Posted On: 01/24/18 11:20 AM
What teams in Minnesota are playing above expectations and who has slipped a bit lower than expected this year? NHR runs through it now, starting with Class AAAA.
Above. Farmington at 9-6 has been much better than expected. A veteran, balanced line-up has won more games than expected with Caden Freetly leading the way and guys like Adam Weed and Zach Hedquist being key factors.
Below. The Spartans of Rochester Mayo likely had to lofty of expectations thrown at them right away based on two really talented sophomores entering their line-up creating excitement. They are 6-8 and playing better but we likely should of given them more time.
Watch Out For. The Huskies just beat Austin and Mankato East. They are now healthy recovered from football injuries and the six straight wins has them at 9-4.
Preseason Pick: Lakeville North. Changing that? If JM can beat Osseo they can beat most Class AAAA teams. But the history at North vs JM makes me need to see it happen once before I can think it will happen. Jim Daly is a good coach that could get it done, but he may need a go at John Oxton to feel him out before making this switch.
Above. Eden Prairie was the 8th rated team in the state to start the year but they are 13-2 against a quality schedule. The sophomores blow me away with their level of play together as Austin Andrews and Drake Dobbs are scoring 18 a night, Connor Christensen 12-13 a game, and John Henry being way better than expected.
Below. Nobody. This is a really good section. I never expected Edina to beat CDH and Apple Valley, Prior Lake making the top five was a surprise, and Chaska is much better than I ever expected them to be. Shakopee is 7-8 with the worst record in the section and they are better than expected.
Watch Out For. The 4/5 game. Nobody wants to go into this section and play the 4/5 game. Right now it would be Minnetonka vs Prior Lake despite both teams having been ranked this year. Jefferson, Chanhassen, and Shakopee are no picnic either but they aren’t top ten level teams like the others have been at some point.
Preseason Pick: EP. Changing that? No.
Above. Henry Sibley. This is not a section of depth and I didn’t even have the Warriors in the preseason top five of predictions but here they are tied with Eastview for second place. Rieshaun Satar and Malik Spearman are a strong 1-2 punch for the Warriors.
Below. The Rest (besides Hastings). Seriously. Did you expect Apple Valley to fall out of the top ten this year? Even with Luke Martens out that was a surprise. I thought Eastview would be above .500, Park of Cottage Grove seemed to have the type of talent that could win more than five games, and I surely thought Burnsville would be better than three wins so far. Eagan has faced some injuries but I thought they would have more than two wins and we received some flack for picking Rosemount last in their conference but they have one win.
Watch Out For. Eastview. I have to believe they improve going forward. With a good coaching staff and Max Bolger scoring for them plus Steven Crowl really starting to play well (had in his last game) this is a team I can see making a run. They’ve won two in a row. That said, Apple Valley still walks to the state tournament.
Preseason Pick? AV. Changing that? No.
Above. North St. Paul. We talked about them yesterday when discussing Bryce Phillips but Damian Johnson has made this group tough defensively against some pretty good teams and he led the Polars to a win over Tartan in his first ever game in the Polars/Titans rivalry. Only two losses on the year with a win over ranked Chaska, took number three EP to overtime, and they are undefeated in their league. Tartan gets some mention at 12-2 as well but they have only beaten two teams with a winning record (Rockford and Mahtomedi).
Below. Woodbury. It’s kind of unfair as they have faced a heck of a schedule but most of the section is about where we expected where as Woodbury is ranked to start the year but is 9-7. They have dealt with some injuries and again, the schedule is no joke, there is a reason Woodbury is ranked 10th in the QRF.
Watch Out For. Watch out for Woodbury and White Bear Lake is having a really nice year. They are 9-7 with Sam Schwartz scoring 18 plus a game, Jeremy Beckler scoring 17 a contest, and Blake Charles putting up 12.5 a game. This is a group that starts only one senior so they could catch a groove and scare somebody down the stretch.
Preseason Pick? CDH. Changing that? No.
Above. Osseo. This is an easy one. The Orioles were ranked 12th in the Breakdown book but nobody saw them as a legit top ten team coming in but yet here they are at 12-2 with both Zach Theisen and Emmette Page scoring 21-22 a game and Richard Mulbah rebounding everything.
Below. Spring Lake Park is a tad below where I expected them to be but that has more to do with Kameron Davis moving back down south than it does what they are doing right now at 5-8.
Watch Out For. Roseville. They are listed at 4th in the section right now which is where we had them coming into the year. The surprise isn’t there, it’s with the 9-6 record. That’s about 2-3 games better than I thought they would be right now. Gary Smith III, Drew Adams, and Jovan Hunter (among others) have made this a better team than expected.
Preseason Pick? Park Center. Changing that? No, but right now it’s a toss up between PC and Osseo. PC is deeper though while Theisen is the veteran coach. Osseo has beat PC.
Above. Hopkins. As crazy as it sounds, Hopkins may be better than I thought they would be. One loss for the team that started the year ranked third, they are scoring 87 points a game and their defense is really coming around. Anthony Davis has scored more than I think people expected (second leading scorer) and Zeke Nnaji has stepped up to score 20 a night.
Below. St. Louis Park at 5-9 is something I didn’t see coming. In defense, eight of their nine losses have been against teams that have been ranked at some point this year, but they are a veteran team who I thought could win a couple of those games plus they just lost to Jefferson.
Watch Out For. Wayzata. The schedule the Trojans keep is quite daunting. The surprise was the loss to BSM but Wayzata is not a big team at all so bigger teams like Hopkins, Park Center, and others should of been favored in beating Wayzata. But when this team hits late season with a full knowledge of the system they are very dangerous.
Preseason Pick? Hopkins. Changing that? No.
Above. Anoka and Coon Rapids. The Tornadoes have lost two in a row but I never expected them to win nine games all year and they have already. Jake Phipps at 18 points, ten rebounds, and three blocks a game is having a great year. And how about Coon Rapids?!?! At 7-7 they are far better than I thought with Marshall Holland and Marcel Winston being a reliable tandem.
Below. I keep getting crud from people in Andover about them being “slept on” but they are 8-7 this year and won 11 of 31 games last year. Win some more games, make a run, and that will be great for the Huskies. They have some good players with Mason Heath being a double-double threat and Conner Knoepfle is a 20 point per game guy as a 6-foot-1 senior guard.
Watch Out For. Either Blaine or Cambridge. At 9-6 Blaine is about where most expected them to be where as Cambridge has surpassed last year’s win total already with Henry Abraham scoring 21 a contest.
Preseason Pick? Forest Lake. Changing that? No.
Above. Easily Maple Grove. At 10-4 with Alex Battist averaging a double-double and Jared Rainey playmaking for himself (15.4 a game) and others (5.5 assists a game) the Crimson are about 3-4 games better than expected.
Below. St. Cloud Tech kind of but they don’t have Camden Jackson at all and James Kaczor has been hurt so that’s a big blow from what they were expected to have. Elk River and Rogers are also a couple games below expectations.
Watch Out For. Tech. They have won five of six and just picked up wins over Tonka and Fergus Falls. With Kaczor back it’s a different team as they have a guy now that can handle and defend speedy guards.
Preseason Pick? St. Cloud Tech. Changing that? On the fence with Jackson not playing and Rainey being so good for MG. Tough call. Have to stay with Teck for now.