Monday, February 28, 2011

Top 30 Player of the Year Candidates October-February

These are my selections, by the way. A player has to be the Player of the Day sometime during the season to make this "team." My 2010-2011 all-star five comes from here, and I'll have a poll so you can help select the Player of the Year from among the top 5. Right now, today, the top 5 would be:

Joe Coleman, Hopkins boys
Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
Rachel Banham, Lakeville North girls
Estan Tyler, St. Paul Johnson boys
Blake Hoffarber, Minnesota Gopher men

The next 25:

Carl Hipp, Hamline men
Trevor Mbakwe, Minnesota Gopher men
Michelle Young, Woodbury girls
Angie Jetvig, Moorhead State women
Jeremy Sutherland, Carleton men

Jackie Johnson, Eden Prairie girls
Tyseanna Johnson, DeLaSalle girls
Trevor Witt, St. Cloud State men
Rebekah Dahlman, Braham girls
Aaron Burtzel, St. John's men

Tyler Nicolai, St. Thomas men
Zach Lofton, Columbia Heights boys
Anthony Tucker, Winona State men
Sanjay Lumpkin, Benilde boys
Kiara Buford, Minnesota Gopher women

Alex Richter, Lakeville South
Katie Loberg, Minnesota Gopher women
Jineen Williams, Concordia (St. Paul) women
Al Nolen, Minnesota Gopher men
Majra Mucic, Macalester women

Leah Cotton, Minnesota Gopher women
Beth Doolittle, Hill-Murray girls
Ralph Sampson, Minnesota Gopher men
Marissa Janning, Watertown-Mayer girls
Tori Rule, Mpls. South girls

Sunday, February 27, 2011

MIAC All-Conference

My picks for MIAC all-conference, reflecting the regular season and play-offs.


Carl Hipp, Hamline, MVP
Tyler Nicolai, St. Thomas
Jeremy Sutherland, Carleton
Aaron Burtzel, St. John's
Chris Palmer, St. Mary's

Freshmen of the Year--Chris Quinn and Justin Wasik, Macalester

Coach of the Year--Nelson Whitmore, Hamline


Mary Wilkowski, Hamline, MVP
Majra Mucic, Macalester
Amy Stifter, St. Ben's
Erica Nord, Concordia
Scotti Moats, Bethel

Freshman of the Year--Taylor Young, St. Thomas

Coach of the Year--Ellen Thompson, Macalester

Saturday, February 26, 2011

#2 Concordia Women and St. Thomas Men Win MIAC Playoffs

Edit: St. Thomas Men Hold On to Beat Gustavus 83-77 for MIAC Title

St. Thomas ended up splitting the two MIAC playoff title games at Schoenecker Arena, the men beating Gustavus today 83-77 after the women lost to Concordia 71-61 on Saturday.

The men took early leads of 9-4, 23-8 and 31-17. The Gusties came back with a 13-3 run to get within 34-30, but the Tommies closed the half on a 13-3 run of their own for a 47-33 lead.

Phil Wirtjes and Seth Anderson scored all 13 Gusties points during their 13-3 run, Wirtjes closing the run with 3 jumpers in 38 seconds, the last one coming at 3:58. John Nance, Anders Halvorsen and Brady Ervin responded with 13 points for the Tommies, 4 of the 5 field goals coming on lay-ups.

The pattern repeated itself in the 2nd half. From 49-33, the Gusties came back within 55-51. From 71-57, they got within 75-72 at 1:16. Wirtjes and Dan Schmidtknecht scored 5 points each during the Gusties final push. But the Tommies made 8-of-8 free throws inside of a minute.

Anderson and Wirtjes had 27 1st half points for Gustavus, and 51 for the day. The 2 made 20-of-39 FG, the rest of the Gusties 11-of-26. John Nance and Ervin led St. Thomas with 36 points off the bench. Tyler Nicolai added 18.

Edit: Concordia Women Handle Tommies 71-61

Sunnyday picked St. Thomas to win the MIAC. I picked 'em in the pre-season when the coaches picked St. Ben's. And the Tommies won the regular season title. I picked 'em to win the play-off title, too, though it was obvious they weren't playing very well and Concordia was coming in.

I picked Rachel Booth as the MIAC player of the year both of the last 2 years. I really like these St. Thomas kids. But I gotta ask. What happened?

The St. Thomas spunk was just totally missing in the playoffs and Booth in particular--again, a person's gotta ask: Is she hurt? Has her motivation been variable? I mean here's a women who as the playoff MVP in Division 2 as a sophomore and who scored 17 points per game last year for the Tommies as a junior. In the post-season her production went up to 19.7 points per game and she was the post-season MVP again.

This year her minutes were down from 28 to 24 because, hey, she's got the world's greatest back-up in freshman Maggie Weiers. But while her minutes were down 14 percent, her scoringwas one more than a third, from 17 to 11. Her rebounds down about 30 percent, from 9 to 6-and-a-half. Her blocks down by half, from 3.3 to 1.67. Her steals by more than half from 1 to less than a half a steal per game.

And in the playoffs of her senior season, her swan song, she made 2-of-10 shots for 4 points. In 2 games.

So Taylor Young took over, scoring 6 of the Tommies last 8 points, including the game winner against Gustavus, and 22 points last night against Concordia. Jazmin Townsend, the other senior contributor for St. Thomas, added 18. But not much else was happening. So suddenly the 18-4 Tommies with all but 2 players coming back are a question mark instead of an obvious favorite for next year.

Meanwhile, Concordia did what senior teams are supposed to do. They came together solidly in the post-season. They ran out to 1st half leads of 12-2, 20-12, 25-14, 32-18. The Tommies set the stage for a 2nd half run by closing the 1st on a 7-1 run to get within 33-25. Then, sure enough, they got within 37-36 at 16:02. But Concordia responded with a 17-7 run to make it 54-43 at 8:25. The Tommies never challenged after that.

The Cobbers had four players in double figures: Nord with 17 plus 4 steals and 3 assists, Thesing off the bench with 15, Jossert 13 plus 6 assists and 2 steals, Bauernfiend 11 plus 12 boards. And another freshman post, Alexandra Lippert, much much much outplayed Booth with 8 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks. In other words, everyeveryevery body showed up for Concordia. And, let's be honest, two-on-five rarely cuts it in this game.

Sunday February 27 Men's Final

Gustavus (11-9, 15-12, #5) at St. Thomas (17-3, 23-3, #2)

I like this one: I picked the Tommies to beat Hamline in one semi, 77-70 (see below). It ended up 78-70. The other one: Not so much. I had Carleton over Gustavus 70-66. Gustavus won 70-64.

The bottom line is these are a couple of pretty good offensive teams. The Tommies shoot an unconscious .494, Gustavus shoots .487. Both shoot 37-38 percent from 3-point land. Both protect the ball (the Gusties have about 11.5 turnovers per game, St. Thomas 12).

But only one of them is a good defensive team. The Tommies' opponents shoot .435 and .321 from the 3-point line. The Gusties': .460 and .363. The rebounding is about even.

Each team has 3 guys who score in double figures. They are Tyler Nicolai (14), Alex Healy (13) and Tommy Hannon (12) for St. Thomas, and Seth Anderson and Phil Wirtjes (13) and Dan Schmidtknecht (10) for Gustavus. But it's also true that Gustavus has the hot player right now in Seth Anderson. The junior guard from Maple River only scored 20 points in a game for the 1st time this year in game #22. Over the last 5 games he scored 28, 30, 14, 26 and 22 for an average of 24. He shoots .587 for the year.

Still, the Tommies D on their own home court is tough to beat. And, again, their offense is not bad, either. The fact is they won at Gustavus this year despite the Gusties shooting 55 percent that night. St. Thomas 74 Gustavus 67.

Saturday February 26 Women's Final

Concordia (Moorhead) (17-5, 20-6, #2) at St. Thomas (18-4, 20-6, #1)

These 2 I picked correctly, though I was way off on the score of the Gustavus-St. Thomas game. I had the 2 teams scoring 129 points. They scored 98.

It may be more of the same Saturday, as Concordia shoots just 39 percent for the year and the Tommies give up an opponents shooting percentage of just 35 percent. St. Thomas has won 9 of its last 10 games--see if you can pick out the game they lost from this list. These are the opponents' shooting percentages for those last 10 games: 32-30-31-32-26-39-30-69-29-33.

That's some pretty good D. And, Concordia holds its opponents to 36 percent. But the Tommies shoot a respectable 44 percent. Gustavus certainly slowed them down, and the Cobbers may do the same. But in a grind-it-out, which this promises to be, the Tommies may have more ability to find a way to score in the clutch.

Or not. The fact is that Concordia has terrific balance. 4 players scored in double figures in their semi-final win over St. Ben's the other night (78-69), and none of them were the 2 players who averaged in double figures for the year. And Concordia is a senior team, with Maggie Baurnfiend, Lindsey Schultz, Erica Nord and Brittney Jossart in the starting lineup. That balance and experience would seem to be what's needed in a game like this--for the conference title, and on the road.

Despite all that experience, the key for Concordia--for both teams, really--may be the play of Alexandra Lippert, 6-4 freshman post, who has improved dramatically as the year went on. Her final numbers--9.5 points, 6 boards and 4 blocks--compare favorably with those of the Tommies' senior post, Rachel Booth--11 points, 6 boards, 2 assists, 2 blocks, but 3 turnovers, each in about 23 minutes. Booth was the MIAC's post-season MVP last year, at least according to me, and was my choice to be the MIAC player of the year this year. She's fallen way, way short for whatever reason, and if Lippert plays her even tonight, then the Cobbers' seniors can really work their magic.

So this is a toss-up, though one cannot ignore that it is indeed on the road for the Cobbers and on the Tommies' home court. It says here that, after a truly terrible ball game against Gustavus the other night, Rachel Booth asserts herself, and the Tommies prevail. St. Thomas 54 Concordia 51.

Edit: Friday February 25 Men's Semi-Finals

The pairings are now set for the men's semi-finals, as a result of last night first round action.

Hamline (13-8, 16-10, #3) at St.Thomas (17-3, 22-3, #2)

The Pipers hosted their first MIAC playoff game since 1985, and defeated Concordia (Moorhead) 86-75. The win, their 16th of the year, is the most by a Hamline team since 1991. Freshman Tyler Pannell led the way with 5 3s and 19 points. Noah Aguirre scored 14, Mike Campbell 13 and Carl Hipp 12 with 12 rebounds. Hamline took an early 20-7 lead. The Cobbers came back to tie at 33 and 36, but the Pipers led 41-36 at the half. Concordia never got within 4 in the 2nd half, nor closer than 66-60 after the 10:00 mark.

Let the record show I had forecast an 82-68 Hamline win.

Let the record also show that Hamline beat St. Thomas earlier this year 92-79. Of course that was at Hamline, and the Tommies avenged that defeat 82-60 10 days ago. Hamline, as I said, is a good shooting team at .465. What exactly does that make St. Thomas at .496? Tommy Hannon and Anders Halvorsen shoot 58 and 50 percent, respectively. Guards Alex Healy, Tyler Nicolai and Teddy Archer shoot 50, 45 and 46 percent.

What exactly is a path to a Hamline victory? Well, St. Thomas has been out-shot in their 3 losses--61-44 percent at Hamline, 52-51 at St. Olaf and 45-40 at Carleton. There would seem to be more of a chance that the Pipers would light it up than that the Tommies would go cold. But the Tommies out-rebound their opponents 34-29, Hamline gets out-rebounded 37-36. Hamline turns the ball over an average of 14 times, St. Thomas just 12 and less than 10 per game over the past dozen games. Nicolai, the primary ball handler, turns it over once a game on average.

The Tommies are not invincible but an odd combination of events are going to be necessary for an upset to happen. A hot night shooting for Carl Hipp and Hamline would be the scenario, and it could happen. But the odds are that it's more like St. Thomas 77 Hamline 70.

Gustavus (11-9, 14-12, #5) at Carleton (17-3, 18-7, #1)

This is our feature game in The Big Game (below). But suffice it to say Gustavus had a huge second half, making 21-0f-29 FGA, and using a 21-0 run from a 59-all tie to bury the Olies. Seth Anderson and Bobby Johnson scored 22 for Gustavus, while Bobby Fong scored 23 for St. Olaf.

Let the record show that I booted this one. I had St. Olaf winning on their home court 74-69.

So now Gustavus travels to Carleton for what promises to be a classic case of offense vs. defense. The Gusties can score--and they can score in Northfield--as they proved at St. Olaf the other night. 21 points in 6 minutes to put the game away. They shoot .487 to Carleton's .456. .374 from 3 point land, to Carleton's .327. .743 from the charity stripe, to the Knight's .665.

But Carleton gives up .415 and .296 FG percentages (all FG/3s), Gustavus gives up .460 and .363.

The Gusties' top scorer Seth Anderson shoots .587 while Carleton's top scorer Jeremy Sutherland shoots .436. But Sutherland doesn't have Sutherland defending him. Anderson will.

Maybe it will come down to the Biewens. Carter is a senior forward from Robbinsdale Armstrong, now at Gustavus. He played in that great state final won by Buffalo four years ago. Carter's dad is John Biewen, who played for Mankato Wilson in the state tournament in 1976. Ben is a sophomore guard from Edina, whose dad is Paul Biewen, now an assistant coach for the Edina girls. Paul's daughter, Ben's sister Katybeth, is a star junior guard for Edina right now. All of them are Gene Biewen's grandkids--Gene coach Mankato Wilson and later Mankato West to the state tournament.

Bottom line: This will be close, somewhere in the vicinity of overtime or of a 1 or 2 point game. I can't bring myself to pick against Carleton on it own home court. Carleton 70 Gustavus 66.

Edit: Thursday, February 24 Women's Semi-Finals

The women's semi-final pairings are set now as a result of last night's first round, in which #3 St. Ben's defeated Macalester 62-57 and #4 Gustavus beat Bethel 67-63. So now it's on to the semi-finals:

St. Ben's (16-6, 20-6, #3) at Concordia (Moorhead) (17-5, 19-6, #2). The bottom line is that St. Ben's best players--Heather Gillund and Amy Stifter--stepped up and got the job done against Macalester. I pointed out (below) that both had faded down the stretch and, therefore, so had the Bennies. I said Macalester would win because post Majra Mucic would outplay Gillund. It didn't happen. Gillund only played 18 minutes due to foul trouble, but scored 17 points. Mucic scored 17 points, and out-rebounded Gillund 13-2. Stifter scored 14 points.

So, can they do it again? St. Ben's, Gillund and Stifter. Can they all step up again on Thursday night at Concordia? Yes, they can, though they did not two weeks ago when Concordia won at Moorhead 76-62. But the Bennies improved by 19 points over their 14 point loss to Macalester earlier this month. They can do it again, and the keys remain the same.

Gillund and Stifter. But Concordia has the ability to win, too, with their balanced, senior-laden lineup featuring Maggie Baurnfiend, Brittany Jossart, Erica Nord and Lindsey Schultz, all of whom score between 7 and 13 points, and average 3 to 6.5 rebounds and 2 to 3 assists.

The key may again be the post match-up. Alexandra Lippert is a 6-4 freshman who has come on strong as the year has progressed. She is averaging 9.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.5 blocked shots. For Gillund, the numbers are 11.7 points, 4.5 boards, 2 blocks and a steal-and-a-half.

The Nord-Stifter match-up on the perimeter will be a good one, too, not to say they'll be head-to-head, but that the team that wins will probably get more production out of this "match-up." Stifter averages 14 points, 4 boards, 2 assists and 2 steals. Nord averages 14 points, 4 boards, 3 assists and 2.5 steals.

I guess it comes down to the homecourt advantage. Concordia 66 St. Ben's 61.

Gustavus (15-7, 17-9, #4) at St. Thomas (18-4, 19-6, #1). St. Thomas should win fairly easily in this battle of perennial rivals. After an 11-5 start, the Tommies are now 8-1 in their last 9 games. And their top two scorers, Rachel Booth and Taylor Young, have become increasing assertive of late. Booth scored in double figures in just half of the first 14 games, but in 10 of the last 12; Young in just 1 of the first 11, then 9 of 14. She and Maggie Weiers are high-impact freshmen who will make contenders of the Tommies at least three more years.

The Tommies out-shoot the opponents by 44 percent to 35 percent, and outrebound 'em 40-34.

Gustavus, meanwhile, shoots 42 percent and gets out-rebounded. So, sure enough, they shot 49 percent against Bethel and out-rebounded 'em 35-26. (Let the record show that I correctly picked the Gusties to win that game. I said 64-59, the final was 67-63.) Neither of those two things are going to happen against St. Thomas. St. Thomas 68 Gustavus 61.

Original Post February 21, 2011

I'm not sure if it's harder to believe that the MIAC playoffs are opening up this week, or that for half of MIAC teams their season is already over. But that's the way it is. The MIAC is first into the playoffs pool, the third season, with women opening playoffs on Tuesday, February 22, then the men on Wednesday, February 23.

Wednesday, February 23 Men's First Round

Concordia (Moorhead) (10-10, 14-11, #6) at Hamline (13-7, 15-10, #3). Here are a couple of up-and-down teams. Concordia won five in a row at mid-season and another four in a row earlier this month. But losses at St. John's and St. Thomas, while not unexpected, almost knocked the Cobbers out of the playoffs. Instead, they won at Hamline to squeeze in on a tie-breaker. Concordia was out-shot .448 to .453 on the year, and out-rebounded, too, 35-32. And they hit just 5-of-33 3s in their last 3 games. It comes down to 6-6 seniors Mark Olmscheid and John Fraase, who score 14 and 13 ppg and who don't get a heck of a lot of help.

Hamline was up-and-down, too, winning 6 in a row to clinch a play-off spot, but then lying down after that and losing to Concordia at home in their finale. I don't think that win helps Concordia on Wednesday, other than the fact that they wouldn't be here if they hadn't won that game. Hamline shoots a solid .465, but they got out-rebounded 37-36. But senior post 6-9 Carl Hipp is pretty consistent, and should have a good ballgame against the shorter Cobbers. Still, like Concordia, this is not a deep team and if their top 2 guys don't score, who will?

Bottom Line: Concordia will have a little too much trouble finding ways to score. Hamline 82 Concordia 68.

Gustavus (11-9, 13-12, #5) at St. Olaf (12-8, 17-8, #4). One could say that the Gusties backed into the playoffs this year. Like most MIAC teams, theirs was an up-and-down campaign. Started out 2-3, won 4, lost 3, won 6 of 7, then finished up losing 7 of 9. OTOH coach Mark Hanson became the 52nd NCAA coach to win 400 games in the regular season finale in which the Gusties ended on a high note, an 89-78 win over St. Mary's. Still, at times they've given up points by the buckets full. They're a good shooting team at 48 percent (and over 50 percent in 5 of their last 8 games), but they've also given up 46 percent shooting and lost 3 games down the stretch where they shot .500. Seth Anderson emerged as the year went by. He first scored 20 points in a game in game #21, then finished with 20 or more in 3 of the last 4 games. He's a 58 percent shooter. But can the Gusties get it done on defense?

The Olies are a bit of a surprise, finishing #4 after being picked for #8 in the coaches' pre-season poll. They did so by finishing up poorly or well, depending on your point of view. They won 7 of their last 9 games and also lost 2 of their last 3 games. But both of the losses were to #1 Carleton and #3 Hamline on the road and in overtime. The Olies are another good shooting team at 47 percent and 39.5 from 3 point land, though they, to, get out-rebounded.

Bottom Line: St. Olaf will score some points. St. Olaf 74 Gustavus 69.

Tuesday, February 22 Women's First Round

Macalester (10-12, 10-15, #6) at St. Ben's (16-6, 19-6, #3). On paper, a mismatch, but St. Ben's is 4-5 over the past 9 games and fell from 1st to 3rd place in a hurry. St. Thomas hammered 'em 80-47 on Saturday; 10 days earlier, they lost 72-58 to Macalester at home; ten days before that, to Bethel 52-48, also at home; and a week earlier Hamline beat 'em by 19. Macalester won 8 while losing 5 down the stretch, as post Majra Mucic posted double-doubles in 5 of the last 7 games. Meanwhile, St. Ben's has shot only .422 for the year, and yet they've been below that 7 of their last 10 games. And they've been out-rebounded 35-33 on average for the year. Amy Stifter scored 15.5 ppg for the 1st 18 games, and just 10.5 for the last 7.

The bottom line: Macalester cannot beat St. Ben's if the Bennies play well, but the Bennies have not been playing well. Nor can Macalester win if Mucic does not outplay Heather Gillund in the post, but she will. Macalester 54 St. Ben's 52.

Bethel (13-9, 15-10, #5) at Gustavus (15-7, 16-9, #4). Bethel was streaky in the extreme, starting 1-4, then winning 7, then losing 5, but then finishing up strong with 7 wins in their last 8 games. Scotti Moats scored 80 points in the last 4 games, all wins. Still, the fact is the Royals only shoot 39 percent from the field. But Gustavus is another mediocre shooting team at 42 percent for the year, though the Gusties were better than that in 4 of the last 5 games. Both teams were out-rebounded for the year, but Gustavus finished even stronger than Bethel at 11-2.

The bottom line: Both teams have been playing their best ball. Gustavus 64 Bethel 59.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Big Game February 2011

Players of the Month

Joe Coleman, Hopkins boys
Carl Hipp, Hamline men
Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
Jeremy Sutherland, Carleton men
Zach Lofton, Columbia Heights boys

2nd Team

Rebekah Dahlman, Braham girls
Aaron Burtzel, St. John's men
Sanjay Lumpkin, Benilde boys
Trevor Mbakwe, Minnesota Gopher men
Jackie Johnson, Eden Prairie girls

3rd Team

Dan Schmidtknecht, Gustavus men
Marissa Janning, Watertown-Mayer girls
Majra Mucic, Macalester women
Katie Loberg, Minnesota Gopher women
Tori Rule, Mpls. South girls

Team of the Month

1. Mankato State men
2. Hopkins boys
3. Lakeville North girls
4. Concordia (St. Paul) women
5. St. Thomas men
6. St. Paul Johnson boys
7. Eden Prairie girls
8. Hopkins girls
9. Pequot Lakes girls
10. Carleton and Gustavus men

Coach of the Month

1. Matt Marganthaler, Mankato State men
2. Paul Fessler, Concordia (St. Paul) women
3. Ellen Thompson, Macalester women, and Tim Whittle, Macalester men
4. Guy Kalland, Carleton men, and Mark Hanson, Gustavus men
5. Steve Fritz, St. Thomas men
6. Nelson Whitmore, Hamline men
7. Chris Carr, Eden Prairie girls
8. Myron Glass, Rochester Lourdes girls
9. Andy Berkvam, Lakeville North girls
10. Josh Wieme, Goodhue girls

Best Game

1. Eden Prairie girls 71 Hopkins 65; Hopkins girls 49 Eden Prairie 44
2. Eden Prairie boys 75 Hopkins 71; Hopkins boys 73 Eden Prairie 60
3. Rochester Lourdes girls 53 Goodhue 50
4. Mankato State men 82 Augustana 79
5. Minnetonka girls 74 Hopkins 71
6. Carleton men 84 St. Olaf 73 (OT)
7. Minnetonka girls 64 Braham 63
8. Braham girls 60 Barnum 49
9. Concordia (St. Paul) women 86 Winona State 74
10. Carleton men 67 St. Thomas 64

Game, Player and Coach of the Day

Monday, February 28--#3A Minnesota Transitions boys 73 at #4A Springfield 63. Player of the Day: Malik El-Amin, Mpls. North boys 23 as North beats Patrick Henry 72-59. Coach of the Day: Keenan Shelton, Mpls. North boys

Sunday, February 27--St. Thomas men 83 Gustavus 77 for MIAC playoff title. There's a write-up of this game embedded in the MIAC post. Player of the Day: Katie Loberg, Minnesota Gopher women, 19 points, 9 boards, 3 steals but the Gophers did exactly what they always seem to do. They led at the half 33-26. In the second half, the Spartans blitzed 'em 39-18.Coach of the Day: Steve Fritz, St. Thomas men.

Saturday, February 26--#2 Concordia (Moorhead) women 71 #1 St. Thomas 61 for MIAC play-off title. Concordia had great balance--Nord 17 Thesing off the bench for 15 Jossert 13 Bauernfiend 11 and 12 rebounds Lippert 8, 7 boards, 3 blocks. The Tommies got 40 points from Taylor Young and Jazmin Townsend, but not much from anybody else. Rachel Booth was 1-for-8 for 2 points after a 2 point night against Gustavus in the semis. Player of the Day: Tori Rule, Mpls. South girls, scored 34 in a 76-63 win over St. Paul Central in the Twin City Game. Coach of the Day: Jessica Beachy Rahman, Concordia.

Friday, February 25--Chisholm boys 68 Ely 51. Bob McDonald defeats son Tom. Carl Hipp, Hamline men, contributes 23 points and 21 boards, but Pipers loses MIAC semi at St. Thomas 78-70. Mark Hanson, Gustavus men, who upset #1 seed Carleton 70-64 in the other semi.

Thursday, February 24--Minnetonka girls 74 Hopkins 71, as Ali MacArthur hits a 2+1 with 3 seconds left. Kiara Buford, Minnesota Gopher women. Buford hit 8-of-17 shots for 21 points as the Gophers surprised, well, they surprised me, edging Michigan 82-78 in 2 OT! Bart Inniger, Minnetonka girls.

Wednesday, February 23--MIAC men's 1st round playoffs, Gustavus men 90 St. Olaf 71. The Gusties broke away from a 59-59 tie at about the 10 minute mark of the 2nd half with a 21-0 spurt over a period of 6 minutes. Bobby Johnson scored 7 quick points and Seth Anderson 4, and then Phil Wirtjes hit a pair of 3s and suddenly it was 72-59 at 6:40. By the time St. Olaf scored again Johnson had hit another 3 and Dan Schmidtknecht a pair of buckets. The Gusties hit a ridiculous 21-of-29 shots in the 2nd half. Dan Schmidtkecht, Gustavus. He is the glue that keep 'em together. Only the #4 scorer with 14 points, but he led the Gusties in rebounds with 5, assists with 7, and steals with 3. Mark Hanson, Gustavus men, who recently became the 65th NCAA D3 coach, and the 6th in the MIAC, to win 400 games.

Tuesday, February 22--#1AA Braham girls 60 #2A Barnum 49. Roosevelt Scott, St. Paul Johnson boys, who scored 40 in the Gov's 104-90 win over Minnesota Transitions. Mike Durbin, St. Ben's women, got his slumping Blazers up for their 1st round playoff challenge, and the Blazers therefore beat Macalester 62-57.

Monday, February 21--#8AA Rochester Lourdes girls 53 #1A Goodhue 50 in Hiawatha Valley Conference championship game. Lourdes finishes at 24-2 ad the #1 seed in Section 1AA West. Goodhue is 23-4 and #1 in 1A. All of Goodhue's losses are to teams that are or have been ranked in AA and AAA. Erika Tipcke, Goodhue girls, led all scorers with 15. Myron Glass, Rochester Lourdes girls, who usually wins "the big game" and did this time as well.

Sunday, February 20--Northwestern women 62 Minnesota Gophers 55. I think I'm beginning to detect a pattern. The Gophers led 43-37 with 10:00 left to go. Northwestern out-scored Minnesota 20-6 over the next 8 minutes. Kevin Love, Timberwolves. Hey, he didn't do a whole lot, but he's an all-star.

Saturday, February 19--Carleton men 84 St. Olaf 73 (OT) to clinch the MIAC regular season title (on a tie-breaker with St. Thomas). Jeremy Sutherland scored 10 of his 21 points in the last 4 minutes of regulation to bring the Knights from 8 points down. Seth Jonker scored 26 points for Carleton. Anthony Moody, U-Mary men, 42 pts in a 78-73 win, at St. Cloud State.Guy Kalland, Carleton men

Friday, February 18--The Hopkins boys and girls return the favor for the sweep that Eden Prairie put on to Hopkins a couple weeks ago. #1AAAA Hopkins girls 49 #
2AAAA Eden Prairie girls 44. Joe Coleman, Hopkins boys, 25 points in a 73-60 win over Eden Prairie. Paul Fessler, Concordia (St. Paul) hammers U. Mary 108-74.

Thursday, February 17--The Minnesota Gopher men and women got swept. It was Penn State men 66 Gophers 63 and Purdue women 60 Gophers 50. The men led Penn State 60-57 but got out-scored 9-3 down the stretch. The Gopher women shot 32 percent, Kiara Buford 2-for-15, nuff said. Rebekah Dahlman, Braham girls 35 points in 83-46 rout of #5AA Esko. Phil Johnsrud, Minnewaska boys, who defeated #8AA Montevideo 59-58 in OT to move to a 20-2 record.

Wednesday, February 16--Hamline women 85 St. Thomas 71. Hamline wins their 8th straight home game, beating 1st place St. Thomas easily. Player of the Day: Aaron Burtzel, St. John's 17 points, 10 boards, 6 assists in a 74-67 win over St. Mary's. Coach of the Day: Tim Whittle, Macalester men, who despite their 2-17 record are possibly "most improved" in the MIAC.

Tuesday, February 15--Edina 53
#2AAAA Eden Prairie 52. Jamie Bresnahan scored 19 for the Hornets. Tyus Jones, Apple Valley boys, 33 points, as the Eagles lost to Eastview 74-67. Rocky Peterson, Winona, who defeated #3AAAA Owatonna 63-52 to move into a tie for first place in the Big Nine.

Monday, February 14--Worthington 55
#9A Ellsworth boys 54. Junior Lucas Henning's steal and 2 with 0:29 remaining was the difference. The 15-3 Trojans thus avenged a 1-point loss to the Panthers back in December. Aaron Burtzel, St. John's men 32 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 6 blocks as the Johnnies won at Gustavus in OT 96-88. Nelson Whitmore, Hamline men, who beat St. Olaf in OT 79-76. Carl Hipp's 1500th career point gave the Pipers the lead for good at 73-71 with 0:50 remaining in OT. Hamline thus clinches the 4th seed in the now rapidly approaching MIAC playoffs.

Sunday, February 13--Minnesota Gopher men 62 Iowa Hawkeyes 45. The Gophers out-scored the Hawks 24-6 late in the 1st half to take a 38-23 lead, which they later extended to 48-27. Trevor Mbakwe, Gopher men, scored 22 of his 24 points in the 2nd half. Tubby Smith, Gopher men, who appears to have lit a fire beneath his squad, at least for today.

Saturday, February 12--#1AAAA Eden Prairie girls 50 at #4AAAA and previously undefeated Mpls. South 41. Sattoria Rule led all players in scoring, however, with 28. Jordan Taylor of the Minnesota Badgers, formerly of Benilde, scored 27 points with 7 assists as the, oh, wait, I meant to say Wisconsin Badgers, beat previously undefeated, #1 ranked Ohio State 71-67. Not only that but Minnesotans scored 51 of the Badgers 71 points on the day--Jon Leuer and Mike Brusewitz each added 12. Tom Schuller, Jackson County Central girls, led his unrated (but now 20-2) team to a 58-44 over #4AA, 15-2 St. Peter.

Friday, February 11--Minnetonka girls 64 Braham 63. The Skippers' Ali McArthur banked home a long, desperation 3 from the right sideline after 'Tonka in-bounded the ball from its own baseline with 3.7 seconds remaining. Rebekah Dahlman, Braham 32 points in a losing effort. Andy Berkvam, Lakeville North girls, who hammered arch-rival Eastwood 66-40 behind 23 and 20 points by Apiew Ojulu and Rachel Banham, respectively.

Thursday, February 10--Minnesota Gophers men and women swept. The women got a moral victory, losing 64-62 at Iowa on a driving lay-up by the Hawkeye's Kachine Alexander at 0:05. The men, not so much, as Illinois pulled away down the stretch. The Gophers led 43-41 at 12:24 but the Illini won the final 12 minutes 30-19, at Williams Arena no less. China Antoine, Gopher women 19 points, 4 assists, 2 steals. Pam Borton, Gopher women.

Wednesday, February 9--Two 1st place teams went down in the MIAC. The bigger upset saw also-ran Macalester 72 at 1st place (tied) St. Ben's 58. The second upset was the 2nd place Carleton men 67 1st place St. Thomas 61. The Mac women led most of the way, falling behind briefly, 47-46 in the second half but immediately pulling away at 58-51 and 65-53. The Carleton men too pulled out to an early lead at 19-10 and 39-29 at the half. St. Thomas got within 61-57 but ran out of gas. Majra Mucic, Macalester women, 17 points, 16 boards and 4 steals. Ellen Thompson, Macalester women.

Tuesday, February 8--Unranked (but 15-4) Chaska 68 #1AAAA Eden Prairie (16-3) 63. EP has been rated number one for just six days, since defeating then number one Hopkins last week, and now that's probably over. Ross Travis scored 23 points to lead the Hawks, Dylan Stewart 24 for the Eagles. Sanjay Lumpkin, Benilde boys (#3AAA), scored 34 as his side pulled away from a 38-38 half-time tie to defeat DeLaSalle (#1AAA) 81-68. Brian Pendleton, Cedar Mountain/Comfrey boys (#10A, 13-2) who defeated Springfield (#3A, 14-2) 80-75.

Monday, February 7--Minnesota Timberwolves 104 at New Orleans 92. The Wolves knocked off the Hornets for the 2nd time this season, and at the Big Easy, no less. Minnesota made 11-of-26 3 pointers and 25-of-25 FT. Michael Beasley and Darko Milicic both left the floor with injuries. Player of the Day: Who else? Kevin Love 27 points and 17 boards. Coach of the Day: Jon Dale, Pequot Lakes girls (#9AA) who gave Esko (#4AA) its 1st loss of the season 88-64.

Sunday, February 6--Ohio State 82 Minnesota Gopher men 69. The Gophers shot 51 percent, but took just 49 shots to 71 for the Buckeyes. Ohio State had 20 offensive boards, Minnesota 6. On the Gophers defensive board, the rebounds were Minnesota 23 Ohio State 20. I thought that was a strong suit? And the turnovers were reversed--Minnesota 19 Ohio State 8. 25 extra possessions for the Buckeyes. At that rate the Gophers would have had to shoot 67 percent to win. Sam Lynn, Minnesota West women, scored 29 points as the Worthington-based CC hammered Fergus Falls 112-65. Coach of the Day: Mike Fury, Minnesota West women

Saturday, February 5--Concordia (St. Paul) women 76 Winona State 64 at Winona. Once 2-5 in the NSIC, the Bears are now 11-5 in 2nd place. Marissa Janning, Watertown-Mayer girls, scoring 34 points tonight in a 62-52 win over Atwater. Coach Paul Fessler, Concordia making a late run on NSIC leaders.

Friday, February 4--Minnesota State Mankato men 92 Augustana 79. A very impressive win for the NSIC 1st place Mavericks at the 2nd place Augies. Mankato seemed to be in control 72-63 but Augie came back to within 77-75. From there it was 15-4 Mavs. Jordan Van Eps, Mounds View boys, scored 37 in an 88-74 upset of Roseville. Matt Marganthaler, Mankato State men.

Thursday, February 3--Minnesota Gopher women 65 at Indiana 59. The Gophers came from 55-46 down at 7:52 to win for the 1st time this year on the road and its third straight game overall. Do themath--that's a 19-4 Minnesota edge down the stretch! Kiara Buford scored 16 points, Katie Loberg 14 and Kristen Dockery 10. Danika Gieske and Kahla Becken, Centennial, 23 points each in a 68-50 win over Blaine. Gieske is among the "most improved" in metro girls basketball in 2011. Nick Rathmann, Blake boys. Blake has lost at least 11 straight to DeLaSalle now, probably more, but I can only find the results back to 2004 online. The average score has been 69-34. Last night Blake threw an actual scare into the Islanders before losing 40-36.

Wednesday, February 2--Indiana men 60 Minnesota Gophers 57. Ouch. The Gophers never led against 3-7 Indiana. Carl Hipp, Hamline men 23 points, 15 boards, 2 blocks. Nelson Whitmore, Hamline men defeated Gustavus 86-74.

Tuesday, February 1--Holy cow! Eden Prairie sweeps Hopkins! #2AAAA Eden Prairie girls 71 #1AAAA Hopkins girls 65, and #3AAAA Eden Prairie boys 75 #1AAAA Hopkins 71. For the girls, Jackie Johnson led all scorers with 16, while Hopkins missed 17 FT. EP pulled away from a 42-41 2nd half lead with a 15-1 run. Hopkins got within 4 but it was never a 1 possession game. Similarly, the EP boys led 69-53 with about 5:00 remaining when Hopkins roared back to within 69-67 at 1:30. Then Dylan Stewart scored for EP on a back door cut and the Eagles survived the Royals' rally, on the Hopkins home court no less. Zach Lofton, #9AAA Columbia Heights, 53 points in a 92-78 upset win over #4AAA Mpls. Washburn David Flom, Eden Prairie boys, and Chris Carr, Eden Prairie girls

Thursday, February 24, 2011

St. Thomas 50 Gustavus 48. Not Pretty.

The #1-seeded St. Thomas women advanced to the MIAC championship game, but it was not easy and it was not pretty.

Gustavus led 18-15 at the 8:00 mark of the 1st half, and then out-scored the Tommies 28-18 over the first 19:54 of the 2nd half.

If you inferred from that that St. Thomas made some hay in the other 8:06, your powers of inference are above average. Starting from the end: The Gusties tied the game for the 1st time since 18-all at 48-48 with 1:34 left on a 3 by Ava Perry, her only bucket of the night. Maggie Weiers missed a shot for the Tommies with 1:00 left, then Molly Mathiowetz missed a tough shot into a strong St. Thomas double-team for Gustavus with 35 seconds remaining. The Tommies almost turned it over, but Taylor Young tracked down the ball in the corner, quickly drew a double-team and called timeout.

Tommies coach Ruth Sinn diagrammed some two-on-two for Taylor Young, her best scorer, and Jazmin Townsend, her best passer. Young, at the top of the key, got the ball to Townsend, worked her way about halfway to the hoop in the lane, took the return pass from Townsend and put up an 8-footer that fell through the hoop at 0:05.6.

Now Gustavus called the timeout, after which Molly Geske took the in-bound pass and drove all the way down to the 3-point line, where she put up a long 2-pointer that fell short.

The game started nip-and-tuck, the largest lead for either team being 3 points at 13-10 St. Thomas, and 16-13 and 18-15 Gustavus. The Tommies had made 7-of-18 shots when they got hot, making 4 of their next 5, and 5-of-8 while Gustavus scored just 2 points in the final 8:00 of the first half. More to the point, 4 of the 5 FG were 3s. A Carolyn Dienhart 3 from a Townsend assist tied it at 18. A Sarah Smith 3 from Becky Thiesen made it 21-18. A Kellie Ring 3 from Thiesen made it 24-20. And a Townsend 3 from Ring made it 30-20 at the half.

When Dienhart opened the 2nd half with a 3 to make it 33-20, the Tommies' 6th of the night, St. Thomas seemed to be on their way to an easy victory. But, now it was their turn go cold: 6 minutes without a point. But the Gusties shot only 3-of-9 and still trailed 37-29 after Smith hit a pair of throws and Townsend another bucket. At 5:30 it was still 46-37.

But the Tommies were clearly struggling. Their offense made little progress toward the rim. They were moving the ball and themselves laterally just to find an open passing lane. And, yet the turnovers were coming with alarming frequency, 11 of them in the 2nd half alone at 2:31.

And, meanwhile, Mathiowetz had decided that if her career was going to end tonight, it wasn't going to be for a lack of effort. She hit 2 quick buckets to start the half, then 2 free throws, and then a putback off the offensive board to get within 33-29. She added a steal and a bucket (separate plays) in the 13-14 minute timeframe, and a blocked shot at 5:30. Then over the final 5 minutes she added 6-of-6 throws, an offensive board and another steal.

Her 6 free throws were news. They let 'em play in the 1st half. Gustavus didn't commit their 1st foul until there was only 2:12 left! Then in the 2nd half, suddenly, people were shooting free throws. Considering the futility of the two offenses at times, you'd have to say there were some bail-out foul calls.

Still, Mathiowetz was the best player on the floor, because she was just about the only one taking it to the rim. She finished with 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting; all other Gustavus players shot 11-of-39 FG. Young, Smith and Townsend scored 10 points each for the Tommies. Smith led the way with 11 rebounds, and Young with 5 assists and 4 steals.

The one thing the Tommies did well was shoot the 3: 7-of-13, one short of their season high. Dienhart and Townsend led the way with 2 each.

The Tommies' two posts were a shocking 2-for-8 for 4 points, with 5 boards in 43 minutes. Mathiowetz, who gave away a good 50 pounds to each of them, had 8 in 34.

Their 50 points was the lowest total in any of their 40 post-season wins, and the lowest in any win in 7 years.

Gustavus gets everybody but Mathiowetz back, and they've got the 6-2 Abby Rothenbuhler groomed to fill that slot. She was productive with 6 points and 3 boards in 12 minutes. And Molly Geske, the Gusties top scorer during the regular season, should have a chip on her shoulder after her 1-for-10, 2 point night last night.

The Tommies now host Concordia in the MIAC final at the new Schoenecker Arena. They'll have to play significantly better than they did last night if they're going to defend their MIAC post-season title.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Thanks, and Watch for This

Thank you to whomever was the 25,000th visitor to Minnesota Hoops this morning, and to the other 24,999 of you who have visited...well, no, now it's 25,017 others of you. Thanks again.

I plan to be blogging from courtside of both the boys and girls state tournaments next month, fyi.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Revised State High School Tournament Pairings

The MSHSL recently posted revised state tournament pairings on its Web site. The revision applied to Class A and Class AA for both boys and girls.

Initially the tournament brackets showed Section 1 vs. 8, 2 vs. 7, 3 vs. 6 and 4 vs. 5 in the 1st round. The revised brackets are as follows:

Section 1 vs. Section 6
Section 3 vs. Section 4
Section 7 vs. Section 8
Section 2 vs. Section 5

My post showing all projected state tournament games has been revised to reflect these new pairings.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Surprise! Surprise!

It seems like there've been a lot of surprises this basketball season. More and bigger than most years. For example:

#1 Surprise: The collapse of the Michigan State men and Ohio State women. What's that got to do with Minnesota? Well, it could mean an unexpected win or three for the Gophers.

The Spartans were #2 in the pre-season AP poll, ahead even of the Ohio State Buckeyes (#4), and things started out OK. Sure, there were losses but they were at Connecticut (then unranked, now #6), Duke (then #1, now #5) and Syracuse (then #8, now #17). And, yes, all three on the road. But then there was that 1-point win at Oakland (MI), followed by a home loss to Texas (then #18 but, hey, now #3). I mean, that is some tough schedule.

But now Michigan State is 5-5 in the Big Ten (13-9 overall) and 1-4 in its last 5, each of which has been described as a "dismal" defensive effort leading to an average of 75 points each for the 5 opponents. Opponents are making an unheard-of 49 percent of 3-pointers against the Spartans. Things came to a head in an embarrassing 72-52 loss at lowly (2-8, 9-13) Iowa, in which the Hawkeyes started by hitting 16-of-20 and finished at 58 percent. Meanwhile, the offense wasn't much better, shooting 34 percent with 17 turnovers. And, most of the turnovers were what coach Tom Izzo calls "the worst kind--interceptions for touchdowns." Iowa scored 30 points off of those 17 turnovers.

Then after point guard Korie Luscious was banished for conduct unbecoming a teammate, the Spartans lost to arch-rival Michigan at home. And there followed an overtime win over last-place Indiana on Izzo's birthday, meaning the last 2 wins required OT at home. Then came the Iowa debacle.

So the once #2-ranked Spartans will be scrapping just to get into the NCAA tournament. Izzo says he'll ride guard Kalin Lucas as hard as necessary, but also criticized Lucas' leadership after the Iowa loss.

Things are nearly as dire for the Ohio State women. Rated #7 in the pre-season, they're now 4-5 in the Big Ten (13-8 overall) with a 2-game losing streak. It looked as if the Buckeyes were turning things around with a 3-game January winning streak against Michigan State, at Illinois and Iowa. Then came a shocker to Michigan, at home, 69-66, and at now-1st place Penn State 80-71.

Janel Lavender seems to be her old self with 23 points on 54 percent shooting and 11 rebounds. But there's no depth this year and the other 4 starters are shooting 42, 41, 36 and 33 percent. Sam Prahalis is the one at 36 and her 27 percent from beyond the arc is about the team's percentage as well. After 6 straight conference titles, passing 6 other teams in the Big 10 standings would seem to be a tough assignment but that's what the now-7th place Buckeyes will have to do.

Prognosis: The Buckeyes will beat Northwestern and Purdue at home, then roll into Williams Arena for a make-or-break ballgame against Pam Borton's Gophers on Sunday, February 13. Ohio State is 1-6 in their last 7 road games. A loss would put them back at .500 and staring at road games at Purdue and Michigan State. I don't think the bucks can win at East Lansing no matter what else happens, and so the Spartans have the inside track on the Big 10 regular season title. But with no super-teams in the Big 10, the conference post-season tournament gives Ohio State a chance to redeem itself. Still, without better shooting from the perimeter, the Buckeyes' upside is not what its fans have come to expect.

Likewise, I expect Tom Izzo's Spartans to claw backinto contention. They're at Wisconsin tomorrow, then at Ohio State. If they can upset one of those two opponents, then the Spartans, too, could come into Williams Arena with a chance to salvage the season on Tuesday, February 22. Michigan State is not gonna win the Big 10--not in the regular season and not in the tournament--but it says here they climb up to 3rd or 4th in the conference and make the NCAA fairy easily. Still, if they can't shut down the other guy's perimeter shooters, it will be a short stay.

#2 Surprise: Eden Prairie sweeps unbeaten Hopkins--boys and girls--both on the same night. You knew that both had a shot, especially the girls playing on their home court. But I wouldn't even want to contemplate the odds that both would win. Of course, that's what they did.

Prognosis: The Hopkins boys are gonna win it all, you can count on that. But the girls are back into a dogfight with EP and maybe Lakeville North. The big news out of EP is the improvement of the supporting cast--Becca Sparkman, Mindy McGrew, and others, who are helping the Big Four of Johnson, Van Riper-Rose, Mullaney and Aubrey Davis a lot more than expected.

#3 Surprise: The Minnesota Gopher women start 0-7 in the Big Ten, then win 3 in a row. I don't even know which was the bigger surprise--that they were that bad, or that they've bounced back?

Prognosis: The three wins are nice and Kionna Kellogg has been a major discovery. But there aren't a lot more wins to be had til Rachel Banham gets here. Sorry.

#4 Surprise: There have been so many surprises in the MIAC that they're no longer surprising. The St. Olaf men win at St. Thomas, St. Ben's loses 2 at home, the St. Thomas women lose at last-place St. Kate's and the St. John's and Hamline men confound the coaches' pre-season poll.

Prognosis: Despite the ups and down, the St. Thomas men and women will win either the regular season or the playoffs. The Tommies men are the only MIAC club with the chutzpah to do any real damage in the post-season, however.

#5 Surprise: Timberwolves' won-lost record is the same as last year! I mean, David Kahn guaranteed that the roster was better.

Prognosis: Kevin McHale was right. They've improved just enough to lose closer games. There aren't a lot more wins to be had until Ricky Rubio arrives (if then).

Honorable Mention Surprise: While there have been some surprises, there's no real Cinderella story to compare to last year's Macalester women. Right now I'd pick the Perham boys. As we get into the post-season, the Yellowjackets are a team that lots of people could get behind. You may recall that they suffered the horrific scare of Zach Gabbard collapsing during a recent game due to a heart problem. He remains in the hospital today, but his teammates are soldiering on, now with a 14-1 record after a 52-47 overtime loss at Pelican Rapids. They're in the difficult section 8AA with Pelican Rapids, Pequot Lakes and other worthies, and right now Pequot is rated #4 and Perham #9 in the AA rankings. So they've certainly got a shot.