Sebeka vs. MTC. Who'd a thought that MTC would come into the tournament and play a slow-down ball control game? But of course they got a running team in the 1st round and they decided not to run with them. Then they got a ball control team, and a good ball control team, in the 2nd, and couldn't make them run. Now it's another running team, and it would seem they would probably try to slow it down and control the ball again. Sebeka will pressure 'em full court, try to create turnovers and try to run. All of which puts Kyle Noreen very much on the spot as MTC's primary ball handler. Both teams are great athletes, as you would expect at this level but Sebeka may have the overall edge in athleticism. I would have them as the fave, despite the fact that they've taken some bad shots and don't really move the ball in the half-court very well (4 assists yesterday). But with Ryan Sharp out I'll just say it's a toss-up. Or is he out? OK, I won't cop out, I'll say MTC by 2.
C-I vs. NL-S. A re-play of 2008 final! Whod'a thought. But the roles have somewhat changed, I think. I remember that NLS team from 2 (?) years ago as one of the toughest and most relentless defensive teams I've seen in recent years, and I assumed the same this year. Maybe, but I haven't seen it. Braham had lots of room to operate last night, NL-S seemed more into a strategy of out-running and out-scoring 'em and, of course, they were successful in doing so. Meanwhile, C-I showed more of an orientation to the tough hard-nosed D, at least last night. I didn't see the 1st round of AA. A low scoring game should go to C-I but if it turns into a track meet, then the result will be more like NLS and Braham last night. So, as in 2008, I think the team that has more defensive intensity will win and this year I think that will be C-I, C-I by 3.
St. Paul Johnson vs. Grand Rapids. I live in the metro now but I grew up in greater MN, so I admit to a bias for greater MN teams. Still Johnson plays the game the right way. Their kids are so on the same page. They throw the extra pass, they work work work on both ends of the court. I think their depth will be a huge problem for GR, and how could GR have a full tank of gas? Well, they've had 48 hours to rest, thank goodness. I imagine they've played exactly as they expended to, but I don't think many who aren't GR fans expected them to do what they've done. And Winona showed that Johnson can be beaten...or did they show that they can't? That eventually Johnson's depth will wear you out? Go Rapids! But Johnson is the best team in MN this year. Johnson by 10.
Hopkins vs. St. Cloud Tech. I live in the metro now but I grew up in greater MN, so I admit to a bias for greater MN teams. Go Tigers! If anybody is going to beat Hopkins it better be this year, they're only gonna be better the next couple years again. Tech will need to control the pace, like, doh, you didn't know that. And Hopkins had an especially intense game in the semis, maybe they'll be worn out mentally a little bit? I don't know, but if it comes down just to athleticism, Hopkins will be very hard to beat. Hopkins by 10.
The top players by class so far, these could change after today.