Not bad. Not great.
The Hopkins boys and girls, and St. Thomas men lived up to my high expectations; and Eden Prairie and Lakeville North finished 2nd and 3rd to Hopkins in the girls high school tournament. But I totally fanned on the collapse of the Minnesota Gopher men--but who didn't?--and on Winona State or, rather, Mankato State, who rolled all the way to the D2 Final Four. The Tommies women won the MIAC but never really got it going, and exited the playoffs unexpectedly.
My Player of the Year candidates were not even as good. Rachel Banham and Kevin Love came through, Blake Hoffarber was okay, Ralph Sampson less okay, and Rachel Booth didn't have anywhere near the senior year that her career had suggested might be in store.
Coaches? I had Tubby #1 and Steve Fritz #4. 'Nuff sed.
Team and Story of the Year--St. Thomas men (30-3) win NCAA D3 championship!
Player of the Year--Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
Coach of the Year--Steve Fritz, St. Thomas men
Game of the Year--St. Thomas men 78 Wooster 54 for NCAA D3 title
Stories of the Year/Teams of the Year
1. St. Thomas men 30-3 (up from #3 in the pre-season)
The Tommies hadn't been to the D3 Final Four in 17 years and so Elite Eight seemed like the upper limit. The return of guards Tyler Nicolai and Alex Healy, along with a roster-full of supporting players, suggested they could go at least that far. They went 2 games further, instead, edging Middlebury 59-57 in the national semi, then demolishing Wooster 78-54 in the most lopsided D3 final ever.
Nicolai had a pretty good regular season, good enough to earn all-America honors. But in the post-season, he was Michael Jordan, leading the Tommies in scoring in 5 of 8 games for an 18 points per game average. Nicolai also hit the biggest bucket of the Tommies' entire season, the game-winner as the Tommies knocked off defending national champ Wisconsin-Stevens Point--at Point, no less--66-64.
The Tommies tied the school record for wins in a season, and coach Fritz was named national D3 coach of the year, and why not?
2. Hopkins boys 31-1 (#1 in pre-season) and Hopkins girls 30-2 (up from #5)
The only thing I missed here was the boys losing 1 game (to Eden Prairie). I hadn't foreseen that. The girls? Well, I thought they were a toss-up among Hopkins, Eden Prairie and Lakeville North, and that didn't turn out to be too far wrong. The Royals girls won 3 of 4 over EP and North during the regular season. Then, after EP defeated North in a state tournament semi-final, Hopkins turned it on to easily defeat the Eagles 67-45 in the state final.
Both teams excel in transition--the boys off of the defensive board, off of turnovers, off of made baskets, even. No matter. Siyani Chambers gets the ball upcourt faster than anybody, and Joe Coleman is the best finisher in the Minnesota high school ranks. But if he missed, Marvin Singleton was there to get the 2nd chance points.
The girls did it off of turnovers. Their defense is the most active, aggressive, disruptive--whatever word you prefer--ever seen in Minnesota high schools, due to incredible athleticism but also the fact that the Royals can go 10 deep without giving up much in the way of either athleticism or basketball skills. Still, among the 10, you would have to mention Sydney and Nia Coffey along with Brianna Williams as the girls who make Hopkins go.
Coaches Ken Novak, Jr., and Brian Cosgriff are not merely innocent bystanders, either, contrary to what you sometimes hear. Do they recruit? I don't think they have to. Elite kids want to play for the best programs, and these are it. Kids can find Hopkins on their own, and they do, meaning that both the Hopkins boys and girls should be favored to repeat next year.
But, as it is, Hopkins now has 11 state titles, a record 8 for the boys, and 3 for the girls. The boys thereby tied the Rochester Lourdes girls for the most state titles by a program, while the 2 2011 titles enabled Hopkins high school to surpass Mpls. North with its total of 10 state titles--5 girls and 5 boys. Also, Hopkins 2011 became the 4th school to win both the boys and girls titles in the same year and the 1st to do it twice. In other words, Hopkins was already 1 of 3 (2006) and now represents 2 of 4 school to do so. The others are Hancock 1997 and Mpls. North 2003.
3. Perham boys 31-1
In January, junior forward Zach Gabbard had just led Perham to a win at Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, when Gabbard collapsed on the court with cardiac arrest. He was revived and rushed to the University of Minnesota Hospital, where he underwentopen heart surgery. A week later, Perham lost for the 1st time.
But 2 months later, Gabbard ventured forth from his hospital room for the 1st time to join his teammates at the Target Center. They had not lost again, sweeping through tough Section 8AA to make their 1st state tournament apperance ever. And they would not lose at the state tournament, defeating Virginia, Waterville-Elysian-Morristown (in OT) and Rochester Lourdes to become state champions.
Coach Dave Cresap's son Jordan stepped into the starting lineup in place of Gabbard and eventually made the all-state tournament team along with Sam Stratton and Nick Tobkin. Perham was not the best team at the boys' tournament but they were the best-loved, and most Minnesota basketball fans joined Perham fans in celebrating this uplifting story and the perseverance of the Perham team.
4. Minnesota State-Mankato men 28-5
Often the bridesmaid but seldom the bride, the Mavericks got over the big hump in 2011, winning the NSIC regular season title and the NCAA D2 Central Regional title before losing to #2 ranked and eventual national champion Bellarmine 81-74 in the Final Four.
Adversity came in the form of an 82-74 loss to nemesis Winona State in the semi-finals of the NSIC tournament. But Mankato turned the tables on the Warriors 96-81 in the 1st round of the D2 regional tournament.
Senior Jefferson Mason and Marcus Hill led the way for the Mavs. Mason scored 19 points with 9 boards, 2 assists, a steal and a block for the season, while Hill scored 16 with 5 assists and a steal. Senior Cameron Hodges was named conference defensive player of the year. Mason averaged 24 points and 11 boards per game in the post-season, Hodges 19 and 8, and Hill 15 with 8 assists. Mason earned all-America honors, while coach Matt Marganthaler was named region coach of the year.
5. Hill-Murray girls 30-1 (up from #10) and Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa boys (32-1)
These were the last 2 undefeated Minnesota high school teams, both cruising into the state championship game before suffering a surprising defeat. Hill-Murray was not just defeated but trounced by a solid DeLaSalle team 63-43 in the AAA final, while BBE was shocked by Springfield 70-58 in Class A.
Hill-Murray had served notice of its intention of contending for a state championship early on, when it hammered highly regarded Eden Prairie 59-45 in the Tipoff Tournament. It then ran the table, including at least 7 more wins over AAAA opponents, before running into a DeLaSalle buzzsaw.
BBE, meanwhile, came into the state tournament unbeaten but still largely an unknown quantity. But not only were they unbeaten, the fact is they had won the West Central conference title for the 3rd straight year, and other than BBE most WCC teams are Class AA. Once in the state tournament, BBE had a terrible shooting day against Springfield in the final, but guard Kevin Kuefler showed himself to be the elite player in Class A and among the finest players in the state.
For their part, Hill-Murray's Tessa Cichy and Beth Doolittle were all-state caliber players, and coach Erin Herman a reasonable contender for post-season coaching honors. BBE's Dave Montbriand would have to be considered as one of the top boys coaches for the season as well.
6. Eden Prairie boys 27-5 and Eden Prairie girls 24-5 (down from #5). Both Class AAAA runners-up to Hopkins.
7. Minnesota Gopher men 17-14 (down from #4) and Minnesota Gopher women 12-18 (up from #9). The men collapse after a 16-4 start and top 15 ranking. A real soap opera. The women start 0-7 in the Big Ten and just never get anything going.
8. Carleton men 18-8. MIAC regular season champion.
9. Concordia (St. Paul) 19-11. Started 2-5 in NSIC, finished 14-1.
10. Springfield boys 26-3. 6-8, 285 pound football star Tyler Marz returns from ACL surgery to lead Springfield to the title.
11. DeLaSalle girls 27-4. Shocked Hill-Murray in AAA final.
12. Winona State men 20-10. Another soap opera as transfer Anthony Tucker (Minnetonka, Iowa) leads the Warriors to early success, then skips the team for the playoffs.
13. Concordia (Moorhead) 20-7. MIAC post-season champs.
14. Lakeville North girls 29-3
15. St. Paul Johnson boys 25-4. #1 rated most of the way but shocked by New Prague at tournament time.
Player of the Year
Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
2. Joe Coleman, Hopkins boys
3. Tyler Nicolai, St. Thomas men
4. Rachel Banham, Lakeville North girls
5. Blake Hoffarber, Minnesota Gopher men
6. Estan Tyler, St. Paul Johnson boys
7. Jefferson Mason, Minnesota State-Mankato men
8. Trevor Mbakwe, Minnesota Gopher men
9. Tyseanna Johnson, DeLaSalle girls
10. Trevor Witt, St. Cloud State men
11. Michelle Young, Woodbury girls
12. Jackie Johnson, Eden Prairie girls
13. Rebekah Dahlman, Braham girls
14. Jeremy Sutherland, Carleton men
15. Jineen Williams, Concordia (St. Paul) women
16. Marcus Hill, Minnesota State-Mankato men
17. Brianna Williams, Hopkins girls
18. Angie Jetvig, Minnesota State-Moorhead girls
19. Alex Richter, Lakeville South boys
20. Maurika Hickman, Concordia (St. Paul) women
21. Aaron Burtzel, St. John's men
22. Jake White, Chaska boys
23. Al Nolen, Minnesota Gopher men
24. Marvin Singleton, Hopkins boys
25. Beth Doolittle, Hill-Murray girls
Coach of the Year
1. Steve Fritz, St. Thomas men
2. Matt Marganthaler, Minnesota State-Mankato men
3. Erin Herman, Hill-Murray girls
4. Dave Cresap, Perham boys
5. Faith Patterson, DeLaSalle girls
6. Brian Cosgriff, Hopkins girls
7. Ken Novak, Jr., Hopkins boys
8. Barry Wohler, Orono boys
9. Ellen Thompson, Macalester women
10. Guy Kalland, Carleton men
11. Dave Montbriand, Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa boys
12. Chris Carr, Eden Prairie girls
13. Dave DeWitt, Anoka-Ramsey CC women
14. Jessica Rahman, Concordia (Moorhead) women
15. Mike Leaf, Winona State men
16. Tim Grosz, Northwestern (Roseville) men
17. Scott Ballard, Winona State women
18. Paul Fessler, Concordia (St. Paul) women
19. Vern Simmons, St. Paul Johnson boys
20. Tim Whittle, Macalester men
21. James Fassett, Anoka girls
22. Jodi Holleman, Hancock girls
23. Kevin Christenson and Cyndi Raymond, Nicollet girls
24. Jeremy Post, White Bear Lake girls
25. Nelson Whitmore, Hamline men
History in the Making
1. St. Thomas men 78 Wooster 54 to win NCAA D3 title
2. Minnesota Timberwolves 112 New York Knicks 103 as Love goes 31/31
3. Minnesota Gopher men 72 North Carolina 67 when it all seemed so promising
4. Hopkins girls 83 Lakeville North 64 in November established the pecking order
5. New Prague boys 83 St. Paul Johnson 77 in biggest upset of either high school tournament
6. Eden Prairie girls 71 Hopkins 65 to temporarily upset the pecking order
7. St. Olaf men 73 St. Thomas 68 to break 53 game home winning streak
8. Springfield boys 70 Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa 58 in 2nd biggest upset and best finale
9. St. Thomas men 66 Wisconsin-Stevens Point 64 Tommies beat defending national champ on their home court
10. Anoka Ramsey CC 60 Roxbury, MA 55 in NJCAA Division 3 championship game
11. Minnesota Gopher men 70 Purdue 67 when it still seemed so promising
12. Winona State men 66 Southwest State 64 on Anthony Tucker's half-court shot
13. Mpls. Washburn boys 85 St. Paul Johnson 80 in TC Game
14. Rochester Lourdes boys 48 Redwood Valley 47 in 4 OT
15. DeLaSalle girls 63 Hill-Murray 43 to end Pioneers' dream of an undefeated season
16. Carleton men 67 St. Thomas 64 to tie for conference title and win #1 seed
17. Concordia (St. Paul) women 93 Wayne State 58 Wayne otherwise unbeaten in NSIC
18. Eden Prairie boys 75 Hopkins 71 for Royals only loss
19. St. Thomas 59 Middlebury 57 in D3 semi-finals
20. Minnesota State-Mankato 95 Alabama-Huntsville 91 (OT) in D2 Elite Eight
21. Eden Prairie girls 49 Lakeville North 32 in state semi-finals
22. Orono boys 50 Waconia 48 (2OT) in state semi-final
23. St. Thomas 70 Northwestern (Roseville) 60 as NW led much of the way
24. Perham boys 45 Waterville-Elysian-Morristown 41 as Zach Gabbard walks on to floor
25. Maranatha girls 60 Hancock 57 (OT) in Class A semi-final