2017-18 Section 4AA Preview

This is the 15th preview in my 2017-2018 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.

Section 4AA (16 teams)
Defending Champion: Minnehaha Academy (2017 State AA Champion)

Tournament Schedule:

Round of 16: Thursday, March 8th
Quarterfinals: Saturday, March 10th
Semifinals: Tuesday, March 13th at St. Paul Washington
Finals: Friday, March 16th at St. Paul Washington

New teams in the section
  • Cristo Rey Jesuit (4A)
  • Minneapolis Edison (5AA)
  • Nova Classical Academy (4A)
Teams that left the section
  • Minneapolis Roosevelt (6AAA)
  • Mounds Park Academy (4A)
  • St. Croix Lutheran (3AAA)
Predicted Seeding
  1. Minnehaha
  2. Trinity   
  3. Cristo Rey
  4. New Life Academy  
  5. Concordia Academy
  6. St. Paul Prep
  7. Nova Classical
  8. St. Paul Washington
  9. St. Croix Prep
  10. St. Paul Academy   
  11. St. Agnes
  12. St. Paul Humboldt
  13. AFSA 
  14. Minneapolis Edison
  15. Math and Science
  16. Charter Stars
2 contenders in Roosevelt and St. Croix Lutheran moved up to AAA.  That takes away the teams that would likely be the next seeds behind Minnehaha.  So that leaves Trinity and Cristo Rey as other top temas in their leagues as the next in line.  New Life has size to bother most of the teams in the section.  Concordia and St. Paul Prep/HSRA fighting for next seeds here.  Nova's schedule will hold them down despite being TCAC D2 champs.  Rest of the TCAC also gets shoved down in seeding.

Sleeper: St. Paul Washington.  They'll play a schedule that preps them for section play (Trinity tourney will be telling for them and the section).  Add in soph forward Drewjuan White as an athlete and maybe they steal a game or 2.

Section Winner: Minnehaha.  With everybody back and the top player in the section in Jalen Suggs returning for the defending state champs, no way I can bet against that.

2017-18 Section 4A Preview

This is the 14th preview in my 2017-2018 season preview series.  In the 1st half of the previews, I took a look at 117 teams and 12 conferences.  Now I move on to phase 2 of the previews.  Over the next 3 weeks, I'll take a look at 14 sections including all of class AAAA.  That will include looks at some section teams that I haven't done yet plus some sprinkled comments about teams we looked at that aren't in the 14 sections being previewed.  Let's start with a look at Section 4A.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 4A (22 Teams)
Defending Champion: Minneapolis North (2016 and 2017 State Champs)

Tournament Schedule:
Play-Ins: Monday, March 5th
Round of 16: Thursday, March 8th
Quarterfinals: Saturday, March 10th
Semifinals: Tuesday, March 13th at Anoka-Ramsey Community College
Finals: Friday, March 16th at Anoka-Ramsey Community College

New teams in the section
  • Christian Life (1A)
  • Hmong Academy (4AA)
  • Mounds Park Academy (4AA)
Teams that left the section
  • Cristo Rey Jesuit (4AA)
  • Minneapolis North (5AA)
  • Maranatha Christian (5AA)
  • Nova Classical (4AA)
Predicted Seeding
  1. Prairie Seeds
  2. Hope Academy
  3. CHOF
  4. Heritage
  5. Christian Life
  6. Learning for Leadership
What a difference a year makes.  This group of teams is the happiest in the state as Minneapolis North and Maranatha both move up to section 5AA.  Both would be big favorites here this year.  Cristo Rey moves up to 4AA and as my projected TCAC champion you could argue them as a favorite here as well.  Plus TCAC D2 favorite Nova moves up to 4AA.  While there are 22 teams listed in the section, at least 4 of them won't be playing come tournament time.  My projection is that 16 or 17 will actually play the tournament series.

So that means a very down year in the section.  The best half of the MCAA by my projections isn't in the section and 3 of the better TCAC teams are in AA.  Jamar Robinson at PSA and Joey Erickson at Hope are all a handful in this section.  So those stick out as the top 2.  But there's not a huge gap there so I see it as very competitive.  Then there's a whole bunch of mediocre teams that could end up anywhere.  So this year is there for the taking for the TCAC teams and I see them getting it done.

Also a quick note here on MCAA member Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity.  They are in stuck in tough section 2A with teams like Cleveland and Mayer Lutheran in their subsection and Springfield on the other side.  I picked Springfield to win class A in my Breakdown book predictions (spoiler alert, buy the book now).  The Bulldogs win a 1st round home game but then go out to either Cleveland or Mayer Lutheran in the North subsection semis. 

Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf if they play the tournament series in section 1A is likely looking at going out in a pigtail game.

Sleeper:  Learning for Leadership. With 25 PPG guy Kafi Abdi back and a down section, maybe this group of Mustangs makes a run.

Section Winner: Prairie Seeds Academy.  They've made a run in the section the last 2 years so the program experience is there.  With one of the best players in the section, I can see them making another long run.

2017-18 Suburban East Conference Preview

This is the 13th preview in my 2017-2018 season preview series.  In this preview, we reach the mid-point of this 6 week series.  The conference previews end here with a look at the Suburban East Conference.  Next week, we start looking at the metro area sections.  For a list of all the season previews and how they were generated, click here.

Cretin-Derham Hall Raiders (2016-17 season 23-9, 13-3 Conference, 3rd)
Coach Jerry Kline returns a loaded lineup with his entire starting 5 coming back.  Minnesota commit Daniel Oturu mans the middle and leads the team in scoring at 19.6 PPG.  PG Ryan Larson (13.7) and wings Jake Prince and Jaeden King also averaged double figures.  Sy Chatman returns inside as well.  Plus the Raiders have a ton of backup options at the wing spots.

East Ridge Raptors (2016-17 season 22-6, 14-2 Conference, Tie 1st)
Head coach Paul Virgin retired and has been replaced by Bryce Tesdahl.  Tesdahl comes over after a couple of very nice seasons at New Prague. He has some great talent to build with.  Junior wing Courtney Brown (19.5 PPG), soph F Ben Carlson (11.5 PPG) and frosh wing Kendall Brown are highly regarded prospects in their classes.  Shooter Nick Christensen (14.7 PPG) and forward Zach Bennett (8.6 PPG) are the main losses.  TJ Kelly looks to slot in at a guard spot.

Forest Lake Rangers (2016-17 season 19-10, 10-6 Conference, 4th)
PG Jake Larson (20.1 PPG) and Mitch Jerde (16.2 PPG) were the 2 double figure scorers and need to be replaced.  That should be handled by the shooting of transfer Manny Jingco who was Stillwater's top scorer at 20.6 PPG last season.  Junior F John Schrader (9.9 PPG) returns to the starting lineup. Seniors Thad Ball and Connor Hale return in the backcourt.
Mounds View Mustangs (2016-17 season 12-16, 7-9 Conference, 6th)
SG Nick McMillan and his 21 PPG have graduated along with F Brian Stone (11.9 PPG).  Center Michael Fahim is the top returnee at 6.4 PPG.  Brendan Kauls also returns inside  (3.6 PPG).  Josh Albers returns as the top perimeter option (4.9 PPG)

Park Wolfpack (2016-17 season 7-20, 1-15 Conference, Tie 8th)
JV coach Mike Weah steps up to the head spot to replace Ed Cassidy.  Junior forward Charlie Gorres was the team leader at 14.9 PPG last season.  The  next 2 scorers including 14.8 PPG from Brendan Beaulieu need to be replaced.  Junior F Rodney Jefferson is an athletic wing and averaged 8 PPG.  Junior Jeremiah Smith gives them a big body inside.  Cole Herder returns at a guard spot.

Roseville Raiders (2016-17 season 9-18, 8-8 Conference, 5th)
The Raiders got off to a 2-11 start but finished 7-7 and dead even in Suburban East play.  Junior G Jovan Hunter returns after leading the team with 11.5 PPG last season.  But the biggest changes are 2 transfers.  Ray'Sean Treadwell to had to play JV last year after seeing minutes at Cretin-Derham Hall 2 years ago.  Gary Smith was the top guy at St. Agnes last year.  Those are a pair of explosive wings.  Juniors Mario Dukes and Yohanes Gebeyehu are other guard options with senior Avery Nelson.  Nolan Wald returns with size.

Stillwater Ponies (2016-17 season 3-24, 1-15 Conference, Tie 8th)
Leading scorer Manny Jingco (20.6 PPG) left for league rival Forest Lake.  Senior Devontae Hatcher is the top returning scorer at 8.7 PPG.  Evan Parker and Josh Lorenson return to the rotation.  PG Nate Shikenjanski also returns.

White Bear Lake Bears (2016-17 season 6-21, 4-12 Conference, 7th)
The youth movement continued last year for the Bears.  This year they return their 3 top scorers all in double figures.  Blake Charles (11 PPG) and Jeremy Beckler (10.3 PPG) make up the front line.  Sam Schwartz (10.8 PPG) returns on the perimeter.  Austin Schochet (5.9 PPG) and Josh Griefenhagen (5.7 PPG) are other experienced perimeter players.

Woodbury Royals (2016-17 season 20-8, 14-2 Conference, Tie 1st)
Davidson commit Michael Jones returns and should be one of the state's top scorers after averaging 25.2 PPG last season.  That's only partly due to losing the next 5 scorers on the roster.  The guard duo of Jeremiah Coddon and Jake West (over 28 PPG combined) plus shooter Ike Thilgen were all in double figures.  Guard DJ Fleming has the most returning experience of the guards.  Football star David Alston is a possible inside option.  Senior Ryan Christensen and Soph Drew Bramlett should move into the rotation.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Cretin-Derham Hall   
  2. East Ridge  
  3. Forest Lake 
  4. Roseville
  5. Woodbury  
  6. White Bear Lake 
  7. Mounds View   
  8. Park
  9. Stillwater  
Conference Overview:
The top is a clear battle between Cretin-Derham Hall and East Ridge.  Those are 2 elite AAAA teams above the rest of the league.  The group of 3 are solid teams with no size.  Forest Lake is sound and Manny Jingco gives them a quality scorer.  Michael Jones is my MVP of the league so Woodbury can't drop that far, but how much help does he have.  Roseville took early lumps but was vastly improved in the 2nd half.  Add in a couple of high flying guys on the wing and they move up.  White Bear Lake didn't have a good win last year but they have a lot coming back.  Mounds View won't wow you but they'll be sound.  Park and Stillwater bring up the rear.

Conference MVP: Michael Jones - Woodbury

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Amari Carter - Cretin-Derham Hall
  • Ben Carlson, Kendall Brown - East Ridge
  • Jake Radabaugh - Mounds View
  • TJ Favilla - Roseville
  • Matt Moore, Ben Snyder - Stillwater
  • Drew Bramlett - Woodbury
Conference Games to Watch
  • East Ridge at Cretin-Derham Hall - Dec 15th
  • Cretin-Derham Hall at East Ridge - Jan 30th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • East Ridge vs Minnehaha - Dec 2nd (Girls Tipoff Classic at Hopkins)
  • Cretin-Derham Hall at Hopkins - Dec 2nd (Girls Tipoff Classic at Hopkins) 
  • Cretin-Derham Hall vs Orono - Dec 9th (Tipoff Classic at Hopkins) 
  • Cretin-Derham Hall at St. Thomas Academy - Dec 23rd
  • East Ridge at Wayzata - Feb 6th
  • De La Salle at Cretin-Derham Hall - Feb 10th

2017-18 South Suburban Conference Preview

This is the 12th preview in my 2017-18 Season Preview Series.  In this preview, we head south for a look at the South Suburban Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Apple Valley Eagles (2016-17 season 30-2, 18-0 Conference, 1st)
The defending class AAAA state champs return almost everybody so they are the favorite again.  This is the 9th and final year of the Jones era.  Senior PG Tre Jones will attend Duke next year.  He averaged 23.4 PPG, 10.1 RPG, and 7.5 APG last year.  Winona St commit Luke Martens (10.6 PPG) returns on the wing.  Harvard FB commit Spencer Rolland returns in the middle.  I expect a breakout season from Nathan Macho on the wing as he'll pick up touches to replace Mohamed Kone.

Burnsville Blaze (2016-17 season 11-17, 7-11 Conference, 7th)
The Blaze have to replace their top 3 double figure scorers including Matt Baisch (11.6 PPG).  The perimeter has experience with junior returnees Julian Hutchinson (10.3 PPG) and Marcus Shepley.  Ty Miklowski and Drew Ihenacho return inside.  Max May and soph Josh Kamara are other pieces of the rotation.

Eagan Wildcats (2016-17 season 8-19, 5-13 Conference, 8th)
Former Wayzata top lieutenant Josh Peltier takes over the program.  Soph PG Jaylen James topped the team in scoring last year at 7.9 PPG.  Cam Lachance also returns to the rotation.  Many other players saw minutes in a rough season last year.  Forward Jaren Tschetter is a top scoring option depending how he comes back from a 2nd knee injury.

Eastview Lightning (2016-17 season 13-15, 9-9 Conference, 5th)
Eastview has to replace their top 3 scorers.  That includes PG Jameson Bryan (18.2 PPG), now at Augustana, and shooter Mason Carpenter (16.1 PPG).  Soph forward Tate Machacek is the top returnee with 8.6 PPG.  That will go up significantly this year.  He can play inside or outside and leads a talented group of sophomores that I expect to be very good in 2 years.  Junior Isaak Raspberry will take over the point guard duties.  Essam Ibrahim and Will Barry also return to the rotation.

Farmington Tigers (2016-17 season 8-19, 3-15 Conference, 10th)
Wing Sam Wilson and his 21.1 PPG need to be replaced.  Forward Caden Freetly is the top returning scorer with 8.4 PPG.  He'll be the biggest player.  Brock Mogenson and junior Adam Weed are returning starters.  The junior trio of Miles Mendes, Jameson Shrum and Brady Bean saw a ton of minutes last year.  Who picks up the scoring from Wilson is my big question.

Lakeville North Panthers (2016-17 season 28-4, 16-2 Conference, 2nd)
Coach John Oxton has to replace the 25.9 PPG and 12.1 RPG from Wisconsin recruit Nate Reuvers.  Guard Ethan Igbanugo (13.5 PPG) also needs to be replaced.  He was an under appreciated defender and scorer.  Junior forward Tyler Wahl (9.2 PPG) is the only member of the top 6 scorers coming back.  Expect him to have a big season . Tyler Lewko returns inside.  Spencer Fossey, Owen Blascziek, Cole Andersen and junior shooter Tommy Jenson will make up a solid backcourt.

Lakeville South Cougars (2016-17 season 15-13, 12-6 Conference, 3rd)
New AD Tom Dasovich brings over old pal Joe Janquart from North St. Paul to be the new head coach.  He has UW-Milwaukee commit Shae Mitchell (15.8 PPG) on the wing to build around.  Beau Bailey is another wing and Cooper Jackson is a tough undersized point guard.  Freshman Riley Mahlman is an option in the middle with a group of senior bangers.  The shooting of Jack Sorenson (21.8 PPG) and Cade Carlson (6.3 PPG) will be missed.

Prior Lake Lakers (2016-17 season 14-11, 10-8 Conference, 4th)
5 of the top 6 scorers have graduated.  But the one that returns is one of the state's top sophomores,  forward Dawson Garcia.  He'll take over as the top option and I can see him doubling his 8.8 PPG from last year.  Junior Robert Jones has a UWGB offer and will man the middle.  Brandon Collins and Pat Bernick also return to the lineup.

Rosemount Irish (2016-17 season 15-14, 7-11 Conference, 6th)
New head coach Lance Walsten returns to the league.  He comes from Faribault but was previously an assistant at Lakeville North.  He has to replace the twin towers of Alec and Luke Loehr who are now at Navy.  They combined for almost 37 PPG last year.  PG Myka Edmond and his 11 PPG also need to be replaced.  Luke Siwek is the top returnee (11.6 PPG) and will be the main offensive option.  Junior guard Andrew Reuter will see a bigger role.

Shakopee Sabers (2016-17 season 4-23, 3-15 Conference, 9th)
Shakopee went with a very young lineup playing 3 and sometimes 4 freshmen last year.  Leading scorer Jake Kutina (11.9 PPG) needs to be replaced.  Most of the rest of the rotation returns.  Sophs Charlie Katona (11.9 PPG), Will Cordes (5.6 PPG) and Caleb Druvenga (5.5 PPG) are the top returning scorers.  Seniors Addison Leininger, Luke Budin and Martin McKinney also return.  They also should have Garrett Mitchell back from a knee injury that cost him last season.    There's not much size available.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Apple Valley 
  2. Lakeville North   
  3. Eastview 
  4. Lakeville South
  5. Prior Lake 
  6. Burnsville
  7. Shakopee 
  8. Farmington 
  9. Rosemount  
  10. Eagan 
Conference Overview:
Apple Valley is the easy pick for the top spot.  Behind them, I think there's a group of 4 teams.  Lakeville North will be lacking experience but they can really shoot it and will just reload.  Lakeville South, Prior Lake and Eastview all have a couple of nice pieces to build around.  Burnsville has enough returning to be next.  Shakopee will be improved but they're looking down the road with their sophomores.  The bottom 3 have to find ways to score.  Farmington is a year ahead in the rebuild so I'll take them over the 2 remaining teams with new coaches.  Luke Siwek gets the nod to keep Rosemount out of the cellar.

Conference MVP: Tre Jones - Apple Valley

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Josh Kamara, Josiah Jordan, Tyree Ihenacho - Burnsville
  • Jaylen James, Kurt Ohlhues - Eagan
  • Tate Machacek, Dan Sweden, Jon Reinke, Steven Crowl - Eastview 
  • Riley Mahlman - Lakeville South
  • Dawson Garcia - Prior Lake
  • Charlie Katona, Will Cordes, Caleb Druvenga, Bruce Lockwood - Shakopee
Conference Games to Watch
  • Lakeville North at Apple Valley - Jan 9th
  • Apple Valley at Lakeville North - Feb 13th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Minnehaha at Apple Valley - Dec 7th (ESPN)
  • Apple Valley vs Minneapolis North - Dec 9th (Tipoff Classic at Hopkins)
  • Lakeville North vs St. Cloud Tech - Dec 9th (Tipoff Classic at Hopkins)
  • Chaska at Lakeville North - Dec 14th
  • St. Thomas Academy at Apple Valley - Dec 15th
  • Austin at Lakeville North - Dec 29th (projected Lakeville N tourney championship)

2017-18 Northwest Suburban Conference Preview

This is the 11th preview in my 2017-2018 season preview series.  In this preview, a look at the Northwest Suburban Conference. For a list of all the season previews and how they are done, click here.

Andover Huskies (2016-17 season 11-20, 5-14 Conference, 6th North)
Guard Logan Rezac's 25.4 PPG needs to be replaced.  Conner Knoepfle is the top returnee at 9.4 PPG.  Mason Heath and junior Jake Mallet return to the rotation with some size.  At the guard spots, Peyton Aune and junior Matthew Brodeur are options.

Anoka Tornadoes (2016-17 season 7-20, 4-15 Conference, 7th North)
Center Jake Phipps anchors the middle for the Tornadoes after averaging 9.9 PPG last season.  Addison Ostendorf returns at a guard spot.  Junior Micah Madyun will be another guard in the rotation. John Walberg and junior Zubier Oman are options on the front line.

Blaine Bengals (2016-17 season 16-11, 10-9 Conference, Tie 2nd North)
Coach Mark Arzdorf has to replace most of his rotation.  6 of the top 7 scorers graduated.  G Byron Bynum is the top returnee at 7.1 PPG.  Sam Browne and Jason Kaul also saw limited time last season.  Lucas Larson will be a guard option.  Ray Mitchell is an athletic option on the wing.

Centennial Cougars (2016-17 season 12-15, 8-11 Conference, 4th North)
Dave Frasier takes over for Travis Bledsoe who's now at De La Salle. Talented forward Josh McGreal (16.7 PPG) and 13.1 PPG from guard Shane Taleen need to be replaced.  Juniors Ariq Eason (7.3 PPG, top returning scorer) and Riley Van Buskirk (3.9 PPG) are an experienced backcourt.  Andrew Metz (5.9 PPG) also returns to the rotation.  Hunter Ross is an interior option.

Champlin Park Rebels (2016-17 season 31-1, 19-0 Conference, 1st North)
The entire starting lineup from last year's AAAA runner-up needs to be replaced.  That includes 4 double figure scorers and 2 high D1 players in PG McKinley Wright (22.8 PPG) and F Theo John (13.9 PPG).  But the Rebels have plenty to reload with.  Josiah Strong (9.7 PPG) will take over the alpha dog role.  Junior F Bennett Otto is poised for a breakout season.  Jisaiah Riley-Phillips and Alex John are 2 forwards from last year's JV squad who will step up roles.

Coon Rapids Cardinals (2016-17 season 13-15, 6-13 Conference, 5th North)
A banner year for the Cardinals last year.  They now have to replace the top 4 scorers from that group.  That includes the duo of Lionel Warner (18.1 PPG) and Tyree'on Johnson (15.9 PPG).  Senior Marcel Winston is the top returnee at 6.5 PPG.  Junior Marshall Holland should also provide some scoring punch.  Seniors Henock Mwanasomwe and Logan Severson provide experience.

Elk River Elks (2016-17 season 16-12, 10-9 Conference, Tie 2nd North)
Senior forward Jack Burger returns after averaging 18.5 PPG.  But most of the rest of the rotation needs to be replaced including the productive guard tandem of Wyatt Morrell (12.7 PPG) and Noah Weege (8.5 PPG).  Andrew Hess and junior Brock Burdine will slot in at guard spots.  Carter Baldwin is an option in the middle.

Irondale Knights (2016-17 season 5-22, 1-18 Conference, 7th West)
The Knights have to replace all everything guard Sean Sutherlin (23.9 PPG).  Junior Aden Price is the top returnee at 9.6 PPG.  Senior Brendan White (6.1 PPG) returns in the middle.  Senior Daudi Simon and junior Leighton Glodek also return to the rotation.

Maple Grove Crimson (2016-17 season 28-4, 17-2 Conference, 1st West)
The Crimson have to replace the entire roster with 10 seniors graduating.  Brad Davison (24.9 PPG) and Tywhon Pickford (21.1 PPG) are the 2 high profile stars in that group.  Experience will be a problem but there is talent on hand.  Juniors Jared Rainey and Ian Lim are the backcourt.  Senior Alex Battist takes over in the middle.  Senior Jordan Stensland is an option on the wing.

Osseo Orioles (2016-17 season 21-8, 13-6 Conference, 4th West)
Leading scorer and top shooter Zach Theisen (22 PPG) returns for the Orioles.  Maurice Nelson (9.4 PPG) also returns to the lineup after a productive season.  They do have to replace lots of firepower in the graduated Mar Mar Hughes (8.5 PPG) and the Bezdicek twins (combined over 20 PPG).  Soph Cornell Richardson should break into the rotation as a major threat.  Emmette Page (6.5 PPG) is an experienced returnee and Richard Mulbah is another front line option.

Park Center Pirates (2016-17 season 21-7, 14-5 Conference, 3rd West)
Star PG Losini Kamara (11.8 PPG) is off to Idaho but the Pirates are still very talented.  NDSU commit SG Jarius Cook returns after leading the team with 15.1 PPG last year.  Dain Dainja (8.7 PPG) mans the middle as one of the state's top sophomores.  A ton of other experience returns with juniors Khari Broadway (9.3 PPG) and Emmanuel Tamba (6.9 PPG).  Athletic forward Lavante Parker and junior Tommy Chatman are also talented options in the rotation.

Robbinsdale Armstrong Falcons (2016-17 season 18-9, 15-4 Conference, 2nd West)
Big loss for the Falcons as star forward Race Thompson decided to enroll at Indiana early and skip his senior year.  Forward Quinn Smith transferred to Maranatha.  Plus all the other starters graduated including the backcourt of Isaiah Rollins (13 PPG) and Davonte Saeed-El (12.9 PPG).  Isaiah Miller and Ben Inniger return to the perimeter rotation.  Cole Priem is another perimeter option who can shoot it.

Spring Lake Park Panthers (2016-17 season 5-22, 3-16 Conference, 6th West)
The Panthers took lumps with a young lineup and the injury to football star Zach Ojile.  Leading scorer Kameron Davis 18.2 PPG returns on the wing.  Elijah Elkerton (10.7 PPG) returns to the center spot and soph Gabe Myren (6.9 PPG) returns at a guard spot.  Ben Whann and Jackson Wenholz are experienced guards.  Junior Walker Steward (5.1 PPG) provides depth up front.

Totino-Grace Eagles (2016-17 season 15-13, 8-11 Conference, 5th West)
Nick Carroll takes over the program with Rob Ware now at Maranatha.  He has to replace the top 2 scorers from last year.  F Rocky Kreuser topped the list at 16.4 PPG and is now at NDSU.  Shooter Nathan Kavolak averaged 15.7 PPG.  The Eagles have their next 5 scorers return though.  G Charlie Jacob leads the way with 14.2 PPG.  Will Schmidt mans the middle at 8.9 PPG.  PG Braeden Mischke and SG Nick Flottmeier return at the guard spots.  Tyler Kittelson is an athletic returnee on the front line along with Sam Hanson.

Predicted Order of Finish

North Division
  1. Champlin Park   
  2. Elk River
  3. Centennial     
  4. Blaine  
  5. Andover 
  6. Anoka  
  7. Coon Rapids   
West Division
  1. Park Center
  2. Totino-Grace   
  3. Osseo 
  4. Maple Grove    
  5. Spring Lake Park
  6. Robbinsdale Armstrong 
  7. Irondale 
Conference Overview:
In the west, Park Center is the clear favorite and the 1 elite team in either division.  Totino-Grace has too much returning to not put them 2nd.  Osseo gets nod over Maple Grove thanks to a couple of returnees and experience.  Spring Lake Park moves up a spot with all of the losses at Armstrong and most of their roster back.  Irondale still takes up the last spot.

The north once again is noticeably weaker than than the west.  Only 1 player who averaged double figures returns in the division.  Champlin Park still has too much talent to not be the favorite.  Elk River is always solid and Centennial has a good group of guards coming back.  I see those teams fighting for 2nd.  Blaine looks to jump into that group as well.  I don't see the bottom 3 changing.  Coon Rapids moves down as they lose a ton.  Andover and Anoka fight to stay above the cellar.

Conference MVP: Jarius Cook - Park Center

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Cody Lindenberg - Anoka
  • Carter Anderson - Centennial 
  • Cooper Olson, Jared Walter - Champlin Park
  • Jackson Aurelius - Coon Rapids
  • Cornell Richardson - Osseo
  • Dain Dainja - Park Center 
  • Adam Biewen - Robbinsdale Armstrong
  • Gabe Myren, Jacob Say, Blake Remme, Daydor Phillips- Spring Lake Park
Conference Games to Watch
  • Totino-Grace at Park Center - Jan 11th
  • Park Center at Totino-Grace - Jan 30th 
  • Champlin Park at Park Center - Feb 2nd
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Park Center vs Minnehaha - Dec 9th (Tipoff Classic at Hopkins) 
  • Hopkins at Champlin Park - Dec 12th
  • Park Center at Wayzata - Dec 15th

2017-18 Lake Conference Preview

This is the 10th preview in my 2017-2018 season preview series.  In this preview, week 3 rolls on with a look at the Lake Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are done, click here.

Eden Prairie Eagles (2016-17 season 16-13, 3-5 Conference, 3rd)
20 PPG from guard Owen Chose and defender Will Pahl both need to be replaced.  The rest of the rotation is back.  Senior Kyler Kluge (13.2 PPG) and soph Drake Dobbs (11.8 PPG) will carry the offensive load from the perimeter and do the ball handling.  Soph forward Austin Andrews (8.6 PPG) returns to lead the front court.  Seniors Antonio Montero, Jack Tuttle and DJ Johnson return to the rotation with soph Connor Christensen.

Edina Hornets (2016-17 season 18-10, 3-5 Conference, 4th)
Senior PG Walt McGrory (23.1 PPG) needs to be replaced.  Senior Anders Nelson averaged 15.7 PPG and will step into that role.  Junior wing Jack Middleton should see his 7.6 PPG go up significantly with his sharpshooting.  Luke Glenna provides defense and experience in the backcourt.  Size needs to be replaced up front with the graduation of Matt Hofrenning.  The Hornets move their home games from the Edina Community Center to the high school this season.

Hopkins Royals (2016-17 season 23-6, 6-2 Conference, Tie 1st)
Hopkins has to replace D1 players in Ish El-Amin (20.1 PPG) and Simon Wright (16 PPG).  But the Royals still expect to be in the running for a state title.  The backcourt is experienced with soph PG Blaise Beauchamp (11.8 PPG) and Anthony Davis (11.5 PPG).  Then the front court is as good as any with senior Joe Hedstrom (8.6 PPG) and junior Zeke Nnaji (8.1 PPG).  Breck transfer Kerwin Walton is a candidate to be the other perimeter starter.  They'll have plenty of depth at all positions with players like Dane Zimmer and Andrew Dahnke.

Minnetonka Skippers (2016-17 season 12-15, 2-6 Conference, 5th)
The Skippers lose their 3 double figure scorers from last season.  That accounts for over 40 PPG and takes away their best 2 wings and inside man.  Coach Ryan Freeberg has pieces to work with though.  Junior Jalen Dearring (7.7 PPG) runs the point and is the top returnee.  Soph Cam Steele and senior Peter Haas will handle inside duties.  Jon Martens returns on a wing and junior Aaron Syverson gives them another guard option.  Hopkins transfer Andy Stafford should also contribute.

Wayzata Trojans (2016-17 season 28-4, 6-2 Conference, Tie 1st)
Wayzata also has to replace a dynamic duo.  Gavin Baumgartner and Ryan Lindberg combined for over 30 PPG last year.  But the backcourt will still be strong, if not big, with juniors Jacob Beeninga (12.9 PPG) and Luke Paulson to handle the ball and shoot it.  Senior sniper Drew Galinson should fill Lindberg's role.  So expect the Trojans to still shoot the lights out.   No experience returns at the big man spots.  Tanner Jonas is an option there.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Hopkins
  2. Wayzata
  3. Eden Prairie
  4. Edina
  5. Minnetonka
Conference Overview
The league is marked by outstanding guard play on every roster.  Hopkins gets the nod here because they're the 1 team that also has an interior game (a very good one at that).  Wayzata will miss Gavin Baumgartner's versatility on both ends but they have enough shooting to be 2nd here.  Eden Prairie and Edina are similar teams to last year and Eden Prairie won big twice last year so I give them 3rd.  Minnetonka is the only team left so they are at the bottom.  But they split with both Eden Prairie and Edina last year so I could see anything happening 3 thru 5.  Anders Nelson gets my MVP nod due to value to team.  The other teams have more depth to compensate for a star injury.

Conference MVP: Anders Nelson - Edina

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Drake Dobbs, Austin Andrews, Connor Christensen, Lukas Dunford - Eden Prairie
  • Blaise Beauchamp, Kerwin Walton - Hopkins
  • Cam Steele- Minnetonka
Conference Games to Watch
  • Wayzata at Hopkins - Jan 12th
  • Hopkins at Wayzata - Feb 16th
 Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Cretin Derham-Hall at Hopkins - Dec 2nd (Girls Tipoff Classic)
  • De La Salle at Hopkins - Dec 9th (Tipoff Classic)
  • Hopkins at Champlin Park - Dec 12th
  • Lakeville North at Wayzata - Dec 12th
  • Park Center at Wayzata - Dec 15th
  • Wayzata vs Orono - Dec 21st (Hamline Tournament)
  • Hopkins vs Minnehaha (projected) - Dec 23rd (Augsburg Tournament)
  • Hopkins vs St. Thomas Academy - Dec 27th (UST Tourney)
  • Wayzata vs St. Thomas Academy - Dec 28th (UST Tourney)
  • Hopkins at Orono - Jan 9th
  • Hopkins at Minneapolis North - Feb 13th
  • Wayzata at De La Salle - Feb 23rd

2017-18 Metro West Conference Preview

This is the 9th preview in my 2017-2018 season preview series.  This 3rd week and final week of conference previews will cover mostly class AAAA schools.  Then next week we'll move on to the 2nd half of the preview series by looking at the metro area sections.  In this preview, a look at the Metro West Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are done, click here.

Benilde St. Margaret's Red Knights (2016-17 season 10-17, 4-10 Conference, 6th)
Big loss for the Red Knights as forward Jamison Battle transferred to De La Salle.  He was their top scorer at 15 PPG.  G Will Whitmore (12.6 PPG) and Derek Drees (14.1 PPG) graduated.  That's over 41 PPG that needs to be replaced.  Joe Dunn (9.3 PPG) returns to the front line as the top returning scorer.  Gabe Alada (athleticism) and Carter Uphus (length) are a couple of other experienced rotation players.  Riley Miller and Dylan Drees are other options.

Bloomington Jefferson Jaguars (2016-17 season 22-5, 13-1 Conference, Tie 1st)
Jefferson has to replace 4 of their top 5 scorers.  That includes 19.6 PPG from forward Tyler Riemersma who's now at Navy.  PG Joe Hird and Jack Tillotson are also big losses.  Mike Evens is the top returnee from a balanced group.  Gavin Lyons is another offensive option on the win.  Chris Seymore provides an experienced defensive guard.  The JV squad had great success last year so expect the Jags to reload.

Bloomington Kennedy Eagles (2016-17 season 7-19, 1-13 Conference, 8th)
Kennedy looked like a surprise story after a 4-1 start, but finished 3-18 after that.  Jamin Cook comes over from Washburn to be the 3rd head coach in 3 years.  While they lose forward Josh Bryant (12.9 PPG), they do have a couple of pieces to work with.  PG Markel Aune averaged 18.7 PPG and has big man Krystian Toliver  (10.5 PPG) as a secondary option.  Isaiah Stone and Issac Coutier return on the perimeter.  Allen Ardley returns with size.

Chanhassen Storm (2016-17 season 12-15, 8-6 Conference, 3rd)
Leading scorer Trey Prince and 17.6 PPG has graduated.  Guard Chris Wandling is the top returnee as 10.2 PPG.   Austin Carter is another top offensive option on the wing.  Ryder Hutton also returns to the rotation. 

Chaska Hawks (2016-17 season 24-7, 13-1 Conference, Tie 1st)
Is this the 1st year that the Hawks don't hoist a league title?  Star forward Myles Hanson (24.3 PPG), point guard Andrew Kallman (12.9 PPG) and Alex Strazzanti are 3 big losses.  Junior forward Cole Nicholson (13.1 PPG) leads the returning group.  Parker Bjorklund returns as a ball handling option.  Matt Eliason returns as a defensive specialist.  I look for soph Zach Lea to step up from JV and provide plenty of offense.

Richfield Spartans (2016-17 season 10-19, 3-11 Conference, 7th)
Richfield made a surprise run to the section final last season after losing 9 of their last 10 in the regular season.  They have to replace the size and athleticism of Antonio Maddox (13.5 PPG) and Davis Miles.  But they have Devin Wade-Henderson (14.1 PPG) returning as a go to guy on the wing.  Emmanuel Blackshear (8.4 PPG) and Anthony Sanders are experienced guards.

Robbinsdale Cooper Hawks (2016-17 season 13-13, 7-7 Conference, Tie 4th)
Leading scorer Beijan Newbern (20.3 PPG) is now at Maranatha.  Forward Damien Gordon  and his 12.3 PPG graduated.  But Bo Powell still has plenty to work with for his havoc system.  Junior guard Jalen Justice averaged 12.3 PPG.  Senior Nate Hill was also in double figures at 11.6 PPG.  Jalen Miller, Onte Burns and Trokon Massey all saw significant minutes last year.
St. Louis Park Orioles (2016-17 season 14-14, 7-7 Conference, Tie 4th)
Wing Mykal Howard (10.4 PPG) and center Ryan Domres (6.8 PPG) are 2 significant pieces that graduated.  The backcourt will be solid with PG Cire Mayfield (12.9 PPG) as the top returnee and SG Joey Whitlock (10.1) PPG both returning.  Forward Aidan Doherty (10.1 PPG) also returns to the lineup.  No other notable experience returns.  Junior Anthony Rayson is a top candidate for a post spot.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Bloomington Jefferson  
  2. Chaska
  3. St. Louis Park
  4. Robbinsdale Cooper  
  5. Chanhassen 
  6. Benilde-St. Margaret's  
  7. Bloomington Kennedy
  8. Richfield 
Conference Overview
There's no team that really sticks out here and there's lots of mediocrity.  Jefferson and Chaska will reload and are too well coached to drop that far with this group.  St. Louis Park has a solid perimeter trio so I take them as the best of the rest.  Cooper is also in that discussion as their running and trapping style can get people.  The rest of the league isn't good.  Chanhassen was better than I thought they'd be last year so I'll give them a benefit here.  Benilde-St. Margaret's has heavy losses.  Kennedy has another new head coach and has underachieved.  What help will Devin Wade-Henderson have at Richfield?

Conference MVP: Cire Mayfield - St. Louis Park

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Zach Lea - Chaska
  • Luke Gitzen - Chanhassen
Conference Games to Watch
  • Chaska at Bloomington Jefferson - Jan 19th
  • Bloomington Jefferson at Chaska - Feb 13th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Chaska at North St. Paul - Dec 2nd 
  • Chaska at Eden Prairie - Dec 27th
  • Wayzata at Jefferson - Jan 2nd
  • Jefferson at Eden Prairie - Jan 9th
  • Chaska at Delano - Jan 9th
  • Orono at Chaska - Jan 11th

2017-18 Metro East Conference Preview

This is the 8th preview in my 2017-2018 season preview series.  Thanks to the traditional MEA break, we'll end this 2nd week of previews here with a look at the Metro East Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and an explanation of how the previews are generated, click here.

Hastings Raiders (2016-17 season 12-15, 8-8 Conference, 5th)
Senior forward Sawyer Levos averaged 13 points a game last season.  He is the only member of the starting lineup and top 7 scorers that returns.   Those losses include tough Colin Kummer (13.6 PPG) and shooter Brandon Haraldson (12.1 PPG).  Grant Hollar moves up in the rotation at a guard spot.  Levi Zak will see time up front.

Henry Sibley Warriors (2016-17 season 5-22, 4-12 Conference, 7th)
Senior PG Rieshaun Satar more than doubled his production to 19 PPG last season.  Center Antonio and wing Jack Korte both averaged double figures and need to be replaced.  Junior forward Malik Spearman saw major minutes last year and should see a significant increase in production.  Junior Elijah Lonetree also returns to the rotation.

Hill-Murray Pioneers (2015-17 season 5-22, 3-12 Conference, 8th)
The Pioneers have a big task in replacing 30.9 PPG from PG Simeon Davis.  The next 3 scorers do return but none were over 7 PPG.  Lance Meniboon gives them an athletic perimeter player.  Matt Langer and lefty forward Ryan Vimr also return to the rotation.  Their guard play without Davis struggled last year.  That means handling pressure could be a major problem.

Mahtomedi Zephyrs (2016-17 season 24-4, 14-2 Conference, 1st)
Mahtomedi built everything up for last year.  Now the entire rotation has graduated.  That includes high flying forward Parker Fox and his 23.3 PPG.  Forward Jack Shay looks like the top option.  Timmy Lindquist will be a top backcourt option.  Soph center Cole Chapman will be an option as well.

North Polars (2016-17 season 17-10, 11-5 Conference, 4th)
Former Gopher player Damien Johnson takes over for Joe Janquart who moved on to Lakeville South.  He has 2 nice pieces to work with as seniors Goodnews Kpegeol and PG Bryce Phillips return as the top 2 scorers (20.9 and 10 PPG).  They'll miss the shooting of Josh Steckler (9.2 PPG).  Dylan Bateman looks to replace that.  Soph Brenden Lankford-Johnson saw minutes in the middle last year as a freshman.  Tytist Dean should be the replacement on the wing for the athletic role guys they lost.
St. Thomas Academy Cadets (2016-17 season 24-8, 12-4 Conference, 3rd)
Coach Jason Birr took the Cadets to the state tourney last season.  The Cadets look to repeat that with their top 3 scorers returning.  Junior guard Jack Thompson leads the team with 16.3 PPG.  Forward Sam Vascellaro is another solid option at 13 PPG.  George Stewart works inside (9 PPG).  A ton of role guys behind them need to be replaced.  Junior Noah Chamberlain is the top candidate to break out.

Simley Spartans (2016-17 season 13-15, 5-10 Conference, 6th)
The 19 PPG mismatch quality of DeAndre Smith and 10.1 PPG from Logan Tschida need to be replaced.  Senior Jake Binley averaged 19 PPG last season and could see a jump in that this season.  He'll have help from shooter Sam Vujovich and junior Isaiah Robinson.  Their size will be inexperienced.  Skyler Clairmont looks to be their top option there.

South St. Paul Packers (2016-17 season 1-25, 0-16 Conference, 9th)
57 straight league home losses now for the Packers.  All 3 double figure scorers and plenty of the rotation have graduated.  Those double figure scorers accounted for almost 44 points per game.  Mark Williams and Hamza Hussein appear to be top internal options.  Rumor has it they've picked up some talented from the east side of St. Paul that could contribute.

Tartan Titans (2016-17 season 25-4, 14-2 Conference, 2nd)
Similar to Mahtomedi, Tartan also has to replace everything.  That includes 4 double figure scorers lead by 18.5 PPG from D1 point guard Jordan Horn.  However the Titans do have junior guard Antwan Kimmons (6 PPG) returning to the rotation as the top option.  They do have some quality JV options moving up.  That includes Andre Jenkins-Whitmore along with juniors Matt Maanum and M'Akil Weems.  Senior Brady Hartman should provide size.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. St. Thomas Academy     
  2. North
  3. Tartan
  4. Mahtomedi
  5. Simley  
  6. Hastings   
  7. Henry Sibley 
  8. Hill-Murray 
  9. South St. Paul
Conference Overview
St. Thomas Academy is the clear favorite with their stars and coach coming back.  North can give them a run but will need time to adjust to the coaching change.  After that heavy losses for last season's top teams.  Tartan and Mahtomedi will rely on JV guys from last year.  Hastings and Simley have 1 quality guy coming back but important losses.  Sibley will try to ride Rieshaun Satar into that group.  Hill-Murray and South St. Paul will struggle.

Conference MVP: Goodnews Kpegeol - North St. Paul

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Cole Chapman - Mahtomedi
  • Brenden Lankford-Johnson - North
Conference Games to Watch
  • North at St. Thomas Academy - Jan 19th
  • St. Thomas Academy at North - Feb 9th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Chaska at North - Dec 2nd
  • St. Thomas Academy vs Osseo - Dec 9th (Tipoff Classic at Hopkins)
  • North vs Eden Prairie - Dec 9th (Tipoff Classic at Hopkins)
  • St. Thomas Academy at Apple Valley - Dec 15th
  • North at Woodbury - Dec 21st
  • Cretin-Derham Hall at St. Thomas Academy - Dec 23rd
  • St. Thomas Academy vs Hopkins - Dec 27th (UST Holiday Tourney)
  • St. Thomas Academy vs Wayzata - Dec 28th (UST Holiday Tourney)

2017-18 Minneapolis City Preview

This is the 7th preview in my 2017-2018 season preview series.  Yesterday was the St. Paul City Conference, now equal time for the Minneapolis City Conference.  For a list of all the season previews, click here.

Edison Tommies (2016-17 season 3-25, 1-13 Conference, Tie 7th)
Edison broke a 50 game league losing streak by beating FAIR late last season.  With FAIR now combining with Henry, that means the Tommies haven't beaten a league opponent since the 2012-13 season.  The program combines with Heritage Academy this season.  That includes new head coach Ahmil Jihad who was the head man at Heritage last year.  That will add much needed athleticism.  1 double figure scorer is lost.  Guard Tenzin Chime (11.1 PPG) is the top returnee along with junior forward Jackson Rusnacko (10.7 PPG). 

North Polars (2016-17 season 32-2, 14-0 Conference, 1st)
Despite losing high scoring forward Isaac Johnson (23.4 PPG) and guard JaQuan Sanders-Smith (11.8 PPG), the Polars still are the heavy favorite.  Senior Odell Wilson's 17.1 PPG holds down the post as the top returning scorer.  Wing Tayler Johnson will see a much expanded role after averaging almost double figures.  Zion Sanford will run the show.  Juniors Nasir El-Amin and Eli Campbell will step into bigger rotation roles at the guard spots.  The Hines twins, Da'Kei and Da'Koi, give them a ton of length inside. 

Patrick Henry Patriots (2016-17 season 20-8, 10-2 Conference, 2nd)
North sider Jamil Jackson takes over the program.  He has to replace 4 double figure scorers who combined for 57 points a game.  That includes forward Lamar Wood and guard Jordan Lynn.  Junior guard Rashaud Rollins is the lone returning starter and top scorer with 7.7 PPG.  William Laabs looks to take over the interior role.  Guard Devon Johnson also returns to the rotation.

Roosevelt Teddies (2016-17 season 20-9, 10-4 Conference, 3rd)
Roosevelt combines with Wellstone for hoops this year.  The Teddies have to replace 3 double-figure scorers including forwards Jordan Johnston and Devon Hannah.  But coach Rob Mestas still has plenty coming back.  Guards Desi Sims and Leo Buchwald both averaged double figures.  Forward Luke Barnes and guard Eric Atson also return.  Barnes is their only size but the Teddies will scrap and claw their way thru it.

South Tigers (2016-17 season 5-22, 5-9 Conference, 6th)
It was one of those seasons where nothing went right for coach Joe Hyser.  Injuries destroyed the lineup.  Soph Curtis Jones was one of those who missed time.  He returns as the only double figure scorer (10.5 PPG).  Guard Jalan Jones and Demetrius Gladney also return to the lineup.  3 of their top guards need to be replaced.  Cossy Kowouto gives them a big body inside. 

Southwest Lakers (2016-17 season 9-18, 6-8 Conference, 5th)
Forward Brennan Hawkins and 16.3 PPG needs to be replaced.  Forward Niko Polydorou (16.2 PPG) is the top returnee.  Ari-Bogen-Grose and big man Alex Fischer return to the lineup.  JayZee Brown will step into a bigger role in the guard rotation

Washburn Millers (2016-17 season 14-11, 7-7 Conference, 4th)
Head coach Jamin Cook left for the Bloomington Kennedy job.  The job has not been filled at the time of this writing.  Guard Cortez Adams and his 10.9 PPG graduated.  Leading scorer Terrell Adams (13.3 PPG) and PG Isaac Lotz (8.1 PPG) are the top returning players.  Charles Cook-Gordon and Damon Neubert return to the perimeter rotation.  Gavin Yares returns and will take over the top role inside.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. North
  2. Roosevelt
  3. Washburn
  4. Henry
  5. South 
  6. Southwest 
  7. Edison
Conference Overview
North is the runaway favorite this year.  Roosevelt and Washburn are in the next tier but I like Roosevelt here especially with the late coaching change at Washburn.  Edison brings up the rear with the other 3 fighting for middle spots.  I'll go with Henry by default.  South jumps up over Southwest if they can stay healthy.

Conference MVP: Odell Wilson - North

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Trejuan Holloman - North
  • Yusuf Abdullah, Jamar Gardner - Henry
  • Curtis Jones, Jaylen Blakley, Demarco Dowden - South
Conference Games to Watch
  • Roosevelt at North - Jan 19th
  • North at Roosevelt - Feb 20th
  • Twin Cities Game - Mar 3rd (at St. Paul champion)
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • North vs Apple Valley - Dec 9th (Tipoff Classic at Hopkins)
  • Eden Prairie at North - Jan 3rd
  • North at Minnehaha - Jan 25th
  • Hopkins at North - Feb 13th

2017-18 St. Paul City Conference Preview

This is the 6th preview in my 2017-2018 season preview series.  In Week 1, it was suburban schools and private schools.  To start week 2, we move to the city schools.  That equals 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 (2016-17 season 15-13, 11-1 Conference, 1st)
Star forward Daveonte Davis returns after averaging over 16 PPG last season and is only a junior.  Fellow juniors Luke McElroy (10.2 PPG) and Ronelle Porter should comprise the starting backcourt.  Dion Ford also returns to the rotation.  Forwards Re'Twan Balenger and Shawn Blanchard were important scoring options that need to be replaced.

Como Park Cougars (2016-17 season 8-18, 5-7 Conference, 5th)
Leading scorer Trey Clark (13.1 PPG) and Brian King-Keller (8.5 PPG) are the top returning threats.  Center Donald Ventrelli returns to the lineup as a banger.  Point guard Jason Jett and guard Kyrin Woodard are 2 major losses on the perimeter after combining for over 23 PPG.

Harding Knights (2016-17 season 7-18, 3-9 Conference, 6th)
The Knights have a serious scoring threat in PG Jovan Christian (19 PPG).  2 other double figure scorers return at the guard spots as well, De'Million Randle (10.7 PPG) and Nuradean Adam (10.2 PPG).  Forward Chris English averaged 13.6 PPG but has graduated.  Davonte Bolton provide their size. 

Highland Park Scots (2016-17 season 23-5, 10-2 Conference, 2nd)
Assistant Undre Ellis takes over for Jon DePerry in the 1st chair.  He has 2 major pieces to replace in 20.2 PPG guard Amitri Collins-Westlund and 19 PPG from athletic forward Dreem Kelly-Jabbar.  Junior guard Evan Brodtman is the top returning player at 6.1 PPG.  Mohamoud Bue also returns at a guard spot.  Gopher football commit Josh Aune will provide muscle up front.

Humboldt Hawks (2016-17 season 9-19, 1-11 Conference, 7th)
Humboldt has to replace 3 of their 4 double figure scorers.  They combined for over 42 points per game.  Senior Derron Riley is the 1 returnee of the 4 and he averaged 12.6 PPG.  Junior Darnell King and senior Avrik Bell are other returning options. 

Johnson Governors (2016-17 season 11-13, 7-5 Conference, 3rd)
The 13 year run of league titles is over.  Leading scorer Kyle Lee returns with 12.6 PPG.  4 of the next 5 top scorers also return for coach Vern Simmons.  Artereal Spriggs and Keylan Jackson will be the size.  Shemar Tucker-Adams, Kobe Anderson and Lamonte White are the top guard options.  Forward Justin Yang's 12.5 PPG needs to be replaced. 

Washington Eagles (2016-17 season 13-15, 5-7 Conference, 4th)
Washington has to replace one of league's top players in Curtis Bell (25.5 PPG).  They also have to replace their other 2 double figure scorers in guards Maurice Carter and James Boua-Taylor.  Soph forward Drewjuan White could have a breakout season after averaging 7.2 PPG last year.  Jackson Carver is another scoring option.  Junior center Da'Quan Grimes is experienced in the middle.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Central 
  2. Johnson
  3. Highland Park
  4. Washington
  5. Como Park
  6. Harding  
  7. Humboldt 
Conference Overview:
My view is that Central retains the top spot.  Johnson has a bounce back year and is the only team who can give them a serious run.  After that, a major drop off.  Highland Park and Washington have major losses but still as good as anybody else.  Como Park and Harding could jump into that group as they have some fire power coming back.  Humboldt holds down the last spot.

Conference MVP: Daveonte Davis - Central

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Drewjuan White - Washington
Conference Games to Watch
  • Johnson at Central - Jan 12th
  • Central at Johnson - Feb 5th
  • Twin Cities Game - Mar 3rd (at St. Paul champion)
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Central at Cretin-Derham Hall - Nov 30th
  • Delano at Central - Dec 12th
  • East Ridge at Central - Jan 3rd
  • Central at Minnehaha - Mar 1st

2017-18 Tri-Metro Preview

This is the 5th preview in my 2017-2018 season preview series.  Week 1 of the 6 week long series concludes with a look at the Tri-Metro Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Academy of Holy Angels Stars (2016-17 season 3-22, 2-10 Conference, 5th West)
Forward Sam Boehne and his 19 PPG needs to be replaced.  Senior wing Ryan Mazurek is the top returnee at 10.4 PPG.  Senior Jacob Werle is the other returning starter.  Juniors Tommy Shelstad and lefty Max Gerstner lead the full bench group that returns.
Brooklyn Center Centaurs (2016-17 season 19-8, 9-3 Conference, 2nd West)
Athletic forward Davonta Price (14.5 PPG) and guard Deshawn Pickford (13 PPG) need to be replaced.  All the other major contributors last year were talented underclassmen.  That starts with leading scorer Lu'Cye Patterson  (16.8 PPG) returning to run the point as a sophomore.  Junior wing Adreone Sprinkles averaged 13+ a night as the top shooter.  Soph Rudwan Tahir is an experienced defensive piece along with junior Quentrell Douglas in the rotation.

Columbia Heights Hylanders (2016-17 season 22-10, 8-4 Conference, 3rd West)
The Hylanders look to make noise in AAA this year with all of their top players returning.  3 double figure scorers return.  That includes Deaundra Roberson on the wing (17.7 PPG), forward Wendell Matthews inside  (15.9 PPG) and point guard Quentin Hardrict (13.9 PPG).  Christian Kelly is another solid wing.  Junior Jarvis Wright was a revelation off the bench.  They will need to find depth as they lose role guys Kadeem Thomas, Nate Sherefaw and Airreon Austin.
Concordia Academy Beacons (2016-17 season 8-19, 0-11 Conference, 4th East)
Concordia returns their top 3 scorers including 2 in double figures.  Junior forward Barnabas Preble averaged 13.2 PPG.  Senior guard Gavin Harbo averaged 11.2 PPG.  Senior Casey Hackett also returns to the rotation.  Lots of depth behind that is lost and will need to be replaced.  A pair of sophomores could be the answer to that.

De La Salle Islanders (2016-17 season 27-3, 12-0 Conference, 1st West)
Islander alumnus and former Centennial head coach Travis Bledsoe takes over for legend Dave Thorson who's now an assistant at Drake.  Star forward Goanar Mar and his 21 PPG is the biggest loss.  The shooting of Dominic Bledsoe will also be missed.  Senior wing Gabe Kalscheur (17.7 PPG) will take on the bulk of the scoring.  Junior Jamison Battle comes over from Benilde-St. Margaret's to man the other wing.  Junior point guard Tyrell Terry will run the show again.  Christian Dickson and Sage Booker are high quality defensive role guys.  The interior will be the question.  The development of Malik Lamin inside will be something to watch.

Fridley Tigers (2016-17 season 14-13, 5-7 Conference, 4th West)
High scoring guard Tirik Reeves and his 20 PPG are a major loss for the Tigers.  3 starters return including Jerome Cunningham (10.9 PPG) and shooter Evan Nelsen (10.6 PPG).  Nate Soto is the other returning starter.  Junior Casey Fisher should see more time at the point guard spot.

St. Agnes Aggies (2016-17 season 14-15, 2-9 Conference, 3rd East)
Coach Chris Hopkins has to replace 4 of his top 5 players.  Darius Lopez (16.8 PPG) and Brandon Plasch (11.4 PPG) graduated.  Athletic forward Gary Smith  (11.8 PPG) is now at Roseville.  Junior big man Jonathan Prokop will not return.  The small junior guard duo of Terrell Jones and Kentale Morris will lead the way.

St. Anthony Huskies (2016-17 season 19-8, 6-5 Conference, 2nd East)
Forward Rhys Langums and his 19.3 PPG as one of the top big men in the league has graduated.  Soph Tait Nelson (15.6 PPG) returns at the point and senior shooter Aaron Smith (16.1 PPG) return as a very good backcourt.  Mickey Jah also returns to the starting lineup.  Drew Nelson and Abe Jaeger Mountain will provide experienced depth.

St. Croix Lutheran Crusaders (2016-17 season 16-13, 8-3 Conference, 1st East)
Forward Jamaris Johnson is the lone starter that graduated.  His 13.9 PPG and athleticism will be missed.  But the Crusaders return 4 senior starters and 2 reserves.  was a revelation once added to the starting lineup last year.  Forwards Garett Maag and Jack Kuckhahn are the top offensive options at 15.9 and 11.9 PPG respectively.  Stephen Kletcher does the inside dirty work and Aaron Jenniges runs the point.  Adam Arroyo and Dorrell Bratton return to the rotation as well.

Predicted Order of Finish

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

Conference Overview:
Once again the west division has the heavyweights.  Expect the top 3 teams to be in the state polls all season.  De La Salle remains the favorite but not as heavy as past years.  Columbia Heights and Brooklyn Center will both look to give them a run.  Brooklyn Center won 2 close games vs Heights last year but since that logic didn't work for me last year in picks, I'll say a tie for 2nd.  Fridley and Holy Angels fall in behind them.

The east should look about the same as last year.  St. Croix Lutheran will take the top spot with St. Anthony behind them.  Concordia with returnees and St. Agnes with major losses will swap spots.  But both are a level behind the saints at the top of the division.

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Lu'Cye Patterson, Rudwan Tahir - Brooklyn Center
  • Aaron Terhaar, Bryce Paul - Concordia
  • Conor O'Rourke - Holy Angels
  • Xavier Garcia - St. Croix Lutheran
  • Tait Nelson, Jeremiah Lucas - St. Anthony
Conference Games to Watch
  • Columbia Heights at Brooklyn Center - Jan 9th
  • De La Salle at Brooklyn Center - Jan 16th
  • Brooklyn Center at St. Croix Lutheran - Jan 19th
  • St. Anthony at St. Croix Lutheran - Jan 26th
  • St. Croix Lutheran at Columbia Heights - Jan 30th
  • De La Salle at St. Croix Lutheran - Feb 1st
  • De La Salle at Columbia Heights - Feb 13th
  • St. Croix Lutheran at St. Anthony - Feb 16th
  • Brooklyn Center at De La Salle - Feb 20th 
  • Brooklyn Center at Columbia Heights - Feb 23rd
  • Columbia Heights at De La Salle - Mar 2nd
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • De La Salle vs Iowa City West - Dec 2nd (Breakdown Girls Tipoff at Hopkins)
  • De La Salle vs Hopkins - Dec 9th (Breakdown Tipoff at Hopkins)
  • Brooklyn Center at Minneapolis North Holiday Tourney - Dec 27-28
  • De La Salle  at Cretin-Derham Hall - Feb 10th 
  • Minnehaha at Columbia Heights - Feb 16th
  • Wayzata at De La Salle - Feb 23rd

2017-18 IMAC Preview

This is the 4th preview in my 2017-2018 season preview series.  Week 1 of the 6 week series fully transitions to local class AA and higher schools with a look at the Independent Metro Athletic Conference (IMAC).  For a list of all the season previews and how they are done, click here.

Blake Bears (2016-17 season 10-17, 5-4 Conference, 3rd)
The Bears lose 4 top senior scorers plus 20 PPG game from Jack Moe who left for California.  The top 2 returnees are freshmen Robert Grace and Gabe Ganz.  Juniors Alex Martha and Isaac Gittleman should see increased roles.

Breck Mustangs (2016-17 season 19-10, 8-2 Conference, 2nd)
Star forward David Robby returns to the lineup.  He averaged 18.3 PPG last year and had a very good AAU season.  Guard Elijah Zackery also returns to the starting lineup.  Josh Roddy and Joey Ganley also return to the rotation.  The size of Sam Willey inside will need to be replaced.  Biggest loss is the transfer of soph wing Kerwin Walton (16.3 PPG) to Hopkins.

Minnehaha Academy Redhawks (2016-17 season 26-5, 7-0 Conference, 1st)
The defending conference and class AA champs are the favorites to repeat.  They carry a 19 game winning streak in league games going back 3 seasons.  The Redhawks lose only 1 notable senior, forward Jose Williamson.  Top 5 national player in 2020 Jalen Suggs (21.5 PPG) and senior forward JaVonni Bickham (14.5 PPG) lead a loaded group of 5 returnees that averaged double figures.  Senior Lorenzo Smith and sophs Terry Lockett and Kaden Johnson all averaged double figures and return on the wings.  Freshman Chet Holmgren and 8th grader Prince Aligbe are the next youngsters in line.

Mounds Park Academy Panthers (2016-17 season 3-20, 0-9 Conference, 6th)
2009 guard and former JV coach Jacob Schwartz takes over at his alma mater.  The program's all-time leading scorer Brendan Connolly graduates.  He was the only double figure scorer last year at 16.4 PPG.  Guard Nick Guiang and center Tom Fitzgerald are the top returnees. Anthony Kuba and Ben Nippolt also return to the rotation.  The program is 0-29 in conference play in the 3 year history of the IMAC.

Providence Academy Lions (2016-17 season 7-19, 4-5 Conference, 4th)
Juniors Mark Richelsen and Dylan Servais return after averaging double figures last season.  Richelsen was the team leader at 17.6 PPG.  Junior Sam Young and Joey Fafinski return to the rotation as well.  Jackson Baird and the size of Gavin Blomberg inside will need to be replaced.  Senior Adam Kettler should step into that inside role.

St. Paul Academy Spartans (2016-17 season 10-17, 3-7 Conference, 5th)
2 of the top 3 scorers for SPA depart.  Tommy Dicke and Emerson Egly are double figure scorers that will be hard to replace.  Leading scorer Gus Grunau returns with 13.8 PPG.  Ryan Moore (6.8 PPG) and Ryan Kuntz (8.9 PPG) also are returning starters.  The bench crew all returns.  Junior shooting guard Andrew Johnson leads that group with 6.1 PPG.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Minnehaha
  2. Breck
  3. Providence 
  4. Blake
  5. St. Paul Academy
  6. Mounds Park Academy
Conference Overview
Minnehaha is the obvious favorite here.  Their non-conference schedule is a ridiculous guantlet of the best across AA, AAA and AAAA.  Breck with just David Roddy is enough for clear 2nd here.  Providence with 2 top scorers back falls into clear 3rd.  The bottom 3 are going to have long seasons.  Blake and St. Paul Academy will fight for 4th.  Mounds Park Academy still fighting to get out of the cellar.

Conference MVP: Jalen Suggs - Minnehaha

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Robert Grace, Gabe Ganz- Blake
  • Jaren Morton - Breck
  • Jalen Suggs, Kaden Johnson, Terry Lockett, Chet Holmgren, Prince Aligbe - Minnehaha
Conference Games to Watch
  • Minnehaha at Breck - Jan 11th
  • Breck at Minnehaha - Jan 30th
 Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Minnehaha vs East Ridge- Dec 2nd (Girls Tipoff at Hopkins)
  • Breck at Brooklyn Center - Dec 5th
  • Minnehaha at Apple Valley - Dec 7th (ESPN game)
  • Breck vs Perham - Dec 9th (Boys Tipoff at Hopkins)
  • Eden Prairie at Minnehaha - Dec 12th
  • Minnehaha vs Hopkins (projected) -Dec 23rd (Augsburg Tournament championship)
  • Breck vs Orono - Jan 15th (MLK event at Totino-Grace)
  • Minneapolis North at Minnehaha - Jan 25th
  • Austin at Minnehaha - Feb 3rd
  • Breck at Maranatha - Feb 13th
  • Minnehaha at Columbia Heights - Feb 16th
  • Caledonia at Minnehaha - Feb 17th
  • St. Paul Central at Minnehaha - Mar 1st

2017-18 MCAA Preview

This is the third preview in my 2017-18 season preview series.  Week 1 of the 6 week series moves on with a look at the Minnesota Christian Athletic Association (MCAA).  For a list of all the season previews and how they are done, click here.

Bethany Academy Eagles (2016-17 season 15-11, 3-8 Conference, 10th)
After the departure of the head coach to New Life, many of the players followed him.  So Bethany will not have a team this season.  Whether those kids will be eligible at New Life this year is still to be determined.

Heritage Christian Academy Eagles (2016-17 season 23-6, 11-0 Conference, 1st)
Heritage holds a 26 game regular season conference winning streak going back to 2014-15.  That will be hard to uphold this year.  CJ Woda and Zach Johansen both averaged over 20 PPG and have to replaced.  Starting center Jack Vander Top also graduated.  Seth Halvorsen and guard Ben Allen are experienced returnees.

Legacy Christian Academy Lions (2016-17 season 15-13, 5-6 Conference, Tie 6th)
Assistant Josh Olson takes over as the 3rd head coach in 3 years at Legacy.  The backcourt duo of Lucas Nelson and Cole Bertsch was worth over 31 PPG last year and needs to be replaced.  Overall the top 4 scorers depart.  Junior Josh Hinrichs is the top returnee at 4.1 PPG.  Junior Justin Demars and Luke Chaika return to the lineup.

Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity Bulldogs (2016-17 season 12-15, 5-6 Conference, Tie 6th)
Junior guard Michael Ziermann is the top returnee with 13.3 PPG.  Expect that number to go up significantly this year.  Big man Rees Schutte and 18.9 PPG needs to be replaced inside.  He's one of 2 6'8" centers that graduate for the now smaller Bulldogs.  Guards Leighton Burr and Tyler Scheevel return to the lineup.

Maranatha Christian Academy Mustangs (2016-17 season 13-14, 6-5 Conference, 5th)
Rob Ware comes over from Totino-Grace to take the head job.  Transfers Beijan Newbern (Cooper) and Quinn Smith (Armstrong) provide a major boost to the roster.  That will ease the pain of losing 2 of their top 3 scorers.  That includes 14.5 PPG from guard Elisha Coleman.  Soph Hakim Daniels returns to the front line after averaging just under 10 PPG last season.  Juniors Julian Cavin and Jeff Ekiyor and Justin Mason provide experienced depth.

New Life Academy Eagles (2016-17 season 24-4, 9-2 Conference, 2nd)
Longtime head coach Doug Linton has moved up to D3 University of Northwestern-St. Paul.  2010 graduate Kory Kiekhofer comes home from Bethany to replace him.  8 seniors have to be replaced including all of their top perimeter play.  Kyle Kaemingk (17.5 PPG), Chris Ketema (13.1 PPG) and PG Adam Busch (8.6 PPG) are all major pieces that graduated there.  Size won't be a problem as senior forwards Drew Wynia (9 PPG) and Zach Thor return.  Tate Hullett should be a top option to step into the vacated perimeter roles.

PACT Charter Panthers (2016-17 season 2-25, 0-11 Conference, 12th)
Senior Cade Johnson had another big season with 22.5 PPG last season.  The rest of the roster returns along side of him.  That includes 8+ PPG from forward Bennett Olson and guard Matt Johnson.

St. Croix Prep Lions (2016-17 season 15-13, 5-6 Conference, Tie 6th)
Leading scorer Matt Kaul and his 17.5 PPG graduated.  Point guard Jayton Metcalf and almost 16 PPG returns. 9.3 PPG from Adam Wiering also is back.  Size is a question mark.

Southwest Christian Stars (2016-17 season 16-10, 9-2 Conference, 3rd)
This will be the final year for the Stars in the MCAA.  They'll move to the Minnesota River Conference next year.  4 major rotation pieces have to be replaced.  That includes guard Trey Sandness and his 11.7 PPG.  The backcourt as seems is always the case will be their strength.  Juniors Max Steensland (14.2 PPG, leading scorer last year) and Jalen Wight will be the main firepower.  Senior David Solfelt will provide the size.

Spectrum Sting (2016-17 season 11-15, 5-6 Conference, Tie 6th)
Spectrum returns their top 3 scorers.  Junior Cole Elrod tops the list at 16.2 PPG.  Junior Matthew Kruse and soph Max Lawrence also averaged double figures last year.  Kelton Sundstrom's double figure production needs to be replaced.  Fisher Marberg also returns to the rotation.

Trinity Tri-Hawks (2016-17 season 11-16, 6-5 Conference, 4th)
Leading scorer Luke Lodoen and his 10.5 PPG needs to be replaced.  But the rest of the rotation returns from a very balanced lineup.  The other 4 starters all return and averaged 6.9 to 9.8 PPG.  Plus no fewer than 4 bench players return as well.  Does somebody step up as a go-to scorer?

West Lutheran Warriors (2016-17 season 9-18, 2-9 Conference, 11th)
3 of the top 4 scorers depart.  That includes leading scorer Griffin Ewing and power forward Ben Beise who were their double figure scorers.  Junior Brett Volrath is the top returnee at 9.6 PPG.  Lefty Josh Englert also returns in the backcourt.

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Maranatha  
  2. Trinity
  3. Southwest Christian 
  4. Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity    
  5. New Life 
  6. Heritage Christian
  7. St. Croix Prep
  8. Spectrum  
  9. Legacy
  10. PACT  
  11. West Lutheran 
Conference Overview
Maranatha is far and away the favorite, especially with all the top teams coming there except for the long trip to Lester Prairie.  Trinity was a pleasant surprise last year.  With 8 returnees and major departures from the teams above them, I like them to make a jump.  The next group is a major jumble.  Very similar to last year where there were about 6 teams behind the top 3, only with 2 of those dropping back to the pack.  I see SW Christian, LP/HT and New Life in the next group as they have quality pieces coming back but significant losses.  Heritage is similar but the losses are bigger and returnees not at the same level.  St. Croix Prep with a healthy Jayton Metcalf and Spectrum with a solid group of returnees also fit into that group.  Legacy and West Lutheran have too much to replace and PACT struggled last year so those 3 make up the bottom group.

Conference MVP: Beijan Newbern - Maranatha

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • TJ Guggenberger - Heritage Christian 
  • Payton Thomsen - Legacy Christian
  • Hakim Daniels - Maranatha
  • Ben Kaus - New Life
  • Daniel McCarrell - St. Croix Prep
  • Max Lawrence - Spectrum
  • Troy Kokkinen- West Lutheran
Conference Games to Watch
  • Trinity at Maranatha - Jan 9th
  • Maranatha at Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity - Jan 23rd
  • MCAA Tournament Championship - Feb 24th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Maranatha at Mayer Lutheran - Dec 5th
  • Maranatha at Minnetonka - Feb 13th

2017-18 TCAC Divisions B and C Preview

This is the second preview in the 2017-2018 season preview series.  The 6 week preview series moves along with a 2 for 1 preview of Division B and Division C of the Twin Cities Athletic Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are done, click here.

Division B

Christian Life Academy Hawks (2016-17 season 7-17, 4-8 Conference, Tie 5th)
Christian  Life returns 6 of their top 7 scorers from last season.  That includes almost 13 PPG from senior Kyle Ringley and soph Jacob Kyllo's 10.9 PPG.  Juniors Caleb Carlson and Kyle Hovey also are experienced returnees.  Carlson will provide shooting and Hovey provides size.

Groves Academy Griffins (2016-17 season 3-24, 0-12 Conference, 7th)
Both double figure scorers return for Groves.  Senior guard Malik Bodden averaged 18.7 PPG.  Forward Max Bilcik averaged almost 15 PPG as a freshman.  The next 3 top scorers have departed.  Junior guard Larry Mohamed will one of the players to step into that void.

Learning for Leadership Mustangs (2016-17 season 15-11, 6-6 Conference, 4th)
High scoring duo Kafi Abdi and Badrudin Aden return for another season.  They combined for over 38 points a night with the 6'4" Abdi getting almost 25 of those.  They knocked off a couple of teams above them last year but gave those wins back with a couple losses below them to finish in the middle of the pack.

Liberty Classical Academy Lions (2016-17 season 18-9, 10-2 Conference, 1st)
The defending division champs need to replace their top 2 scorers in Luke Hill and Nate Bliss.  That's 19.2 and 16.5 PPG that are gone.  Peter Klarr is back on the front line with a team returning high 10.6 PPG.  William Reid and Noah Nelson also return to the lineup.

Math and Science Academy Dragons (2016-17 season 15-8, 9-3 Conference, Tie 2nd)
Rich Zellmer takes over for head coach Nathan Schroeder who moved on to be an assistant at New Life Academy.  The Dragons have to replace 2 big scorers in Brian Smith (23 PPG) and Andrew Jeyachandran (17.7 PPG).  Junior Ahmad Elhassen is the top returnee with 6 PPG.

Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf Trojans (2016-17 season 2-15, 0-9 in Division 1, 8th)
MSAD moves down from the top division of the league.  They have to replace their top 2 players Kyrell Cummings and Dawson Moder.  Juan Salgado is the top returnee.  Jon Schmidt also returns to the starting lineup.

Nova Classical Academy Knights (2016-17 season 12-12, 9-3 Conference, Tie 2nd)
The Knights lose only 1 senior from last year's team.  Isaiah Boudreaux leads a group of 3 returning double figure scorers.  Fellow senior Shae Nelson and junior Noah Olson were the other double figure scorers.  Junior Mathieu LaFrambois is also an experienced returnee.

Division C

Academy for Sciences and Agriculture Eagles (2016-17 season 14-9, 9-1 Conference, 1st)
AFSA loses their top 4 scorers from the division championship team.  That includes 11.8 PPG from Kyle Cantwell.  But they return the next 5.  Junior Cole Walker (7.9 PG) and senior James Wilfong (6.6 PPG) are the top returning scorers.  Soph DeAndre Mason returns to the rotation along with seniors Jackson Coenen and Najib Ahmed.  Jamey Strand takes over as head coach.  He previously spent time at Calvin Christian.

Calvin Christian Cougars (2016-17 season 11-16, 4-8 in Division 2, Tie 5th)
Calvin Christian moves down from the 2nd division.  Leading scorer Jaedan Schaap returns for the Cougars.  Big center Alex Meybaum and Brad Mateer are important pieces that need to be replaced.

Chesterton Academy  (2016-17 season 8-12, 4-5 Conference, 4th)
The move to the 3rd division definitely helped Chesterton play a more balanced schedule.  They lose only 1 senior from last year's roster.

Hmong Academy Warriors (2016-17 season 10-7, 6-4 Conference, 3rd)
Hmong Academy had one of their best seasons ever last year.  That was thanks to Chinou Vang.  He put up a huge season but now needs to be replaced.  Tidley Yang is one of the top returnees.

Metro Schools College Prep (2016-17 season 0-11, 0-8 Conference, 6th)
This crew suffered blowout losses all season.  No other information available.

North Lakes Academy Huskies (2016-17 season 6-20, 3-7 Conference, 5th)
North Lakes returns most of the major pieces of their roster.  Senior Alex Stockton and soph Ethan Crandell lead the way.  David Christopherson is the biggest loss. 

Shattuck St. Mary's Sabers (2016-17 season 6-3, 6-3 Conference, 2nd)
The Sabers have to replace a senior laden lineup.  Not much else known about this group

Predicted Order of Finish - Division B
  1. Nova Classical Academy
  2. Christian Life Academy
  3. Learning for Leadership
  4. Liberty Classical Academy 
  5. Math and Science Academy
  6. Groves Academy
  7. Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf
Division B Overview
Nova Classical is the favorite here with basically everybody back.  I picked Isaiah Bourdreaux as the division MVP last year and I'll do it again here.  Christian Life returns a ton as well.  They played the league leaders tough last year and those teams have big losses.  Kafi Abdi is enough to make Learning for Leadership dangerous but they were up and down last year.  Liberty Classical and Math and Science each have to replace their top 2 guys so I see those 2 teams falling back in the standings.  Liberty gets the nod as they still have a double figure scorer coming back.  Groves and MSAD struggled last year and I don't see that changing.

Predicted Order of Finish - Division C
  1. Academy for Sciences and Agriculture 
  2. Calvin Christian
  3. Shattuck-St. Mary's
  4. Hmong Academy
  5. North Lakes
  6. Chesterton Academy
  7. Metro Schools College Prep
Division C Overview
This is the most fun I'll have with a preview since I didn't see anybody in the division last year despite seeing 92 local teams.  AFSA loses a ton but they also have a lot of experience returning.  So that's enough for me to pick them to retain the crown.  Calvin Christian has my pick for the league MVP so they'll be up there as well.  Shattuck-St. Mary's is usually respectable in this group of teams so I'll pick them to stay fairly high.  Hmong Academy I put in the middle as they could go anywhere.  North Lakes and Chesterton have players returning but need to show they can compete at another level before I move them up.

Conference MVPs: 
  • Division B: Isaiah Boudreaux - Nova Classical Academy
  • Division C: Jaeden Schaap - Calvin Christian
Underclassmen to watch: 
  • DeAndre Mason - AFSA
  • Jacob Kyllo - Christian Life 
  • Max Bilcik - Groves 
  • Ben Horn - Liberty Classical
  • Jager Hansen - Math and Science Academy
  • Ethan Crandell - North Lakes
Conference Games to Watch
  • AFSA at Calvin Christian - Jan 12th
  • Nova at Christian Life - Jan 26th
  • Calvin Christian at AFSA - Feb 5th 
  • Nova at Learning for Leadership - Feb 5th
  • Christian Life at Nova - Feb 20th
  • TCAC Tournament Championships - Mar 3rd
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Nova at Maranatha - Dec 19th
  • CHOF at Nova - Jan 5th

2017-18 TCAC Division A and Independents Preview

This is the first preview in the 2017-2018 season preview series.  This is 11th annual edition of this series and we'll go for 6 weeks leading up to the start of practice November 20th .  The previews will be done starting with small schools and working up to the big schools.  That means the Twin Cities Athletic Conference (TCAC) goes first.  Since the league is 21 teams and 3 divisions, we'll break it into 2 previews.  In this preview a look at the top division of the league plus the small local independents.  Then in tomorrow's preview, we'll do the other 2 divisions of the league.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are done, click here.


CHOF Lions (2016-17 season 15-12)
The Lions have to replace 3 starters including their top 2 scorers, Jacob Bluhm and Dillon Alleman.  They combined for over 33 points a night.  Junior McCaleb Alleman averaged just over 10 PPG.  He returns along with senior Jackson Rohlf.  Rohlf averaged just under 10 PPG and is the only notable size on the roster.  Dawson Eckman also provides returning experience.  Junior Eric Strandlund should see an increased role.

Minnesota Transitions Wolves 
The Wolves cancelled their season due to lack of numbers and did not play last season.  No idea if they'll have a team this year or what that team would have.

TCAC Division A

Charter Stars (2016-17 season 8-19, 2-9 Conference, 7th)
Last year's lineup was a junior laden lineup.  That means the Stars lose only 1 notable senior from the rotation.  That should lead to an improved season.  Taye Carter and Brett McNeal are the top returnees.  They are still looking for a head coach at the time of this writing.

Community of Peace Academy Tigers (2016-17 season 10-16, 5-6 Conference, 5th)
CPA has to replace their top 4 scorers from last season.  That includes the all-conference duo of forward Ontario Chapman (18.5 PPG) and guard Edward Milton (13.7 PPG).  Soph Zaveon Smith and junior Geancarlos Pujols are the top returning scorers and will man the guard spots.  Alex Baker returns inside.

Cristo Rey Jesuit Pumas (2016-17 season 21-8, 11-1 Conference, Tie 1st)
All everything forward Jericho Sims and his 25 PPG are off to Texas.  Forward Karlton Gregory's 11 PPG also needs to be replaced.  But coach Stan Clay's cupboard isn't bare.  Senior forward Franklin Doyle figures to see a big jump in his 13.3 PPG.  Soph PG James Sommer returns to the starting lineup after putting up 8.3 PPG.  Juniors Victory George and post John Williams also saw major minutes last season.

Hope Academy Lions (2016-17 season 18-10, 7-5 Conference, 3rd)
The Lions have to replace the 2000+ career points of guard Johnny Erickson.  In addition to his 26.5 PPG, forward Nate Elifson and his 20+ PPG also graduated.  Elifson was their interior defensive stopper plus a top long ranger bomber.  Junior Joey Erickson returns after averaging 14.3 PPG, expect him to have a huge year.  Soph Caleb Hoilien returns as a shooting threat.  Simon Gray provides returning experience to the rotation.

International School of Minnesota Huskies (2016-17 season 8-13, 3-9 Conference, 6th)
Coach Shun Tillman has a couple of nice pieces to work with this season.  Junior guard Preston Dahlen leads the way.  Micah Hjelle and Zach Breen also return to the rotation.  With most of the roster back expect the Huskies to be improved.

Prairie Seeds Academy Lycans (2016-17 season 24-5, 11-1 Conference, Tie 1st)
The Lycans made a repeat run to the section 4A final last year.  They have to replace a ton of firepower as their top 3 scorers depart.  That was on all levels as Brian Robinson averaged 22.5 at the point guard slot.  Daveon Gibson averaged 16 on the wing and AJ Abara put up 20+ a night as the post.  Starters Jamar Robinson (11 PPG) and junior AiMonti Booth return.  Brian Bohanon also returns and will see minutes inside.  Soph Isaiah Jones should see a much increased role.  Depth is a concern.

St. Paul Prep/High School for Recording Arts Falcons (2016-17 season 15-7, 6-5 Conference, 4th)
Aaron Gill returns to Jump City and once again should put up monster numbers.  He's arguably the most athletic player in the state and can put on a dunking exhibition.  What help he'll have is the big question mark.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Cristo Rey
  2. Prairie Seeds Academy
  3. Hope Academy
  4. St. Paul Prep/HSRA 
  5. International School 
  6. Community of Peace
  7. Charter Stars
Conference Overview
Last year's league schedule was turned on its head when St. Paul Prep/HSRA was moved up to the top division late.  This year we're back to the intended 3 groups of 7.  That means St. Paul Prep/HSRA will stay up in the top division.  MN State Academy for the Deaf moves down to the 2nd division.  The league was at an all-time high last year but no way you can replace all the talent that was lost.  Depth in this league is always a question mark.  I see the deepest team as Cristo Rey and that's why I take them to win the league.  Prairie Seeds has a style that suits the league well so I like them with Hope Academy and St. Paul Prep/HSRA to also be very competitive at the top.  Then a drop off to the bottom 3.  International School gets the nod as I see Preston Dahlen as one of the top scorers in the league. But Charter Stars knocked them off late last season.  Community of Peace has a ton to replace.  Overall the league will be more balanced top to bottom.

Conference MVP: Joey Erickson - Hope Academy

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Isaiah Long, Akpevwe Avwonuma - Charter Stars
  • Zaveon Smith - Community of Peace 
  • James Sommer, Eric Burgess - Cristo Rey Jesuit 
  • Caleb Hoilien - Hope Academy
  • Isaiah Jones - Prairie Seeds Academy
Conference Games to Watch
  • Cristo Rey at Prairie Seeds - Jan 5th 
  • Prairie Seeds at Cristo Rey - Jan 30th
  • TCAC Tournament Championships - Mar 3rd
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Hibbing at Cristo Rey - Dec 1st