Conference Preview: MAC

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Posted On: 11/26/17 8:10 PM

The Teams
Bettendorf (18-6): There may not have been a bigger storyline in the state over the summer than the explosion of Bulldogs’ junior point guard DJ Carton (10.5), who picked up Power Five offers from all over the country after a dynamic summer with Quad City Elite. He’s the only returnee who scored more than 14 points last season, as the Bulldogs lose a massive (and massively successful) senior class with ten players from last year’s group graduating. Carton is an explosive, playmaking point guard who has really improved his jumper, which will pair with his elite ball handling and ability to get to the rim. With next to no experience back for the ‘Dogs, he’ll be asked to play a huge scoring and facilitating role, something he looks primed to handle. He’ll have some unexpected help, as Devyn Wakefield, formerly of East Moline United Township (IL) has transferred to Bettendorf. He’ll provide some additional scoring punch on the wing. They’ll need to get lots of production from last year’s sophomore team, which was strong, and that should happen. The Bulldogs have a strong program, and they’ll reload. They’ll be a factor in the MAC race, and like Muscatine, they have a player who can take over and win any given game, so nobody will want to see them in their substate.

Burlington (0-22): The closest game the Greyhounds played in last year was a 15-point loss to Iowa City High, who won four games last season. They lost by an average of 31 points a game, so there isn’t much reason for optimism in Burlington. Austin Brown (7.3), Daxton Washington-Smothers (6.8) and Ryle Koenig (5.6) are back, but with the lack of competitiveness last season, there’s not much reason to believe they’ll win a game this year either. It’ll be another long winter in Burlington.

Clinton (9-13): Outside of Bettendorf, no team in the MAC was hit harder by graduation than the River Kings, who lost their top five scorers. The leading returnees are Brennen Lemke (3.8), Louis Harris (3.7) and LJ Henderson (3.5). Look for Henderson to become the leader of this group after a solid freshman year and a strong summer on the grassroots circuit. This is a group that is going to be inexperienced and will need to break in a lot of new pieces. They’ll struggle to compete with the upper echelon teams in the league.

Davenport Assumption (13-10): Five of the top seven scorers from last year return for the Knights, headlined by Trent Fitzpatrick (11.9) and Dylan Peeters (7.6). The key to this group’s success will be the development of 6-7 junior wing Dylan Peeters, a long, athletic and gifted wing who is coming off a great summer with Quad City Elite and is primed for a breakout season. Luke Fennelly (6.5) also returns in the backcourt, pairing with Fitzpatrick to give the Knights a pair of experienced ball handler who do a pretty solid job protecting the basketball and facilitating for teammates. Ray Thrapp (6.7) is an experienced player who has a bit of an old man’s game and is a versatile scorer who can do so in a number of ways. He shot 59.4% from behind the arc last season, so expect to see a little more of that (only 32 attempts last year). With the expected development from Peeters, the Knights will factor into the league race and be a real threat to take home a state title in 3A.

Davenport Central (17-5): It’ll be an interesting transition year for the Blue Devils, who only return Nathan Tyson (10.8) from their top eight last season. A 5-11 senior guard, Tyson was a quality fourth option last season for Central, but will have to adjust to becoming the top player and the number one mark on the opposition’s game plan. Isaiah Litt (1.7) is the only other returnee who scored more than four points last season, with 29 points. There is always a good amount of talent and athleticism in Central’s hallways, so they shouldn’t fall all the way to the basement of the league, but this may be a tough season for them.

Davenport North (7-15): After getting off to a fairly strong 4-2 start a year ago, the Wildcats stumbled big-time after the holiday break, going just 3-12 after the new year started. With some promising talent returning, and the addition of a highly talented wing, they should get that mark above .500 this season and become a team that people don’t want to see in February. They’ll be led by the guard trio of VJ Wilmington (14.1), Max Taylor (11.1, 42.1 3P%) and Rock Island transfer Lacey Watson. Watson is a highly talented scoring guard with loads of athletic ability who ran into a few issues at Rock Island, and is now in Davenport. If he’s able to stay on the floor, he provides another big-time scoring threat to put alongside an already strong duo of guards. Keenan Hollingshed (8.9, 45.7 3P%) is another solid contributor who returns from last season. The interior is anchored by 6-11 center Jared Beck (5.8, 72 blocks), who isn’t much of a scoring threat, but has the ability to protect the rim and runs the floor well. As a team, they shot 51.1% from the floor but only scored 56.4 points a game, so with the returning talent, don’t be surprised to see them get out and run a bit more this year. They’ll need to improve at the free throw line (61.8% last year) if they want to pull out some of those close games (six losses by single digits) and have a chance at making some serious noise. Still, there is enough talent coming back and coming back that the Wildcats will at the very least be a really intriguing team to keep an eye on. They’ll be a factor in the league race and a real contender to finish top three.

Davenport West (5-18): All five starters return from last year for the Falcons, so there is some reason for optimism on the west side of Davenport. They’ll be led by a trio of double figure scorers in Brett Erwin (15.3), Trey Sampson (13.1) and Kenny Clay (11.2), who form one of the better trios in the league. Erwin is a 6-8 center who runs the floor well, protects the rim and is an efficient scoring threat who was heavily involved in the offense last season. Sampson, a 6-7 wing, gives them lots of size and length on the perimeter and is a capable scorer and defender, while Clay, a diminutive point guard, was among the state leaders in assists last year after dishing out 176 helpers. Aaron Gilliland (3.8) and Bailey Garnica (3.5) round out the starting five and fill their roles well. Three bench players from last year’s group – Mason Carney (2.2), Victor Howard (1.1) and Jalen Smith (1.4) – also return, giving the Falcons plenty of experience and depth. They’ll need to improve at the free throw line, where they shot just 51.5%, if they want to win more games this year.

Muscatine (15-7): The state’s best player, and Mr. Basketball frontrunner, Joe Wieskamp (30.4) returns for the Muskies, and that alone is enough to consider them a contender in the league. Last season, the Iowa commit became the first 4A player to lead the state in scoring since Marcus Paige, and he did so with remarkable efficiency (56-41-82 shooting splits), while leading the team in every category. He carried them to the substate final, where they were blown out by eventual champion Iowa City West, but him being on this team makes them a threat every time they step on the floor. In all, three of the top four scorers from last year return, with Garrett Mueller (8.8) and Jackson Foulk (4.6) set to flank Wieskamp. Mueller shot nearly 44% from behind the arc, giving the Muskies another solid wing scoring option, while Foulk is a solid ball handler and defender. They’ll certainly need to find some ways to take some pressure off of Wieskamp, but with him and tow (and a legitimate threat to drop 40+ on any given night), they’ll win plenty of games, be a player in the league race and a threat come substate time.

North Scott (16-7): The 2015 state champions have enjoyed a strong run of success over the past five or six years, and this year’s group will look to continue that streak. The Lancers will be led by Minnesota State signee Corvon Seales (13.6), a long, athletic wing who has really started to put everything together. He had as strong a summer as anyone in the state, and he’ll be asked to be the primary scorer for this group, as well as the likely defender on whoever the opposition’s top scorer is. In all, four of the top six scorers from last year’s team return, but this was a team that had three double figure scorers (two of which have graduated), and a bunch of role players. They’ll need those role players to step into complimentary scoring roles alongside Seales. Gary Morgan (6.7) has the most experience and is a good shooter (43.3 3P%), and he should see his numbers spike. Reece Sommers (3.7) and Cortaviaus Seales (2.8) are the other returnees who saw significant playing time last season, and Seales looks like a safe bet to make a major impact this year after showcasing lots of improvement over the summer. We’re also looking for sophomore wing Ty Anderson to make his name known around the MAC with his versatility, rebounding and toughness. The Lancers have a strong program, a great coach and one of the state’s best two-way players leading the way, and they’ll be a contender for the league title.

Pleasant Valley (11-12): The top three scorers return for a Spartans team that ranked third in scoring defense last season, allowing just 46.1 points a game. Like their stylistic counterparts over in Des Moines, Hoover, a portion of those defensive numbers can be attributed to a very methodical offensive pace, but Pleasant Valley teams are routinely armed with immense length and discipline on the defensive end. This year will be no exception. They’ll be led be Brian Dayman (13.7), a skilled combo forward who does a majority of his damage around the rim, but can step out and knock down an occasional 3. He’s relentless on the glass on both ends of the floor and will outwork anyone who is trying to defend him with his constant movement. The backcourt is led by a pair of juniors in Carter Duwa (9.1) and Hunter Snyder (9.3). Snyder has great length at the two guard, while Duwa is the team’s primary ball handler. Both had strong sophomore seasons that they’ll be looking to build on. That Dayman-Duwa-Snyder trio will probably be the best in the MAC, providing versatility and strong play on both ends of the floor. They’ll be bolstered by junior forward Caleb Carius (3.3), who seems primed to take a major step forward, as well as the addition of what was the core of a strong sophomore team. You know what you’re getting into when you play the Spartans – they’ll be disciplined, physical and really tough defensively. This is the team to beat in the league.

Projected Order of Finish
1. Pleasant Valley
2. Davenport Assumption
3. North Scott
4. Muscatine
5. Bettendorf
6. Davenport North
7. Davenport West
8. Davenport Central
9. Clinton
10. Burlington

Analysis: This may be as strong as the league has been in a while, with any of the top six teams looking capable of making the leap to the top of the standings. Pleasant Valley has the tradition, defense and a strong trio of players who should carry them to the top. Muscatine and Bettendorf have two of the best players in the state, players who could carry them to wins on any given night. Assumption brings back a lot of talent, North Scott is always strong, and North has one of the most intriguing rosters in the state. It’ll be an interesting, entertaining year in the MAC.

PRESEASON PLAYER OF THE YEAR

2018 Joe Wieskamp, Muscatine: 30.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.0 blocks, 56.1 FG%, 41.1 3P%

Despite the summer explosion of Bettendorf guard DJ Carton, the Iowa commit is an easy selection for MAC Player of the Year. He led the state in scoring last season, becoming the first 4A player to do so since Marcus Paige, and he posts incredible efficiency numbers. A top-40 player nationally in the 2018 class, we expect nothing but greatness from this uber talented wing from Muscatine. Barring injury, he’ll become just the second 4A player in history to score over 2,000 career points, and he’ll go down as one of the state’s all-time greatest high school players.

BIGGEST SLEEPER

2020 LJ Henderson, Clinton: A long, athletic wing, Henderson will likely be the River Kings’ go-to scorer this season as he’ll be looking to build on a strong summer on the grassroots circuit.

PLAYERS TO WATCH
2018 Joe Wieskamp, Muscatine
2018 Brett Erwin, Davenport West
2018 Trey Sampson, Davenport West
2018 Kenny Clay, Davenport West
2018 Corvon Seales, North Scott
2018 Gary Morgan, North Scott
2019 DJ Carton, Bettendorf
2018 Brian Dayman, Pleasant Valley
2019 Hunter Snyder, Pleasant Valley
2019 Carter Duwa, Pleasant Valley
2018 VJ Wilmington, Davenport North
2018 Max Taylor, Davenport North
2018 Lacey Watson, Davenport North
2018 Jared Beck, Davenport North
2019 Dylan Peeters, Davenport Assumption
2018 Trent Fitzpatrick, Davenport Assumption
2018 Ray Thrapp, Davenport Assumption
2018 Nathan Tyson, Davenport Central
2019 Daxton Washington-Smothers, Burlington