Posted On: 11/30/18 10:00 AM

The winter season is upon us. Games will be starting next week already and at the Class B level, there appears to be quite a bit of parity. Perhaps not as much parity as there was last year (check state tourney scores to see how close almost every game was), but there are a lot of solid teams, very few great teams and not that many really bad ones. With that in mind, here are some questions I’ve got for the upcoming winter season. 

Is there a favorite to win the state title?

At this point, it’s hard to say there’s a clear-cut best team in Class B as even the traditional top teams have questions to answer.

Bishop Ryan might have the slightest edge if only because the Lions return the best backcourt in the state in Ben Bohl and Mason Hedberg. Those two are going to impact the game enough to drive a lot of wins. But beyond those two, there isn’t a lot of experience back in the fold and the Lions have to replace a few really good frontcourt pieces from a year ago.

Shiloh never lacks talent and after getting to state and winning a game, the Skyhawks return four starters and all but one prominent rotation piece. Macauley Young and Jaden Mitzel give them a very good tandem and experienced guards like Canaan Fagerland and Matthew Reep provide steady two-way play. Does Shiloh have enough explosiveness offensively if gameflow deems a faster pace necessary? The Skyhawks have an elite defense, which gives them a great chance to win most games.

Hillsboro/Central Valley returns perhaps the best player in Class B in Carson Henningsgard but he was surrounded by a very good group of seniors. He’s the man now and he’ll put up huge numbers, but some younger and less-experienced guys will have to come along for the Burros.

How many state tournament teams make return trips?

This one will be interesting to track throughout the year because a number of the state tournament teams from last year were extremely senior heavy – which points to potential turnover in balance of power.

Stanley loses Wyatt Hanson and Kaedyn Hanson along with several other key guys from a team that looked like a state title favorite before running into problems in the state tournament. The Blue Jays lose an awful lot but do return Seth Hetzel who is one of the best off guards in the state. Rhett Hanson could be a breakout guy as a junior after earning minutes as a sophomore.

Carrington loses a rockstar backcourt led by Garrett Bickett but have one heck of a building block still in Seth Nelson who is one of the best athletes and overall players in Class B. Nelson’s just a junior and could take his game to an even higher level this winter.

The aforementioned Hillsboro has Henningsgard which will get the Burros a lot of wins, but do they have a ceiling in  very tough region because of the lack of experience around him?

Beulah was the most senior-heavy team in the field but the Miners are always good. It’s probably worth betting that even if they don’t have household names right now, they grow guys and will once again be very good.

St. John loses a ton of scoring including the duo of Kyler McGinnis and Dalton Prouty but the Woodchucks have good players back in the fold. Bradley Defender was a very complementary guy a year ago and will see an uptick in usage and responsibility while Adam Jollie and Zach Anderson are guys to watch after earning minutes off the bench as sophomores a year ago.

Wyndmere/Lidgerwood returns Evan Bratten but beyond that, there’s a lot of roster turnover coming for the Warbirds.

The two teams that represented Class B in the state title game will face stiff competition in their respective region tournaments.

Hillsboro might be in the toughest region in the state as Thompson can make a case as a top-five team in the state with Cadyn Schwabe and Hayden Overby leading the way. That’s a terrific guard-forward duo and Marcus Hughes gives them a third excellent senior. Grafton/St. Thomas has arguably the best big man in the state in Dalton Albrecht. The Spoilers have some things to figure out on the perimeter but their frontcourt is lethal.

Bishop Ryan will have plenty of competition for a state tournament berth as well because Rugby should be one of the best teams in the state too. The Panthers won 17 games last year and return an excellent crop of players led by Trace Goven and Jaden Hamilton.

Who are the breakout players and teams?

Sometimes these are super predictable and sometimes they come out of nowhere which is part of what makes the season fun. Seth Nelson was definitely a breakout guy and proved instrumental in Carrington’s success last season. The Cardinals coaches saw that coming, but few others would’ve beforehand.

A team I’m high on to take a big step forward in Enderlin. Chance Bye is one of the best scorers in Class B and with improvement around him, he might not have to do as much and thus become more efficient and effective. The Eagles had a roster full of kids that couldn’t drive a car last year (unless it was a farmer’s permit which seems entirely possible but also takes away from the point) and while they are young still, there’s a ton of varsity experience now on the roster. Joe Hurlburt showed potential last year as a freshman and he could blossom into one of the dominant players in Class B this season. The Eagles won eight games last year. I’d venture to bet they double that this winter.

What other teams and individuals have breakout seasons this winter? It’ll be fun finding out.