In AAAA, the landscape changed in that the Big Three worked out a pecking order. Hopkins beat Eden Prairie (by 6) and Lakeville North (by 19), and Eden Prairie beat Lakeville North (by 14). Ergo, the ratings have Hopkins #1, Eden Prairie #2 and Lakeville North #3. The real question is, Who's gonna get the #4 rating and that 4th seed at the state tournament come March?
Well, there've been some changes there, too. My pre-season pick was Prior Lake, who has gotten off to a terrible 2-7 start. And the wins and losses are indicative of how the Lakers have played. I had Edina #5 and they've lost 3, and Eastview #6 and they've lost 2 plus Amanda Beckman who tore her ACL against Maple Grove last weekend. And I had Kennedy #7, and they're 4-5.
#8 was defending state runner-up White Bear Lake and I've now got them #4 ahead of Eastview (Eastview would be #4 if not for Amanda Beckman's injury [and don't confuse Amanda with her twin sister Alex who is still playing]). The Bears have a solid go-to type of player in junior guard Alexis Foley, but what I didn't fully appreciate until I saw them play (twice, now) this fall was how good their front line is. Sisters Angie (a junior) and Samantha Guenther and Rochelle Regnier (seniors) have the size, experience and skills to match up against almost any front line I've seen.
So, the Big Three and the Next Two look like this:
1. Hopkins 11-0, Section 6
2. Eden Prairie 9-2, Section 2
3. Lakeville North 8-2, Section 3
4. White Bear Lake 9-2, Section 4
5. Eastview 8-3, Section 2
The Second Five looks like this:
6. Osseo 9-2, Section 7
7. Maple Grove 8-3, Section 7
8. Mpls. South 11-0, Section 6
9. Bloomington Jefferson 9-2, Section 2
10. Minnetonka 9-2, Section 2
In AAA, the Big Three going in were Benilde-St. Margaret's, DeLaSalle and Hill-Murray. Well, Hill-Murray beat Eden Prairie, and Benilde lost 3 games. So the Big Three now is Hill-Murray, DeLaSalle and Benilde. I still think that, with the possible exception of Richfield, Benilde is #3 in AAA. (Red Wing, rated #3 in the AP poll, is overrated.)
1. Hill-Murray 10-0, Section 4
2. DeLaSalle 6-2, Section 3
3. Benilde-SM 5-3, Section 6
4. Richfield 7-0, Section 6
5. Sartell 8-0, Section 8
But the big news is Hill-Murray, where Beth Doolittle and Tessa Cichy are no longer the whole story. I don't know when I have seen a supporting cast improve like this one has. The Pioneers won 3 games last week. Claire Van Dyk and Corinne McCallum joined Doolittle and Cichy in double figures in all 3 games. Morgan Rustad added 6 points in each game. A year ago you would not have thought this possible.
In AA, Braham continues as the favorite and #1, despite a loss to AAAA Mounds View. More problematic is a 1-point win over AA Providence at the Breakdown Tipoff. I could just as easily make Braham and Providence co-#1's, especially since St. Peter (currently #2 and unbeaten) has lost Wisconsin recruit Ann Marie Brown for the season with a torn ACL (junior starter Sidney Dirks having previously gone down with a torn ligament). I would boost once-beaten Sauk Centre up to #3 in their stead.
1. Braham 10-1, Section 7
2. Providence 9-2, Section 5
3. Sauk Centre 9-1, Section 6
4. Pequot Lakes 10-0, Section 8
5. St. Croix Lutheran 8-0, Section 4
In Class A, Barnum's defending state champs remain the favorite and #1, but do not underestimate the impact of Katrina Newman completing her eligibility and moving on to college ball at UMD. Barnum still has a lot of talent, but no superstar. Of course, #2 Parker's Prairie has lost Sari Noga to graduation and #5 Hancock has lost Bree Holleman. So this will be a wide open class, as is usually the case. Along with Barnum, I would keep an eye on Goodhue, despite their 3 losses. Goodhue plays in the Hiawatha Valley League, which is about half A and half AA. Their 3 losses so far are to AAA Red Wing and AA Rochester Lourdes and Winona Cotter. Against Class A, the Wildcats are unbeaten.
1. Barnum 11-0, Section 5
2. Goodhue 7-3, Section 1
3. Parkers Prairie 8-0, Section 6
4. Maranatha Christian 5-4, Section 4
5. Minneota 5-0, Section 3
Among the girls, I would rate the Player of the Year race as a dead heat now with Jackie Johnson of Eden Prairie joining pre-season choice Rachel Banham of Lakeville North at the top. First team all-state is Banham and Johnson, plus Rebekah Dahlman of Braham, Tessa Cichy of Hill-Murray, and Alexis Foley of White Bear Lake.
Mid-season coach of the year is Erin Herman of Hill-Murray.
In AAAA, it's the same question as the girls. Can anybody beat Hopkins? And here the answer is that it's even less likely to happen, though I'll give you the caveat that the Royals will play a pair of Wisconsin teams--Milwaukee Riverside and Madison East--in the East Metro Showcase on January 21, and in the St. Cloud Tournament on January 29, and I have no idea how strong of opponents they are. But Hopkins has played as tough a schedule of Minnesota foes thus far as one could find, and has waltzed to a 9-0 record, out-scoring their opponents 93-59. It's true that Lakeville South kept it close at 93-89, but otherwise only Lakeville North and Minnesota Transitions stayed within 20 points. Joe Coleman is the state's best player by a wide margin. It's all over but the shouting.
1. Hopkins 9-0, Section 6
2. Lakeville South 4-2, Section 3, with losses only to Hopkins and St. Paul Johnson
3. Eden Prairie 7-1, Section 2
4. Apple Valley 4-3, Section 3, with Tyus Jones out most of the way
5. Chaska 7-2, Section 2
6. Eastview 6-1, Section 3
7. Cretin 6-1, Section 4
8. Osseo 8-1, Section 5
9. Wayzata 7-2, Section 6
10. Armstrong 8-1, Section 6
In Class AAA, again, it's a lot like the girls, as a Big Three seems to be solidly entrenched at the top. The difference is that only 2 of the Big Three are private schools--DeLaSalle and Benilde are #2 and #3 here, the very same as among the girls. But St. Paul Johnson remains the favorite and the #1 team, despite that loss to Chicago Hyde Park that ended their 38-game winning streak.
1. St. Paul Johnson 8-1, Section 4
2. DeLaSalle 7-1, Section 3
3. Benilde 4-3, Section 6
4. Bemidji 8-0, Section 8
5. Columbia Heights 6-1, Section 3
Class AA is the wide openest of all the classes, boys or girls. Taking the top 5 against the field, I would take the field. "The field" includes Braham, Byron, Caledonia, Concordia (Roseville), Esko, International Falls, Long Prairie, Mayer Lutheran, Montevideo and Pequot Lakes, among others.
1. Plainview-EM 8-1, Section 1
2. Waterville-EM 7-0, Section 2
3. Perham 7-0, Section 8
4. Windom 7-1, Section 3
5. Zimmerman 7-2, Section 5
Class A is also pretty wide open, though here I would take the top 5 against the field. "The field" refers to Belgrade-BE, Chisholm, Maranatha Christian and Springfield, among others.
1. Ellsworth 8-1, Section 3
2. Sebeka 6-0, Section 5
3. Minnesota Transitions 4-2, Section 4
4. Rushford-Peterson 7--0, Section 1
5. MCCRAY 6-1, Section 3
Among the boys, Joe Coleman is Player of the Year, as noted above. The rest of the first all-state team is Estan Tyler of St. Paul Johnson, Alex Richter of Lakeville South, Cole Olstad of Plainview, and Joey King of Eastview. Vern Simmons of St. Paul Johnson is Coach of the Year.