High School

Posted On: 03/4/18 8:30 AM

Matt Mims

No. 1 seed: Cedar Rapids Xavier (18-6)
About the Saints: The two-time defending champions are back and ready to defend their title behind their standout tandem of Matt Mims (21.0) and Jackson Joens (16.4). Two years ago, they were starters, but more role players. Last year, they were the standouts, but they had Max Techau alongside to make up a “Big Three”. This year, it’s primarily been those two, although guys like Kyle Moeder (7.5) and Quinn Schulte (5.6) have stepped up their play of late. The Saints always have the added benefit of playing in a 4A league throughout the course of the year, and many years, it’s probably the best league in the state, which prepares them well for dropping down a class to play in the postseason. Mims will be the most important player on the floor in every game the Saints play this week, and as long as he’s playing well, it’s hard to pick against Xavier. They survived a scare against South Tama in the substate final, so expect to see this group ready to roll come Tuesday. Until a 3A team beats them in postseason play, it’s hard to pick against them.

Why they can win it all: With Mims and Joens on the floor, and Ryan Luehrsmann on the sideline, the Saints have more state tournament experience than anyone in the field. That duo has routinely played at a high level in Des Moines, and they’re the favorite to finish the 3-peat.

Odds they win it all: 30%. The Saints, despite the better record this year, are probably more vulnerable than they were a year ago, because they don’t have that consistent third weapon. Moeder has improved and could be that guy. The rest of the field is really talented, but at the end of the day, we trust Mims to make the winning plays down the stretch of tight games that the Saints will need, and they’re the favorite to 3-peat.


Brady Sartorius

No. 2 seed: Mount Pleasant (21-3)
About the Panthers: Their three losses have come to Xavier and a pair of 4A teams (Hempstead, Cedar Rapids Washington). They’ve rolled through the rest of the schedule with the No. 5 offense (68.0) and No. 1 defense (43.0) in 3A. Led by Brady Sartorius (23.0), the core of this team has been starting varsity since they were freshmen, building towards this senior season. Sartorius is a remarkably efficient lead guard with 52-38-88 shooting splits to go with 111 assists. Jordan Magnani (14.7) is the other primary scoring option for the Panthers, and Jonathan Ita (7.1, 50.0 3P%) and Colin Mulford (6.5, 47.5 3P%) give them more shooting. This group isn’t big, but their guards are really skilled, and this group has loads of experience playing together.

Why they can win it all: Like we’ll mention later on with Norwalk, guard play wins at the high school level, and the Sartorius-Magnani backcourt is among the best in the state. They can also put plenty of shooting alongside that duo. This team plays strong defense, and they’ve been building for this week for four years now.

Odds they win it all: 20%. The Panthers will have a really tough semifinal meeting with an Oskaloosa team that could present some issues with their size. That said, Mount Pleasant’s guard play badly outplayed Oskaloosa last year, and the rosters are similar to what they were a year ago. Xavier has had the Panthers number over the last three to four years, and would be favored in a title meeting, but this group is ready for this moment.


Xavier Foster

No. 3 seed: Oskaloosa (21-3)
About the Indians: This is the most talented team in 3A, and is one of the three or four most talented teams in the state, regardless of class. The Indians were the top ranked team in 3A for a few weeks following a blowout win over Norwalk earlier in the year, and their size is devastating. 6-11 Xavier Foster (12.6), 6-6 Jarad Kruse (15.6) and 6-9 Cole Henry (15.3) will dominate the glass against every team they play, and Foster is the ultimate eraser at the back end of their defense with 85 blocks on the year. The sophomore is a top 25 prospect in his class nationally and will be looking to make a statement this week. If there is a question about this team, it’s the depth. Rian Yates (6.3) and Tucker Nunnikhoven (2.6) are really the only bench players who see significant playing time, and if point guard Spencer Tucker (10.5) gets into foul trouble, they could be in trouble handling defensive pressure.

Why they can win it all: Talent, talent, talent. This group is loaded with talent and size. The type of size that can dominate games on both ends of the floor. This team is capable of beating anyone.

Odds they win it all: 15%. The Indians have the third best odds, which fits in with them being the third seed. While the talent and size is overwhelming, the guard play is a bit of a question, which is why these odds aren’t higher. That said, we certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see this group taking home the title on Friday night after controlling the glass and the painted area.


Christian Stanislav

No. 4 seed: Glenwood (22-2)
About the Rams: They’ve cruised through the regular season, losing just once to an Iowa team (Atlantic), and they have the second highest scoring offense in 3A (74.2), only behind first round opponent Norwalk. The Rams have a “Big Three” of Christian Stanislav (15.7), Nate Mohr (14.0) and Andrew Blum (12.8), plus a slew of other talented players who fill out a really solid roster filled with scoring threats. Stanislav is an athletic, slashing wing who can score at all three levels and will dunk on anyone. Mohr is the sniper and point guard who has dished out 124 assists (to just 24 turnovers), and Blum is an interior banger. Guards Zach Carr (7.4) and Nate Kennedy (7.1) give them another quality pair of ball handlers, so this team won’t be flustered by pressure. Cody Buresh (4.7) and Blake Von Essen (2.3) give them additional size, and this team will go deep into their bench if necessary. Their top three is as good as just about anyone, with each capable of dominating games in different ways.

Why they can win it all: They have the versatility to score in a number of ways, and while their guards might not be to the level of Norwalk or Mount Pleasant’s, this is probably the most balanced and versatile team in the field.

Odds they win it all: 10%. The Big Three is super talented, and they have quality depth. Their first round game against Norwalk is going to be extremely entertaining, and if they can get by that, a meeting with Xavier awaits. The road isn’t easy, but this team is really good and capable of taking home the crown.


Luke Vaske

No. 5 seed: Norwalk (22-2)
About the Warriors: Paced by 3A’s best backcourt, the Warriors are the highest scoring offense in the class, averaging 78.2 points a game. Luke Vaske (19.6) and Bowen Born (18.9) are the headliners here, but this is a group with plenty of other scoring threats. Vaske has dished out 207 assists, turning himself into a scorer and distributor, after being primarily a scoring threat the last few years. He and Born are able to routinely get to the rim via dribble penetration, and they’re both really good perimeter shooters who combined to shoot 43.9% from the arc. Blake Johnson (10.4), Daniel Geistler (9.7), Tyler Endres (8.8) and Tyler Johnson (6.1) are solid role players who fit into the spots alongside the Vaske-Born backcourt, and this group has the added benefit of playing in the toughest 3A league (Little Hawkeye).

Why they can win it all: Guard play wins in high school basketball, and the Warriors have the best backcourt in the field. If Vaske and Born can both get it going three games in a row, the Warriors could be the champions come Friday night.

Odds they win it all: 10%. For a 5-seed, these are actually pretty good odds, and it’s because of that backcourt. This team can score in bunches and if they’re able to play any semblance of defense, they’ll be tough to beat.


Conner Groves

No. 6 seed: Sergeant Bluff-Luton (15-9)
About the Warriors: Last year’s runners-up, the Warriors have returned to Des Moines to attempt to finish the job. Like Xavier, SB-L plays against a largely 4A schedule during the season, which benefits them here. Point guard Conner Groves (15.3) leads four double figure scorers, and headlines a group that shoots it really well from behind the arc (39.1% as a team). Jeremiah Khat (13.3), a transfer from Siouxland Christian, has given them an athletic wing scorer, and Daniel Wright, a 6-6 sophomore, has been a revelation. He leads the team in assists and is averaging 10.7 points a game while shooting 44% from deep. While this group doesn’t have a ton of experience back from last year’s team, they’ve proven they can win in Des Moines against good competition. They have size and they shoot it really well.

Why they can win it all: Groves is a high quality guard with big stage experience, and this group can really shoot it. They’ve played against high-quality competition all year, and nobody in the field will intimidate them.

Odds they win it all: 10%. This is a solid team that may have overachieved a bit this year. They’re a threat to get back into a position to win the title, but they’re probably better built for next year when Groves, Wright and Sam DeMoss all return.


No. 7 seed: Waverly-Shell Rock (18-6)
About the Go-Hawks: Three of the Go-Hawks losses came against quality 4A teams, and they’ve been carried by a stout defense that is allowing just 48.7 points a game. This is a program that is always really well-coached, disciplined and will run their stuff well. Unlike previous WSR teams, they don’t have a real star standout (Jake Velky, Austin Phyfe), rather using a more balanced approach. Luke Velky (12.3) leads the team in scoring, and he pairs with Jack Seward (10.4) to give them a solid backcourt that can knock down 3s. Mosai Newsom (8.7) and Jacob Bahe (7.8) are a strong interior duo that are efficient, defend and rebound. This group is going to keep games close, and they’re solid.

Why they can win it all: While some of the key players on this year’s team don’t have much state tournament experience, this program is a Des Moines regular and they know how to win games in this setting. They’ll defend and keep games within striking distance in the fourth quarter.

Odds they win it all: 4.5%. Without the star power that the top six teams in the bracket have, it’s hard to imagine W-SR winning three games here.


No. 8 seed: Marion (14-10)
About the Indians: Marion has gotten it going late, winning four straight heading into the postseason on the strength of a fantastic defense that is allowing just 47.5 points a game. That number ranks fourth in 3A, and they have recently shut down star players Derek Krogmann (West Delaware) and Dylan Peeters (Assumption) to get to this stage. They’re led by Chase Zielke (15.7), who leads the team in scoring and has adjusted well to coming off the bench to provide scoring pop. Matthew Brase (6.8, 55.3 3P%) is one of the best shooters in the field, and if Zielke and company are able to get him some open looks, he could shoot them to some more upsets.

Why they can win it all: This group has proven capable of shutting down top-notch players, and with the way they defend, they should stay competitive in their meeting with Xavier. They also have some really solid shooters who can carry them to a few wins.

Odds they win it all: 0.5%. The Indians have gone on a good run through some solid teams, but the talent level at State with this group of teams in the field is just a better quality than what they’ve faced so far. They’ll need to really slow games down and get hot from deep if they’re going to win three straight games.


Our Picks
Quarterfinals: Xavier, Glenwood, Mount Pleasant, Oskaloosa
Semifinals: Xavier, Mount Pleasant
Champion: Xavier

Quarterfinals: Xavier, Glenwood, Mount Pleasant, Oskaloosa
Semifinals: Xavier, Oskaloosa
Champion: Oskaloosa

Quarterfinals: Xavier, Norwalk, Waverly-Shell Rock, Oskaloosa
Semifinals: Xavier, Oskaloosa
Champion: Oskaloosa