Prepping for another run

We stick with a St. Paul theme for the early part of the week with a trip to St. Paul Johnson.  The Govs hosting one of favorites in section 4AA, St. Croix Prep, in the season opener for both teams.  It was in this game 2 years ago where Daniel McCarrell broke out with 10 3s.  Now last night I was cheated out of a walking taco at Edison (concession stand wasn't open), so I was all over it tonight.  The salsa bottle was too stubborn so I didn't give the meal enough kick.  But high grade none the less.  A friendly AAU referee crew on hand as well.

Song of the Day: Walking in Memphis - Marc Cohn

Number of Teams I've Seen: 20 (10 games, 5 buildings, 0 online)

Beverage Ticker: 82.7 ounces (1010 calories)
  • Coke: 16.9 ounces (200 calories)
  • Dr. Pepper: 20 ounces (240 calories)
  • Pepsi: 1 Liter (430 Calories)
  • 7-Up: 12 ounces (140 calories)
Food Ticker:
  • Hot Dogs:1
  • Pizza:1
  • Walking Tacos: 1
  • Extras: 0
Game Time:
Season opening jitters were abundant early on with very sloppy play from both teams.  Addison Metcalf finally breaks the ice by putting back his own miss.  Andrew Howard knocks down 3 on a skip pass plus another a jumper.  St Croix Prep out to a 10-2 lead just over 5 minutes in.  Metcalf and Howard each add another bucket and the margin grows to 19-5 at the 8:08 mark.  Johnson cuts the margin to 6 thanks to a couple of Jesse Foster hoops.  Metcalf with a putback and a triple on the weakside thanks to hi/low action. Then his 2nd nasty block of the night leads to 2 Daniel McCarrell free throws.  Metcalf finishes the run by dunking a turnover.   SCPA 33-17.  But Johnson rallies with 3 late bombs. They also add 2 free throws as SCPA hangs on the rim on a missed dunk which results in a technical.  35-30 SCPA at the break, or so we thought.  An extra bucket given to Johnson and the table misses a SCPA FT.  So we get a correction during the break for 36-28 Lions.

Larry Harris with a hoop and a Foster putback and all of a sudden its a 4 point game.  So in just 3 minutes, 12 come off the margin.  Prep responds with a McCarrell triple, Metcalf with a free throw and a pair of 3 point plays. Then a major blood delay with 10:19 left and Prep leading 49-38.  Foster runs the floor and Johnson finds him for a dunk.  Johnson within 57-48 with 7:30 left.  They would try to turn up the defensive pressure but St. Croix Prep doesn't fold. St. Croix Prep wins 68-54.

Post Game:
St. Paul Johnson falls to 0-1 with the loss.  They'll get another stiff home AA test on Saturday vs #5AA Esko.  The Govs get 3 in double figures with Larry Harris leading the way with 13.  Jesse Foster good work inside to end up with 12.  Soph Rickhi Graham adds 11 off the bench.  As has been the case in recent years, you wonder how they'll score in a half court scenario if teams make them knock down shots.

For St. Croix Prep, Addison Metcalf leads the way with 26 points.  He also added a couple of really athletic blocks.  He's got some surprising bounce.  Daniel McCarrell with a quiet night of 13 but did hit a couple momentum busting shots.  Andrew Howard adds 14 running the show.  But with the exception of some blocked shots (4 on the last Johnson possession), the bigs struggled all night which was a surprise.  Loose balls and rebounds were also a problem as Johnson was just tougher on those.  So a W is good, but they'll look at plenty to build on.  The Lions host White Bear Lake this Friday.  On the horizon, they have a big test against #4AA Minneapolis North 1 week after that.

2019 Big 12 Classic Review

The 2nd annual Big 12 Classic was held at Champlin Park.  9 ranked teams participated in the 6 games.  Here are some of the highlights.

Game 1: Edina 61 Osseo 49
Scoring was difficult for both sides for a large portion of the 1st half.  Edina not helped by star center Jacob Hutson having 2 early fouls.  But the Edina bench broke the ice with 10 points from Chandler Reeck and 2 late bombs from Marcus Crawford.  That would push the Hornets to an 8 point halftime lead.  Edina withstands late pressure to win.  Jacob Hutson and soph PG Sammy Presthus 14 points each to lead Edina.  Josh Ola-Joseph showed off his freakish athleticism for Osseo with 12 of his game high 17 points in the 2nd half.  Tariq Henry added 12.  The Osseo future is very bright as they used 7 sophomores in the rotation.  They'll struggle to score in the halfcourt but I can see them adding in more of their run and jump pressure to generate offense.

Game 2: #2AAA De La Salle 65 #1AA Waseca 49
This rematch of last year's class AAA title game looked somewhat similar to that game.  De La Salle's defense kept Waseca out of their offense.  Andrew Morgan with 24 to lead Waseca with a couple of 3s included.  Kyreese Willingham added 11.  For De La Salle, big story of the day was Cade Haskins with 6 3s and 26 points to lead the way.  A couple of those shots just rising up over smaller defenders.  Jalen Travis cleaned up the glass inside and added 17 points of his own in the battle with Morgan.  Waseca with 7 juniors and a sophomore for their rotation.

Game 3: #2AAAA Park Center 85 #6AAAA Hopkins 70
This one was a surprise in that it was basically all Park Center.  They jumped out to 12-2 lead that grew to 44-23 at the break.  Kerwin Walton battled thru what appeared to be a bum ankle to try to keep Hopkins close.  But Hopkins really couldn't find any other offense besides him (no Cornell Richardson in the lineup).  Dain Dainja huge day with 28 points and 21 points to lead Park Center.  Hopkins went with a small lineup and that didn't succeed against the bigger Pirates.  Josh Brown adds 4 triples and 18 points for Park Center.  Kerwin Walton 5 triples and 32 points to lead Hopkins.  Lanky wing Xavier White is a new name in the junior class to know.  He knocked down 4 triples for 12 points for Hopkins.

Game 4: #4AAAA Prior Lake 76 #5AAAA East Ridge 60
The individual matchup of Wisconsin commit Ben Carlson vs Marquette commit Dawson Garcia didn't disappoint.  Garcia got the better of the 1st half matchup as Prior Lake opened up a 12 point halftime lead.  Carlson would return the favor early in the 2nd half.  That plus a spurt from soph Kendall Blue would allow East Ridge to cut the lead to 1 with 10 minutes left.  Soph Malcolm Jones with big shots off the Prior Lake bench.  He hit a big jumper to break the momentum and then a triple to push the lead back to 2 possessions.  Garcia with a slow 2nd half start but would score 11 points in the last 6:30 thanks to a putback and a couple post buckets plus a couple of late dunks vs the press to extend the final margin.  Dawson Garcia finishes with 30 points and 10 boards on my sheet for Prior Lake.  Forward Malcolm Jones was a big extra option with 17 points off the bench.  Tyree Ihenacho with a quiet 12 points.  Ben Carlson with 19 points and 12 rebounds.  Really good game from soph Kendall Blue as well with 19 points.

Game 5: #3AAAA Eden Prairie 56 #1AAAA Cretin-Derham Hall 47
The pace in this one was all Eden Prairie. J'Vonne Hadley with early foul trouble saw him sit for the majority of the half and go scoreless.  CDH held Drake Dobbs scoreless in the 1st half.  Hadley would go for 4 FTs and a triple to start the 2nd half.  That was part of a 12-4 CDH run that would give them a 33-26 lead with 12 minutes left.  Dobbs with 7 straight points for EP to bring them back to even.  Hadley with a 3 point play for a 43-40 CDH lead with 6:58 left.  Eden Prairie closes it out from there with a 16-4 run to end the game.  Dobbs with a deep 3 off an offensive board to take the lead for good with 4:40 left. 8 free throws close it out.  Austin Andrews with 19 points to lead Eden Prairie.  Drake Dobbs with all 17 of his points in the 2nd half.  Tre Holloman with 17 points to lead CDH.  J'Vonne Hadley with all 10 of his points in the 2nd half.  Cretin-Derham Hall going with a John Beilein style 2-3 high shuffle offense that generated nothing.  It slows the pace and doesn't fit their personnel at all.  Very surprised they don't do more to let their stars make plays.  Insert Kevin Garnett burning Craig Sager suit here.

Game 6: #8AAAA Eastview 82 Champlin Park 50
Eastview got out to a 17-6 lead and it was a blowout the entire way.  52-23 at half, 81-35 at running time and only a 15-1 run vs the 3rd string keeps it under 35. Champlin Park didn't empty the bench at all which was incredibly strange.  Steven Crowl and Ryan Thissen outstanding for Eastview.  Crowl with 28 points and 7 rebounds on my sheet.  Thissen adds 25.  I continue to love his game.  Nothing like seeing a flare screen for 3 for Crowl and he knocked down 2 of those.  Fun set with Crowl getting ball at the elbow and then flaring after a DHO.  Francis Nwaokorie was the only bright spot for Champlin Park with 16 points.  Eastview quickly decided that they had to double team him in the post even with Crowl guarding him.  His strength was too much.  When Crowl sat, the big Champlin Park front line did beat up Eastview on the glass.

2019-20 Season Tipoff

Its a friendly Minnesota season opener as I venture back to Minneapolis Roosevelt for another opening night.  Howard Pulley coaching pals Willie Braziel and Mike Walker sit on opposite benches as coach Braziel brings his Columbia Heights squad into the city for game number 1.  Its a fully recognized AAU crew on duty for the evening.  For those of you wondering, despite it being Pulley guys, we don't get The Reverend though.  Roosevelt closing the opposite bleachers and swapping the scorers table and benches to that side.  Made for a much cozier feel.  The 500 ml bottle of Coke beverage option goes with a basic hot dog on a slightly stale bun.

Song of the Day: Downtown Train - Rod Stewart

Number of Teams I've Seen: 4 (2 games, 2 buildings, 0 online)

Beverage Ticker: 16.9 ounces (200 calories)
  • Coke: 16.9 ounces (200 calories)
Food Ticker:
  • Hot Dogs:1
  • Pizza:0
  • Walking Tacos: 0
  • Extra: 0
Game Time:
Its a slow start on both ends.  Heights not happy with their start and coach Braziel takes time just over 2 minutes and his Hylanders down 3-2.  That inspires a 14-4 spurt over the next 5+ minutes.  But a couple of sloppy turnovers and a bad triple trigger a Roosevelt 5-0 mini-run.  16-12 Columbia Heights as we reach the midpoint of the first half.  Jordan Jones with a pair of tough triples and 12 points already.  Heights opens the game up from there with a 16-0 run over the next 6:45.  Elijah Williams with a free throw and bucket to start it.  Star soph Muja Burton with a triple, a nice cut for a 3 point play and a jumper to finish it.  36-20 Columbia Heights at half.  They'll turn it into a blowout with a 17-2 run to the midpoint of the 2nd half.  Jones and Burton leading that run to push the lead to 62-31 with 9:02 left.  We quickly get running time and garbage time from there.  Columbia Heights rolls to a 80-43 victory.

Post Game:
Minneapolis Roosevelt falls to 0-1 with the loss.  Dennis Holte leads the Teddies with 9 points off the bench.  Mustafa Salad chips in with 8 and he looks to be their best offensive option.  I had Roosevelt for at least 23 turnovers which didn't help the cause.  It doesn't get any easier with a trip to Cristo Rey on Monday.  They'll then host Bloomington Kennedy on Thursday before jumping into Minneapolis City play the following week.

Senior guard Jordan Jones leads Columbia Heights with 27 points including 3 triples.  Soph wing Muja Burton adds a couple of triples of his own.  He finished with 21 points.  They'll stay on the road next week with trips to Mahtomedi and St. Thomas Academy.  That Mahtomedi game is an important one for position behind Minnehaha in section 4AAA.  That leads into a tough schedule stretch from mid-December into mid-January.

2019-20 Season in a Nutshell

This is the final preview in the 2019-2020 Season Preview series.  Per normal tradition, it concludes with a season overview for the casual fan.  This is a higher level simplified preview for those who don't eat, sleep and breathe hoops like the rest of us.  Its who and what you need to see and when and where to see it.  If you missed any of the 121 team previews over 13 conferences or the 14 section previews, a full list of them can be found here.

10 Local Events
  • Nov 30th - Big 12 Classic at Champlin Park
  • Dec 7 - Boys Tipoff Classic at Hopkins
  • Dec 14 - Southside Showcase at Minnehaha and Hiawatha Academy
  • Jan 3rd and 4th - Sierra Canyon (CA) and Patrick School (NJ) at Minnehaha
  • Jan 11th - Basketball Showcase at Minneapolis Henry
  • Jan 18th - Hall of Fame Winter Classic at Anoka-Ramsey CC
  • Jan 18th - Bragging Rights Classic at Prairie Seeds Academy
  • Jan 20th - Dream Classic at Minneapolis Roosevelt
  • Jan 25th - South Metro Hoopfest at Burnsville
  • Feb 1st - Community Clash at St. Michael-Albertville
As usual the Breakdown Sports USA events kickoff the season with a bang.  A rematch of last season's class AAA title game between De La Salle and Waseca is just one of the notable games on the Big 12 schedule.  Waseca and Mankato East are a couple of outstate teams with tough matchups on the main court in the Tipoff Classic.  All 10 teams in the AAAA Breakdown top 10 will be on the main court along with 4 of the top 6 in AAA and #1AA Waseca.  Lake City and Caledonia are 2 of the top 5 class AA heavyweights playing on the east court.

The Southside Showcase expands to 2 gyms and 14 games.  Minnehaha has all big school games.  Don't sleep on the small school teams just down the street at Hiawatha.  Hiawatha, Cristo Rey, Hope Academy, Blake and Mayer Lutheran plus tradition power Rushford-Peterson are a good group of teams that will all be playing there.

Speaking of Minnehaha, they'll host a monster set of games on the 1st weekend of the new year.  Friday night will feature national powers Sierra Canyon of California and The Patrick School of New Jersey.  Sierra Canyon's roster has Bronny James (Lebron's son) amongst many high profile guys.  The Patrick School is loaded too.  They'll play each other on Friday night along with Minnehaha hosting Park Center.  Then Sierra Canyon sticks around to play Minnehaha on Saturday in the local game of the year.  Rumor says there might be ESPN involvement too.

The usual Tim Williams events dot the rest of the January calendar.  But 1 new event pops up with the Minnesota basketball hall of fame putting on an event at Anoka-Ramsey.  A possible state title preview there with the 2 top preseason favorites, Eden Prairie and Park Center, going at it.  It also includes the best chance for metro fans to catch the Madsen twins in action (Cincinnati commits) as they take on East Ridge.

10 Other Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • De La Salle at North St. Paul - Dec 5th 
  • Minnehaha at Hopkins - Dec 17th 
  • Eden Prairie at East Ridge - Dec 21st
  • East Ridge holiday tourney- Dec 27th and 28th
  • De La Salle at Hopkins - Jan 10th 
  • Prior Lake at Chaska - Jan 30th
  • Eden Prairie at De La Salle - Feb 1st 
  • De La Salle at Cretin-Derham Hall - Feb 15th
  • Eden Prairie at Minnehaha - Feb 18th
  • De La Salle at Minnehaha - Feb 22nd
There's nothing like a good grudge match and the first 2 games fit that bill.  North St. Paul went to the island and got everybody's attention with a win there last season.  Minnehaha has lost 3 straight to Hopkins over the last 2 years including their only 2 losses last season.  A tough trio of games for Ben Carlson and East Ridge to end the calendar year.  AAAA favorite Eden Prairie comes calling to start the holiday break.  Then Ben Carlson goes head to head with future Wisconsin teammate Steven Crowl to start their holiday tournament.  They finish that tourney against Minnehaha.  State contenders and powerhouses Hopkins and De La Salle have a return game to start the new year.  Prior Lake's only major solo non-conference matchup is a tough section battle at Chaska right in the middle of the South Suburban season.   De La Salle gets in a couple of rivalry games in February with CDH and Minnehaha.

10 Conference Games to Watch
  • Prior Lake at Shakopee - Jan 7th
  • Tartan at North St. Paul- Jan 14th
  • Eden Prairie at Hopkins - Jan 16th
  • Champlin Park at Park Center - Jan 28th
  • Cristo Rey at St. Croix Prep - Jan 28th
  • Shakopee at Prior Lake - Feb 7th
  • Hopkins at Eden Prairie - Feb 11th
  • North St. Paul at Tartan - Feb 14th
  • St. Croix Prep at Cristo Rey - Feb 18th
  • Cretin-Derham Hall at East Ridge - Feb 28th
The beauty in this list of games is not just the conference implications, but also the section seeding impacts.  8 of these 10 games are section matchups with the Hopkins vs Eden Prairie games being possible 1 seed matchups and a state title preview.  Great rivalries here too with Prior Lake and Shakopee in the section 2AAAA and a very underrated district rivalry in section 4AAAA between Tartan and North St. Paul.  Cristo Rey and St. Croix Prep had a tight non-conference game last year and are favorites in section 4AA.  Champlin Park vs Park Center is the only meeting between the division favorites in the NW Suburban and 2 of the best teams in section 5AAAA along with Osseo.  The regular season finale between CDH and East Ridge is too good to resist with a league title and top seed in section 4AAAA possibly up for grabs.

10 Upperclassmen to Watch
  • Ben Carlson - East Ridge
  • Steven Crowl - Eastview
  • Dain Dainja - Park Center
  • Drake Dobbs - Eden Prairie
  • Dawson Garcia - Prior Lake
  • J'Vonne Hadley - Cretin-Derham Hall
  • Chet Holmgren - Minnehaha 
  • Jacob Hutson - Edina
  • Jalen Suggs - Minnehaha
  • Kerwin Walton - Hopkins
10 Underclassmen You Need to Know
  • Prince Aligbe - Minnehaha
  • Kendall Blue - East Ridge
  • Braeden Carrington - Park Center 
  • Chase Carter - Minnehaha Academy
  • Taison Chatman - Totino-Grace
  • Camden Heide - Wayzata
  • Tre Holloman - Cretin-Derham Hall
  • Emmett Johnson - Holy Angels 
  • CJ O'Hara - Totino-Grace 
  • Elvis Nnaji - Hopkins
10 Local Teams to Watch
  • Cretin-Derham Hall
  • De La Salle
  • Eastview
  • East Ridge
  • Eden Prairie
  • Hopkins
  • Minnehaha Academy
  • Park Center
  • Prior Lake
  • Shakopee
Current 10 Games or More Streaks In Conference Play
  • De La Salle - 40 wins
  • Minneapolis North - 39 wins
  • Minnehaha Academy - 32 wins (23 in a row overall)
  • East Ridge- 23 wins
  • St. Paul Central - 17 wins
  • Park Center - 15 wins
  • Tartan - 14 wins
  • Cristo Rey Jesuit - 12 wins (in EMAC, move to Skyline this season)
  • Lakeville North - 10 wins
  • Hill-Murray - 17 losses
  • International School of Minnesota/Eagle Ridge Academy - 14 losses* 
  • Richfield - 13 losses (in Metro West, move to Tri-Metro this season)
* The International School of Minnesota/Eagle Ridge Academy streak ends this year as the programs are no longer doing their co-op.  ISM now combines with Chesterton but that will be under an independent banner this year.  Eagle Ridge joins the new era of the MCAA.
Season Thoughts
Its another quality year in class AAAA thanks to a deep 2020 class.  Park Center and Eden Prairie stand out as immediate favorites but the loss of Ariel Bland leaves a hole inside for Eden Prairie.  Hopkins won't be big either but will have lots of firepower on the perimeter with Kerwin Walton leading that crew.  Cretin-Derham Hall will be similar to that with J'Vonne Hadley filling the stat sheet on the wing and Tre Holloman running the show.  There's also plenty to talk about with big guys too.  Dawson Garcia at Prior Lake, Steven Crowl at Eastview and Ben Carlson at East Ridge will all make their teams forces to be reckoned with.  Can't forget Jacob Hutson of Edina in that group of outstanding bigs either.  I'm also looking forward to how Osseo and Champlin Park reload with young talent. 

Minnehaha moves up to AAA and is the heavy favorite thanks to a roster that may be as talented from top to bottom as we've seen in Minnesota.  De La Salle has talent but lacks experience and an obvious high level guy on the offensive end.  But Cade Haskins may be the guy to fill that role. Don't expect Holy Angels to go away, they were very good at all levels last year and have turned around in a hurry.  Soph Emmet Johnson is a big reason for that.  Totino-Grace has a group of very talented freshmen that will be a fun story to follow in the tough NW Suburban schedule.  St. Croix Lutheran has a nice junior class that can make a run this year and next.

As to the small schools, I think the races in the new Skyline conference and the renewed/revamped EMAC be really fun to watch.  St. Croix Prep and Cristo Rey have outstanding guard play that will make them very dangerous all season.  Those 2 look to be on a collision course in section 4AA.  Section 4A will once again be an entertaining mess figure out with Hope Academy, CHOF and the EMAC elite going after a trip to state.  Thomas Conroy won't put up the same crazy stats he did last year for Liberty thanks to an upgrade in competition but he's still an inside threat to be dealt with.  Hope's Caleb Hoilien will play all 5 spots and have a big year trying to get beyond last year's section final loss.  Hiawatha's freshman make them appealing to follow over the next few years.

So now that all the predictions and off season work are in, its time to let the season play out on the court.  Good luck to all and I hope everyone will #ShockTheCzar.

2019-20 Section 8AAAA Preview

This is the 27th preview in my 2019-2020 season preview series.  This is the final class AAAA preview, a look at section 8AAAA.  Tomorrow the series wraps up with a season overview.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 8AAAA (7 teams)
Defending Champion: Maple Grove

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Tuesday, March 3rd
Semifinals: Saturday, March 7th at St. Cloud Tech
Finals: Thursday, March 12th at Monticello

Predicted Seeding
  1. Maple Grove
  2. Moorhead 
  3. Buffalo 
  4. Brainerd
  5. St. Michael-Albertville 
  6. Rogers 
  7. Elk River
Maple Grove looks to defend their crown as section champs but it could be wild and very wide open.  Moorhead loses star Maleeck Harden-Hayes but with lefty veteran Drew Hagen leading the way from his do everything forward spot and the Walthall twins amongst the returnees at the guard spots, the Spuds will make a run here.  Buffalo despite losing Tony Dahl and Aidan Bowman can't be counted out as they still have Matt Willert to build around.  Tough 3 night section stretch for Maple Grove as they visit Buffalo, host Rogers and then Moorhead on Dec 11th thru 13th.  Brainerd should be very respectable as well.  STMA will get beat up by the Lake Conference schedule but they have a couple of solid pieces as well.  The loss of Sean Buchanan is a hit though.  Rogers and Elk River are both looking at down seasons.

Sleeper: Brainerd. They return a couple of double figure scorers and did pull off a home win vs Wayzata last year.

Section Winner: Maple Grove.  They return quality size and have plenty of options that will step in on the perimeter.  That depth will carry them through to another state appearance.

2019-20 Section 7AAAA Preview

This is the 26th preview in my 2019-2020 season preview series.  The class AAAA previews move on to section 7AAAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 7AAAA (7 teams)
Defending Champion: Cambridge-Isanti

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Wednesday, March 4th
Semifinals: Saturday, March 7th at Elk River
Finals: Thursday, March 12th at Elk River

Predicted Seeding
  1. Cambridge-Isanti 
  2. Duluth East
  3. Coon Rapids 
  4. Forest Lake
  5. Blaine
  6. Anoka
  7. Andover
Cambridge-Isanti loses 3 double figure scorers but they still have 2 of the best shooters around in Henry Abraham and Micah Ladd.  Ryan Cox will step into that group as well.  Connor Braaten will fill in nicely for London Williams on the front line.  They have section road games at Duluth East (12/17), Coon Rapids, Forest Lake and Blaine.  They also have Wayzata, Eden Prairie and Edina at home.  Duluth East returns 3 starters and a top reserve from last season.  Will Van Scoy at a guard spot and center Noah Paulson and Mattie Thompson on the wing give them a nice trio for the next 2 years.  Beyond that, its the local teams.  Coon Rapids appears to be the best of the rest with a quality front line.  Forest Lake and Blaine will battle for the last home game.  Anoka will try to jump in that group as well.  Andover will struggle.

Sleeper: Coon Rapids.  They do have good size returning plus that funky 1-3-1 makes you prepare differently.

Section Winner: Cambridge-Isanti. I think the Bluejackets get it done again with their offense.  The matchup zone is another difficulty to prepare for as well.

2019-20 Section 6AAAA Preview

This is the 25th preview in my 2019-2020 season preview series.  The class AAAA previews continue with a look at section 6AAAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 6AAAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: Hopkins (State Champion)

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Wednesday, March 4th
Semifinals: Friday, March 6th at Osseo
Finals: Wednesday, March 11th at Osseo

Predicted Seeding
  1. Hopkins
  2. Wayzata
  3. Robbinsdale Armstrong
  4. St. Louis Park
  5. Robbinsdale Cooper
  6. Minneapolis Washburn
  7. Minneapolis South
  8. Minneapolis Southwest
The usual suspects of Hopkins and Wayzata lead the way again.  Both teams can really fill it up on the wings.  Armstrong is clearly next in line with plenty coming back from an 18 win group last year.  Then its a sea of orange behind these teams.  Metro West members St. Louis Park and Robbinsdale Cooper will battle it out for the final home game.  The Minneapolis City comes in behind them.  Washburn with the most back gets the nod.  South and Southwest battle to stay out of the last seed.

Sleeper: Robbindale Armstrong.  With a solid returning group and a couple of youngsters ready to step into bigger roles, the Falcons have the best chance to surprise in this section.

Section Winner: Hopkins.  Too much offense from the Royals.  Kerwin Walton with a big year leading the Royals back to state.

2019-20 Section 5AAAA Preview

This is the 24th preview in my 2019-2020 season preview series.  In this 6th and final week of previews, I complete the last half of the class AAAA section previews and then finish up with the annual season overview on Friday.  Today its section 5AAAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 5AAAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: Park Center

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Wednesday, March 4th
Semifinals: Tuesday, March 10th at Coon Rapids
Finals: Friday, March 13th at Rogers

Predicted Seeding
  1. Park Center
  2. Champlin Park
  3. Osseo
  4. Spring Lake Park 
  5. Roseville
  6. Centennial
  7. Mounds View
  8. Irondale
Park Center is a heavy favorite here and a state championship threat with all the pieces.  Then a very interesting battle behind them for 2nd between Champlin Park and Osseo.  They'll meet on Jan 17th at Champlin Park in a game that could decide that seed.  Both have lots of talented new guys stepping into the rotation.  Spring Lake Park's experience will keep them in the fight with that group as well.  Roseville and Centennial will battle it out behind them.  Then the Mounds View district lags behind.

Sleeper: Centennial.  Shooting comes and goes and can be suspect in the playoffs.  Not sure they can stop the size in this section. But if they get hot in the right matchup, an upset could happen.

Section Winner: Park Center.  The lineup is too loaded and experienced to not pick them.  Dain Dainja is a monster inside.  Josh Brown gives them a shooter.  DT Frierson can do multiple things for them.  Then a bunch of interchangeable parts off the bench.  John Grigsby as a stretch 4 is another important dimension for them.

2019-20 Section 4AAAA Preview

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

Section 4AAAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: East Ridge

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Wednesday, March 4th
Semifinals: Saturday, March 7th at Hastings
Finals: Thursday, March 12th at Hastings

Predicted Seeding
  1. Cretin-Derham Hall
  2. East Ridge
  3. North St. Paul
  4. Tartan
  5. Woodbury  
  6. St. Paul Central 
  7. White Bear Lake 
  8. Stillwater
While not as strong as section 2, this section also has 3 projected conference champs plus 2 other projected runners-up.  East Ridge will have their hands full defending the section title.  Cretin-Derham Hall sticks out as a favorite.  East Ridge still has Ben Carlson and some young guys who will have to step into bigger roles.  The inexperienced guard play could be a major factor against the other top teams here.  North St. Paul and Tartan will battle it out in the Metro East.  North St. Paul's crazy difficult December schedule will help them prepare.  That includes the season opener at home vs Cretin-Derham Hall on December 3rd.  That's a must win for North St. Paul if they want any kind of top 2 seed considering how the Suburban East votes in bloc.  Woodbury and St. Paul Central will battle it out behind that group.  Central has a ton to replace but the St. Paul City schedule will help their record.  They have the young talent to do it as well with the freshman and JV squads playing the Twin Cities games last season.  Woodbury has a few pieces coming back as they look to make a jump.  White Bear Lake and Stillwater have to replace just about everybody.  But White Bear Lake as a couple of replacements ready to step in that should keep them out of the 8 seed.

Sleeper: Woodbury.  No expectations and they are experienced which is more than a lot of the section can say.

Section Winner: Cretin-Derham Hall.  Too much offensive firepower here with Curtis Jones and J'Vonne Hadley on the wings.  Plus they have star PG Tre Holloman to make it all go.  Add in Amari Carter and Will Burke to fill front court roles and they have to be the pick.

2019-20 Section 3AAAA Preview

This is the 22nd preview in my 2019-2020 season preview series.  Continuing our look at the class AAAA sections, we move on to section 3.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 3AAAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: Eastview

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Thursday, March 5th
Semifinals: Monday, March 9th at Farmington
Finals: Friday, March 13th at Farmington

Predicted Seeding
  1. Eastview
  2. Lakeville North
  3. Eagan  
  4. Apple Valley 
  5. Hastings 
  6. Burnsville
  7. Park
  8. Rosemount
After an 8 year hiatus and sweep in Section 1AAAA, business has picked up with Lakeville North returning to section 3AAAA.  They replace Henry Sibley who dropped down to section 3AAA.  Lakeville South is the last team to beat Lakeville North in both sections.  Its a weak section with only 1 team projected above 5th in their league.  So Lakeville North's chances are still reasonable to reload and keep their 8 year streak of state trips alive.  Don't expect John Oxton's crew to fall far as they'll fill in with some nice JV pieces from last year.  Eagan has lots of shooting coming back and Apple Valley has experience back.  Hastings loses their size but they have a quality guard in Devon Haraldson coming back from injury and a couple other returning guards.  They should battle for the final home game.  Burnsville will  try to jump in that mix as well.  Park has to replace a ton of talent from last year's team.  Rosemount continues to rebuild.

Sleeper: Burnsville.  Daniel Rosenbur gives Burnsville a chance to move up but not much help for him.

Section Winner: Eastview. They are deeper and bigger than everybody in the section.  Star Steven Crowl in the middle, Ryan Thissen on the wing and Jaylen James at the point are solid and they have plenty of pieces to go around them.

2019-20 Section 2AAAA Preview

This is the 21st preview in my 2019-2020 season preview series.  Continuing our look at the class AAAA sections we stay in the south metro with section 2AAAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

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

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Wednesday, March 4th
Semifinals: Saturday, March 7th at Highest Seed (both games)
Finals: Friday, March 13th at High Seed

Predicted Seeding
  1. Eden Prairie
  2. Prior Lake
  3. Shakopee 
  4. Chaska
  5. Edina
  6. Minnetonka 
  7. Chanhassen
  8. Bloomington Jefferson 
Once again, this section is absolutely stacked.  I project 3 conference champions and a runner-up here as the top 4 seeds.  Eden Prairie and Prior Lake are the clear top 2.  Shakopee and Chaska will battle for the 3 seed.  Edina is the clear next best team in the group.  The Hornets getting beat up by the top of the loaded Lake vs Chaska winning the weak Metro West will be an interesting seeding battle to watch.  Then it drops off to a couple of grit and grind squads that will be tough outs every night.  Jefferson falls into the 8 slot.  Nice thing with this section is most of the teams see each other in non-conference play.  As an example, of the projected top 5, the only missing matchup of teams is Prior Lake vs Edina.  That makes for a bunch of very good games to see in December.  Biggest one of those games is Prior Lake vs Eden Prairie in the tipoff classic on December 7th.

Sleeper: Minnetonka.  With a tough power forward in Cameron Steele and a defensive mindset to go with a tough schedule to prepare, the Skippers are the only team I can pick to have a chance to surprise in the state's toughest section.

Section Winner: Eden Prairie.  Losing Ariel Bland is a big loss for the Eagles.  He was their best matchup for defending Dawson Garcia.  But Prior Lake has plenty of other pieces to replace and Eden Prairie returns everybody else.  Too much shooting and discipline for Eden Prairie to not make it thru this tough group.

2019-20 Section 1AAAA Preview

This is the 20th preview in my 2019-2020 season preview series.  Now we begin our look at all of the class AAAA sections going in numerical order.  We'll do the 1st half of class AAAA this week and finish up with the last 4 sections next week.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 1AAAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: Lakeville North (state runner-up)

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Tuesday, March 3rd
Semifinals: Saturday, March 7th at High Seed
Finals: Friday, March 13th at Rochester Civic Arena

Predicted Seeding
  1. Rochester Mayo 
  2. Lakeville South
  3. Rochester Century
  4. New Prague
  5. Northfield
  6. Owatonna
  7. Farmington
  8. Rochester John Marshall
In a great bit of irony, its only after the Hurt brothers at Rochester John Marshall both graduate that the sections are updated so that Lakeville North moves out.  So after 8 consecutive section titles (the last 7 over John Marshall), there will be a new section champion this year.  The last time Lakeville North lost a section 1AAAA game was ... March 7th, 2007 46-43 at Lakeville South.  Its a trick question since Lakeville North was in section 3AAAA for the 4 years before this last 8 year run. 

A couple of favorites at the top lead the section with quality in the middle.  Rochester Mayo returns 3 junior guards, a potential sleeper in Riek Riek and oh by the way the Cincinnati committed, do everything, Madsen twins.  Lakeville South will be battle tested in the South Suburban and they have a nice trio that could lead them to state.  Then a very interesting group of 3 teams in the middle.  Rochester Century finished 1 game behind Northfield last season at 12-10 in the Big 9 but beat them twice last year.  Plus Century returns just about everybody including their top 5 scorers.  Northfield and New Prague have to replace big and talented front lines but have quality guard play coming back in Kip Schetnan (Northfield) and Parker Johnson (New Prague).  Northfield also has a new coach.  Rochester John Marshall and Owatonna each have major pieces to replace but they do have a center to build around in soph Evan Dushek (Owatonna) and senior Lincoln Meister (JM).  There wasn't a ton else besides Meister to go with Matt Hurt last year so I see a big dropoff from JM.  Farmington will battle these 2 to stay out of the 8 seed.

Sleeper: New Prague.  Despite the losses up front, they have an experienced backcourt and are very disciplined defensively.

Section Winner: Rochester Mayo. The Madsen twins lead a group that fill up the stat sheet in a hurry so that makes them very dangerous on any given night. Granted they will need to figure out the defensive end of the floor if they want to be a serious state contender.  That was a major weakness last year.  In this section, that weakness won't be enough to hold them back and they'll advance.

2019-20 Section 6AAA Preview

This is the 19th preview in my 2019-2020 season preview series.  Week 5 of the 6 week season preview series begins with a glance at the final metro area section in class AAA, section 6.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

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

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Friday, March 6th
Semifinals: Saturday, March 7th at High Seeds
Finals: Thursday, March 12th at Chanhassen

Predicted Seeding
  1. De La Salle
  2. Waconia 
  3. Benilde-St. Margaret's 
  4. Minneapolis Henry   
  5. Mound-Westonka 
  6. Minneapolis Edison
  7. Orono 
  8. Minneapolis Roosevelt   
The section might not be super loaded as we've seen in the past but it will still be deep.  De La Salle is the favorite here but not the no-brainer favorite of many years past.  Plenty to prove for the defending state champs.  The next group of 5 could end up in any order.  I'll take BSM as the runner-up in the metro west over the next best in the Minneapolis City in Henry and Edison.  Waconia with PJ Hayes looks to be a contender in the always tough Wright County East.  Then there's Mound-Westonka who is the favorite to win the Wright County West.  They've beefed up the schedule where they can but the west half is AA schools which will hurt them in the computer polls.

Sleeper: Mound-Westonka.  They've been down for years and coach Andre Phillips has done a great job building them to this point. The first reaction will be to overlook them and the AA schedule.  That's a mistake.

Section Winner: De La Salle.  I'll take the defending champs by default here but its very wide open.

2019-20 Section 4AAA Preview

This is the 18th preview in my 2019-2020 season preview series.  To end week 4 of this 6 week series, I take a look at section 4AAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 4AAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: Mahtomedi

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Wednesday, March 4th
Semifinals: Saturday, March 7th at Woodbury
Finals: Thursday, March 12th at Woodbury
Predicted Seeding
  1. Minnehaha Academy
  2. Mahtomedi 
  3. St. Paul Johnson  
  4. Totino-Grace   
  5. Columbia Heights  
  6. St. Anthony 
  7. St. Paul Como Park
  8. Hill-Murray
Minnehaha joins the section as the clear state favorite in AAA.  Mahtomedi and St. Paul Johnson get the next 2 seeds thanks to weak conferences.  Totino-Grace wins enough games in their half to stay in the top half.  Columbia Heights and St. Anthony battle for the next 2 spots.  Como Park and Hill-Murray have new coaches and will struggle.  Of course, I recall Mahtomedi as a 1 seed being knocked off by 8 seed Hill-Murray not too long ago so be prepared!

Minnehaha moving in to the section bumps former section member Fridley to section 5AAA.  That's a better draw for Fridley than this section but I still see the Tigers losing a 1st round road game.

Sleeper: Totino-Grace.  There is young talent for the Eagles that will be battle tested by the tough NW Suburban schedule.  That goes with an experienced duo of junior guards who both get after it defensively.

Section Winner: Minnehaha.  The roster has as much talent as we've seen in Minnesota in a long time.  A heavy favorite to win their 4th straight state championship.

2019-20 Section 3AAA Preview

This is the 17th preview in my 2019-2020 season preview series.  As week 4 of the 6 week preview series moves along, I start my look at the local AAA sections with section 3AAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 3AAA (9 teams)
Defending Champion: Holy Angels

Tournament Schedule:
Play-In Game: Monday, March 2nd??
Quarterfinals: Tuesday, March 3rd
Semifinals: Friday, March 6th at Bloomington Jefferson
Finals: Thursday, March 12th at Bloomington Jefferson

Predicted Seeding
  1. Holy Angels  
  2. St. Croix Lutheran
  3. South St. Paul  
  4. St. Paul Harding
  5. St. Thomas Academy
  6. St. Paul Highland Park
  7. Henry Sibley 
  8. Richfield
  9. Bloomington Kennedy
The defending champs look to be the favorite again with 3 strong levels last year and the return of Matt Banovetz and star soph Emmett Johnson.  St. Croix Lutheran's junior class is strong but they are heavily reliant on 3 point shooting.  South St. Paul will make a run in this weak section.  St. Paul Harding stays in the top half just because they're the only other top half team in their league remaining.  The rest is a bunch of rebuilding teams.  St. Thomas Academy and Sibley lose a ton.  Kennedy and Richfield struggled last year.  Highland Park was very young last year and struggled.  This year its the same group with a new coach.

Staying with southeast AAA schools from the metro east, a note on Simley.  Playing with the SE Minnesota schools in section 1AAA, they could battle for a 1st round home game.  But I see them going out in that 1st round.

Sleeper: St. Paul Harding.  They have the quality duo of Simeon Sharp and forward Alex Addai returning which puts them in the top half. 

Section Winner: Holy Angels.  The deepest and most balanced group of a weak section.  Having to potentially beat St. Croix Lutheran in a 3rd meeting adds an interesting twist.

2019-20 Section 5AA Preview

This is the 16th preview in my 2019-2020 season preview series.  In this preview, a look at section 5AA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 5AA (14 teams)
Defending Champion: Minneapolis North

Tournament Schedule:
Round of 16: Thursday, March 5th
Quarterfinals: Saturday, March 7th at St. Michael-Albertville
Semifinals: Wednesday, March 11th at St. Michael-Albertville
Finals: Friday, March 13th 8 PM at St. Cloud State

Predicted Seeding
  1. Minneapolis North
  2. Rockford
  3. Maranatha
  4. Breck
  5. Blake
  6. Holy Family
  7. Litchfield
  8. Watertown-Mayer 
  9. Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted
  10. SW Christian 
  11. Providence Academy
  12. Dassel-Cokato
  13. Brooklyn Center
  14. International School
This is the metro bias portion of the previews.  Minneapolis North despite some important losses at the guard spots keeps up the pace.  Rockford with 7 footer Calvin Sisk in the middle and a couple of guards coming back looks primed to be a major factor here as well.  They have a sneaky good game vs Cristo Rey at the Granite City Classic over the holiday break.  Maranatha and Breck each have a new coach and big holes to fill.  But they also have good pieces returning.  Blake's guard play will keep them a factor.  Holy Family has leading scorer Nick Hendler coming back and they have the tough Wright County East schedule to prepare with.  Watertown-Mayer returns everybody and looks to make a jump in the Wright County West.  But making up an 8 game league differential is tough even with Litchfield losing major pieces.  Providence loses everybody and has a new coach.  That's largely true for Brooklyn Center as well.

In 6AA, I see Spectrum winning a 1st round home game before bowing out.

Sleeper: Watertown-Mayer  Everybody is back from an 11 win team last year.  That makes them as good a choice as any.

Section Winner: Minneapolis North.  They're young but with Davon Townley inside and Willie Wilson outside they have a quality 1-2 punch.  Add in their ability to pressure and that puts them over the top.

2019-20 Section 4AA Preview

This is the 15th preview in my 2019-2020 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 (14 teams)
Defending Champion: Minnehaha Academy (2017, 2018, 2019 State AA Champions)

Tournament Schedule:
Round 1: Tuesday, March 3rd
Round 2: Thursday, March 5th
Quarterfinals: Saturday, March 7th
Semifinals: Wednesday, March 11th
Finals: Friday, March 13th at TBD

Predicted Seeding
  1. St. Croix Prep
  2. Cristo Rey
  3. New Life Academy
  4. Concordia Academy
  5. Twin Cities Academy/Great River   
  6. St. Paul Humboldt  
  7. St. Paul Washington 
  8. Hiawatha Collegiate
  9. St. Agnes
  10. St. Paul Academy
  11. Mounds Park Academy 
  12. Math and Science 
  13. Nova Classical
  14. Metro Schools College Prep
Like section 4A, this section looks like it will use the same tiered system of byes.  There will be a new section champion this year with Minnehaha moving up to section 4AAA.  St. Croix Prep and Cristo Rey are the clear favorites here and 3 potential meetings between these 2 will be outstanding.  Great guard play on both sides with the really fun matchup of SCPA's Daniel McCarrell vs CRJ's James Sommer at the PG spot.  The St. Paul City and EMAC teams will be very interesting to watch in terms of seeding in the middle. I think those St. Paul teams get a bump up while the EMAC teams may take a hit.  Some very interesting middle seed matchups could happen there.  The bottom 4 drops off dramatically.

Sleeper: Twin Cities Academy/Great River.  Experienced guards and a quality big guy along with a lower seed make them a dangerous matchup.

Section Winner: St. Croix Prep  They are deeper overall and better up front than Cristo Rey.  Quality guard play come tourney time never gets out of fashion and they definitely have it.

2019-20 Section 4A Preview

This is the 14th preview in the 2019-2020 season preview series.  Phase 2 of the previews starts today.  Over the next 3 weeks I'll cover 14 sections, mostly metro based, including all 8 class AAAA sections.  That will include looks at some section teams that I haven't done yet plus some sprinkled comments about local teams that aren't in the 14 sections being previewed.  As is tradition, I do them from small to big so let's start with a look at Section 4A.  If you missed any of the conference previews during phase 1 where were you?  I previewed 121 metro area teams from 13 conferences and independents.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 4A (24 Teams)
Defending Champion: CHOF

Tournament Schedule:
Round 1: Monday, March 2nd (number of games will be number of teams in section - 16)
Round 2: Tuesday, March 3rd (16 teams left)
Round 3: Thursday, March 5th (12 teams left)
Quarterfinals: Saturday, March 7th
Semifinals: Wednesday, March 11th
Finals: Friday, March 13th at Anoka-Ramsey Community College

Predicted Seeding
  1. Hope Academy
  2. CHOF
  3. Avail Academy
  4. Liberty Classical Academy
  5. West Lutheran 
  6. Trinity
  7. Legacy
  8. Kaleidoscope
I'm going to assume 4A (and 4AA tomorrow) stay with their tiered system of byes.  That looks like this though the 9-12 section might see a team or 2 to play in round 1 if there are enough teams actually playing.  With the tiny charter schools, not at all 24 schools will play but you never really know exactly how many will actually be there in March.

Seeds 13-lower: Round 1
Seeds 9-12: Byes to Round 2 (play round 1 winners)
Seeds 5-8: Byes to Round 3 (play round 2 winners)
Seeds 1-4: Byes to the Quarterfinals (play round 3 winners)

This section was again a total wreck in terms of seeds versus actual results.  Granted it saved my bacon in terms of predictions as I correctly picked Hope to make a big run.  That still worked out despite incorrectly picking Mounds Park Academy.  Hope makes another big run here but it won't be a surprise with almost their full roster coming back.  CHOF's AA schedule will prep them nicely for the tournament.  I expect a big year from Isaac Collins there. The top of the class A schools from the EMAC comes next.  But those schools are moving up from the lower divisions of the TCAC and aren't yet at that top level  Then its a real toss up as to who's next.  Trinity's tougher schedule may cost them in seeding.  Troy Kokkinen gives West Lutheran a sleeper chance.  Legacy's guards and the returning duo at Kaleidoscope should allow them to get thru a round as well.

Since we mentioned MCAA teams, I'll take my league winner prediction of Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity to win a subsection home opener in section 2A.  But its a tough section so I'll take them to have a tough loss in round 2.

Sleeper: Trinity.  They'll take some lumps in the new Skyline Conference but that will be a benefit against the lesser competition come section time.  While 3 top players need replacing, they'll have a whole season to adjust before the tournament.

Section Winner: Hope Academy.  When in doubt go with the top player and that's Caleb Hoilien.  The Lions get past last year's disappointment of losing in the section final.  It also happens in a grudge match as they'll take out CHOF to do it. 

2019-20 Suburban East Conference Preview

This is the 13th preview in my 2019-2020 season preview series.  In this preview, we reach the mid-point of this 6 week series.  So last but certainly not least, let's take 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 (2018-19 season 22-7, 13-3 Conference, 2nd)
Perimeter play was already going to be a strength with soph PG Trejuan Holloman (10.5 PPG) and wing Curtis Jones (14.3 PPG) returning.  Now the Raiders add in high scoring wing J'Vonne Hadley and his 28 PPG from Mahtomedi.  That will fill the gap left by Jaeden King nicely.  Amari Carter (13.2 PPG) returns to the combo forward spot.  Will Burke also returns and gives them a solid option in the middle.

East Ridge Raptors (2018-19 season 28-4, 16-0 Conference, 1st)
Former Eagan coach Josh Peltier takes over the program with Bryce Tesdahl leaving for Minnetonka.  He needs to replace 4 major rotation pieces including the entire perimeter rotation of 51 PPG.  That includes star Kendall Brown leaving for Sunrise Christian in Kansas.  Wisconsin commit Ben Carlson (16.3 PPG) was the team leader in scoring last year from his forward spot.  Brody Kriesel returns up front as well.  Zac Thomas and Drew Adams are quality options there as well.  Soph Kendall Blue is an option to fill the question marks on the perimeter.

Forest Lake Rangers (2018-19 season 4-20, 4-12 Conference, Tie 7th)
The Rangers battle injuries all of last year.  Guard Dorell Young returns after leading the team with 17.1 PPG.  But the other 2 double figure scoring guards depart leaving 27 PPG behind.  Eric Peterson (7.4 PPG) returns to a forward spot.  Harrison Taylor and Carter Thiesfeld are guard options. Jordan Boysen (4.5 PPG) returns to man the middle.

Irondale Knights (2018-19 season 9-18, 5-14 Conference, 7th NW Suburban West)
Leading scorer Aden Price (17.3 PPG) needs to be replaced in the backcourt.  Leighton Glodek's 11.3 PPG also departs.  Athletic forward Iggy Ejiofor (11.4 PPG) returns to lead the front line.  Jack Crooks also returns to the front line rotation.  Evan Romes and Kwame Herzog are candidates to take the backcourt spots.

Mounds View Mustangs (2018-19 season 8-19, 3-13 Conference, 9th)
Guard Josh Albers (9.9 PPG) is the biggest loss from the lineup.  Soph shooter Dylan Wheeler was the leading scorer last year at 13.1 PPG.  Thomas Gebhardt (9.8 PPG) returns to a forward spot.  John Montgomery (6.8 PPG) returns to the post.  Cole Sorensen, Evan Kim and Jack Hentges also return to the rotation.

Park Wolfpack (2018-19 season 12-16, 7-9 Conference, Tie 4th)
Park had their best year in ages last season.  Now coach Mike Weah has major holes to fill with 5 of his top 6 graduating.  That includes 16 PPG from F Charlie Gorres and 20.6 PPG from G Domenick Block.  Jayden Lane and Jack Blumberg are the top returning options.  Hunter Bammert-Mueller is a forward option.

Roseville Raiders (2018-19 season 10-18, 7-9 Conference, Tie 4th)
Alexander Culver comes over from the Wayzata staff to lead the program.  He has pieces to work with.  Spencer Nath (6.8 PPG) and Robert Riley return to the center spot.  Keyshawn Payne is a top guard option.  Juniors Teris Watson and Treygan Adams are also guard options.

Stillwater Ponies (2018-19 season 12-15, 6-10 Conference, 6th)
Stillwater needs to replace 6 of their top 7.  That includes 3 double figure scorers which included an effective front line duo that combined for almost 30 PPG. Guard Ben Smalley is the only returnee of note with 7 PPG.  Matt Moore should step into the lineup.  Ty Hawkins and Reid Schlosser are inside options. Max Shikenjanski is a guard candidate.

White Bear Lake Bears (2018-19 season 20-7, 12-4 Conference, 3rd)
Coach Keith Lockwood needs to replace his top 5 scorers and most of the rotation.  Forward Jeremy Beckler and guard Sam Schwartz combined for over 37 PPG.  Guard Brice Peters is the top returnee at 5 PPG.  Junior Will Forsythe will take over inside.  Freshman Jack Janicki is a prime candidate to take over the point guard duties.  Kayne Raheem and Moses Hancock are options on the wing.

Woodbury Royals (2018-19 season 6-21, 4-12 Conference, Tie 7th)
The Royals went with a large youth movement last year.  So despite losing leading scorer McK Robertson (15.9 PPG) and Adam Mazur (6.3 PPG), plenty of experience returns.  Brad Cimperman (13 PPG) and junior Mac Lockner (11.1 PPG) make a outside duo.  Soph Blake Rohrer saw plenty of guard time as well last year.  Parker McMorrow returns to a forward spot.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Cretin-Derham Hall  
  2. East Ridge   
  3. Roseville
  4. Woodbury 
  5. Forest Lake 
  6. White Bear Lake    
  7. Park
  8. Mounds View  
  9. Irondale 
  10. Stillwater 
Conference Overview:
Irondale joins the league to make a round number of 10 teams.  Overall its a really down year in the league.  Cretin-Derham Hall is the clear favorite.  East Ridge is the best of the rest with a really good frontcourt but they have guard questions to answer.  Beyond that, it drops off to group of so so teams.  Roseville I see as the best of the rest but Woodbury could make a jump with what they have coming back.  Forest Lake has a couple pieces back as well.  White Bear Lake has a ton to replace but a couple of quality JV pieces should step in.  I see the rest of the league struggling.  Park and Mounds View will battle but they aren't as the same level as the rest.  Irondale and Stillwater don't have the horses.

Conference MVP: Ben Carlson - East Ridge

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Trejuan Holloman - Cretin-Derham Hall
  • Kendall Blue, Logan Larson - East Ridge
  • Nick Bartlett - Forest Lake
  • Dylan Wheeler - Mounds View
  • Brayden Fick, Jack Blumberg, Jackson Tessman, Josh Hotano - Park
  • Tomas Nelson - Roseville
  • Max Shikenjanski - Stillwater 
  • Jack Janicki - White Bear Lake
  • Blake Rohrer - Woodbury
Conference Games to Watch
  • East Ridge at Cretin-Derham Hall - Jan 24th
  • Cretin-Derham Hall at East Ridge - Feb 28th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • East Ridge vs Prior Lake - Nov 30th (Big 12 at Champlin Park) 
  • Cretin-Derham Hall vs Eden Prairie - Nov 30th  (Big 12 at Champlin Park)  
  • Cretin-Derham Hall at North St. Paul - Dec 3rd
  • East Ridge vs Park Center - Dec 7th (Tipoff Classic at Hopkins) 
  • Cretin-Derham Hall vs Minnehaha- Dec 7th (Tipoff Classic at Hopkins)
  • Eden Prairie at East Ridge - Dec 21st
  • Eastview at East Ridge - Dec 27th
  • Minnehaha at East Ridge - Dec 28th
  • East Ridge vs Rochester Mayo - Jan 18th (Hall of Fame Classic at ARCC) 
  • De La Salle at Cretin-Derham Hall - Feb 15th

2019-20 South Suburban Conference Preview

This is the 12th preview in my 2019-20 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 (2018-19 season 6-21, 2-16 Conference, 9th)
Apple Valley has to replace their top 3 scorers from a team that had a hard time scoring anyway.  One of those is wing Isaiah Davis who is now at Minnehaha.  A ton of guys played and will return. Noah Friedt on the front line and Davy Hosea in the backcourt lead the returning pack.  Bilhal Kone, Mason Klett and Nick Deluca are guard options.  Noah Wetzel is an option in the front court.

Burnsville Blaze (2018-19 season 12-17, 7-11 Conference, 7th)
The Blaze return forward Daniel Rosenbur and his 12.8 PPG.  Most of the rest of the scoring departs including Hayden Johnson (13.3 PPG) and 10.4 PPG from Marcus Shepley.  Josiah Jordan and Mohamed Hassan return to the rotation  Soph Yarin Alexander should see an increased role.

Eagan Wildcats (2018-19 season 11-17, 5-13 Conference, 8th)
Former Roseville and St. Paul Academy coach Kevin McKenzie takes over.  He had planned on being an assistant at South St. Paul before this job opened up. He has 5 of last year's top 6 scorers returning.  Kurt Ohlhues topped all scorers for the Wildcats last year at 11.9 PPG and also returns to the lineup.  The rest of the offense consists of a bevy of shooters including Cam House, Jack Carlson and Finn O'Malley. 

Eastview Lightning (2018-19 season 19-13, 10-8 Conference, 4th)
Eastview features one of the better inside out combos in the league in Wisconsin commit Steven Crowl (19.3 PPG) and wing shooter Ryan Thissen (14.3 PPG).  Forward Tate Machacek also was a double figure scorer last year.  Jaylen James will take over at the point full time but can also knock down an open 3.  Junior Zach Spann is an athletic forward who saw time last year.  Caden Scales also returns to the rotation.

Farmington Tigers (2018-19 season 12-15, 9-9 Conference, Tie 5th)
The Tigers have to replace 4 of their top 5 scorers from last year. Leading scorer Jameson Shrum and athletic wing Miles Mendes are the biggest losses.  Junior Isaac Ask leads the returning scorers with 8.3 PPG last year.  Carter Huschka, Gabe Bassett, Jack Cochnauer and Max Baata also return to the rotation.  Junior Eli Green could have a breakout year at a guard spot.

Lakeville North Panthers (2018-19 season 27-5, 17-1 Conference, 1st, Class AAAA Runner-Up)
The state class AAAA runner-up will look to reload again after losing their top 6 scorers.  That includes do everything forward Tyler Wahl and his 18.5 PPG.  Guards Josh Kamara and Carter Patterson lead the returnees.  Noah Frechette and Will Blascziek are just a couple of options to fill the holes left.  They will miss the football toughness of Eli and Will Mostaert on the front line.

Lakeville South Cougars (2018-19 season 14-14, 9-9 Conference, Tie 5th)
Coach Joe Janquart has a quality inside out duo of guard Reid Patterson (16.1 PPG) and Wisconsin football commit Riley Mahlman (12.2 PPG).  Both are juniors.  Guard Joe Bachinski also returns to the starting lineup. Sophmores Avery Mast and Sam Fliehe were both return after being rotation guys last year.  Jack Leland also returns to the front line.

Prior Lake Lakers (2018-19 season 25-4, 16-2 Conference, 2nd)
Assistant coach Jon Miller takes over after 1 year with the program and a bunch under Bruce Kugath at Shakopee.  The Lakers also have their own dynamic duo.  Star forward Dawson Garcia and his 27.5 PPG return to the lineup.  Guard Tyree Ihenacho should see his scoring increase after 9.2 PPG last year.  Kyle McCullough is the only other rotation returnee.  Taylor Flaata should slot into the center spot vacated by Robert Jones and Carson Schoeller.  They'll need to replace the shooting of Sam Nissen along with the the ballhandling and leadership of PG Jackyse Jaycox.

Rosemount Irish (2018-19 season 4-23, 1-17 Conference, 10th)
The top 2 scorers for the Irish, Jacob Siwek (11.8 PPG) and Andrew Reuter (8.9 PPG), have graduated.  Junior center Zach Wenthe leads the returning scorers at 8.2 PPG.  Sean Sullivan, Noah Loehr and Matt Schwinefus are a few options for the rotation.

Shakopee Sabers (2018-19 season 22-6, 14-4 Conference, 3rd)
The Sabers return their own group of talented seniors.  Forward Charlie Katona (16 PPG) leads a trio of returning double digit scorers.  PG Will Cordes and guard Caleb Druvenga are the other 2 and make up a rock solid backcourt.  Aaron Bosley is a solid option to go with them.  Bruce Lockwood gives them length on the front line.  Soph Nick Katona should see a bigger role on the wing replacing Brooks Allen.  Fellow soph Cade McGraw is another backcourt option.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Prior Lake
  2. Shakopee
  3. Eastview
  4. Lakeville South 
  5. Lakeville North 
  6. Eagan
  7. Apple Valley   
  8. Farmington 
  9. Burnsville
  10. Rosemount  
Conference Overview:
Prior Lake gets the nod with Dawson Garcia coming back. Its a major log jam behind them.  Shakopee and Eastview have been building for this year and have lots of experience to go with their talent.  Prior Lake's rival Shakopee gets the nod as they overperformed last year and Eastview may have underachieved.  Lakeville South may be young but they are talented.  Lakeville North loses a ton but never underestimate a John Oxton team.  The 2nd level drops off significantly behind that.  Eagan sticks out as the best of the bottom half with all the offense they have returning.  Farmington and Apple Valley battle it out after that.  Not sure how much help Daniel Rosenbur will have for Burnsville.  Rosemount continues to rebuild.

Conference MVP: Dawson Garcia - Prior Lake

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Yarin Alexander - Burnsville 
  • Emmanuel Schmitter - Eagan
  • Kenji Scales - Eastview
  • Kyle Hrncir - Farmington 
  • Avery Mast, Sam Fliehe, Maddox Alipate - Lakeville South
  • Malcolm Jones - Prior Lake
  • Nick Katona, Cade McGraw - Shakopee
Conference Games to Watch
  • Prior Lake at Shakopee - Jan 7th
  • Prior Lake at Eastview - Jan 21st 
  • Shakopee at Eastview - Jan 28th
  • Shakopee at Prior Lake - Feb 7th
  • Eastview at Prior Lake - Feb 18th
  • Eastview at Shakopee - Feb 28th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Prior Lake vs East Ridge - Nov 30th (Big 12 at Champlin Park) 
  • Eastview at Champlin Park - Nov 30th (Big 12 at Champlin Park) 
  • Chaska at Eastview - Dec 5th
  • Prior Lake vs Eden Prairie - Dec 7th (Tipoff Classic at Hopkins)
  • Shakopee at Hopkins - Dec 7th (Tipoff Classic)
  • Eden Prairie at Eastview - Dec 12th
  • Shakopee vs Chaska - Dec 27th (Eden Prairie tourney)
  • Eastview at East Ridge- Dec 27th (East Ridge tourney)
  • Shakopee at Eden Prairie - Dec 28th (Eden Prairie tourney)
  • Prior Lake at Chaska - Jan 30th

2019-20 NW Suburban Conference Preview

This is the 11th preview in my 2019-2020 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 (2018-19 season 5-21, 3-16 Conference, 7th North)
Andover returns their top 2 scorers from a year ago.  Guard Calvin Foy and his 11.4 PPG were tops last season.  Forward Shandon Schannauer (9.1 PPG) is the returnee of note.  Austin Learned and Jared Kleppe give them size options.  Very little scoring punch and experience beyond those top 2 returning.

Anoka Tornadoes (2018-19 season 12-14, 7-12 Conference, 4th North)
Coach Jeff Wall has to replace all 3 double figure scorers from a year ago.  That includes center Joey Lombard (14 PPG) in the middle.  Senior guard Cody Lindenberg (9.9 PPG) will drive the offense.  Brody Lake also returns to the guard rotation.  Collins Yego returns on the front line.  Junior wing David Ayeni (9.3 PPG) will also see an increased scoring role.

Blaine Bengals (2018-19 season 21-8, 13-6 Conference, 2nd North)
Blaine needs to replace all 3 double figure scorers including versatile forward Jason Kaul (16 PPG).  It adds up to more than 40 PPG lost.  Wing Patrick Perrault leads the returnees with 7.3 PPG.  Isaiah Giles returns to hold down the front court.  Limited experience returns beyond that.  Kossi Kavi is one of those options in the backcourt.

Centennial Cougars (2018-19 season 13-14, 8-11 Conference, 3rd North)
Centennial loses 3 double figure scoring guards.  But leading scorer Carter Anderson (16.1 PPG) returns to lead the offense.  I expect a big year from the sharpshooting wing.  The tiny crew of Jaxon Valdvogel (6.2 PPG), Noah Larson (4.3 PPG) and Richard Hemric (2.5 PPG) will fill those spots.  They'll need to replace the size of Cole Fenstermacher inside.  Thomas Palmsteen and Romolo Facente are options there.  Expect the Cougars to go small, play fast and let it fly.

Champlin Park Rebels (2018-19 season 23-6, 17-2 Conference, 1st North)
Four of the top 5 scorers are gone and that accounts for almost 50 PPG of offense.  Despite that, I see another year of reloading and winning the division for the Rebels.   Junior Francis Nwaokorie leads the returnees at 7.4 PPG.  Cooper Olson, Ethan Rens  and Jaice Miller will also man the front court.  TJ Moberg, Jared Walter return to the guard rotation.  Joshua Strong should step right in at a point guard spot as well.

Coon Rapids Cardinals (2018-19 season 10-18, 4-15 Conference, Tie 5th North)
Forward Marshall Holland and his team high 15.7 PPG needs to be replaced.  Reese Mahn and Elijah McGrath also need to be replaced in the starting lineup.  The front line should be a strength with juniors David Osayameh (11.2 PPG) and Lucky Moronge (6.7 PPG) coming back.  Both are active and athletic.  Add in scoring punch from senior Jackson Aurelius (11 PPG) for a nice compliment.  Junior PG Jordan Doe (6.9 PPG) also returns to the lineup.  Soph M.J. Galimah is another option to fill a backcourt spot.

Elk River Elks (2018-19 season 6-21, 4-15 Conference, Tie 5th North)
Coach Randy Klasen has retired after 516 career wins. Assistant Ryan Servaty takes over the program.  The top 3 scorers have to be replaced and combined for 30 PPG.  The front court of senior Alex Eng and soph Brandon Melchior will be the strength of the roster.  Isaac Hultberg provides depth there.  Guard Carter Behne leads the backcourt and is the top returning scorer  at 6.2 PPG.  Connor Wyse will also see backcourt time.

Maple Grove Crimson (2018-19 season 23-8, 15-4 Conference, 2nd West)
The Crimson need to replace their trio of double-figure scorers at the guard spots.  That accounted for almost 39 PPG of offense.  RaShaun Parker and Lovell Williams return as wing options with Terrance Larmouth looking to join that group.  The front line will be strong with juniors Sean Bergstrom and Caden Boettcher returning. Jatai Dillard and DJ Miller are top options to replace the departed guards.

Osseo Orioles (2018-19 season 16-12, 10-9 Conference, 4th West)
All 3 double-figure scorers are gone with Cornell Richardson now at Hopkins.  But Osseo just reloads.  Senior Tariq Henry averaged 9.2 PPG last year and should be the next breakout candidate for the Orioles.  The rest of the rotation will likely see many members of the loaded sophomore class.  Fridley transfer Hassan Kamara adds to the talented crew as a 2 year varsity veteran.  Kamara will join G Bernard Omooria, Joseph Ola-Joseph, F Blessed Barhayiga and G Donald Ferguson as sophomores who could join the rotation.  Junior Michael McIntyre will be an option up front.

Park Center Pirates (2018-19 season 30-2, 18-1 Conference, 1st West)
The Pirates have to replace 3 important pieces from last year in guard Tommy Chatman and wings Khari Broadway and Emmanuel Tamba.  But don't feel sorry for coach James Ware.  Despite those losses and the loss of 3 talented freshmen to Totino-Grace, he still has a roster that should contend for a state title.  The front line of Dain Dainja (15.2 PPG) and DT Frierson (14.1 PPG) makes the pirate ship sail.  Then you have shooter Josh Brown  (7.3 PPG) coming back after a breakout AAU season.  Add in face up 4 man John Grigsby from Colorado as a perfect compliment to the roster.  He already holds multiple D2 offers.  Point guard is the biggest question mark.

Robbinsdale Armstrong Falcons (2018-19 season 18-10, 13-6 Conference, 3rd West)
Jon Bryant with an impressive 1st year leading the Falcons to a surprising 18 wins.  Versatile Jake Breitbach (11.7 PPG), wing Adam Biewen (10.7 PPG) and C Hezekiah Iyawe (9.5 PPG) lead the returnees.  Soph F Kayden College and junior shooter Dylan Inniger are primed to contribute.  The intangibles of guard Devin Frye will be missed.

Rogers Royals (2018-19 season 11-16, 8-5 Conference, 3rd Mississippi 8 West)
The Royals join fellow district member Elk River in the conference.  They have to replace all 3 double figure scorers from last season.  Forward Thomas Glad averaged 9.9 PPG.  Sam Simpson (5 PPG) and Jake Hemann (7.6 PPG) should man the guard spots.  Not much experience returning beyond that.  Being placed in the tougher west division doesn't help the cause.

Spring Lake Park Panthers (2018-19 season 15-12, 9-10 Conference, 5th West)
Coach Grant Guzy has a roster looking to make a major impact this season.  Six members of the rotation return.  That includes shooters Blake Remme (18.7 PPG) and Gabe Myren (15.7 PPG).  Jacob Say (9.8 PPG) will run the show again.  Daydor Phillips (7.6 PPG) will return at a combo forward spot.  They do lose 2 primary post options including Mason Johnson and his 8.3 PPG.  Replace that size is the 1 noteworthy hole in the lineup.

Totino-Grace Eagles (2018-19 season 13-16, 7-12 Conference, 6th West)
Coach Nick Carroll featured an inexperienced and defensively stout roster last year.  SG Eric Krieger's 15.9 PPG will be missed as their main offensive option.  The junior class leads the way with wing Devin Berger (12.6 PPG) and defensive minded guards DJ Akpati and Chasen Livingston.  Soph RJ Spencer saw time last year before injury.  Seniors Carson and Caden Wolla are undersized inside.  A trio of talented freshman have transferred in from Park Center.  Taison Chatman and C.J. O'Hara are 2 elite members of the 2023 class along with Tommy Humphries. 

Predicted Order of Finish

North Division
  1. Champlin Park   
  2. Maple Grove 
  3. Coon Rapids 
  4. Centennial      
  5. Blaine
  6. Anoka 
  7. Andover  
West Division
  1. Park Center
  2. Osseo 
  3. Spring Lake Park 
  4. Robbinsdale Armstrong  
  5. Totino-Grace
  6. Elk River
  7. Rogers
Conference Overview:
Irondale joined their district foe Mounds View in the Suburban East.  So its only fitting that Rogers joins district foe Elk River as a replacement.  Both are now in the west division with Maple Grove strangely moving to the north division.  That means no 2 game series for the Crimson with their district rivals Osseo and Park Center.

The north division is the easier half once again.  Champlin Park once again runs away with it.  Everybody in the division has heavy losses.  Maple Grove has plenty coming back so they are my clear favorite for 2nd.  Coon Rapids and Centennial are polar opposites but have enough back to fight for that final top tier spot.  Blaine has too much to replace.  Anoka continues to improve.  Andover will once again struggle.

In the west, its really tough.  Park Center is too loaded to move out of the top spot.  Osseo is young but hard to count them out with their tradition.  Spring Lake Park and Armstrong will give them a big run though.  Totino-Grace stands out above the rest and can scare the group in front of them.  Rogers and Elk River will battle each other to stay out of the division cellar.

Conference MVP: Dain Dainja - Park Center

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Ben Kopetzki, Sammy Msungu - Andover
  • Japheth Nyamari - Anoka
  • Reese Neudahl - Centennial
  • Zach Simon, MJ Galimah, Elijah Smith - Coon Rapids 
  • Brandon Melchior - Elk River
  • Jon Haakenson, Lincoln Palbicki - Maple Grove 
  • Hassan Kamara, Joshua Ola-Joseph, Bernard Omooria, Blessed Barhayiga - Osseo
  • Braeden Carrington, JJ Ware - Park Center
  • Kayden College, Peyton Newbern - Robbinsdale Armstrong
  • Nick Ojile, Jackson Weier, Stephen Kesti, Owen O'Keefe - Spring Lake Park
  • CJ O'Hara, Taison Chatman, Tommy Humphries, RJ Spencer - Totino-Grace
Conference Games to Watch
  • Osseo at Park Center - Dec 10th 
  • Champlin Park at Maple Grove - Jan 22nd
  • Champlin Park at Park Center - Jan 28th
  • Maple Grove at Osseo - Jan 28th
  • Park Center at Osseo - Feb 3rd
  • Maple Grove at Champlin  Park - Feb 24th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Park Center vs Hopkins - Nov 30th (Big 12 at Champlin Park) 
  • Eastview at Champlin Park - Nov 30th (Big 12) 
  • Park Center vs East Ridge- Dec 7th (Tipoff Classic at Hopkins) 
  • Champlin Park vs Waseca- Dec 7th (Tipoff Classic at Hopkins) 
  • Hopkins at Champlin Park - Jan 3rd
  • Park Center at Minnehaha - Jan 3rd
  • Park Center vs Eden Prairie - Jan 18th (Hall of Fame Classic at ARCC)

2019-20 Lake Conference Preview

This is the 10th preview in my 2019-2020 season preview series.  In this preview, let's stay in the west metro for a look at the Lake Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are done, click here.

Buffalo Bison (2018-19 season 22-7, 11-2 Conference, 1st Mississippi 8 West)
Buffalo was poised for a big entry to the Lake.  But football star Aidan Bouman (15.4 PPG) is leaving for Iowa State early leaving a big hole on the front line.  Wing Tony Dahl blew out a knee this summer.  That leaves a big workload for leading scorer Matt Willert (17.7 PPG) on the wing.  Soph Antono Bluiett returns to run the show.  Brandon Maatz is another starting guard coming back with 12.2 PPG.  Trevor Johnson returns to provide depth.

Eden Prairie Eagles (2018-19 season 22-10, 4-4 Conference, 4th)
Eden Prairie will once again be a state contender.  They return an entire lineup even with losing forward Ariel Bland to prep school.  Liberty commit Drake Dobbs runs the show and leads the offense at 18.4 PPG.  Austin Andrews provides the old man game inside at 12.5 PPG.  Shooter John Henry and swiss army knife Connor Christensen man the wings at 13.8 and 12.8 PPG respectively.  Shooter Miles Frisch was a revelation off the bench last season during a time when the Eagles had a bunch of injuries.  Lukas Dunford will take over the big man spot and Brenden Donohue also returns at a guard spot.

Edina Hornets (2018-19 season 19-9, 5-3 Conference, Tie 2nd)
The Hornets lose lots of perimeter firepower including sharpshooter Jack Middleton and his 24.9 PPG.  Jacob Hutson returns in the middle to anchor the offense after averaging 19 PPG last season.  They should be able reload those guard spots from the JV squad with PG Miles Harrell and soph Sammy Presthus amongst others.  Junior Bastian Swinney gives them another big body that could see time.

Hopkins Royals (2018-19 season 27-4, 6-2 Conference, 1st)
Hopkins will as usual feature a high powered perimeter offense.  Kerwin Walton returns after averaging 16.8 PPG last year.  I expect a big increase there.  Transfers Cornell Richardson (Osseo) and Sawyer Shrake (Illinois) will also see backcourt time.  Juniors Andre Gray and Jaelen Treml return to the perimeter rotation as well.  The question is up front in trying to replace Arizona recruit Zeke Nnaji (24.6 PPG) and Dane Zimmer (7.9 PPG).  Elvis Nnaji is a raw athletic possibility there.

Minnetonka Skippers (2018-19 season 13-14, 0-8 Conference, 5th)
Former East Ridge coach Bryce Tesdahl takes the helm of Skippers ship.  Leading scorer Cameron Steele will anchor the lineup.  The bruising forward averaged 19.7 PPG last year and should be a great fit in the grit and grind style that coach Tesdahl wants to play.  Guard Riley O'Connor (7 PPG) returns on the perimeter.  After those 2, there's very little experience coming back.  Brock Banken, JT Gaffney and Ben Steiger are options in the front court.  Evan Arndt and soph Cohen Kellogg are options in the backcourt.

St. Michael-Albertville Knights (2018-19 season 20-8, 10-3 Conference, 2nd Mississippi 8 West)
STMA will have a couple pieces to work with.  Leading scorer Kale Hoselton (13.2 PPG) and guard Evan Wieker (9.1 PPG) return to the lineup.  Big man Austin Jentzen (8 PPG) graduated and PG Sean Buchanan (8 PPG) is now at Mayer Lutheran.  Peyton McLean will step into an expanded role on the wing.  Austin Haus and Nick Olson also return to the rotation.

Wayzata Trojans (2018-19 season 19-10, 5-3 Conference, Tie 2nd)
The Trojans need to replace the small but tough duo of Jacob Beeninga (17.2 PPG) and Luke Paulson (15 PPG) in the backcourt.  Beeninga's intangibles are the biggest loss.  Soph Camden Heide (13.5 PPG) and junior Kody Williams (10.2 PPG) are very talented and will lead the offense.  Junior Eddie Beeninga will continue the family line.  Jacob Wildermuth, Grant Bokovitz and skilled soph Carter Bjerke are front line pieces.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Eden Prairie 
  2. Hopkins
  3. Wayzata
  4. Edina
  5. Buffalo
  6. Minnetonka 
  7. St. Michael-Albertville
Conference Overview
Buffalo and St. Michael-Albertville make the big step up to the always tough Lake Conference.  This year is no different as every night will be a meat grinder.  Eden Prairie and Hopkins are the clear favorites.  Way too much firepower on the offensive end for both squads.  I see Edina and Wayzata in a fun battle for the 3rd spot.  Coin flip it.  Both teams terrific at moving the ball and hitting shots.  Then the last tier of teams.  All 3 are solid teams that will get beaten up in league play but you won't want to see them in the playoffs.

Conference MVP: Kerwin Walton - Hopkins

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Antonio Bluiett, Will Pool - Buffalo
  • Sammy Presthus, Brady Helgren - Edina
  • Elvis Nnaji - Hopkins
  • Cohen Kellogg - Minnetonka 
  • Johnny Tennyson - St. Michael-Albertville
  • Camden Heide, Carter Bjerke, Ryan Harvey- Wayzata
Conference Games to Watch
  • Eden Prairie at Hopkins - Jan 16th
  • Hopkins at Eden Prairie - Feb 11th
 Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Hopkins vs Park Center - Nov 30th (Big 12 at Champlin Park)
  • Eden Prairie vs Cretin-Derham Hall - Nov 30th (Big 12 at Champlin Park)
  • Shakopee at Hopkins - Dec 7th (Tipoff Classic)
  • Eden Prairie vs Prior Lake- Dec 7th (Tipoff Classic at Hopkins)
  • Eden Prairie at Eastview - Dec 12th
  • Minnehaha at Hopkins - Dec 17th
  • Eden Prairie at East Ridge - Dec 21st
  • Eden Prairie at Chaska - Jan 3rd
  • Hopkins at Champlin Park - Jan 3rd
  • De La Salle at Hopkins - Jan 10th
  • Eden Prairie at De La Salle - Feb 1st
  • Eden Prairie at Minnehaha - Feb 18th
  • Hopkins at Minneapolis North - Feb 24th

2019-20 Metro West Conference Preview

This is the 9th preview in my 2019-2020 season preview series.  Its now time for the big schools with the mostly class AAAA leagues featured in this 3rd week of previews.  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 (2018-19 season 9-19, 4-10 Conference, 6th)
Hans Hoeg takes over the head job from longtime coach John Moore.  He spent time as an assistant at Augustana.  While leading scorer Dylan Drees (13.5 PPG) departs from a wing spot, most of the rest of the rotation returns.  Seniors Walker Johnson (9.1 PPG), Nick Peterson (10.2 PPG) and Nels Birkeland provide scoring punch on the wing.  Junior Derric Standifer returns at the point.  There's no clear post presence but there's plenty of scoring elsewhere.

Bloomington Jefferson Jaguars (2018-19 season 11-15, 7-7 Conference, Tie 4th)
Wing Isaiah Watts and his 12.5 PPG are the biggest loss.  Soph Hayden Holland runs the point.  Evan Lind will man the middle.  Manny Montgomery is a lanky wing who lead the team in scoring last year at 15.9 PPG.  Hunter Burgess also saw rotation time last season.

Bloomington Kennedy Eagles (2018-19 season 7-21, 2-12 Conference, 7th)
The Eagles lose their man in the middle Laronte Mormont (8.6 PPG).  Top scorer Jaylen Williams and his team high 16.6 PPG also needs to be replaced.  Isaiah Subah returns at the point along with junior Amarion Hanspard.  Tyvan Klinger is another perimeter option.  Habil Farah gives them length inside.  Jake Husting is another returning frontcourt option.

Chanhassen Storm (2018-19 season 17-10, 10-4 Conference, 3rd)
The Storm have to replace 4 starters.  That includes the duo of Regan Tollefson and Carson Hollowaty who combined for over 26 PPG last year.  Guard Luke Gitzen (12.2 PPG) is the key returnee.  Guard Vincent Manuel is the only other rotation guy coming back.  Juniors Ben Giles, Ryan Maschka and Adam Strobel are options to fill the open spots.  Seniors Sawyer Smith and Spencer Dieken are also rotation possibilities.

Chaska Hawks (2018-19 season 21-6, 13-1 Conference, 1st)
Coach Dana Kallman has to replace his high powered duo of Cole Nicholson (23 PPG) and sharpshooter Connor Krenos (13.1 PPG).  But the Hawks will still be a force in the league thanks to the next 7 leading scorers returning.  Guards Zach Lea and Ben Kallman return to the backcourt.  Junior Spencer Goetz and big soph Brady Nicholson will hold down the frontcourt.  Juniors Jack Frick and Luke Strazzanti are solid perimeter role guys.

Robbinsdale Cooper Hawks (2018-19 season 13-12, 7-7 Conference, Tie 4th)
Coach Bo Powell needs to replace lots of guard offense.  The top 4 scorers including Jalen Justice and Jalen Miller are gone.  That's almost 50 PPG that needs to be replaced.  Junior guard Bo Powell Jr (8.8 PPG) will see a much increased role to replace that.  Damarri Bankhead (6.9 PPG) is a big body to move around inside.  Juniors Majay Murphy and Tyson Dallas will also slot into the rotation.

St. Louis Park Orioles (2018-19 season 19-9, 12-2 Conference, 2nd)
St. Louis Park has to replace 4 of their top scorers.  Junior wing Paris Johnson was tops on the squad last year with 15.6 PPG.  Cole Ewald and Erik Piehl will man the guard spots.  Aaron Ellingson and soph Deontez Ross also return on the wings.  Big man Anthony Rayson inside (14.8 PPG) is the toughest one to replace.  Junior Will Kietzman is an option there.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Chaska
  2. Benilde-St. Margaret's
  3. St. Louis Park  
  4. Chanhassen
  5. Robbinsdale Cooper 
  6. Bloomington Jefferson  
  7. Bloomington Kennedy
Conference Overview
Richfield leaves the conference but no other realignment so far.  Chaska is the heavy favorite with a ton coming back.  Benilde-St. Margaret's has a lot of good pieces returning so I'll pick them to be the best of the rest.  St. Louis Park also has notable pieces back so I'll give them the nod for the 3rd spot after underestimating them last year.  Chanhassen and Cooper have lots to replace.  Coin flip that for the middle spot.  Jefferson is well coached and boring enough to squeeze out a few wins.  That's a running joke here for those of you who are new readers. I respect the methodical style and think its a good fit for the talent available.  Kennedy remains at the bottom.

Conference MVP: Zach Lea - Chaska

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Jack Kinsey - Benilde-St. Margaret's
  • Hayden Holland - Bloomington Jefferson
  • Ben Giles, Adam Strobel - Chanhassen
  • Brady Nicholson - Chaska
  • Davion Evans - Robbinsdale Cooper
  • Deontez Ross - St. Louis Park
Conference Games to Watch
  • Chaska at Benilde-St. Margaret's - Feb 4th
  • Benilde-St. Margaret's at Chaska - Feb 28th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Chaska at Eastview - Dec 5th
  • Chaska vs Shakopee - Dec 27th (Eden Prairie tourney)
  • Eden Prairie at Chaska - Jan 3rd