoring at 22+ a night with his ability to score off the bounce or shoot it.  Caleb Johnson joins him on the perimeter.  Junior Michael Stelly returns inside.  Sophomores Lucas Nelson and Cole Bertsch also saw rotation time last year.

Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity Bulldogs (2013-14 season 15-13, 9-4 Conference, 2nd South)
Versatile guard Nick Machemehl departs after finishing 3rd in the league in scoring at 22 a night.  Spencer Radtke needs to be replaced inside.  Lefty Josh Volness should man 1 guard spot and provide some shooting.  Jazz Baird should step into a starting role.  Jordan Radtke is the top returning scorer at almost 10 per night.  He'll be the top option and take over duties inside.

Maranatha Christian Academy Mustangs (2013-14 season 27-4, 13-0 Conference, 1st North)
The Mustangs are coming off a state 3rd place finish and lose only 1 player.  Josh Goldschmidt was a primary ball handler and leader for this group and will be missed.  He's at Lake Superior State now.  The rest of the roster is back and loaded.  Jeremiah Hanson returns on the wing after leading the league in scoring at 24 a night.  Cam Monson provides a sledgehammer force inside  Jake Meyen is an athlete on the wing.  Those 2 averaged double figures.  Add in high-flying Damario Armstrong, a shooter in Max Lund and a solid reserve guard in Joe Jacobsen and its another big season on tap for the Mustangs.

New Life Academy Eagles (2013-14 season 20-6, 10-3 Conference, 1st South)
Wing Conrad Engstrom returns after topping the Eagles with 16 points a night.  Jake Wynia returns inside.  Sam Horner is another returning guard.  2 double figure scoring guards and 2 bigs graduate.

PACT Charter Panthers (2013-14 season 10-18, 0-13 Conference, 5th North)
The top 2 scorers depart.  That includes leading scorer and rebounder Daniel Nelson who was a 15 and 7 guy last season.  Junior Drew Johnson figures to increase his 11 points a night to help replace that.  Senior Derek Stone returns to run the point.  Fellow seniors Luke Johnson, Karr Fager and Ryan Fries all return to the rotation as well.

Southwest Christian Stars (2013-14 season 16-9, 8-5 Conference, 3rd South)
SW Christian loses 3 of their top 4 scorers.  Those 3 were also the top 3 rebounders on the roster.  That lack of size will need to be addressed.  Guard Jack Jenson returns after scoring 12 points a game last season.  Expect bigger roles for sophomore guards Trey Sandness and Kyle Meinke after seeing plenty of time last year. 

Trinity Tri-Hawks (2013-14 season 13-15, 3-10 Conference, 4th South)
Eddie Maruggi returns in the backcourt.  Jon Lotti returns up front.   They combined for 30 points a night last season.  Maruggi's 18.5 PPG is good for 3rd best returning scorer in the league.  I expect a similar season to last season.

West Lutheran Warriors (2013-14 season 11-15, 6-7 Conference, 3rd North)
West Lutheran loses their top 3 scorers from a year ago.  That includes almost 14 a night from guard Paul Draeger.  Tyler Kimmons, Zach Dwyer and Josh Pannier should form an experience backcourt. 

Predicted Order of Finish

North Division
  1. Maranatha
  2. Legacy 
  3. Heritage
  4. PACT  
  5. West Lutheran  
South Division
  1. New Life 
  2. SW Christian  
  3. Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity  
  4. Trinity   
  5. Bethany
Conference Overview
This will be one of the tougher predictions I do with 1 exception.  There's Maranatha and then everybody else.  In the rest of the north, Heritage loses a ton but they've proven they can reload, West Lutheran has to replace 3 top guys.  PACT has a lot back but lost 2 top kids from a team that was winless in the league.  Legacy has the top player of the 4 and some experience back so they are my pick for best of the rest in the north.  So basically throw the next 4 in a hat and pick.  In the south, I don't see a clear favorite.  But with a couple guys back from the top team last year, that's enough for me to pick New Life.  I think Bethany without Hagen stays at the bottom.  The middle 3 in the south is another jumbled mess that I can see going any direction.  Maruggi and Trinity played Lester Prairie and SW Christian really tough in 3 of the 4 games last year.  Lester Prairie has a prime post guy in Radtke that many others don't.  Southwest Christian doesn't have any size returning but they do have guard experience.  The MCAA tournament looks like its going to a 2 day format instead of the 1 day showcase they've used in recent years.

Conference MVP: Jeremiah Hanson - Maranatha

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Sam LeVoir - Bethany
  • CJ Woda - Heritage
  • Lucas Nelson, Cole Bertsch - Legacy
  • Trey Sandness, Kyle Meinke - Southwest Christian
Conference Games to Watch
  • New Life at Maranatha - Jan 13th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Maranatha at Minneapolis North - Jan 17th

2014-15 Metro West Conference Preview

This is the third preview in my 2014-2015 season preview series.  In this preview, a look at the new Metro West Conference.  The Metro West mixes teams from 4 other conferences including the defunct North Suburban and Missota along with the Classic Suburban (now Metro East) and South Suburban.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are done, click here.

Benilde St. Margaret's Red Knights (2013-14 season 15-12, 9-4 North Suburban Conference, 3rd)
The Red Knights were assigned to the league after the North Suburban disbanded.  They will have to replace all 5 starters.  Juniors Sam Baker and Matt Lilienthal along with seniors Luke Possis and Jalen Floyd are the top returnees.  They will have to find size.

Bloomington Jefferson Jaguars (2013-14 season 15-13, 7-11 South Suburban Conference, Tie 6th)
The Jags have to replace most of scoring punch with 2 double figure scorers leaving.  The cupboard isn't bare though.  Tommy Gathje is the top post in the league and he has the ability to pass, handle, shoot it outside and score inside.  Expect plenty of looks for him and plenty of the usual methodical offense from coach Jeff Evens.

Bloomington Kennedy Eagles (2013-14 season 17-10, 12-5 South Suburban Conference, 3rd)
Kennedy was a very pleasant surprise last season finishing 12-5 in the rugged South Suburban in Coach Willie Braziel's first year.  DJ Davis is off to South Dakota after doing everything on both ends of the floor.  His leadership along with 21 points per night will be sorely missed.  CJ Lewis and his 18 points per night depart as well along with all but 1 other player from the rotation.  Guard Darius Bell averaged 6.4 PPG.

Chanhassen Storm (2013-14 season 18-8, 10-3 Missota Conference, 2nd)
This is the year the Storm have been building to.  Joey Witthus and his almost 23 PPG return on the wing.  Floor general Ben Khwice returns along with Maxon Hutton in the starting lineup.  Center Andrew Mattern should nicely slot into the front court banger spot vacated by football star Frank Ragnow.   This group has great chemistry, expect a strong season.

Chaska Hawks (2013-14 season 16-10, 9-5 Missota Conference, 3rd)
The Hawks will need to replace 20 points a night and rebounding from graduated forward Eric West.  Jacob Hansen returns to run the point with his 15.9 PPG.  He runs the show but shoots it like a high level shooting guard.  Soph Myles Hanson returns to a wing while Peyton Sanders takes up another perimeter slot.  Colby Murphy will provide permeter depth.

Richfield Spartans (2013-14 season 3-24, 3-15 Classic Suburban Conference, 8th)
The Spartans lose leading scorer Patrick Dembley to Minneapolis North.  That's from a team that was one of the worst in class AAA (2 of their 3 wins were over doormat South St. Paul).  Junior Tommy Fallon averaged just over 9 points per night.  He'll be the top scoring threat.  Not much size or scoring punch for this roster.

Robbinsdale Cooper Hawks (2013-14 season 9-16, 6-6 North Suburban Conference, 6th)
Leading scorer Taron Pickford returns to the lineup for his junior season.  He averaged almost 14 points a game last year.  The rest of the rotation will need to be replaced.  A couple of transfers should beef up the lineup.  Jayson Edwards visits his 3rd school in 3 years as he comes over from Benilde-St. Margaret's.  Wing Melvin Newburn Jr was in Robbinsdale Armstrong's rotation last year as a sophomore.  Outside of Newburn the lineup is tiny but they will be very quick.
St. Louis Park Orioles (2013-14 season 1-25, 1-12 North Suburban Conference, 7th)
The Orioles had to go super young after losing the entire JV and Varsity rosters from their 20 win season of 2 years ago.  They paid for it by being one of the worst teams in all of class AAAA.  The youth movement should pay off this year as the entire rotation returns.  Senior Nick Kjos and junior Ray Whitlock combined for almost 30 points per game last season . Soph Ryan Domres and senior Jason Keller man the front court spots and were the next 2 scorers. 

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Chanhassen
  2. Chaska
  3. Bloomington Jefferson 
  4. Robbinsdale Cooper 
  5. Bloomington Kennedy
  6. Benilde-St. Margaret's
  7. St. Louis Park
  8. Richfield
Conference Overview
It will be interesting to see how long this league lasts as the idea of Chanhassen and Chaska's demographics lining up with Cooper and Richfield is laughable.  With the east half of the Wright County quickly growing (see Waconia, who wanted in the league and wasn't taken for some reason, will cooler heads prevail?

Chanhassen and Chaska are the clear top 2 with the quality they have coming back . Jefferson may not be all that watchable but they knocked Chanhassen out in round 1 last year.  Cooper might be able to push them for third but more likely they stay in front of the teams below them.  Kennedy and Benilde-St. Margaret's are a coin flip since they basically have to replace everything.  St. Louis Park has everything back from a dreadful year last year.  That puts them in front of a Richfield team that looks again like one of the worst in class AAA and loses a ton.

Conference MVP: Joey Witthus - Chanhassen

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Joe Dunn - Benilde-St. Margaret's
  • Markel Aune - Bloomington Kennedy
  • Chris Wandling - Chanhassen
  • Myles Hanson, Alex Strazzanti - Chaska
Conference Games to Watch
  • Chaska at Chanhassen - Jan 9th
  • Chanhassen at Chaska - Feb 7th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Chaska at Apple Valley - Nov 22nd
  • Chanhassen at East Ridge - Nov 22nd
  • Chanhassen at Apple Valley - Nov 25th
  • Chanhassen at Minnetonka- Dec 13th (Breakdown Tipoff Classic)
  • Waconia at Chanhassen - Dec 22nd
  • Eden Prairie at Chanhassen - Jan 3rd
  • Eden Prairie at Chaska - Jan 24th

2014-15 Lake Conference Preview

This is the second preview in my 2014-2015 season preview series.  In this preview, a look at the Lake Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are done, click here.

Eden Prairie Eagles (2013-14 season 22-7, 5-3 Lake Conference, Tie 2nd)
The Eagles will have to replace their do everything guy Andre Wallace.  They do return Grantham Gillard who is streaky but can score in big bunches and can hit from 25 feet in.  He was the team leader in scoring last year at over 19 a night.  The question becomes the rest of the offense.  Lefty Blake Cashman returns along with juniors Carter Coughlin, Brady Rudrud and Ryan Jacobus.  Junior Jake Ruppert should contribute as well.  Josh Lanasa will be their traditional inside banger.  The Eagles lose a bunch of guys who provided toughness.

Edina Hornets (2013-14 season 14-12, 2-6 Lake Conference, 4th)
Walt McGrory returns after leading the team in scoring last year as a freshman.  Wing Ben Boone and post Max Lynch also return to the starting lineup.  Lefty wing Will Moreton will see a much bigger role and can fill it up from 3 in a hurry.  Left handed and long make him a tough matchup.  John Swanke will also see plenty of time. A strong freshman class will restock the shelves for the future.

Hopkins Royals (2013-14 season 30-2, 8-0 Lake Conference, 1st, State Runner-Up)
This may be the youngest Hopkins squad in recent memory.  Of the 2 members of the 7 man rotation return.  As a highly regarded junior nationally, Amir Coffey will be expected to take over both on the court and in the leadership role.  Expect him to be a do everything guy for the Royals.  Fellow lefty John Warren also returns and should have a big season as the 2nd option.  Vinny Shahid was the emergency 8th guy last year so I expect him to see time at a guard spot.  After that, plenty of questions.  Chuck Hartman provides size.  Graham Hutson will likely see time as well.  Junior LaMicheal Wade and Ishmael El Amin figure to see time as well.  Juniors Xavier Johnson and Cedric Boone may also compete for spots.  Soph Simon Wright (brother of sharpshooter Jake Wright who graduated) picked up a Providence offer out of nowhere over the summer.  He's a wildcard.  The freshman class is one to watch down the road.

Minnetonka Skippers (2013-14 season 19-9, 5-3 Lake Conference, Tie 2nd)
Minnetonka loses athletic wing and leading scorer Delshon Strickland to Indian Hills CC but that may be a case of addition by subtraction.  The toughness and front court scoring of Careino Gurley will be sorely missed.  There's no clear replacement for his role on the roster.  The Skippers still have a dynamic guard trio of jitterbug Amar Miller at the point and sharpshooters Justin Moes and Seth Coatta on the wings.  Evan Altenburg returns as a banger inside.

Wayzata Trojans (2013-14 season 8-18, 0-8 Lake Conference, 5th)
Wayzata went to the youth movement last year starting 4 sophomores.  Anoka transfer Austin Slater joins that group of juniors after sitting out last year.  He was a varsity player as a freshman.  So that gives new coach Bryan Schnettler plenty to work with.  Schnettler comes over after running the Rosemount program and a brief stint in the off-season at Hill-Murray.  Point guard Johnny Beeninga leads the way after scoring 15.5 PPG last year.  Troy Louwagie and Brendan Broady man the interior.  Slater will be a 3/4 and Ty Gelinske will fill a role on the perimeter.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Hopkins
  2. Minnetonka
  3. Eden Prairie
  4. Edina
  5. Wayzata
Conference Overview
There's great balance throughout the league.  Hopkins will go as far as Amir Coffey takes them but they have lots of youth.  Minnetonka can shoot down anybody on a given night.  I think those are the clear top 2.  Eden Prairie may struggle to score at times but they play tough defense and will be in most games.  Edina should be able to score plenty but they have depth questions.  Great contrast when those 2 play each other.  Wayzata has enough talent and experience to compete with most teams.

Conference MVP: Amir Coffey -  Hopkins

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Owen Chose, Kyler Kluge - Eden Prairie
  • Walt McGrory, Anders Nelson, Joe Dunn- Edina
  • Anthony Davis, Joe Hedstrom, DeLawrence Aaron, Simon Wright, Ishmael El Amin - Hopkins
Conference Games to Watch
  • Hopkins at Minnetonka - Jan 23rd
  • Minnetonka at Hopkins  - Feb 17th
 Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Champlin Park at Hopkins - Nov 29th (projected Hopkins Tourney Final)
  • Apple Valley at Minnetonka - Nov 29th
  • Iowa City West (IA) at Hopkins - Dec 6th (Breakdown Girls Tip Off)
  • Minnetonka vs Rice Lake (WI) - Dec 6th (Breakdown Girls Tip Off at Hopkins)
  • Hopkins vs Maple Grove - Dec 13th (Breakdown Tip Off at Minnetonka)
  • Eden Prairie vs Stillwater - Dec 13th (Breakdown Tip Off at Minnetonka)
  • Chanhassen at Minnetonka - Dec 13th (Breakdown Tip Off)
  • St. Paul Johnson at Eden Prairie - Dec 16th
  • Hopkins at Waconia - Dec 19th
  • Holy Family at Minnetonka - Jan 3rd
  • Eden Prairie at Chanhassen - Jan 3rd
  • Eden Prairie at Waconia - Jan 6th
  • Hopkins at Cretin-Derham Hall - Jan 6th
  • Eden Prairie at De La Salle - Jan 13th
  • Holy Family vs Hopkins - Jan 19th (Super 60 Showcase at Washburn)
  • Robbinsdale Armstrong at Minnetonka - Feb 3rd
  • Hopkins vs Milwaukee Vincent - Feb 7th (Border Battle at Cretin-Derham Hall)
  • Eden Prairie at Maple Grove - Feb 9th

2014-15 Metro East Conference Preview

Its time once again for my annual Season Previews.  Its the 8th season of this tradition.  For the next 5 weeks, I'll preview 11 metro area conferences with apologies to the EMAC, some local independents and 12 metro area sections.  Since I usually start in alphabetical order and the old Classic Suburban is really only different in name, I'll start with the new Metro East.

The league swaps Richfield, who left for the Metro West, for Hastings, who leaves the Suburban East.  As mentioned in the preview of previews, this was done in an attempt to remove St. Thomas Academy but the MSHSL placed the Cadets right back with their old comrades.  For a list of all the season previews and an explanation of how the previews are generated, click here.

Hastings Raiders (2013-14 season 7-20, 4-14 Suburban East Conference, 8th)
The Raiders return their top 3 scorers from last season, all of whom averaged in double figures.  Sam Skoyen averaged over 17 points a game last season to lead the way.  Craig Nielsen averaged over 12 a night and will also be a 3 year starter for the Raiders.  Joe Dittrich has developed into another double figure guy.   The move to a weaker league will help the Raiders but depth and experience behind those 3 could be an issue.

Henry Sibley Warriors (2013-14 season 13-14, 10-6 Conference, Tie 4th)
Coach Lernell James worked wonders with many losses last year.  He'll have to do the same again this season as 4 double scorers and 7 seniors from the rotation graduate.  That includes inside presence Mark Pumper who averaged almost 15 points a game last season.  Austin Solberg will take his spot inside.  Louie Garabay will fill a guard slot.

Hill-Murray Pioneers (2013-14 season 16-11, 11-5 Conference, 3rd)
Brady Hannigan takes over the reins from retired Dick Ghizoni.  He'll be able to work around the top backcourt in the league, Marshawn Wilson and Simeon Davis.  Davis is a sophomore transfer who ran the show for Minnehaha Academy and averaged 8.5 PPG last year.  Wilson is arguably the most explosive scorer in the state regardless of class.  He averaged 23.5 PPG last year.  Junior Chris Moore should man the middle after seeing some time there last year.   Replacing the front court presence of Alex Ogren is something to watch.

Mahtomedi Zephyrs (2013-14 season 12-15, 6-10 Conference, Tie 6th)
The Zephyrs return 4 starters from last season.  They were the top 4 scorers as well.  6'10" Center Sean Hjelle was the only double figure scorer at 13+ a night along with 11+ rebounds.  He's a finesse player who can hurt you outside as well as inside.  He has committed to Kentucky as a baseball pitcher.  The perimeter trio of Sam Muster, Sam Newman and junior Lucas Buller rounds out the quartet.  They were 2-7 in games decided by 5 points or less.  4 of those losses were to league champ St. Thomas Academy and 3rd place Hill-Murray so they proved they could compete with anybody in the league.

North Polars (2013-14 season 10-17, 6-10 Conference, Tie 6th)
Coach Joe Janquart is starting to get it going up in North St.Paul as they jumped from 3 wins to 10 last season.  They also had lots of success at the Sophomore and JV levels.  Leading scorer Jake Steckler returns at a guard spot.  The remaining starters need to be replaced including center Joe Messerole who was their other double figure scorer and only real inside presence.  Thomas Acquoi should step up into another guard slot.  Avery Ostertag should see front court time. I like the youth, but I think its a year away.
St. Thomas Academy Cadets (2013-14 season 21-7, 14-2 Conference, 1st)
The Cadets rolled into the post season winning 13 of their last 14 (only loss was a 6 point home loss to Hopkins) but then were upset by St. Paul Central in the section semifinals.  Ryan Jacobsen returns as the top scorer for the Cadets.  Kai Endahl gives them toughness.  Junior Nate Chaffee should have a bigger role this season.  Jake Wright also provides a shooter with experience.  Andrew Mayleben provides size.

Simley Spartans (2013-14 season 17-11, 10-6 Conference, Tie 4th)
Simley is another team that returns a tough backcourt with the trio of Sam Stensgard, Jack Stensgard and Ben Scheffley.  That group combined for 40 points a game last season.  Scheffley runs the show while both Stensgards are knock down shooters.  Alex Anderson returns inside and should replace the scoring of Mark Della Vedova.  Matt Amspoker and Blake Scheffknecht return to the rotation as well.  Guard KJ Holliday was a pleasant surprise last year and will be hard to replace.

South St. Paul Packers (2013-14 season 3-22, 0-16 Conference, 9th)
The Packers will be glad the Classic Suburban is gone.  They lost their last 68 conference games and were 3-157 in the last 10 years of the league.  Further breakdown shows 41 straight on the road and 33 straight at home.  Hard to see a group of seniors go 4 years without a conference win.  They return 2 starters with Jaden Bjorklund being the top returner.  4 other bench guys return but no size.  Expect another long season.

Tartan Titans (2013-14 season 23-7, 12-4 Conference, 2nd)
The Titans broke an 8 year drought by making the big dance last year.  Tartan will have a dynamic group of 4 sophomores to lead the way.  Jordan Horn runs the show, Kingston Myles will man a wing spot.  Emanuel Humphrey will take over the inside presence lost by Brody Jackson's graduation.  Joevon Walker will provide a physical front court presence after playing last year at Minnehaha.  Jake Lyle returns to man a wing spot.  Deonte Fourte is an experienced guard off the bench.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. St. Thomas Academy   
  2. Tartan
  3. Simley
  4. Hill-Murray  
  5. Mahtomedi
  6. Hastings 
  7. North 
  8. Henry Sibley
  9. South St. Paul
Conference Overview
Last year 5 teams won 10 games in the league.  I could see that happening again there's plenty of strength at the top.  Tartan and St. Thomas Academy bring enough back and have enough tradition that I have to pick them 1 and 2.  Simley and Hill-Murray played 3 classics last year including a double OT classic in the 1st round of the playoffs.  Those were decided by a total of 11 points with Simley winning all 3.  I'll take Simley again this year.  Mahtomedi and Hastings also have plenty returning but I don't see them at the same level as the others but you better show up when you play them.  North, Sibley and South St. Paul slot logically into the last 3 spots.

Conference MVP: Marshawn Wilson - Hill-Murray

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Goodnews Kpegeol- North St. Paul 
  • Jordan Horn, Emmanuel Humphrey, Kingston Myles, Joevon Walker- Tartan
Conference Games to Watch
  • Simley at Tartan - Dec 16th
  • Hill-Murray vs St. Thomas Academy - Dec 27th (Catholic Spirit tourney)
  • Tartan at Hill-Murray - Jan 6th
  • St. Thomas Academy at Tartan - Jan 13th
  • Simley at St. Thomas Academy - Jan 16th
  • Hill-Murray at St. Thomas Academy - Jan 23rd
  • Hill-Murray at Tartan - Jan 30th
  • Tartan at St. Thomas Academy - Feb 10th
  • St. Thomas Academy at Simley - Feb 17th
  • Tartan at Simley - Feb 17th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Minneapolis Washburn at St. Thomas Academy - Dec 2nd
  • Tartan, Simley, Hill-Murray- Dec 13th (Breakdown Tipoff Classic at Minnetonka)
  • St. Thomas Academy at Cretin-Derham Hall - Dec 23rd
  • Tartan at Prior Lake - Jan 20th
  • St. Thomas Academy at St. Paul Academy - Feb 16th